Propagation; Behind the scenes


Test shoots and planning

My final series was to be photographed at the Trees for Life tree nursery in Dundreggan and I had little time once I was there to practice and re-shoot. Subsequently, I spent many months preparing by practising using external flash kits, metering and understanding the visual effect of the Kodak film with flash. This lovely Chilean Holly bush became my muse. The numerous leaves and the multiple twisted angles in which they grew provided a technical challenge for me when it came to positioning the flash and reflectors. It was my hope that this challenge would prepare me for my final shoot in March/April time at the tree nursery.   

Propagation Behind the Scenes


Dundreggan Tree Nursery

At the tree nursery, I was met by the most amazing variation of tiny tree saplings. Each sapling grew in it’s own unique way therefore providing it’s own special identity.


Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews

Propagation Behind the Scenes

My own little pop-up studio was set up in the bird watching hut behind the polly tunnels circled above. For April it wasn’t the warmest of environments but it provided much needed sheltering from unwanted sunlight. Thanks to Josh Raper – who was also photographing within the Dundreggan Estate at the time – I was able to set up a slightly wonky black back-drop  within the hut. After hours of meticulous adjustments to each piece of equipment, my chosen saplings were photographed one by one.

Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews   Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews

Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews  ….followed by hours of scanning the film negatives….

Final Presentation


Each sapling was printed life-size and presented in an FSC certified wooden oak box frame. This form of presentation enabled each sapling to be viewed as a preserved specimen and also further emphasised the 3D appearance of the print.



Propagation; Behind the scenes

Media Medicum Exhibition

Archive Post

May 9th 2015

Click to view the Final Series

Last month I held my first exhibition at Gallery 17, along with 4 other fellow photographers. Four months previously, the team decided to create work surrounding the theories and practices of 19th century medicine. As a historical hot spot for medicine, Edinburgh was the perfect location for our chosen theme.

My project consisted of making 9 photograms. This was particularly daunting at first considering I had never created a photogram before. A photogram is made by placing an object on top of light sensitive paper and then exposing the paper to artificial light for a certain amount of time. My exposure times lasted up to 30 seconds but the exposure differed on each photogram depending on how thick the material was. The image created is essentially the shadow of the objects. What photograms often show is how light travels through and around objects as well as where it reflects. The results can be incredibly beautiful and can almost fully replicate the object itself as if it were just a photograph. In my initial experimentation I used a tea spoon and the photogram replicated the object itself almost entirely. It looked exactly like a photograph because of how light had reflected on the surface.

A very similar process was used in the 19th century to document various botanical specimens and so I decided to use this technique to creatively record objects that looked as if they were medical specimens.

The exhibition ran for a week and we had an incredibly joyful time talking to visitors and learning about their insight into medical history. The ability to encourage conversation is possibly one of the most satisfying things my photography can do.

Media Medicum Exhibition