Introducing #Brumscape


John Lewis celebrates Birmingham’s changing skyline with largest-ever photograph of city

Iconic photograph marks two months to go until £35m department store opens

John Lewis has today revealed the largest panoramic photograph ever taken of Birmingham’s iconic skyline.

180 Birmingham image_print resfinal

A small snippet of the magnificence

Commissioned to mark two months until the John Lewis Birmingham regional flagship shop opens on 24th September, the super-high resolution panoramic has affectionately been termed as a “Brumscape” and was taken from the Staying Cool apartments at the top of Birmingham’s Rotunda tower.

The gigapixel format, also known as deep zoom, allows viewers to pan across the skyline and zoom in on Birmingham’s city centre, discovering the smallest details of the city, as well as up to 15 miles in the distance.

The photograph is an 80 megapixel image made up of four rows of 33 separately-taken shots, meticulously stitched together to create a unique photograph stretching across Birmingham’s evolving cityscape. Iconic landmarks including Edgbaston Cricket Ground, the new Library of Birmingham, the BT Tower and the new John Lewis shop at Grand Central can be seen.

Lisa Williams, Head of Branch, John Lewis Birmingham, “Birmingham is a city undergoing a huge transformation and this striking image truly captures this.

“The support we’ve had from the local community since we announced the new shop has been fantastic and we thought this was the perfect way to mark the two month countdown to opening with something special we hope people will enjoy.”

The photographer, panoramic specialist Will Pearson, was one of the earliest adopters of the deep zoom format and is considered a pioneer in the field. Speaking about the gigapixel shot, Will said:

“It was obvious when bringing this image to life that Birmingham is a constantly evolving city – from the chimney stacks across the skyline echoing its industrial past, to a city centre of new, innovative schemes. “

John Lewis Birmingham is the business’ first full line department store to open in four years and will be one of the biggest John Lewis shops outside of London. The 250,000 sq ft department store will be the anchor tenant of the new Grand Central retail development, which sits above the redeveloped New Street Station.

The shop represents a £35m investment by the business in the city and will be John Lewis’s most innovative shop to date. It will showcase the best of the department store’s offer, allowing customers to shop from more than 350,000 products from the retailer’s full range, including those leading the latest fashion, furniture, homewares, beauty and technology trends.

The image can be viewed here:

Key facts and stats about the image:

  • The photographer spent a day and half stitching the 33 shots together.
  • One of the furthest visible objects is a hot air balloon to the far left of the shot, just above the tree tops. It is up to 15 miles from where the photograph was taken and was totally invisible to the naked eye.
  • The photograph captures key Birmingham landmarks from Edgbaston Stadium right across to One and Two Snow Hill.
  • The tallest building visible is the BT Tower which stands at 152 ft and 31 floors high.
  • The Clent hills, in Stourbridge Worcestershire can be seen in the far distance, over 11 miles from where the photograph was taken.
  • The Rotunda tower where the photo was taken stands at a height of 266ft.

Why I love my media degree

It’s a funny little word ‘media’. A simple term that is usually thrown around without a second thought, but as an undergraduate of media and communications I have learnt a key message, that it’s inevitable and undeniable complexity cannot be ignored by any one of us.

Each and every consumer across the world experiences the ‘media’ in a unique way and makes it their very own, and that is why I am in complete and unequivocal love with it.

Traditional forms of media, television, radio and newspaper (the big players of the olden days) didn’t have much competition as the platforms were limited. Everybody used to watch those few channels, listen to those few stations and read those few sheets. That was all they had… no breadth or depth of wonderful technology.

Now have a think about what you have at your fingertips. Every morning from waking up until bedtime…What apps do you check? Who do you speak to and how? Do you listen? Watch? Share, like or play? How do you record your life?

Everybody, everything and every taste has a producer to cater for it. For every gap in the market there is someone working on it, it’s this exciting fact that creates the desire to be that person figuring it out and creating the next big thing.

I have realised my previous obliviousness, my juvenile understanding and lack of consciousness about pretty much everything going on around me which generally involves the some form of the media. Studying this degree has opened up  my understanding of the past, present and future of the media, and within that the future of communications, something that us humans must all do to survive.

Two years in and it is now second nature for me to question it all. Why is Coca Cola putting names on bottles? How does Justin Bieber deal with bad press (let’s face it there’s a lot of it….)? How is skin perfected on that picture? How are the people behind each company, however small, building  Each media student has a completely different experience and asks completely different questions. I’m making my degree mine, moulding my own end result that nobody else will have.

