Manna image sequence – layout test page for project zine. James Bellorini 2020.

Yesterday I attended a project critique session with Dinu Li and a number of peers.

It’s always interesting to receive responses to work from an audience. Especially when what they see opens up new insights and ways of thinking about it. It’s also helpful if some of those chime with what I set out to communicate in the work, of course. Above all critique sessions are a way to show me where I stand by my practice as well as the places I need to grow or develop.

So, yesterday we had to show our current FMP image sequences without comment or context. To let the work speak for itself. Those present were then asked to comment on what they see in the work. Without filter. Sometimes these might be obvious visual elements. Sometimes more emotional or aesthetic impressions about what the work is saying. This is what I noted from the comments:

  • Not restaurant food, imperfect food
  • Erotic, sensual theatre
  • The work is urgent
  • People are devouring the food, enjoying it
  • Frequently there is more food than one person can eat
  • An incongruous gaze
  • The still-life work is raw and honest
  • Voyeuristic quality, especially with the use of flash
  • Because the work is mostly outdoors there is a primitive feel to it (see The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Heironymous Bosch).
  • Distinct painterly qualities

What’s my response to these? I’ve been aware of many of them through my own project reflection. So, I can take comfort in the fact that the congruity here supports an approach that is working. The mention of the voyeuristic elements in the work is something I’m intrigued by. I need to reflect on this and what voyeurism can mean in photography. Diane Arbus and Weegee come to mind. As there is such a strong female presence in the project at the moment I’m not sure I’m fully comfortable with it. That might confuse the message? I have wanted to redress the gender balance moving forward. However, it’s not been as easy to find male participants willing to contribute to the work in front of the camera. But it’s important that there are more male voices present. That might help with the sense that the voyeurism is not meant to be gender-specific but a defined quality in the work. One that goes hand-in-hand with the conscious intimacy in it.

Mesa (Table). Clara Peeters 1611. Image credit: Museo Nacional del Prado.

The painterly discussion is one I have been overtly conscious of already. And posts throughout my CRJ give voice to that. This is something that everyone felt was an avenue worth exploring. In any case, I trained as a painter (a long time ag) so I think this approach is inherent in me any way. Dinu suggested I research the work of Clara Peeters (whose incongruous and honest still-lives have a direct resonance), Bosch, and Poussin and continue my own dialogue with a painterly approach.


Museo del Prado 2020. Peeters, Clara, Museo del Prado, viewed 25th November 2020, <>