My own practice of photography is still very much a never-ending work in progress and I am the most critical person of my own images, however I have to say in advance I am influenced by so many experiences and life events including in some cases other types of artistic practices and images and artwork, I think it would take a whole month or more to list them out. Having said that for this particular task, I can at least encompass a few of those influences that have shaped my practice so far in the form of a TV Drama.

Life on Mars (Drama, Crime, Science fiction, fantasy) was produced by the BBC and ran 16 episodes from 2006 to 2007, its main character was a Manchester detective from 2006, who was involved in an almost fatal car accident, he awoke to find himself in 1973.

Some of the reasons I chose this piece of work was because of the superb camera/effects work and authenticity of the 70’s era and iconic fashion and hairstyles and artefacts in the series. Many 1970’s visual artefacts and 70’s clothing were true to the style of the day, such as an original 1974 Ford Cortina.

I was taken back by the visual panning shots of the roads and homes and offices typical of that day and the surrounding areas.

I also loved the 70’s music incorporated into the story and dramatic scenes. I think that a lot of the elements in this TV Drama and many other similar types of Film and TV have transcended to my work to some degree and have given me many ideas in the way I produce images. In particular, the concept of time travel in Life on Mars often allows the viewer to compare and reflect on the past and present all at the same time through the actor’s reactions and visual aids used in the creative filming elements. Due to viewing restriction in Hong Kong of British TV etc I have given you 3 links to view some of the examples, if you are in the UK you may try the BBC links first if outside of UK you can use the other links.

Ref List & links

ACORNMEDIAUS. 2009. Life on mars (UK) – after the accident Available at [accessed 26 September 2016].

BBC. 2008. “Life on mars – BBC One.” BBC [online]. Available at: [accessed 26 September 2016].

P, luna 18 and 2016 DAILYMOTION. 2014. Life on mars – S01E01 Available at: [accessed 26 September 2016].

Response from one of my peers on the MA course to my own influences outside of photography.

Hi Paul – great to see a TV drama as an example. Not something I was expecting to see but absolutely get what you mean about how they can influence our work. I haven’t seen Life on Mars. For me, the filming of Breaking Bad is probably closest to my work on landscapes. I adore wide open space and desert-like and deserted areas so the imagery of the New Mexico vistas certainly hit a chord with me.

Response from one of my peers on the MA course to my own influences outside of photography.

Paul: Love that TV drama! Simply brilliant!

Josephine: if you are interested in landscapes different from desert-like ones, too, you should have a look at Broadchurch (both British and American versions, same story, the same protagonist, different versions). The use of framing (in relation to both characters and landscapes) is simply clever. Loved it.

Response from one of my peers on the MA course to my own influences outside of photography.

Life on Mars is great Paul. Another Manchester connection. Brilliant show and some great scenes.

I definitely think the film has a massive influence on our photography. On the topic of the moving image, I will throw in two films that I was taken aback by the superb cinematography – Drive and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Both very different.

Drive is mostly shot at night (quite a dark film!) and has some superb scenes for which the skills would translate to excellent photographs. I would love to do more dark night photography and this film has definitely provided some inspiration for that.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty couldn’t be further from Drive in terms of style. Lots of large-scale cityscape and landscape imagery. Excellent camera effects again but just in a different way.

Question from my Module Teacher

Paul, thanks for sharing this. Your thoughts made me pay specific attention to contrasts between the visual effects, which evoke the era, and the camera movements and editing, which felt very contemporary. That makes me think about how the other way around is often seen in photography: using old techniques to create contemporary looking images. Could you say more about how these TV dramas have transcended to your approach to making pictures? For example, are you setting yourself the challenge of replicating a range of effects/camera angles? or is it more about digressing from such techniques in search of new ones?

My response

Many questions I have noted during this course of study have made me think about my existing influences past and present and TV drama, in this case, is just one of many. And I have questioned my own photography practice in terms of the subject matter and how best to communicate my theme or genre.

Because the question for this activity was to find one item, I found it quite hard to pin one single discipline or practice that has influenced me so far in relation to my practice.

In some ways yes I am trying to improve the effects of my images, not so much about the angles, although it’s something to consider in any event.

In terms of this TV drama of a sci-fi nature influence, if you like, I want to build a look or a technique that can help encompass all of or a few of my focused disciplines together, I will mention one or two, during the next Webinar.

For me the authenticity of the image is important so if I’m taking a photograph of saying the iconic trams of Hong Kong , I want to keep the image looking generally as it was , however in post production, if the image is suitable ( depending on the subject matter) and if I managed to frame it as I wanted, I will create if you like a 70’s or 80’s or a sci-fi or a graphic novel look, I guess I’m trying to forge my own signature style and improve my understanding of image making as whole.

And yes I would say yes I am also searching for new techniques to reflect my own past and present interests.

It’s probably fair to say I’m a photographic software freak when it comes to Image manipulation, but I never dismantle the image to the point it looks fake or has been processed too much, as I believe the base image must encompass the traditional skills and art unless it’s of a documentary nature.

