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  • Fact or Fiction? Photography merging genres in

    childrens picturebooks

    A Practice-Led Masters by Research Degree

    Faculty of Creative Industries

    & Faculty of Education

    Queensland University of Technology

    Discipline: Visual Arts

    25% Exegesis written component: 10,000 words

    75% Creative work: Nudges Tale picturebook

    Student: Bridgette McKelvey


    Graduate Diploma in Communications Practice, QUT

    Graduate Certificate Cambridge CELTA, University of Queensland

    Bachelor of Arts, University of Queensland

    Principal Supervisor: Dr Helen Klaebe Associate Supervisor: Dr Deborah Henderson Year of Submission: 2008

  • 2

    Abstract This paper explores photography in childrens picturebooks and

    its ability to extend image-making and reading by creating a

    hybrid genre that merges real and non-real worlds. In analysing

    the use of photography in such a hybrid genre, the work of

    Lauren Child (2006, 2001a, 2001b, 2000), Polly Borland (2006),

    Shaun Tan (2007, 2000, 1998) and Dave McKean (2004a, 2004b,

    1995) is deconstructed. These artists utilise photography in

    contemporary picturebooks that are fictional. In addition, David

    Doubilets images (1990, 1989, 1984, 1980) are discussed, which

    fuse underwater photojournalism with art, for factual outputs.

    This research uncovers a gap in picturebook literature and

    creates a new hybrid by merging genres to produce a work that

    is both factual and fictional. The research methodology in this

    study includes a brief overview of photography and notions of

    truth, contemporary picturebook trend theory, use of a student

    focus group, industry collaborations and workshops, and

    environmental education pedagogy. This thesis outlines

    summaries of research outcomes, not the least of which is the

  • 3

    capacity for photography to enrich narrative accounts by

    providing multilayered information, character perspectives and/

    or a metafictive experience. These research outcomes are then

    applied to the process of creating such a hybrid childrens


  • 4

    Key Words creative photography

    marine photography

    genre hybrid

    creative non fiction

    childrens picturebooks


    marine ecology


    creative writing

  • 5


    Artistic Audit: an overview of related, contemporary practice

    Environmental ethic: empathy and action fostering the protection

    of the natural world

    Fiction: an imagined narrative depicted by creative photography (not

    realistic or documentary)

    Hybrid genre: a creative work merging different or opposite genres

    Metafiction: fiction drawing attention to its own construction

    (Pantaleo, 2004b: 213)

    Mixed Media: a combination of creative practices as one output

    Pedagogy: teaching methodology

    Photography: traditional and digital image-making techniques

    Photographic pixilation: out-of-focus blurring of digital pixels

    Photorealism: art that looks realistic, like a photograph

    Picturebook: the compound noun reflects the union of text and art

    that results in something beyond what each form separately contributes

    (Wolfenbarger and Sipe, 2007: 273)

  • 6

    Statement of Original Authorship The work contained in this thesis has not previously been submitted for a degree or diploma at any other higher educational institution. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the thesis contains no material previously published or written by another person except where due reference is made. Signed: Bridgette A McKelvey Dated:

  • 7

    Acknowledgements I wish to thank and acknowledge everyone who supported and

    assisted this project. In particular I express gratitude to:

    My roots - Jemma, Sam, and my family for their love and encouragement;

    My supervisory team, Dr Helen Klaebe and Dr Deborah Henderson for their

    tireless support, mentorship, direction, nurturing and belief;

    QUT Creative Industries Faculty for the MA scholarship and ongoing

    support, particularly Professor Greg Hearn and Dr Luke Jaaniste;

    Professor Raymond Evans for generously consulting on this project

    regarding Queenslands Indigenous history and representation;

    Sea World Australia and Wendy Morgan for sharing Nudge;

    Brisbane City Council, Rachel Cruttenden, Rick Ayala and the North Side

    Team for their dedication to local environment and animals;

    West End State School- Taakin Pastourel and the fabulous focus group,

    Nellie and her family;

    State Library Queensland and the John Oxley Library for the photographic


    Shaun Tan for sharing image-making techniques and supporting a vision;

    My mates, including Annie Long for supporting the creative vision, Dr Erin

    Evans for walks and conceptual synthesising, Rachel Chalmers for coffees

    and creative concocting, and Phoebe Hart for Jupiter conspiring;

    Dr Steve Taylor for talking marine mammals;

    Queensland Writers Centre for fostering a community of author/ artists.

