Digital composite experiment.
Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

So, over the recent Xmas recess I laid out some plans (here) for this new module alongside contextual ideas and comments. However, I am already butting up against the ‘overwhelm’ that goes hand-in-hand with the highly instinctive way that I work and the realisation that this is my last module before my Final Major Project begins.

I keep telling myself to trust the process, but I need to pick apart what is already occurring for me at this stage. I need to keep quantifying my process in order to maintain clarity as I progress and work. Otherwise I know I have a tendency to get lost in my creative A.D.D. This post (and others in this sequence) is an attempt to stay as focused and clear as possible with my practice and what I am aiming to achieve during this module.

One action point from the post I’ve referenced above states that I want to work as experimentally as possible both in terms of methodology and output. One element of this is to work with digital layering and compositing as an extension of the ‘analogue’ collage work I made during Surfaces & Strategies. Partly this is due to expediency, but I think it offers me a greater latitude of visual possibility. To some extent it also takes elements of the process out of my hands in that, due to my inexperience of this kind of approach, the software creates propositions and outcomes that are not always what I was anticipating and therefore pushes me in unexpected directions. Yes, I have to instigate an action or process, but the actual look of the outcome is not necessarily how I foresaw it. Therefore the software also makes an intervention adding to the sense of call and response.

Digital composite.
Copyright James Bellorini 2020.

This is exciting. It keeps my responses in the realm of improvisation. And this approach feels like it is complimenting my overarching project theme.

Here then, I am curious about the notion that curator and author John Szarkowski proposes in the catalogue of the MOMA exhibition The Photographer’s Eye (1966) regarding synthesis vs selection, to quote:

The invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process—a process based not on synthesis but on selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made—constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes—but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken’.

So, is there a point that myself as photographer can dance between the two? Between synthesis and selection, uniting them in my methodology and output? This exploration is part one of my roadmap then, and it’s this digital composite approach will be one way to accomplish that.


I am approaching this dance of discovery in a fairly instinctive way (improvisatory again I guess). This means that I am frequently using images shot elsewhere for the M.A. and often on my ubiquitous medium format Fuji GFX50S. Images are then composited or layered in Photoshop, and I’m also using Exposure and Nik software tools for the tweaking of colour and layout. Elsewhere, I have become utterly seduced by my iPhone 11 Pro Max which I bought second-hand recently. I’m using that to continue editing the images mentioned above or to create new ones in the phone itself and then playing with its capacities as a tool alongside a number of photo editing apps. This is also informed by the fact that I am currently running photography workshops for a community organisation in Bromley-By-Bow, London in which we are almost exclusively using mobile phones. So I am using mine to discover what it can do, especially as a means to ‘sketch’ photographic ideas that might be taken further in other ways, and to impart my learning there to the workshop.


Szarkowski, John. 1966. The Photographer’s Eye. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.