Exercise 5.1: The Distance Between Us

3rd September 2021

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring. Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’.

OCA EYV (2014:103)


There is no greater distance than a teenager and a parent. For me this divide is a smaller one than most families, because both of my girls have travelled through this notorious age phase without being the stereotypical nightmare.

For me the distance between myself and my youngest daughter is one that will always be there. She is autistic and gifted, a gifted writer and philosopher. Therefore the theme for this exercise is my daughter, the distance between us isn’t our relationship but the difference in the way we experience the world around us.

For this exercise I chose to take some photographs of my daughter at work, rest and play. I had to ask permission as she hates her photograph being taken and it is one of her definite ‘do not!’ attitudes.

I explained to my daughter the concept behind this shoot and she thought it was a good way of letting people know a little more about how autism affects people, and in this case her individual traits. I was lucky, explained it would be a few shots over a couple of days and she said that she wouldn’t mind if I produced a properly researched and photographer series on how she lives with and experiences her disability. Something I will definitely do at a later date.

While I was discussing the exercise with Poppy and how we could relate how she reacted to the world around her, we thought about how the chosen photograph could be developed further. We decided that we would produce a triptych with the same image being used but presented in three different ways.

The Triptych

The first image would be exactly how I shoot it, left unaltered in any way. This would represent how people would see her without any preconceptions. They would have to read the photograph to gain information about her portrait as subject.

The second image, is how, as her mother, I think she is responding to the environment around her. My assumptions are based on previous descriptions she has given me when she has been in distress. For my interpretation I will manipulate the image and interpret my ideas into visual representations of such descriptions.

The third copy of the image Poppy is able to write and draw on. The added text and drawings etc… would be Poppy’s description of how she was feeling at that time and she would illustrate this how she wants to. This would represent Poppy’s thoughts, feelings and emotions, so it is a personal response for the viewers to see without any input from myself.

Therefore the three images would read as follows:

How the world views the image, how I think (as the parent) Poppy is feeling and experience the world around her, and lastly how Poppy is actually feeling and responding to the world around her.

Contact Sheets

The contact sheets below show a few snapshots of Poppy in certain situations such as , sleeping, working on her home tuition, texting to her friend in America, baking, and also some images of her chaos – mess!


  • Camera: Lumix GH5
  • Lens: 50mm
  • ISO: 3200
  • Exposure: Manual
  • W.B: Auto
  • File Type: Raw and jpeg
  • Manipulation Apps: Photo Lab Pro and Photoleap
  • Drawing App: SketchBook

Manipulated Image Technique for Image 2

Photoleap: Loaded original image – See All – Try Quickart – Shatter manipulation – Save

Photo Lab: Loaded the saved image from Photo Lab – Colour and Lighting Filter – Tropical Cocktail – Smart Filters – Indigo – Overlays – Wrapped in Softness – Save

Sketchbook: Loaded the saved image from Photo Lab twice using Layers – Erased some of the Indigo Smart Filter to reveal more of the Tropical Cocktail Filter – Save

Drawing for Image 3

Poppy used a variety of pen and paintbrush tools in the Sketchbook App,

The Triptych


I think that the triptych actually shows how the distance between me and my daughter actually is. Using previous knowledge taken from conversations with Poppy, I thought that the train would be overwhelming for her. I believed this because of the movement, light and noise which Poppy has described on many occasions as blinding, energetic, confusing, painful and colourful etc…

Due to my assumptions I added colours that I have when experiencing a migraine and used the bokeh circles for the pockets of moving speckles I also see during an attack and also how Poppy sees colours when she is over sensitive to the colour in her surroundings.

However, Poppy’s interpretation in SketchBook showed a different story. Poppy is advanced in using this App so she would be able to create any type of visual interpretation for the viewer. She however used only a selected few pens and paintbrushes and did not want to write any words upon the image.

Once completed we discussed her image. I was actually quite bewildered to how wrong I was on how she experienced the environment while travelling on a train.

Poppy explained that she actually likes train rides, especially when she has her neck guard, ear defenders and eye mask on. She finds her ‘equipment’ helps to block out the little disturbances that she does find she experiences on the train.

I asked her to critique my image of how I perceived she was feeling on the train. Her response was that my image was far to bright for the train ride and in fact the colours she experienced were actually cooler. less vibrant and consisted of only a few colours.

These colours were not as mixed as I had represented mine either. She explained that her head experienced a lighter colouring of blue while her body had heavier colours of browns and golds. The mustard, gold colour rose from her body upwards. The heavy and darker brown was also felt around her ears where the pressure is from her noise defenders. From here her eye area was very dark, scratchy black due to the blocking out of light by the eye mask.

The use of the first image would be enough to present for this exercise because it shows a young girl who is heavily covered in equipment to block out her immediate surroundings. However I chose to extend this exercise to create a triptych because I felt that the three different conclusions from one image on the subject of ‘The Distance Between Us’ would emphasise this concept and involve, the viewer’s perspective when they come to the image without any preconceptions of Poppy, my perspective as a mother and Poppy’s true feelings and reaction to her experience and surroundings on the train.

For me I have just found out that ‘The Distance Between Us’ as Mother and Autistic daughter is further than I thought.

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