Some really interesting questions posed this week, not least about my personal relationship with the equipment I use and the choices I am making. Equipment, especially, because I have been granted the great luxury of working with digital medium format for the first time. I have access to just a single lens to go with the camera, and I am already finding that added restriction together with a smaller frame area (5×4 equivalent) peculiarly liberating.

There are a number of photo sketches I have been trying to make, to conjure visually some of my most pressing and poignant memories of childhood. Key among these involves the worm and the sandpit, which runs thus:

When I was five years old, my father and I built a sandpit together. While digging with a spade I accidentally cut a worm in half.

I was distraught and turned away from the scene of my destruction. My father told me the worm would not only survive, but would probably thrive as two separate worms.

“Come, Lol, look.”  He said.

I turned and saw two halves of the worm writhing, still alive. My father picked them up and we took them to find fresh damp soil elsewhere.

The incident of the worm remains one of my most vivid memories of childhood, happening two years after my mother left us both.

It has been visualised thus (the worm itself was thanked for its time and shape and repatriated home to the compost bin). 

Stanley Knife and worm
Stanley Knife and worm

Rather than working, as Flusser suggests, against the medium and equipment of photography, I am trying harder than ever to work with and within it, to see whether, like Japanese haiku or the incarcerated character Gould in Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish, stricture of form (in my case the frame), can set creative juices free. 

One of my photographic heroes Alec Soth certainly thinks so, saying he finds the delineated confines of the frame liberating in the same way a writer would find a blank page.

I hope he’s right. But I would very much like to experiment beyond the camera in due course, particularly with what new renderings I might make with old film exposures, textured surfaces, and a film scanner. The idea comes from my daughter who I saw creating a painting by painting over plastic netting to interesting effect.


  • Flanagan, R. (2014). Gould’s book of fish : a novel in twelve fish. London: Atlantic Books.
  • Both, R (2019). Photographic Storytelling (online course). Magnum Photos.

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