BA Phot

Expressing your vision: Assignment 3, tutor feedback

- Back - rework - text history - image history - contact sheets

tutor feedback - my initial comments

[12Mar] The assignment was submitted for 1st March and my tutor responded on 11th March. A significant number of points were made and issues raised in the response and I intend to address these over the next few days. The items which I think need attention are identified in the text by a number (e.g. [n] ) and referenced in my replies below.

On 29th March I replied with a link to the comments below and 2 specific questions, 1. why my borders are always mentioned and 2. can I submit prints for the remaining assignments. 2 is yes and 1 is,

I only asked you to reflect on the borders, because it is useful to consider when that aesthetic works well in relation to the subject or idea, and when it might be appropriate to explore different ways of presenting your work. As you move through the degree pathway you will be asked to engage with the presentation of your images in more detail so as to consider the physical nature of images and the impact on meaning or reception. Tutor reply 31Mar19

My comments

My first pass suggests that there are 22 items that I need to respond to. These will be grouped into various categories as I progress through them.

1,2. Concentrating on a particular issue such as Brexit or climate change.
My intention was to avoid this and explore the variety of subjects and methods of protest. The reason for this was to provide a corresponding variety of situations and subject matter. While there is Brexit-based activity every day when parliament is sitting plus some weekends, there is little variation in subject matter beyond two colour schemes and a lot of shouting. While a single issue would have made the set more coherent, it would also have made it less interesting.

3-6. Choice of images
This is an extension of the first point. The preacher (fig. 4), for example was taking advantage of the concentration of national and international media coverage for Brexit to promote an entirely different issue, evangelical Christianity. The image itself is worthwhile for the clichéd posture of the preacher; the symbolism of the fencing which both constrains the speaker and crosses out his placard; and the glances of the passers-by, particularly the person in the foreground whose look of scorn and scepticism constitutes a decisive moment.

The image of Steve the leading Brexit protester (fig. 5) serves several purposes. Apart from the protest itself, it documents the extent of media coverage with television channels constructing castles in the air to conduct their interviews. Some prior knowledge of the circumstances is needed to understand what is happening: without that it is nevertheless intriguing with the extended placard echoing the lights and reflectors in the outside broadcast studio. The moment is only decisive vicariously (when the placard is visible in a broadcast – Steve’s partner monitors the channel on her telephone and tries to guide him) and by implication. The photograph merits inclusion in a set on protest as it documents the efforts of broadcasters to avoid intrusion and the determination of protesters to thwart that.

7-8. Decisiveness and telling moments
It is certainly the case that some of the photographs are more decisive than others (and some hardly at all. As noted in the original submission text (link) fig. 2 was briefly confrontational and the critical moment has been captured well. The confrontation in fig. 3 is implied by the subject eye-balling the person he is confronting. Figs. 4 and 5 (preacher and placard) have already been dealt with above. Fig. 6 (Owen Jones) is more demonstrative than decisive. That leaves figs. 1, 7 and 8 which I described as "telling moments rather than decisive ones".

The distinction between decisive and telling moments first occurred to me as a self-deprecating act of modesty as my photographs were not decisive enough. I retained the concept in my text because I came to regard it as a worthwhile notion. Cartier-Bresson wrote of “recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event” and except as noted above, not all the images are intrinsically decisive. Nevertheless, the events and occasions surrounding the photographs are vital and decisive: my tutor has noted “Brexit ... certainly seems a decisive moment in our history”; DPAC’s monthly protests outside Holborn Family Court at its life-changing decisions regarding migrant and disabled parents; climate change has the potential to be the most decisive threat of all. It can be argued that the photographs inherit or are imbued with decisiveness from the events they attend and it is then the role of the photographer to capture the mood of those present at the event.

9-12. Individuals or wider shots, narrative, reselection
My initial intention and my aim throughout was to portray individuals in protest. I think that if I had restricted the submission to close-ups of individuals then I would have had to use colour rather than black and white in order to do aesthetic justice to the protesters who (particularly regarding Brexit) enjoy dressing up and (more generally) colour their placards. There are two other factors at play in the mixture of close-up and wider shots:
1. generally, but especially on the climate change demonstration which was attended mostly by schoolgirls, I would have been uncomfortable as a person of age taking photographs of individual children and, in any case the point of the event was to be a mass demonstration on the matter;
2. I wanted to include the shots of the extended placard and the preacher (figs. 5 and 4) which would have been inconsistent if the remainder of the set comprised only close-ups.