The beauty is the choice and freedom. Learn and try photography, music industries, events or journalism and find your passion. The sheer volume of things you can experiment with will give you the drive to show the world what you can create, write and achieve. You will speak in front of people and sell yourself and your work.

Theory isn’t ‘war and peace’…it’s around my interests and the things I want to research. I can delve in to the representation of celebrity in David LaChappelle’s work or compare two public relations campaigns and their messages.

Adaptation and evolution are two words I associate with my media degree, not a mickey mouse subject or an easy ride, technical and practical industry focused development is what we learn, its hardly easy! As well as embracing the constant change and keeping up with the fastest paced sector of our age.

I get to meet the people that have succeeded before me and be one of the people behind the next phase of the biggest creative sector of our century. I’m using my weird creativity to fuel the next generation because it’s not just about becoming employable and spending £8,500 each year on a piece of paper. You learn to love what you do and put your signature into your work.

Not only that but being in the second city, known for its industrial and technical development and with an increasingly up and coming future is more than a little bit exciting.

Innovation. You could wait for it or you could be a part of it. 


Into the Future 2014

On Friday 9th May, Birmingham City University’s second year media students conducted their Into the Future event.

On the same day as the Birmingham Made Me Job Fair, over 200 students (including myself) presented themselves and their media skills to the public and professionals at Millennium Point. The media careers and networking event also included talks from industry professionals who discussed the future of the media landscape. 

After taking a selfie of herself with all of the students, Beverley Nielsen, Director of employer engagement at Birmingham City University and the lady behind Idea Birmingham and Birmingham Made Me, opened the event by talking about the history of the city, its industrial roots and the concepts behind the first ever Birmingham Made Me Jobs Fair.

Her speech focused upon encouraging the knowledge of Birmingham and its business assets and helping to find ways that people in Birmingham can showcase the different sectors across the city.

Beverley then excitingly introduced the first of four guest speakers, Phil Riley from Orion Media. Orion Media are the company behind Gem Radio and Free Radio across the midlands.

Phil riley

Phil Riley – Orion Media

Phil talked about three things, the things that he believes to be of huge importance, the wider issues facing radio and the future of radio:

1. Platforms

2. Regulations

3. Talent and content

“The need to be a multi media professional is there, you can’t just sit behind a mic now, you’ve got to do more than just be a presenter”

The main message that I took from Phil’s speech was that the rate of change in the industry is very high, that adaptation is vital to the success of the media.

The next guest speaker was Selena Brown from Little Miss Creative. As a former media (BA and MA) student at Birmingham City University, Selina spoke on a level that all people in the audience would understand and presenter the highlights of her wonderful journey to where she is today, Founder and CEO of Little Miss Creative, a company that  provides creative workshops and events to young women in Birmingham. 

Selina Brown

Selina Brown – LMC

Selina was inspiring, full of energy and really captured the minds of the people in the room – creativity and being yourself being at the heart of her messages.

“Aim for excellence”

Throughout the day there were slots for students to showcase themselves through the presentation of their individually designed portfolio poster. This gave them a chance to talk to people about their theoretical ideas for their third year dissertation, and also to discuss their skills and work experience.

Sophie Drake and professional portfolio

Sophie Drake – Professional portfolio poster

Download my poster here: My professional portfolio poster

Another feature of the event saw 9 student speakers, including myself, and we were all tasked with discussing ourselves and our personal development, as well as touching upon topics. My topics were social media, consultancy and public relations.

Speaking at the event

Myself and fellow speakers Emily Brammeier and Jodie Neville

Download my presentation for my speech here: Sophie Drake presentation for speaking

Guest speakers for the afternoon included: Jason MacKenzie from We Are Liquid, Richard Battye from River Studio, and Annette Naudin and Caroline Thorley from Birmingham City University.

Jason MacKenzie, from public relations company We Are Liquid, outlined the confusion surrounding the definition of public relations and tried to make some sense of it.

Jason MacKenzie, We Are Liquid

Jason MacKenzie, We Are Liquid

“PR professionals, we want to be respected professionally” – Jason believes that as public relations professionals, we are insecure about our field and this is one of the main problems facing the industry.

He captured the audience, even those who are not focused on public relations, with his enthusiasm and interesting insights on the public relations field.

His main prediction and suggestion for the future of the field would be the increased leading from the industry bodies, giving them more of an influence on the practices and the changes set to happen.

Richard Battye, the photographer behind River Studio, “shoots people for a living”. His presentation highlighted some key developments in the industry of photography and as he has been a photographer for 24 years he has been there throughout each one of them and emerged out of the other side.

