Fire & Ice, Peter Wollen

Wollen, P (2009) ‘Fire and Ice’ In: Wells, L. (ed.) (2009) The photography reader. (Reprint) London: Routledge. p.p 76-80

Photographs appear as devices for stopping time and preserving fragments of the past” .

Discusses the differences between film & photography.
1. Film, a continuous “line”, in motion, time is dynamic.
2. Photography, a “point”, a specific moment, time is still, unmoving.
(Wollen, 2009;76)

Dualistic characteristic of photography & time.
1. Whilst the moment of capture is a brief fleeting one.
2. The amount of time in the present that can be spent gazing at a photograph is limitless.

In contrast film is of a planned length for a set time.

Barthes antagonistic about film & the concept of linear time.
Time, for Barthes, should be the prerogative of the reader / spectator: a free re-writing time rather than an imposed reading time” (Wollen, 2009:76)

Wollen proposes that the division between how film & photography personify time is convoluted and is not simple to analyse. “It is impossible to extract our concept of time completely from the grasp of narrative. This is all the more true when we discuss photography as an art form” (Wollen, 2009:77)

Consider the language used, what it conveys.
The tense used to describe the photograph places it into a particular timeframe. Wollen prefers to use the term ‘aspect’ (the meaning of which he comments not all linguistics agree on) & denotes photography’s “interior temporal structure” (Wollen, 2009:77).

Disregarding tense (past, present, future) images can be classified by what’s happening into “semantic categories” (Wollen, 2009:77)
1. State (static / consistent)…………………. i.e Art / documentary.
2. Event (established time scale)…………. i.e journalism.
3. Process (continuous) …………………….. Documentary may also be included in this category.
Consider captions & words used.

Wollen suggests order not motion is the main difference between film & photography. State, event & process are in practice the nominal requirements for a narrative. However, singly photographs do not narrate but are segments of a story. “Different genres of photography imply different perspectives within durative situations and sequences of situations” (Wollen, 2009:78).

Film is like fire, photography is like ice” (Wollen, 2009:78)
1. Wollen compares film to fire, it sparkles and moves; is darkness and bright. PROCESS
2. “Photography is motionless and frozen, it has the cryogenic power to preserve objects through time without decay” STATE

Paradox of photography:
1. Wollen proposes when the still photograph signifies a state (of stillness) it and it’s signified are compatible. “The time of photographs themselves is one of stasis. They endure.” (Wollen, 2009:78).
2. However, he identifies a paradox. When the photograph denotes an event it causes conflict with the idea of photography as a medium that freezes time, an event being the consequence of a series of actions over a specific timescale, dynamic.

The Signifier——the form it takes / The Signified —-the concept it represents / the abstract meaning / the idea. Poststructuralism emphasises the importance of the signified.

Hence the integral relationship between the still photograph and the pose. The subject freezes for the instantaneous exposure to produce a frozen image, state results in state” (Wollen, 2009:78).

Wollen (2009:79) observes how “images function in their time“, once published they are appraised and categorised. They also are re-contextualised at later dates, meaning alters over time.

Still images in a film are contradictory “the moving picture of a motionless subject” (Wollen, 2009:78).

The essay discusses Chris Marker’s film La Jetée (I watched this prior to reading the essay). The film is made from motionless images, eye movement only seen in a single frame, the antithesis “of a freeze frame in a moving picture” (Wollen, 2009:79).

La Jetée shows that still photographs, strung together in a chain, can carry a narrative as effectively as moving pictures, given a shared dependance on a sound-track” (Wollen, 2009:79). The static images convey a fictional narrative, time goes back and forth into the future exploring the complex relationship between photography and memory.

Wollen returns to aspect.
The male protagonist returns to the time of his memories which are portrayed as a continuous stream of disjointed photographs. However, “the object of the time-travel is to recover one fixated memory-image” (Wollen, 2009:79) . This single image of his own death conveys in one frame state, event & process.

WiP #33

A couple more of my Frozen (in time) images.

I’ve annotated these they are rather difficult to read.