  • 8

    Table of Contents Introduction Creative roots 10

    Practice-led research: exegesis and creative practice 11

    The research question 13

    Literature Review Photography, truth and changing stereotypes 14

    Contemporary picturebook trends 18

    An artistic audit: case studies 21

    1. Lauren Child and Polly Borland 23

    2. Shaun Tan 27

    3. Dave McKean 32

    4. David Doubilet 36

    Summary of outcomes A 40

    Additional Research Methodology

    West End State School focus group and State Library

    Queensland 42

    Industry collaboration and workshops 47

    Environmental picturebooks in the classroom 50

    Summary of outcomes B 53

  • 9

    Creative Practice Creative practice momentum 55

    1. The story surfaces 55

    2. Photographic origins 57

    Applying the research outcomes 59

    1. Appeal and authenticity 60

    2. Mixing genres 62

    3. Abstraction for effect 66

    4. Plot strategies 69

    5. Layout and text 71

    6. Emotion and education 72

    Conclusion 76 Appendix 78 Bibliography 80

  • 10

    Introduction Creative roots Pacific roots feed my creative expression. Like many Australians I originate

    from elsewhere. Having no lineage of local stories passed to me, I create

    my own from what I see. Visual imagery, particularly coastal and water

    photography is my medium for storytelling. I photographed this palm on a

    family pilgrimage to Western Samoa. It reflects my creative roots:

    photography that bridges real and imaginary worlds.

  • 11

    Practice-led research: exegesis and creative practice This exegesis explores photography as creative practice in childrens

    picturebooks and is weighted 25%, while the creative work is weighted

    75%. As a photographer who conveys meaning through visual imagery I

    have included photographic images in this paper to enhance text and

    visually document my processes.

    This exegesis details the research methodology for the analysis and practise

    of photography in childrens picturebooks. Its theoretical and practical links

    draw on the following:

    o contemporary picturebook trends as platforms for an emerging hybrid

    genre of photography that merges reality and fiction in childrens


    o an artistic audit of current picturebook practitioners who utilise

    photography to blend reality and fiction; and a professional

    photographer who mixes documentary and artistic photographic genres;

    o West End State School student focus groups outcomes;

    o industry collaborations and workshops outcomes;

    o a pedagogical rationale for the value of environmental picturebooks in

    classroom learning;

    o how creative practice directs creative output.

    The research findings then summarise and describe the application of these

    outcomes in evolving the creative practice.

  • 12

    The creative practice for this project takes the form of a childrens

    picturebook titled Nudges Tale and features photography that merges art

    and documentary genres. Nudges Tale combines my skills as a

    photographer, with experience in teaching and writing. This venture is

    innovative first, for its hybrid fusion of reality and creativity in an exclusively

    photographic childrens picturebook and second, for its digital recreations of

    an authentic local story which features Nudge, an orphaned dolphin pup

    who was rescued off the coast of Brisbane.

    This project sits within the model of practice-led research for research

    outputs are expressed through the medium of creativity (Haseman, 2006:

    148) as creative practice, whilst the exegesis, provides the commentary

    (Haseman, 156) on research findings and process. I propose a metaphor for

    practice-led research: The relationship between my creative work and

    exegesis could be likened to a shark in the ocean. The shark represents a

    creative practice and the ocean its exegesis. The shark is the life and


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