Restricting the selection to one of the protest subjects would have made the set less visually interesting as there is a great deal of conformity within the groups of protesters themselves. I will assemble a new set of close-ups (in colour) and will try a single issue set if I can find enough images to do so. [14Mar] This has now been done.

13. Borders
The question of borders has come up on all three assignments. After the first assignment, I neatened the border. After the second assignment I responded at length, describing my feelings on the matter (link). The corners are rounded because I use Nik filters to create them and that is the default. I do not understand why this is an issue. It is simple subjective aesthetic preference.

13. Prints
Submitting prints rather than digital images for online viewing added a new dimension to to assignment and one I enjoyed. I will consider submitting all assignments as prints in future if that is allowed.

14. Part 3 Project 2 (link)

In the slow shutter speed investigation, you include links to the index which give a factual account - try here to refect on the images and investigate what they are doing. Consider how they might impact on your own approach. Tutor feedback below

I thought I made a pretty god job of summarising the techniques of the photographers cited on slow shutter speeds. The process of reflection on the images is described elsewhere (Research, point 15 below) as "considering content, concept, or formal elements". Additional comments have been added on the original page.

15-17. Research, use of Wikipedia, web site structure
[15Mar19] I accept that Wikipedia should not be used as a primary source in academic work and will not do so. However, the OCA directs that students' work is presented online: this is understandable as 1. it is a distance-learning service; and 2. the internet is the common medium nowadays for the dissemination of art. But given that students are expected to conduct themselves online, it follows that there are (at least) two audiences for their work, namely the academic (tutors and fellow students) and the public at large. While it is to be expected that academic citations should be more rigorous than Wikipedia, entries on that site are used routinely by the general public and by public bodies: for example Tate Britain and MoMA both quote and link to Wikipedia for biographical information on their web sites, see Box A.

Tate MoMA
Box A
1. Tate Britain web page
2. MoMA web page
[both accessed 15 Mar 2019]

While wishing to build as extensive an aide-memoir of photographers as time allows, I have always maintained a separate list of those cited in the course material - currently here. Acknowledging that the primary purpose of this site is in support of my degree, this page (previously entitled Cited Photographers) will now become the primary index of photographers. The secondary audience is the general public, for whom an extended photographers index will remain available. I have already ended that practice of quoting biographical data extensively from Wikipedia following earlier tutor feedback.

As regards the general index, this has been stripped of entries not directly arising from my studies although, again, an extended index will remain available for the general user.

Similarly, on the matter of referencing, while the Harvard system instils pleasing intellectual rigour in formal, written assignment documents, it is unnecessarily cumbersome in online documents where url links are the norm and a less formal framework will be used.

The instruction to "[reflect] in more detail on the images you mention, considering content, concept, or formal elements" is noted and I will try to do so.

18. Learning log
I had started an index page to exhibits and this is now linked to the newly-promoted, course-cited photographers index. The entries are currently more documentary than reflective and I will endeavour to reverse that.

19. Suggested viewing
Three links were included in the feedback.

The huckmag link led to a 404 error. There is plenty of Brexit material on the site, though. I took this link to coverage by Theo McInnes of an October 2018anti-Brexit protest,

I did not find McInnes' shots particularly impressive. He tends to feature particular individuals as the subject but leaves a lot of irrelevant, distracting material in the frame. Where protesters are brandishing placards and banners, I learned that the most effective photographs included both the sign and the face of the person holding it, preferably with the latter shouting or being otherwise demonstrative. McInnes does not do this. One of the images works, #5 with the colourfully-dressed woman (though her placard is not shown): she has approximate eye contact and the crowd around her add the the image rather than providing a distraction.

Sukhy Hullait at Parliament on 25 Jun 16. The images focus more on politicians being interviewed than on the protesters Pleasingly, he has worked in black and white and has made a reasonable job of depicting the busyness within the "media village". The images of Alastair Campbell (#5 and #6) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (#9) are effective in capturing their personalities and moods, although I would have straightened those and most of the others.

The Magnum page is a rather mixed bag. It is, presumably, a pitch to sell to media consumers stock images depicting any characteristically British angle on various aspects of Brexit. The earliest I found on a quick search was a 1998 Martin Parr. As one might expect from Magnum, there are many accomplished images on display.

20-22. Next assignment
My method for Asg.4 should be to choose some photographers, ideally from those cited in the course material, and to explore their work in some detail while shooting my assignment, recording my thoughts on how this influences my approach and my results.

Also (from 22) choose a more specific theme and put more effort and written reflection into image selection, trying several final sets.