Jane suggested sending for some prints as inkjet paper will fall apart but I rather like the deterioration as it mimics the ageing process (of both people & photographs !) but I think it might be worth sending for some to compare.

I’ve got some more photographs in my freezer to experiment with over the next few days, poor hubby looks inside & thinks there is something rather interesting to eat but soon discovers it’s another photograph 🙂

It’s better to wear gloves when using ice but it makes it too difficult to handle my iPhone or camera & take the photographs !

I’ve used a square format & the double exposure feature using the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone for the first image & my Fuji x100F for the others. I’m undecided which format works best as yet. I’ve printed the first photograph below on washi paper & it looks good. I intend to only print these small but I’m wondering whether to try making a concertina book.

Feedback A3 BoW

Brief notes made during my hangout with Jayne in December, will post full feedback here too when I receive it. All going well just now need to hone down my choices for the BoW.

The archival images such as those used in Northumbrian Cousins & The Simple Life are typical family photographs of the era, recognisable & can be related to.

Things to consider
Use of text
1. Use just a few words or single sentence, not too much writing this leaves a ‘space’ for interpretation.
2. Consider the font carefully
3. Try handwriting on printed montage then re-photograph or scan

Need to now narrow down & aim for consistency as a set
Try making sets of 3 & experiment with layouts with each set.
Try keeping density as per original photograph, make less opaque, they are physical objects, different to digital images
? Keep old photographs within the frame of montage

I miss her Stories
See notes on text / change

Different Worlds
Remove one of the repeated images & make it larger in the frame

The Lowery Clan
Reduce opacity of layer, original is physical object. (see above)

Dance like nobody’s watching
Remove ‘block’ between the two images
Play with composition

Mum in Shorts
Close gap

Need to make a decision re how the montages are constructed –aim for coherence
Will need to ‘let go’ of some even if they are personal favourites in order to do this.

Discussed my more recent WiP (using blocks) –look @ David Hockney’s work Joiners

Look at Elsa Dorfman
Polaroid –film

Frozen (in time)
Carry on experimenting, it’s an interesting project
No need to use anything in ice (i.e shells), it works well without as a concept
1. Analogous with photography
2. Freeze /preserve a moment in time (photo)
3. See through / look through / look at photographs of the past
4. Stillness
5. The camera preserves a moment, time is transient
6. Melting ice, transient, not permanent –like memory / impermanence
7. Unreachable (the past) difficult or impossible to penetrate (ice as a metaphor for memory)
8. Get prints done / inkjet will fall apart

Try to find essay by Peter Wollen, film theorist Fire and Ice
Not having much success with finding it @ the moment.

WiP #32 + coursework

Levels of meaning

Photography as a complex language and using this language to create meaning beyond the factual.
(+ see Poststructuralism and the language of photography)

Definition of words that reveal something not seen. 

  1. Metonym: a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated.
  2. Rhetoric: the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques. Visual rhetoric: communicate using visual / typography / text. 
  3. Symbol: a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.
  4. Connotation: implies and infers, suggest a meaning, the underlying meaning.
  5. Innuendo: an allusive or oblique remark or hint.
  6. Euphemism: substitute, mild alternative, indirect term, understatement. 

How might you apply these terms to your own practice ? 

Connotation / visual rhetoric / symbolism

Using montage techniques I’m combining old photographs with contemporary imagery that form relationships between the separate components to convey a sense of the passing of time, and of loss. I’m using ice in my Frozen (in time) mini project to alter perception and explore the nebulous characteristic of memory.

Two double exposures taken with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic camera app. My ice with shells in was allowed to melt slightly before taking the photographs. 



I’ve also started to use text in my more recent work (see WiP below)

Two new montages

I spent a few days adjusting layers and trying out different arrangements.  
Using text as a metonym to describe the vintage photographs, the empty beaches connote and symbolise the inevitable passage of time, ageing and loss. The subdued tones (courtesy of the vile weather) allude to the melancholic atmosphere I want to convey.    

Unsure which I prefer out of the two below, the text is positioned differently in each. 