“If I could hear myself talking about photography now, my old self would have no idea what I was talking about, it’s another language”

– Move from dark room/film to digital

– Improvements in post processing software

– Freelance photographers – demands on certain equipment and restraints on the practice that can be a huge task during shoots.

Annette Naudin talked about the Future of Media Entrepreneurship, developments in the approaches to the media industry and opportunities available to students to do so. Followed by Caroline Thorley, who discussed the Job Prospects and Careers Events that occur at Birmingham City University for students to get involved in.

Into the Future closed with a final slot for the remaining students to showcase their poster presentations.


The event was a great success, a thriving environment at which all of the students had the opportunity to present themselves in a professional way. If the skills and professionalism is anything to go by, the future of the media world looks hugely promising, and I cannot wait to be a part of it.

What do audiences do with media?

New media and photography theory – Week 7 2013


In this week’s lecture we discussed what the audience do with media, rather than the audience being a concept like last week. We discussed the way that audience can manipulate the forms media for their own satisfaction and purpose. We also used the active vs passive theory by Stuart Hall to help us understand the developments in audience theory.

Key theorists in this week’s lecture were Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams and Katz and Blumler. They all have made vital arguments in theorising the different ways in which an audience can consume the media. Moving on from popular and mass culture media effects, we considered the idea that audience consume media to their own uses and gratifications (Katz and Blumler in Long, P 2012:304). Webster also moves away from the effects models and begins to think about the other forms of consumerism “the “marketplace model”, casts people in the role of consumers who enter the marketplace and selects the products that suit their tastes” (Webster, J 1994:27). An example of the audience pursuing their uses and gratifications in photography would be using images that represent their personal identity, such as a smiley face or a football. This moves furthermore onto the idea that groups of people with collective uses and gratifications become a sub-culture or a fandom. (Long and Wall. 2012:314)

Uses and gratifications explores the idea that we as audiences can positively influence our personal media experiences (Lull in Long, P 2012:305) To do this, we have to become active audiences. Rather than the media coming to the audience, Webster explores the marketplace model as the audience coming to the media, knowledgeable of their preferences and therefore chooses specific products (Webster, J 1994:27). In this context, an audience member would seek out a fashion photographer’s work as they prefer that genre. They would not look for landscape photography if that was the case.

The marketplace model and Stuart Hall’s active audience theory share the same key concepts. They evoke the thought that audiences have increasingly more power over the producers. Webster implies that future developments will occur “it is for such an environment that the laws of supply and demand seem best suited” (Webster, J 1994:34)

To further research into the subject of what the audience do with the media I would conduct an ethnographic study of a fandom. I would emerge myself into the culture of becoming a fan and report on my findings. I would conduct interviews with fans, talk about their relationship with the media producers for their product, observe events and habits of a fan with the aim to interpreting the meaning of fandom.


Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Webster, J. and Phalen, P.. (1994). Victim, consumer or commodity?. In: Ettema, J. and Whitney, C. Audiencemaking. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p19-37.

Representation, Discourse and Power

New media and photography theory- Week 5 2013


This week’s lecture explored the subject of Discourse, a polysemantic term which has been defined in the core text book as “discourses are practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault in Long, P 2012:489). We discussed that discourse is closely linked to representation and aims to analyse texts within their surrounding factors, social and cultural.

In the lecture, we studied how discourse analysis has developed through various channels, leading to it becoming a term with many meanings and definitions. It is a method of helping us as media scholars to analyse the reasons for the production of a certain text.

A key theorist who is mentioned in both of my readings for this week is Foucault. His view is that we can only understand the meaning of something if we have knowledge of it (Hall, S in Wetherell 2001:73) Smith and Bell explore a similar angle of a products meaning by suggesting that a media product can only be analysed successfully if its social context is taken into account. In photography, a still image capturing only part of a scene or event can be analysed using discourse to fully understand its meaning.

Smith and Bell believe that what we read, see and hear should not be taken for granted (Smith and Bell 2007:81). Both of the readings link discourse directly to power and that discourses can be a misleading representation. When presented with an image, we are immediately confronted with our own responses. This leads me on to Stuart Hall’s encoding and decoding model (Hall in Smith and Bell 2007:82) To understand the image properly, we have to consider the social context of the shot, production and processing of the image, the text itself and then how we might interpret it ourselves in our context. Discourse are then, as Hall defines “a subject-position, from which they all make sense”(Hall S in Wetherell 2001:80)

These readings have made me think about the ways in which I consume and respond to images without any knowledge or context to apply to them. For a suggested research method, I would do a discourse analysis of a poster image by Nazi propaganda. Things to consider would be the power relationships between me – the audience-, the context of the era of the image, my own personal feelings and my context as an adult from the 21st century. This will help to prove a greater understanding of the photograph.


