Studio Practice Proposal – Final Images with Analysis – ”A personal journey reflected through the visual image featuring Northumberland and its sunsets”


A personal journey reflected through the visual image featuring Northumberland and its sunsets’

This project really began when I visited Andalucia on holiday in June 2014 in earnest as a photographer but it has become on reflection, a measure of a series of memories depicted through the visual image.

Photograph: Paula Thompson-Fearnley  Andalucia: Spain, June 2014

Photograph: Paula Thompson-Fearnley
Andalucia: Spain, June 2014

While visiting Andalucia this year, I rediscovered what it was like to take photographs for the pure enjoyment of doing so. Fascinated as I was with the vivid sunrises and sunsets, I began to document them but it wasn’t until later that I realised that this would become a very valuable reflective exercise. My camera changed due to a boost in finances and an award from the college that encouraged me to return to the second year of the photography degree as I was seriously considering leaving so fortunately I became interested in exhibiting through gentle persuasion and positive encouragement. Subsequently I was able to add two further fine art exhibitions to my portfolio, which included some of the sunsets I had taken in Andalucia. This gave me the inspiration to not only document a new series of sunset photographs but to narrate a visual journey where I revisited my childhood featuring the world around me ‘‘as a beautiful place’‘. This has been a very personal journey and has been designed specifically to highlight my roots with particular emphasis on my childhood and its experiences and to display my skills as a photographer. It is my overall intention that through engaging with a visual dynamic that reflects on the memories of my childhood, that the viewer will be able to re-examine their own childhood and recall it in a way which is satisfying to them. It has been a very therapeutic process for me and I have managed to lay some old ghosts to rest. Additionally, I intend that the viewer will hopefully be able to define aspects of my personality, if they feel the need to do so and begin to understand my reasons for telling my story.

Conceptual Photography & Evaluation.

As the project proposal for Studio Practice was conceptually based, my original idea of capturing sunsets evolved to include a series of images that focussed on looking at the memories of my childhood. Themes of beauty, innocence, isolation, spirituality, identity, culture, frame of reference, longing, nature, beauty, water, sunrise and sunsets are all repeated within my conceptual work. In order to be able to document this, I have learnt a number of techniques to personalise my work to make it individual and stylised so that my work may become clearly defined within the context of fine art photography. My intention is to become a frequent art exhibitor and perhaps even have a gallery of my own. There is an additional commercial aspect to my photography from a tourism perspective and part of my evaluation will be to contact the Northumberland Tourist Board to promote my work within this genre. This evaluation will be documented and published in a book (which will include my written descriptive work included here).

My final year project will involve working with Bradford Cathedral’s ‘Art Space’ where I will put on an exhibition which has taken inspiration from my own personal journey to then document the footsteps of St Aidan and the work I have on display here has inspired and enabled me to do that for my final project in 2015 for the exhibition in 2016.

1654 1The Open Door

I was a spiritual person even as a child, brought up in the traditional Christian faith my love of nature and of light and life draws me closer to God’s presence in God’s own country. An open door is symbolic therefore of my journey’s beginning and end, the light and shadow a reflection of my faith and my understanding of it and my attitude as a child (I was always willing to walk where angels feared to tred, as the saying goes), which resonates with how I still feel today.

1450 1Footsteps

My journey as a photographer has allowed me to retrace my childhood footsteps and as the sun sets in this particular composition, the realisation hits me that life can be and still is remarkably beautiful and that it is like a drug for me. Soul food.I would like my photography to convey this to others so that we can put an end to war and know only peace and love.


My fascination with Celticism, Mysticism and Christianity grew as a child growing up in Northumberland (this is a Celtic Cross) and has stayed with me into adulthood. Culturally, Christianity has been adopted somewhat from the ancient traditions who believed in magic and superstition in a way that has influenced me and enlightened me as I see God’s love in everything from the smallest branch to the greatest cathedral and somehow I measure this with a feeling of belonging and hence feeling at home. I can only try to say that whenever I am ‘home’, (i.e. back in Northumberland), it fills me with a sense of peace and it is only when I am back at the beach in Bamburgh that I realise how much the sense of belonging I feel makes sense of my own existence.

2040Not the Three Wisest of Men

When I took this photograph, its immediate significance did not come to me. My childhood was a wonderful time of my life, filled with laughter and love and understanding within a great family environment. However, I did not have a brilliant start and suffered seriously from malnutrition, at six weeks old I was under my birth weight and was diagnosed with influx of the oesphagus (which meant I could not swallow). On a cold December morning, just before Christmas, my sister and I arrived on a doorstep with a carrier bag full of clothes dressed in rags that were flea ridden and dirty. My sister and I’s hair had been bleached blonde and was coarse and unkept. The photo symbolises the immense journey I have come along to get to where I am today. It is a representation of being uprooted into safety so that I now remember what was like to follow and know love instead of pain that had gone before.

As an aesthetic, I love horses and feel that they have a kind of spirituality about them that is difficult to define. It struck me that this particular photograph has a resonance to the three wise men, in a sermon given at the Cathedral just this morning, a question was raised that asked if they were indeed the wisest of men (after not following the star as the angel had told them and visiting King Herod instead). So this photograph is a representation of us as individuals being given not only the right to follow our own star but being given the necessary courage to follow the path that God intends for us.