Halcyon Days

BoW Assignment 3


“The past is gone forever. We cannot return to it, not can we reclaim it now as it was. But that does not mean it is lost to us. The past is like the scene of a crime: if the deed itself is irrecoverable, its traces may still remain. From these traces, markers that point towards a past presence, to something that happened in this place, a (re) construction, if not a simulacrum, of the event can be pieced together” (Kuhn, 1995:3)

Since my previous assignment I’ve been working with my own archival images and am submitting a selection of montages plus a couple of images from my recently started Frozen (in time) project for consideration.  

My work in progress towards the assignment is HERE 
My re-works from A2 are HERE 
All research (including my WiP & re-work posts) can be found under the ‘Research and Reflection‘ Category on my blog

Digital Montages 

“Photography has made its own contribution to the nation’s narrative of the seaside as a place of ‘radiant happiness’—the beach attracted photographers seeking to fix the seaside visually as a site of perennial pleasure” (Williams, V and Shepherdson, K. 2019:96)  

I returned to Marazion in September and back again in October. The weather was awful both times, but strangely it turned out to be an advantage. I like the bleak emptiness of the beaches, places where my parents and their friends once stood many years ago, the moody skies, so different to their photographs of summer days, reminders of happier times. The montages communicate the transient nature of time, loss and a place where the past and present converge.

Mum in Shorts,1940’s

When the world was black and white

Northumberland 1950’s. I’m sat on Mum’s lap and in the background is Aunt Alice and her 2nd husband, Tommy. My cousins Joseph & Robert sit to the forefront, their father (Aunt Alice’s 1st husband) died a few days before Xmas in an accident. Joseph was born after his father’s death, he was named after him. Tommy became a father to both these boys and their elder brother David who’s not in the photo. Tommy also died relatively young of a mining related illness. So many memories come to mind as I look at what on first viewing is just a holiday snap. 

The Lowery Clan (mum with her family 1940’s). Mum wrote across the front of this photograph many years after it was taken, she wrote on the back of other photographs too. She wanted to make sure that in the future, when she was no longer here, these people are remembered as family despite many being people whom I (or my own family) never met. Eventually these people will become simply strangers when the close familial connection is gradually lost as each new generation is born. It perhaps explains why so many family photographs are abandoned once that relationship has diminished. 

Different Worlds. My mum and her great-granddaughter on the same stretch of beach separated by the years. Together but each in their own time and space. 

The memory of childhood holidays (rather than the everyday occurrences) remain so firmly in my own mind. Yet our small family of three went (at most) a couple of times a year. However, these were also the occasions dad’s camera went along too, fully loaded with film to capture our carefree expedition and ‘happy’ memories. A hypothetical memory inspired me to make the montage Stormy Skies. I can’t remember why I was crying or why my mum (presumably) took this picture. It is hardly a ‘happy holiday’ snap ! Dad’s face is a picture too, he hated confrontation or dealing with my moods. I have absolutely no recollection of this event, my memory refuses to acknowledge the discord the photograph clearly connotes. 

Incorporating Text 

I have made a start incorporating text, for my initial trial I printed small images on card and asked both my daughters to simply write any thoughts or memories that immediately came to mind. I wanted to overlay the text and image but because of the small scale of the cards this was not feasible so I added text in Photoshop. I did try to cut and paste just the text but my attempt was not very successful. Fellow student Catherine suggested the font size was a bit small hence I have made this slightly larger.

I miss her stories 

Cut & Paste / Digital Montages 

Meaning changes and photographs originally kept as mementoes connote something different following for example death, they are tactile and ever evolving objects. My cut and paste work has been scanned and combined with contemporary images as digital montages. 

The Simple Life, September 3rd 1939.  Eighty years ago my 14 year old mum stood on a Northumbrian beach as Britain declared war. Not long after sirens started to wail and frightened mothers ran to gather their children to take them home. The sirens were actually only being tested but that was not known by those running to gather their loved ones at the time. She was due to start a new school that month but never went due to the outbreak of war. The simple life was over. Mum looks very young for a 14 year old, but that is compared to teenagers now I suppose. Three years later she joined the WRAC leaving her friends, family and Northumberland. She never returned there to live when the war ended but began a new life with my dad, whom she met whilst in the army. 

