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FMP Project Proposal

Coventry University BA (Hons) Photography

Working with Photography Practice in Context: 352MC                                                 


Student: Emma Shea                                                                        Date: Jan 2015



After focusing on it in our 351MC Module, Photography and Narrative (PHONAR), I intend to continue working with the subject of my personal experiences with rape and sexual abuse. I wish to create a body of work that translates the emotional trauma and timeline of my experiences into something that the audience can understand, empathise and engage with.


My current thoughts for presentation are a book, as I think a physical object would help in creating a narrative and an intimate experience with the viewer. I am unsure as to whether I will use digital or manual photography for my work, but I am leaning towards the use of medium format, as this would give me further control over the creation of my work.


I want to use this as an opportunity to explore my own emotions on the subject of my rape and the seven year journey of recovery I have been on since then, while also creating something a viewer can understand, and perhaps through it, leave with a better understand of trauma rape victims experience and the hardships they face through simply surviving after the experience.

This ties in well with my symposium subject matter but will take a much more personal look at my own experiences.



Skills to develop

·       Confidence

·       Motivation

·       Stress control

·       Darkroom Printing


·       Budget for materials (film, printing, travel, framing, materials for potential book, mockups)

·       If I choose to go for manual photography, the cost of the project will be higher

·       Time

·       Media Loan Shop

·       Personal Equipment (primarily digital)



Week 1 14/1: Beginning – Project Proposal + relevant research from past work

Week 2 21/1: Continue with research

Week 3 28/1: Re-visit Project Proposal + develop research further

Week 4 04/2: Start to develop ideas based on research + experiment with visuals

Week 5 11/2: Idea practice and experimentation

Week 6 18/2: Further research and Idea development (SYMPOSIUM PRACTICE)

Week 7 25/2: Shooting (SYMPOSIUM EVENT)

Week 8 04/3: Shooting

Week 9 11/3: Editing? (Maybe darkroom)

Week 10 18/3: Editing? (Maybe darkroom)

Week 11 25/3: Time for any problems/ idea changes

Week 12 04/4: Catch up on any writing/ book work/ blog work that has fallen behind

Week 13 11/4: printing

Week 14 18/4: Making a book (if book) or framing/ whatever

Week 15 25/4: Tying any loose ends together

Week 16 04/5: Any emergency time

Week 17 11/5: Personal deadline

Week 18 18/5: Any emergency time

Week 19 20/5: HAND IN DEADLINE



With reference to the Assessment Requirements (see below) and Intended Learning Outcomes for this Module, specify what you intend to achieve by the end of this project and try and summarize what you hope to have learnt. This section should also include a sentence describing how you want your audience to respond to your work – how, ideally it would be appreciated and understood.


·       Engaging body of work that will create an emotive response

·       Personal therapeutic benefits from telling my own personal story

·       Body of work suitable for final exhibition

·       Better skills in photography, whether it be digital, manual, darkroom printing or other skills


I want my audience to have an emotive response from viewing my work. I want the intimacy and trauma to be revealed to them through my images and overall help them to understand my personal experiences and possible the more far reaching implications rape has on victims overall.




‘When Butterflies Die’ has been as much about creating a body of work as it has been about taking the opportunity to tell my story, and gain the therapeutic benefits of doing so.

The consideration of using my rape as a subject for my project began during another module, ‘Photography and Narrative’. During this I told my story for the first time to an audience, and felt empowered in doing so. In explaining the narrative of my experience to people, I also understood it more myself.

The interest in continuing this subject was strengthened by our Symposium, in which I discussed Rape Culture and its relationship with photography. I was introduced to different critical photographic studies, the most influential for my work being Ariella Azoulay’s ‘The Civil Contract of Photography’. I was able to critically analyse the relationship between rape and photography, and the wider impact it has on society.

After the symposium, I decided to take my Final Major Project back too a more personal place. I wanted to explore my emotions surrounding my trauma, and try to translate something so intensely personal and abstract into a physical creation that could be interpreted and understood by an audience.

As the subject of my own rape is something I am intimately familiar with, it didn’t require research. Instead, I focused my efforts on researching photographers and artists who had translated their own experiences into pieces of work. Sally Mann’s, ‘Proud Flesh’, and Sara Davidmann’s, ‘Ken. To Be Destroyed’, set me on the path of physically ‘attacking’ my photographs, creating a physical representation of my trauma and emotions, something usually invisible the eye.

Briony Campbell’s, ‘Dad Project’, made me consider a combination of multiple photographs, not necessarily immediately translatable, but all connected by the same narrative.

Through my varied research and constant experimentation, I came to the decision to create a book. It would contain a mixture of self-portraits, still lives and landscapes. Each would have personal significance to the subject of my abuse at fourteen, and the seven years of recovery leading to the present day.

I chose a book for a multiple reasons. Firstly, this project is incredibly intimate, and I wanted to be able to translate that into something the viewer would have to physically touch and get close to, so they can become immersed in the narrative and have an empathetic response. Secondly, because of the nature of the project, I was intent on having control over how my narrative was revealed to my audience. This is also why I chose to use manual photography, so I could hand print all of my photographs and be in control of every possible point of my works development.