I recently saw some photographic exhibitions of photography in HK and it has reminded me how much I also like printed images and how they can give almost a 3D look or a texture, which matches some subject matters. Printing companies are quite local to where I live and I want to research how and what materials they can print on.

Thanks for your comments


Response from one of my peers on the MA course to my own influences outside of photography.

If we are talking about film mixing moving and still image & photography influencing film then you have to mention Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Not only is Tilda Swinton’s performance sublime and heaven to watch…the whole film is fascinating in its use of mostly still vignettes. With very little in the way of panning shots and following shots, each section is carefully framed bearing consideration to colour palettes and image composition. Often using frames within frames and with a few nods to the techniques used in silent movies, it is a beautiful and fascinatingly structured film.

My response to one of my peer’s thoughts on outside influences and her ideas.

I must admit the idea with the suitcases encapsulating life’s experiences good or bad is an interesting one. As a photographer it’s difficult I guess to see the lines of reality and the perception of reality if you get my meaning? well anyway at the end of the day we need to enjoy what we do in Photography. if your personal journey in photography is positive then, you are good to go!

My peer response to my comment

Thanks, Paul. Good point. I think that our reality is basically a sum of our perception, especially when we are telling our stories.

Response to my peer’s influence of music and how it may be used in Exhibition work.


I recently went to a Photography exhibition in HK, some of the work on show included sound and even moving pictures or text, so I think it’s always an option to include it in some way. But the thing that struck me was that images that included text and sound made me lose focus on the image and even the themes , but then again the music or sound was not so good on the ears. But in any case music videos and the like have a link for sure. I do think music and sounds are underated, just to illustrate this point, when I worked at BBC Nottingham I was amazed how many radio studios there were compared to TV studios. Nottingham had around 4 or 5 dedicated radio studios to only one TV studio which tells you a lot about how music and other commentary perhaps can enhance if it’s done in the right way I guess. Not sure if this helps your thinking, but just thought of it as I read your views etc.

Peer response from my comments on the use of music in Exhibition work.

Hi Paul,

Yes I agree that sometimes text, sound or whatever other medium accompanies an exhibition can sometimes distract the viewer from the image. I think it depends ultimately of the purpose. I went to an exhibition here yesterday called Metropolis by Martin Roemers about megacities and the issues associated with increased urbanisation. The exhibition was accompanied by a lot of text which in this case really added to the exhibition as it helped give the viewer the correct context and understand the issues that this population shift brings with it. In this case, I think the text was important, however, I can see that in other exhibitions it may be more appropriate to have no text to perhaps create some ambiguity and to prompt thought and give the viewer an opportunity to develop their own interpretation of an image.

There is definitely a place for music or audio in some forms of photography projects particularly documentary. Have a look an the video below which uses still images with audio to insert some interview snippets with the local people and also quite impactful music which add emphasis and drama to certain parts of the presentation. Have a look and let me know what your thoughts are on this. That said, if I went to an exhibition with random music I think, like you, I would be put off and lose interest in the artists work. What sort of exhibition was it and what sort of music did they have? I’m interested to know more and examples of what doesn’t work. Can you share a link?

I don’t think that one size fits all through across the different genres/ sub-genres of photography. In the case of documentary photography there has been a shift to incorporating different mediums due to the nature of the industry and the greater use of online dissemination of stories of this nature. I think in this particular case, Ed Kashi developed a number of different outputs to fit the various different types of media that are consumed today – a book, a short film for an online platform, a longer film for other purposes, images for an exhibition, images for a website story etc. etc. Challenging to keep up with it all I imagine.

Glad to see video didn’t kill the radio star at the BBC 🙂

My response to my peers comments above. 


This is the exhibition , but often the artist won’t reveal that they have any sound or moving visuals included.

From what I have observed in the media and at the BBC working along side sound engineers and TV engineers,  is that the music or sound has to have a strong link to the subject matter for it to be effective sometimes background music can start to feel like the music you sometimes hear on an automated answering machine.  In the case of the video pictorial you referenced by Ed Kashi the words and photographs were more prominent part of the presentation so it seemed to work. The other thing I noted also that some people were not so keen to use the same headphones used by others at exhibitions, so something to consider.


My response to one of my peers discussion on her pertentual research on social anthropology.

Social anthropology ( studying the norms and values of society) , I had to look it up, from what I saw in your presentation last week, your types of images you described and talked about, regarding stereotype images of the border of India and Pakistan( I think that’s what you said right?) is difficult to capture, due to political and sensitive issues perhaps , as I know here in HK it’s hard to portray the truth, due to political and legal pressures now being put upon its citizens. Even as I type this message the HK government is trying to use legal methods to stop local newspapers from reporting news and events that are political in nature. I guess it depends on how deep you document, I was thinking about documenting daily life in HK, the less political parts of life and what people don’t see or understand in the west or other parts of the world. China would be more radical and dangorous to document and I may get arrested for some imaginary crime if I even tried, not sure I could survive 🙂

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