John Blakemore

John Blakemore is a British photographer, known for his black and white documentary, landscape and still life photographs.

Born in 1936 in Coventry, Blackmore first began taking photographs in Tripoli while serving in the air force for his National Service. He went on to teach at the University of Derby for over thirty years.

These detailed photographs were created in the studio using natural light and are composed out of items found in the ground. Blakemore used a large 10 x 8 camera and used multiple exposures to layer the items on top of one another.

John Blakemore
John Blakemore

An archive of his work is now available at the Central Library in Birmingham.

In College this week we used Blakemore as inspiration to create our own still life layered image.

We used one studio light behind our subject in place of natural daylight and lit it from the front using a reflector or mirror. First we photographed a tray of soil, then added items and photographed it again, finally merging the two images together in Photoshop and converting the final image to black and white.


Now that I’ve seen the two images merged together I realise just how much more I could fit into the frame. I’ve cropped in to make the images square to exclude some of the other ‘dead space’ but also because we are trying to create something more contemporary I thought this reflected the modern trend for square Instagram type images. Perhaps I could have added another layer of items in order to compact the frame a little more.

My Blakemore Style Image
My Blakemore Style Image 2

Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky is a renowned Canadian fine art / documentary photographer whose work documents man’s devastating effect on our world. His very large photographs of sweeping landscapes are stunningly beautiful but also somewhat uncomfortable to look at.

In his photos I can see a clear influence from people like Ansel Adams whose landscapes, particularly of Yosemite National Park are breathtaking.

His latest work, simply entitled Water, launched in 2013 explores our relationship with water, our attempts to harness its power and the scale of our effect on the landscape. Most of Burtynsky’s photographs are taken from high vantage points, giving a ‘not usually seen view of the landscape.

I found several aspects particularly striking. This image of houses that have been built into a lake disturbs me somewhat. The sky reflecting in the water looks like oil and says something to me about the way humans are rapidly multiplying but water is a finite resource that we take for granted and don’t respect and pour so much of our waste into it.

There is a market for waterfront properties that we are exploiting in this building project. I don’t doubt that there is tremendous skill that goes into a building project like this but to what effect. Burtynsky could be criticised for being overly political with his photography or lecturing viewers about things they already know, after all who hasn’t heard of global warming? But I think it is the scale of damage that we fail to comprehend and that Burtynsky highlights so well in these images.

VeronaWalkNaples, Florida, USA, 2012

Other pictures in this series include photographs of the Gulf of Mexico taken while BP’s Deepwater Horizon well was pouring oil into the sea, the affects of drought on the landscape and how agriculture and water are so closely linked.

In Burtynsky’s Quarries collection, this image of a stone quarry in Rajasthan, India, not only highlights how we are changing our physical landscape but is more worrying when you find out the lack of safety precautions at the site and the number of people who die in places like this on a monthly basis.

Makrana Marble Quarries #13Rajasthan, India, 2000

Other projects look at the effect of our need for oil, mining, ship breaking and mass consumerism and manufacturing. More of his work can be seen at

I’m really interested to see how Burtynsky views his work and whether his images actually make a difference and change the way we use our environment. In these films Burtynsky talks about his work, his methods and his thoughts behind his projects.



Robyn Woolston

We had an interesting talk from Robyn Woolston this week.

Robyn is an artist that works across several disciplines and is also an activist. Working predominantly with waste materials, she aims not only to make us think about what we throw away but also about how we use various ‘waste’ spaces.

Smart Price

In her work Robyn has used thousands of reclaimed plastic knives and forks, plastic bags, lanyards and plastic gift cards. Items that would otherwise be sent to landfill and take several hundred years to degrade

I really like the way her work is so focused on her message. She has a clear understanding of what she wants people to think about and sticks very firmly to that.

Robyn explained how her own work was informed by her circumstances and the the death of her mother, pointing out that discussion about waste is closely related to discussion about death.

It has led me to think about what I throw away and what that says about me. Perhaps my own Vanitas photographs should be based around what I throw away.

More of Robyn’s work can be found at