Empty Spaces Mum on Mount’s Bay beach in the 1940’s. The last time I took her back there was 5 years ago when she was 89 years old, a total of 68 years following her first visit when my dad took her to his childhood home in Marazion. On first seeing St Michael’s Mount she said it looked like a fairy tale castle. It still does, a place where time seems to stand still.


Four of my Northumbrian Cousins These four children (older than me) were part of my childhood yet I have only met two of them and have not seen or spoken to them for many years. The affinity I feel for them was nurtured by my mum’s stories and photographs kept in a case. 


Experiments with Ice 

Frozen (in time) Inspired by the work of Soomin Ham. Although I have only been experimenting with my ice images for under a week and it is very much a work in progress I intend to expand on it. Therefore, I have included a couple in this submission.  As regards presenting these I think small prints might be the way to go but in the meantime  I’m going to print them on the A4 washi paper I recently bought.  

Re-works (for consideration) 

Passing through Re-work from A2

The Wave Re-work from A2

The Lookout Re-work from A2 

Dance like there’s nobody watching. A rework of one of my earlier montages but not submitted for a previous assignment. A month after mum died in January I went with my daughters to Cornwall. We spent time reminiscing and still felt raw but suddenly and spontaneously my daughters started dancing on the deserted beach. The same beach my mum was photographed on many years ago. It was a moment of pure unadulterated happiness and joy.


Self evaluation

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I’m very much aware that a Body of Work should be visually cohesive, I feel my underlying concept of using montage techniques incorporating  contemporary & archival imagery taken in the same place helps achieve this. It also meant leaving out one of my more recent montages that I liked it very much. As a standalone image it is fine but not as part of the set I’ve submitted for A3.   

However, I do want to expand on a possibly more multifaceted approach. Therefore, I’m continuing with my Frozen (in time) project & considering perhaps incorporating in addition to my ‘ice’ vintage seaside images some non-nautical photographs, I will chat to Jayne about this.   

The much more subdued, unsaturated contemporary photographs I’ve taken recently have a melancholic, almost bleak quality that I believe connotes the concept of Hireth (longing, yearning, nostalgia). 

Quality of outcome

Fellow student Simon suggested rather than montaging I try placing my archival photographs alongside the contemporary imagery. I think the combination of more sombre, less saturated contemporary imagery and positioning like this works particularly well. 

I enjoyed making the cut and paste montages, these have then been scanned and altered digitally to make new composites. 

The re-worked A2 composites are more somber than before and I feel complement my more recent work. 


Demonstration of creativity

I believe my work has evolved since my last assignment submission and although subjective the concept of loss and the passing of time is communicated effectively with the juxtaposition used in the montages.   

In addition to montage I’ve started to experiment conceptually with ice to create a small series of images. 



I’m trying to post on my blog at least once a week, even if only a very short update or to share WiP. I try to attend regular hangouts but this is dependant on timing but they do make you feel less isolated & realise everybody feels the same insecurities about being a mature student. 

I’ve managed to research & write short pieces on my blog about some fantastic artists as I’ve been working towards the 3rd assignment.

  1. Soomin Ham whose art has really inspired me to begin my Frozen (in time) project. 

  2. Susan Hiller

  3. Karen Shepherdson 

  4. Lebohang Kganye 

  5. Maria Kapajeva 

I plan to share any books I’m reading / read  (not necessarily photography related) I find are relevant to my studies, but these will probably be only very short synopsises. I read a lot but very rarely manage to write down my thoughts.   


Future development 

Artist whose work I plan to research in the next few weeks that I haven’t had the time to before this assignment:

  1. Jo Spence Beyond the Family Album 

  2. Nadav Kandar Estuaries 

  3. Mandy Williams (thanks Sarah-Jane for introducing me to her work) 


Look into Epigenetics (for both BoW & C/S) fellow student Sarah-Jane has sent me some links & recommended a book. Studies suggest we carry traces of our parent’s memory in our DNA.  