The creation of my book was a slightly arduous journey. My desire to distress the pictures left me with the only option of sticking my photographs into the book, which was terrifying, as it could of appeared unprofessional. I made and bound the book myself; further reinforcing my control over the narrative, and creating the photo-album ‘feeling’ I was hoping for.

My desire for my book to appear like a photo-album stemmed from my research of Sara Davidmann’s work. I found the juxta-position of placing a story that had gone untold and hidden out of shame and trauma in an environment usually reserved for proud, happy moments that are immortalised for future viewing absolutely fascinating. I felt that, considering how I wanted to create an emotional connection with the viewer in the hopes of them understanding and empathising with my experiences, this would translate well through this medium. It shows how precious this narrative is to me, as it is such an intrinsic part of my life. However, it also shows my wish to no longer feel shame for what was done to me, and the strength I can now show through telling my own narrative.

The addition of a 16x20inch-framed photograph in my final submission comes from a desire for a ‘flagship’ image that draws the viewer in. The choice of photograph was a careful one, and in the end I settled on a print of my ‘safe place’. I felt that this represents the recovery I have gone through over the years, and gives the viewer an image that can act as a safe place for them, from the narrative that they might find potentially difficult to experience.

It has been a long journey for me regarding this project. I feel I could of potentially experimented more with different presentation styles instead of becoming intent on one specific choice. However, overall, I am incredibly pleased with the work I have created. I believe it succeeds in creating an emotional connection with the audience, and I know for a fact that it has been incredibly positive for me through creating it.

I have finally completed my final piece.

I have created a leather bound 23 page book and a 16x20inch framed print.

I am incredibly happy with how they both look, and i’m please with how the wood I chose for my frame compliments the leather of my book.


With the perfect cover and a strong sequence for my images, I have now begun putting together the whole of my book. I have researched multiple different tutorials on how to build books, and luckily Jason helped me create a cover I could work into quite easily.

It took a whole day to do, but my book is finally put together.

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The only thing I have left to do is write in my words. I have practiced with my calligraphy pen, but am concerned that it won’t be as effective as if I just use my normal handwriting. I may have to do a combination of the two?

After deciding on a leather cover through experimentation, I contacted my friend Jason who is a leather worker, arranged to spend a day with him creating my cover. He designed it so that I could have the cover and add the contents after its creation, as I was still working on the book binding at the time.

I am absolutely thrilled with it. I think it is stunning and beyond even how I envisioned it to be.

I took David Moores advice, and instead of having just any old butterfly engraved on the front, I drew my butterfly necklace and engraved that in instead.

Jason was fantastic help. His expertise are beyond anything I could of achieved on my own, yet he was still incredibly insistent that I be intimately involved with the whole process and not leave everything to him.

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FMP Words

Based on the use of words in my PHONAR work and how strong the combination of words and images was in regards to the sensitive subject I was conveying, I wanted to use the same technique in my book to slowly reveal the narrative to the viewer in a way that parallels my own coming to terms with the knowledge I had been raped.

I have begun experimenting with how to transfer the words into my book effectively, and what to write for the most effective and engaging story possible for the viewer, without instantly revealing the subject matter to them.

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I have had the idea from the beginning to create a family album style of book, drawing on the emotional context of my story and placing it within the confines of a book thats format would usually be considered used for happier memories.

I have considered different materials and tested them alongside also practicing how to actually create a book cover in the first place. It’s not something I have ever done before, so may have to refer to someone with more skill than me for help to create a strong cover that conveys what I wish it to for the sake of my final piece.


Now that all of my photographs have been printed, and I am beginning to put the pieces together to create my book, I have begun to consider the sequencing of my images. My narrative is very particular in that certain images belong at the end, some in the middle and some at the beginning. In a way this makes it harder because I can’t just simply pair off images based on what looks best together.

It has taken a couple of days, but I think I have finally developed a strong narrative with a combination of words and photographs.

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I have begun experimenting with book-binding for my book. I want to have control over the whole process and make a strong, hand made artefact. This will take practice and careful consideration of materials.

I have begun practicing and considering what styles and materials will be best for my work, and will continue to do so to create the best possible piece.

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I have had multiple appointments with different tutors and practitioners to get consistent feedback on my work and be given suggestions of possible ways to take it further.

I found David Rule especially helpful, giving me ideas for sequencing, presentation and printing.

He also thought my idea for my project name ‘When Butterflies Die’, was very striking and something that would grab attention, which has made me feel a lot more confident in my work in general.

Anthony suggested I consider not doing my work in a book, which I have considered and reflected upon, but ultimately decided against. His suggestion was to have the work on the wall stuck on with pins, and while I can imagine it looking aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t fit with the control over the narrative I wish to maintain. And I don’t believe I can present an as intimate piece of work for the audience to interact.

I am having a large fibre based print framed on the wall above my book to act as a ‘flagship’ image and draw people in, but otherwise I am confident in my decision to have my work presented in book form.