“London is no longer the capital. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.


Perhaps the title of this blog post is a little sensational (got to do what you can to get people’s attention these days, though), but it was an interesting starting point for Colin Archibald’s Photography 3: Advanced course. Using a variety of visual strategies, Debenham Millennium City imagines what the impact of the re-location of Britain’s capital city to a village in Suffolk might be… Colin came to this course with a stack of Photoshop skills and some interesting ideas, but he has worked diligently throughout the course to develop this single body of work, which he currently has installed in a gallery in Debenham, Suffolk. Colin is organising a talk about his project on Saturday 18th May at the Spiral Gallery, IP14 6QW, from 11am.

A lot of people enjoy experimenting with Photoshop, deceiving older notions of the reality of the photographic image, but in my opinion, people tend to ‘play around’ with Photoshop with a great deal of enthusiasm but without a great deal of thought.  I would like to congratulate Colin on completing an exciting and irreverent body of work which demonstrates a good deal of technical accomplishment, but moreover, addresses some really interesting ideas.

© Colin Archibald

JA: What was the starting point for this work?

CA: Having read about the fantastic buildings of the new capital city Astana in Kazakhstan I decided last summer to go and photograph them. During the visit I started to think about the impact of a capital city move on the UK and what a new city would look like. I imagined how a new city could be integrated with the village I live in Debenham and also what magazine coverage and guide books you would find. The first few pictures started as an assignment and then grew into a major project for the course.

JA: What is the idea behind your installation?

© Colin Archibald

CA: I have admired the work of Joan Fontcuberta for some time and especially some of  his exhibitions like ‘Fauna’ in which he produced the text to tell the story of a scientific expedition and aged the pictures to match. I have not seen the work exhibited but I understand that hand written notes, photographs some photographic plates and a lot of dust is used to convince the viewer that the expedition was real. I decided that an alternative reality exhibition of the Debenham city photographs plus artefacts could allow people to suspend their rational thought for a while and enjoy the experience of a new city.

Initially a discussion with the gallery over the concept and providing some of the pictures provided an agreement to proceed with a formal proposal. The documented proposal for the exhibition was then discussed with the gallery until we had agreement on all aspects of the exhibition. The proposal included details of the concept, reasoning, exhibition contents, four month timetable of activities to launch the exhibition and a list of advertising opportunities. Spiral gallery is quite small and also has jewellery and other handmade items for sale so the main debate was over what space was available for the exhibition plus, dates, commercial agreement and how we split the advertising work.

All the pictures and artefacts that I had produced have been displayed at the gallery although they decided on where in the gallery the items would be displayed.

JA: What are the challenges with Level 3 compared to Level 2?

CA: The biggest difference I found between Level 2 courses and the Level 3 Advanced course is that the structure and scope is wide open. Not only do you have to produce some great pictures but you have to decide and plan for yourself what you are going to do. Instead of a course book full of projects to complete you have a couple of pages explaining that you need to plan your work over six assignments. This is a very positive aspect to this course but it can come as a bit of a surprise. I understand that the other Level 3 course ‘Your own portfolio’ has more structure and perhaps in hindsight I should have taken that course before ‘Advanced’. At level 3 you have the photographic skills, what you need to work out is what you are going to do with them. For ‘Advanced’ my advice would be to start thinking about what you want to achieve during the course and perhaps experiment with a few ideas as soon as you decide to enrol.

© Colin Archibald

JA: How did you find working on one major project throughout the module?

CA: It did not start out that way, as I had several ideas to explore but I enjoyed working on the Debenham city pictures and with a positive reaction from my tutor it seemed the logical way forward. Once it was agreed that I should pursue this as a major piece of work for the course, I then established what needed to be completed by the end and then broke that down into the manageable assignments.  This seems to provide a bit more flexibility in bring work forward or pushing it back between assignments if needed.

JA: Do you have any plans to develop this work further?

© Colin Archibald

CA: I would like to continue creating pictures and developing the story until there is enough content to produce a book. The book would appeal to two sets of people, locals interested to read an account of the city development with pictures and to photographers for the images. My only concern is whether the images will stand on their own if the viewer does not know what Debenham looks like to start with?

I will be available from 11am to host a group tour of the exhibition on Saturday May 18th. If you are interested please e-mail me colin.archibald@btinternet.com  so that I know how many people will be coming and also so that I can provide information on parking etc.




  1. Stephanie Hollis 23 April 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Interesting images – I find the last one quite powerful.

    1. Colin Archibald 24 April 2013 at 8:40 am

      Thank you Stephanie, it took ages to remove the original houses behind the dust in the tractor picture and then show this Astana building through the dust whilst retaining the seagulls.

  2. Sarah G 24 April 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Really fantastic images, great use of Photoshop (far better than my skills) i’ve really enjoyed looking through these and good luck with the exhibition.