Inspiration for me is like a colour infusion, I see beauty in all things but never more so that in light reflections (which is a big part of the reason I wanted to become a photographer). My journey this year from a technical perspective, has been all about learning how to capture light and I could not be more delighted that my skills have increased to enable me to capture stained glass, which is one of my favourite things in the world. This was taken at St. Aidan’s Church in Bamburgh, where we often visited as a child. We would play on the beach with a bucket and spade, walk with our dog, Penny, and visit old buildings and churches so that we would know and appreciate something about our own cultural heritage. I remember when I was five, starting off singing ‘Away in a Manger‘ unprompted from the rest of the congregation, it is something my mother recalls to this day and the photography I take of stained glass has become a tribute to a visual memory, so whenever I look at a stained glass window I am still taken aback by its intricate beauty and symbolic wisdom.

2179A Rocky Coastline

I love how the golden light diffuses onto the landscape in Northumberland. I feel that the sun when it shines here with its golden cast, is unique to any other place on earth. This place is famous for its kippers and is inbetween (Craister) and Seahouses along the Northumberian coastline. It is where my father’s family are originally from. It is without doubt a beautiful part of the UK. This photograph serves as a reminder to me that walking lifes journey can sometimes come at a cost. I lost my father two years ago but the tonal value in the photograph evocates for me a place where I can still sense his presence, feel peace and recall wonderful memories of him.


The shadow of the cross falling onto the grave stone gives me a sense of reflection of the sacrifice other people have made for me, so I remember how I used to feel as a child on parade with the girl guides and rangers standing at the cenotaph freezing often in the snow and rain! This photograph celebrates the joy and sense of connection to those that have gone before and a sense of companionship to friends who add positively to my life so that my spirituality grows. This gives me a clearly defined moral and ethical grounding which I now try to instil in my own childre, which is to remember the fallen heroes. This photograph is my dedication to them as it was taken at the beginning of November 2014 near to Rememberance Day. It serves as a personal reminder not to take anything for granted.

2068Sunset Flow

A the sunset goes down an inlet drifts back out to sea causing shallow ripples which add reflections from the sunset into the water. People are congregated at the waters edge making them appear isolated, as if human kind is standing alone against nature. This concept can either scare or fill you with wonder at how beautiful and natural the planet is, I choose the latter. After walking all day waiting for this moment, I feel a sense of accomplishment by simply being at the right place at the right time but this obviously takes conceptual planning and preparation, ensuring that the right equipment is with you. The natural colour cast appeals to my association to my childhood playing and swimming in the sea at cold temperatures which are a vivid part of my memories, swimming with the jellyfish and coming out of the water to be wrapped in a warm blanket with a hot soup waiting for me. I remember everyone else being frozen and I was always warm!

1498 1Skyline

Capturing the skyline on the beach at Bamburgh, this photograph demonstrates the ability to capture light in all its wonder through the sky to give an ethereal effect. the beach. The attractiveness of this composition is demonstrated in the opposing colours and the way the light illuminates the clouds seen here in duplicate. My personality reflects here I feel as I am an air sign and often have my head in the clouds yet I firmly believe in authenticity and this is exactly how the scene was when I took it.  I feel amazed at the friendliness of the people as they stop to say hello and even ask me to photograph them on the beach with the variety of cameras they have as they can see I am a keen photographer, they strike up a conversation. I had forgotten how friendly the people of Northumberland are and so I am happy to reflect that my personality has been informed by and is still in touch with my roots.

 1490 1 updateGolden Shores

My journey as an individual photographer makes me feel isolated at times yet connected to something other than appears to be immediately obvious. I feel a tremendous privilege to be a part of that beauty and sense of the spiritual, the colours and vast light within the composition remind me that I am small and insignificant in comparison to the global picture, being there makes me feel humble and unable to convey how I feel simply by trying to put it into words. A picture after all is a thousand of them and I know that I could talk about how beautiful the fading sunset is on the beach and the splash of red against the golden glow, or the flow of the cloud formation in conjunction with the beach and sea until the cows come home.

1489The effect of light on a compositional ‘sunset’

Similar in compositional light to the previous photograph, Bamburgh Castle is unique in its placement, a fortress and symbol of Northumberland showing the courage and fortitude of its people. I always feel humble when faced with the beauty of its creation.

2140 2Sunset

My favourite colours are represented in this sunset pinks to mauve cast over and lay within the blues and greys offset by the green and the swirl of water in the distance adds a touch of white which further compliments the sky. Texture adds value to this composition allowing for a conceptual framework to come together depicting in one photograph why my childhood places still play an important role in achieving a pleasing vision as a (mature) photographer.

2241 1Angel of the North

Completes my journey to my homeland. I wanted to emphasise in the photograph the colours in the sky and the vast composition of the angel compared to the tiny figures pointing the way to my adopted home of Yorkshire and the pathway that shows the different directions I can take with my photography. I decide to take a step backwards and view the Angel of the North from a distance so that I get the curvature of the shape of the path (a cross), it makes absolute sense to me and shows that if you have the patience to wait even a few seconds for a shot, you will be rewarded.

Technical Aspects

For technical aspects please refer to research folder and previous blog posts.

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