Continue with my Frozen (in time) series of experimental work. 

Try different printing techniques and paper types. 

Hopefully get back to Marazion in February. I am booked to go with my daughters but it’s difficult to plan too far ahead due to hubby’s kidney problem, he’s awaiting a transplant so could get a ‘call’ at anytime). 

Continue excavating my case of photographs. I’m having to be very careful as a lot of them are glued into albums and I don’t want to rip or bend them. I’ve had to scan whole pages to avoid damaging them. For this reason I often use the same archival photo in more than one montage but obviously wouldn’t submit more than one of these for assessment or include in my finalised BoW.  

Continue making composites. 

Experiment with text, I especially want to try combining hand writing. 

Make a video ? I did make a very short one using iMovie (see WiP #26) but I’m not exceptionally proficient.   

References / Bibliography 

Archives & Creative Practice [online blog]Available at 09/11/19)

Berger, J. and Dyer, G. (2013) Understanding a photograph. London: Penguin.

Chaisson, C. (2018) ‘How Susan Hiller Has Foregrounded Empathy in Her Art’  Hyperallergic 09/11/19)

Cooke, R. (2011) ‘Susan Hiller: I’ve had just the right amount of attention, not enough to live in total despair’ The Observer 07/11/19)

Ham, S. Available at https://www.soominham.comAccessed 26/11/19

Hiller, S. Available at 07/11/19)

Hiller, S. (2012) “Ghosts (1) “Artsy Estrella Gallery [online]  Available at 09/11/19)

Jones, J (2008) ‘Susan Hiller: A skeptical spirit ?’ The Guardian (Accessed 07/11/19)

Jones, J. (2015) ‘Susan Hiller review: a bizarre, brilliant haunted house’ The Guardian (Accessed 07/1/19)

Kapajeva, K. Available at: 02/08/19)
Kganye, L (2013) Her Story Available at 10/09/19)

Kuhn, A. (1995) Family Secrets. London:Verso 

Lachowskyj, C. (2018) Her-Story Available at: (Accessed 10/09/19)

Needham, A. (2019) ‘Susan Hiller, Artist, who explored the paranormal, dies aged 78’ The Guardian 07/11/19)

Padua, P. 2016 ‘Soomin Han’s Photography is a Gut-Wrenching Exploration of Loss and Memory’ DCIST  [online] At: (Accessed 26/11/19 

Searle, A. (2019) ‘Susan Hiller: An artist who chased ghosts-and took no prisoners’ The Guardian (Accessed 07/11/19)

SEAS [online]At: 15/11/19)

Shepherdson, K. Available at 10/11/19)

Staply-Brown, V. ( 2019) ‘Susan Hiller, a ‘paraconceptualist’ who abandoned anthropology in favour of art, has died, aged 78′ The Art Newspaper (Accessed 09/11/19)

Williams, V and Shepherdson, K. (2019) Seaside Photographed London: Thames & Hudson. 

Wip #31

Two new montages combined with text and my recent ‘failures’ (see WiP #27).

1st montage incorporates some of the words written by my younger daughter on the small photo cards I gave them to write their initial thoughts or memories on.


I’ve also re-worked a previous montage (WiP #27) altering the blending modes and got rid of the greyish border surrounding the image, the colour is less saturated too. The blurriness connotes hazy memories but, I really think because of the abstractness of the contemporary image in comparison to my others, it doesn’t ‘fit’ (for want of a better word) with my BoW as a whole. Might include it in my assignment selection to ask Jayne’s opinion.


Text on cards PDF of the printed cards.

I intended overlaying text but as the postcards are only small I’ve added text in PS instead.

Possibly try overlaying handwritten text, will need to do this differently if so.

Wip #30

I froze some ice in my freezer in a dish with a few shells at the bottom but it was too thick to use as a home made filter this time. I used the Hipstamatic double exposure feature on my iPhone to take this image.


I like the idea of including some of my ice images with my BoW as a mini series, a play on the concept of frozen in time.

I need to get my 3rd BoW assignment completed so I am going to continue with my ice experiments after I’ve finished & submitted it to my tutor.