    1. Colin Archibald 24 April 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Thank you Sarah, there are some more pictures from the exhibition on my website, see comment below.


  3. Dewald 24 April 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Very interesting to read…

    I’ve said it before, so won’t go on about it, but I really do wish more L3 people would take part on the OCA Flickr site for example, because it is really cool to see other L3 work, especially since I’m halfway through YOP, and Adv is next…

    All the best with the talk, and hope to see a little more of your work!

    1. Colin Archibald 24 April 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Hi Dewald,
      There are more Debenham city pictures on my website http://www.reflectionsofreality.co.uk but please excuse a lot of my earlier work that is also on the site! How are you finding YOP as I am just about to start?


      1. Stephanie Hollis 24 April 2013 at 6:43 pm

        Dear Colin,
        Thanks for the link to your website as I’m interested to see more of your photographs. I hope I may make a constructive comment about the design. I find the black background very difficult to read text on.
        I hope this is helpful.

        1. Colin Archibald 25 April 2013 at 9:29 am

          Thank you Stephanie. I understand your comment but I do like the black background for the pictures, perhaps I should use a white text box with black text?


        2. Peter Haveland 25 April 2013 at 10:09 am

          I think that a larger font and greater line spacing would help and avoid compromising the design

      2. Stephanie Hollis 25 April 2013 at 12:00 pm

        Hi Colin,
        Thanks for your reply. Actually I think your pictures ‘breathe’ more with the white background as it is on this page – but that’s just me and others may disagree of course. As Peter suggested, a largish font and wide line spacing might make it easier to read if you like the black – another idea could be a mid grey which would still register as darkish but be gentler on the eyes maybe.

        1. Catherine 25 April 2013 at 1:24 pm

          I have the same difficulty as you with black backgrounds and white letters Stephanie. The images do certainly seem more striking as well against the white page here.

          This is a fascinating project Colin and the images look so authentic. I doubt I’ll be able to get to the Exhibition but will you be writing it up somewhere? How about a video of the installation?

        2. Colin Archibald 25 April 2013 at 1:59 pm

          Stephanie, Catherine, Peter,
          Thank you all for your ideas on the background and text for my website. It is time for a re-work so I will experiment with your ideas.
          I will have a look at producing a short video of the installation and I have written up information on how I approached the exhibition for my learning log. I will discuss with Jesse how we could present the video and notes via the OCA web site.

        3. Stephanie Hollis 25 April 2013 at 7:22 pm

          You’re welcome Colin – it was motivated by interest in your work, and I wish you luck.

      3. Dewald 25 April 2013 at 1:54 pm

        Thanks Colin, it helps to see where you’ve come from, and I really do think, now that I’ve seen more work on the series, the context around it… a really interesting body of work, asking questions about the spaces we inhabit.

        I believe you are right, I haven’t seen the Adv material, but there is some structure to YOP, some exercises / projects, the first three assignments are given (As. 2 you can choose from given topics), but after the essay, you have to draft your own proposal (well, much earlier actually), and then build your own framework to go from there… I think YOP is suppose to go before Adv, so you may find it easier than I would probably get on with Adv after YOP… will have to see.

        Best of luck forward!

  4. Stephanie Hollis 24 April 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Dewarld, what does YOP stand for?

    1. Lee 24 April 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Stephanie

      YOP is a level 3 course (Your Own Portfolio)

      1. Stephanie Hollis 24 April 2013 at 6:40 pm


  5. Catherine 25 April 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Colin, That’s great that you’ll think about a video of the installation. Do you have a blog as well as the website?

  6. Cedric Sherwood 25 April 2013 at 5:59 pm


    Fascinating. Excellent use of Photoshop as there is a sense of reality about the images that is too often not the case. I would like to come on 18th May and see the images and listen to you talk. I live reasonably close in Bury St Edmunds.

    I have just completed Assignment 1 of YOP and plan to start ‘Advanced’ round about September so would love the chance to discuss what is involved. I was advised to take YOP first by the OCA.

    Look forward to meeting you


    1. Colin Archibald 26 April 2013 at 9:17 am

      If you drop me an e-mail Cedric I will e-mail some details to you on parking etc a week before the visit.

      I will be interested to find out how you are finding YOP when we meet.


  7. Stephanie Hollis 25 April 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Talking about incongruity (though not montage), have you seen Burtynsky’s video Manufactured Landscapes?

  8. Colin Archibald 26 April 2013 at 9:13 am

    I have now, thank you Stephanie. Similar work that I like includes: A common Destiny by Cedric Delsaux and Workers by Sebastiao Salgado.

  9. Colin Archibald 26 April 2013 at 9:19 am

    Sorry Catherine just the web site.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.