Smith,P & Bell,A. (2007). Unravelling the web of discourse analysis. In: Eoin Devereux Media Studies, Key Issues and Debates. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p79-100.

Hall, S. (2001). Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse. In: Wetherell, M Discourse, Theory and Practice. A reader. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p72-82.

Genre: Textual Meaning, Producers and Audiences

New media and photography theory – week 4 2013


This weeks lecture aimed to develop our thinking into understanding the use of genre by organisations. Genre is defined by Paul Long as “recognisable groupings, subsets or types of media forms comprising the the paradigmatic elements (stories, rhetoric, signification) that are drawn upon in the creation of individual syntagmatic texts” (Long and Wall 2012:489) The reasons we discussed as to why producers are conforming to genres were for profit maximisation, its economic incentive and to inform or entertain its audience.

Genre theory explored the various codes and conventions used by producers of the media to fall into the various categories and the reasons why they do so. In photography, there is genre examples such as fashion, portrait, vintage, black and white, landscape, documentary and beauty (to name a few). Via creating their work to the codes and conventions of these genres, the artefacts made by producers can be recognised, known and looked for by consumers.

Long and Wall believe that the three key concepts when analysing genre are codes, conventions and context. They all play a part in the overall outcome of a specific genre, or could contribute to the creation of a new genre.

My found reading for this week provided me with a case study for the image of the ‘Migrant Mother’. This particularly interested me because I knew of the picture and its iconic history but never knew why it was famous or of its origins and purpose.

The photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange whilst working on a project for the government-run company called The Farm Security Administration (FSA) (Wells, L 2004: 39). Through the codes and conventions and clear context, we can see that the genre of the image is that of documentary photography. This has been defined by Profoto as “taking of photographs to provide a record of social and political situations with the aim of conveying information.” (Photography glossary n.d.)

The case study links to the points made by Long to analyse how genre and narrative combine to make meaning. (Long and Wall 2012: 95) “while photographs capture a movement in ‘media res’ they invite interpretations in terms of the narrative they present- however posed the situation”(Long and Wall :94) The case study considers the situation in which the image was taken of the ‘Migrant Mother’ and the photographers approach.

To research further into genres, production and audiences I would conduct a rhetorical analysis of some images that fit into the genre of fashion photography. Discussing the different codes and conventions that are used and how they define the image, hoping to find trends in both in my report.


Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Price, D. and Wells, L.. (2004). Thinking about photography: debates, historically and now.. In: Wells, L Photography: A critical introduction. 3rd ed. New York : Routledge. p37-48.

Photography Glossary n.d. Available: Last accessed 16th March 2013.

Birmingham International Fashion Week

Millennium Point March 2013

The second city rocked its first ever international fashion week on the 9th and 10th of March. Designers from all over the world came to showcase their pieces on the catwalk.

I particularly loved the work by Tijana and Mila Popovic, their outfits were edgy and grungy and their show had complete flare. Ricardo Ramos was also a pleasure to meet, I got chance to speak to him about his ventures in Germany, Berlin and everywhere around the world working on his 2013/14 collection.

After being invited to attend and take pictures at the glamorous official press launch at Mechu Bar and Grill, I got the pleasure of being asked to carry out a photo shoot for the Birmingham International Fashion Week head office team on the day of the event.  My task was to head out on to the streets of Birmingham city centre and get a ‘style during BHMFW‘ collection of images to be uploaded on to the website. The images aimed to show what the very stylish public were wearing during the event and people who participated were given a free ticket with a guest to Birmingham International Fashion Week.

The shoot was challenging as it was very cold outside and the weather was not particularly brilliant, but I had very good fun and learnt a lot! Approaching people was daunting for the first few times, but once they were told that their style was great and that they could get tickets in return for a picture they soon agreed and became part of the weekend.

Tijana and Mila Popovic 2013

Tijana and Mila Popovic 2013

After being out on the streets in minus degrees and returning with a memory card full of sassy styled bods, I finally ended up at the end of the catwalk snapping the designer’s shows. This was a different experience entirely as the fast paced collection  didn’t leave me much time for error. However I had a privileged position in the press area and a camera in my hand and I made sure I got as many shots as possible.

An amazing weekend all round! Check out the website for the 2014 Birmingham International Fashion Week information.

Cheap and cheerful ways to get creative with your lens

This is a good idea for a cheap photography trick for us students, using crafty things to improvise and add some artistic flare to your images without the hefty price tags.

Have a peek, you might like it too.