August 2, 2020

Applied Practice | Dream Theory Project | Concept Development 01


To recap, I had decided that my project would reflect the idea of wellbeing through an exploration of dreams. My research led me to the Dream Theory of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who describes dreams as a process the mind undertakes in order to heal itself.

This end is achieved through experiences, indistinguishable from reality, described visually in a language of ancient archetypes—the most basic building blocks of human consciousness.

At this stage I attempting to bring my research together in my mind and identify a starting direction that I could pursue in order to make my first image. Or a theme that I could grasp hold of that would sustain a series of images.

The following pages of my notebook show a progression as I developed my thinking. In terms of collaboration, I made sure I spoke to as many people as possible who might know something about the areas I was interested in. So you might say I collaborated with two trained psychologists (family members), an art historian, and a war historian who might be able to help me with locations for shooting.

A typical page from my notebook as I quickly jot down my thoughts and try to list items to shoot.

Thoughts on Rousseau and the experiments with scale of Max Ernst

Thinking about a process for building a composite image

Referencing Botticelli, The banquet in the forest and more Max Ernst, rough sketches

Heroic archetypes and Botticelli's, The banquet in the forest
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Visual notes on a second image referencing the conflicting perspectives found in Giorgio De Chirico's surrealist paintings

Listing possible shooting requirements to build a composite from

Developmental changes

Having pursued the idea of a composite and with the references described in the notes above I had begun to make a start with my first image. I started to place placeholders for trees in a large Photoshop artboard and I had an idea to construct an image compiled from many images of crows that I shot in Brompton cemetery.

However, as I worked on the beginning of the image (and shot several hundred photographs to to build the composite with) I was struck with the realisation that even though the process itself was creating a whole image out of fragments, and this worked as an analogy for my thoughts about the fragmented nature of dreams, the finished product would appear to be a whole image. The essential part of the idea would be lost—visually—to a potential viewer.

I needed to readdress the idea, so I started to look at breaking the image into segments, perhaps using bubbles or strings of some sort.

A first sketch thinking about dividing a large image with bubbles

I started to think of my image as a collection of discontinuous images arranged to form a coherent whole

The right hand panel above explores different methods of segmentation

I thought of shooting through a segmented frame

Beginning to simplify the segmentation idea

My first notes about 'magic plastic'

Magic Plastic

I went to the lengths of purchasing some Magic Plastic, (the glow-in-the-dark variety to counteract reflections should I shoot in very low light).

I thought I could create a collection of bubbles and photograph them to build a base structure for my image. I liked the idea of using Magic Plastic because slightly deflated, the material has an unusual organic quality and might not be as recognisable or reflective as soap bubbles. I could also manipulate the bubble group like a sculpture. No doubt I'll experiment with this in the future, but I decided to abandon this approach because it seemed over-elaborate.

I wasn't convinced that the idea would work visually. I felt that it was an apposite analogy but perhaps I was trying too hard to produce a visual metaphor when it would be more effective to simplify the idea, and leave more in the hands of the viewer to interpret.

Magic plastic

Making a rig to hold strings


Having thrown out the bubbles idea I settled on strings as a way of segmenting an image. I was leaning towards a simpler overlay, rather than a separate image in each segment. I needed a method of shooting this so I could introduce it digitally.


I thought this idea might work if I photographed against a green screen. My research revealed that for still photographs blue screen is better (green is easier to key out on video, but blue is more accurate for stills). As luck would have it I have two blue-painted rooms.

Segmentation concept (bubbles)

Thinking of Bubbles and Strings as a pair of images

Starting to land on a workable concept

An idea about using insets for simplicity

Thinking about how I might apply my images to three-panel layouts (referencing Hieronymus Bosch)

Further thoughts on creating a rig to hold tensioned strings

Sketching a treatment

The First Image

By this stage I had gone out and found a stand of pine to photograph, (referencing Botticelli). I'll show the results in another post but it meant that I could turn my attention to building a rig for strings. The next step beyond that would be to incorporate the strings in to my image of the pines.

The sketch above shows the pines I photographed and a concept for how the strings might look when woven into the image.

Thoughts on how exactly to build a rig for the strings

The sketch on the right shows how I eventually rigged up the strings on a steel frame.


The developmental process outlined in this post took me right the way through to a working method that I could carry across my series of images.

My goal now was to photograph a set of landscapes that I could build my series of six from. At the same time I needed to get materials, build a string sculpture, shoot it against blue, chromakey the background out and have high resolution assets ready for my experimental compositions.

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