Exercise: Symbols

The brief:

The idea of this project is to find symbols for a number of concepts. Complete it by listing more than one symbol for each of the following subjects, and add short notes saying how you might use them in a photograph. You do not need to take actual photographs for this, although by all means do if you feel enthusiastic about one of your ideas. The subjects are growth, excess, crime, silence and poverty.


  • Notches made on a child’s birthday against a door frame marking the child’s growth.
  • Puppies and dogs
  • Man with stubble/beard
  • Piles of coins and/or money
  • Bean sprouting
  • Tumour – external on someone’s body
  • A girl’s long hair blowing in the wind


  • Purse overflowing with money
  • Cupboard full of shows/clothes
  • Table laden with many dishes of food
  • Dumpster outside restaurant containing discarded food
  • Cup/mug overflowing with tea/coffee/juice
  • Overflowing bath


  • Gun
  • Handcuffs – someone’s hands cuffed together
  • Police mugshot
  • Wanted poster
  • Police car – with lights flashing
  • Items of crime – weapons: knives, wooden bats/poles; drugs; bottles of poison
  • Bars – person behind bars
  • Police station


  • Church – inside near the altar
  • Finger pressed against the mouth
  • Hand over the mouth
  • Calm lake/ocean or body of water
  • Forest of trees
  • Library – people reading/studying
  • Waves crashing on the rocks
  • Someone sleeping


  • Empty purse
  • Empty cupboard/fridge
  • Homeless person on the street
  • Person begging with cupped hand
  • Hat on sidewalk with a few coins inside
  • Big, sad, moist eyes gazing back at you
  • Patched, torn clothing
  • Shopping cart filled with possessions