On that last point, my approach so far has been to shoot multiple sessions of the subject(s) (for example, my many visits to St. Stephen's for Asg. 2 and the variety of protests attended for Asg.3), then from the contact sheets, select a longlist of the better images and show these on the Image History pages (see Asg2 and Asg3). Gradually a shortlist is developed on the submission page of images for the set. This goes through several iterations which are archived to the Text History pages (Asg2 and Asg3), leaving the final selection on the submission page.

Action points
1. Rework Assignment 3 twice using 1. close-ups only and 2. a single protest. ✓completed 14 Mar - link
2. Try to understand why the matter of image borders is raised on every assignment.
3. Install the Cited Photographers web page as the main photographers index and make the existing index subsidiary. Link to the exhibitions index. ✓completed 20 Mar - link
4. Remove non-course entries from the main index and make the latter subsidiary. ✓completed 22 Mar - link
5. "[reflect] in more detail on the images you mention, considering content, concept, or formal elements" - ongoing.
6. (i) Consider submitting Asg. 4 & 5 as physical prints. (ii) Consider buying a decent A4 printer.
7. For the next assignment, start with some of the photographers cited in the couse material. Use their work as an influence on the approach taken.

Tutor's feedback

Overall Comments
Thanks Nick for sending assignment 3, and well done on completing this. Thanks also for sending prints which are of a good quality. It is good to see you setting the constraint of working in black and white and to read your refection on how you have worked with this decision. If this has helped you to refect more on composition and how to create a dynamic scene rather than relying on colour to give you the focal point then then this is good work. Always useful to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Please continue to refect on feedback on your blog. As you go back and adapt your work and assignments towards assessment it will be useful to see how you have responded to feedback. As you do adapt or reshoot certain aspects of your work then be sure to clearly label everything so that the examiners are clear on what you have adapted and why.

Feedback on assignment
For your assignment you have chosen to look at demonstrations and rallies. You have worked well to go out and shoot a wide range of events and have refected well on the events and what you were thinking about.

It might have added more focus and narrative to your assignment set if you had chosen a particular issue to galvanise the concept behind your work. For instance you might have focused on Brexit in particular, [1] and as this is such a divisive moment could you have explored it from the two different perspectives, or deliberately tried to used your images to show the complexity behind some of the polemic posturing? Or you might have focused on climate change and tried to pull out an angle on your selected issue. This would have given your [final] set a stronger identity. [2]

Great to see your range of contact sheets, and how you have worked to capture the people you have encountered while on location. It would be interesting for you to refect more though on the choices you are making. For instance you identify you are making selections from a wider set, for instance of the preacher and the placard, but you could say more about why. [3]
What do you consider they offer the story of the fnal set? [4]
What might they offer in terms of a decisive moment? [5]
Try to extend your analysis at these points of selection. [6]

The theme of protest is good for capturing street photography but perhaps you could have exploited the idea of ‘the decisive moment’ with Brexit as this certainly seems a decisive moment in our history [7] . Equally it would be useful for you to refect on the decisive moment within some of your chosen shots. You have refected on what they show, but why this moment to press the shutter? Can you extend your analysis of these being ‘telling’ moments rather than ‘decisive’ moments as this seems an interesting and nuanced distinction. [8]

Interesting that you refected on being torn between capturing interesting individuals and the whole scene or reportage. You have resisted your instinct [9] and for your assignment set focused on mainly individual faces. Were there shots that might have added context to these individuals, or wider shots that might have revealed something else about the protests [10] ? Do you feel they build a sense of narrative? Are they objective or can you feel your own personal voice in the images? I think it might help you to test out different sets of images together before making your fnal decision for the assignment set [11] . Refect on them comparatively about how well they tell the/your story before fnally deciding on the completed assignment set. It would be useful to go back into your work and produce different sets on each particular issue, and then compare the results in relation to each other but also to your original assignment set. [12]

The prints are a good quality and the images have a good tonal range. Can you refect on your decision to include the black border and slightly rounded corners at the edges of the images? [13]

In the slow shutter speed investigation, you include links to the index which give a factual account - try here to refect on the images and investigate what they are doing. Consider how they might impact on your own approach. [14]

Good to see you adding suggested research to your index. It would be useful to refect in more detail on the images you mention, considering content, concept, or formal elements [15] . I also still feel that unless you are refecting on the artists work, or using them to develop your own ideas you could remove/hide them from your index long list. If you only have a bio or wikipedia entry they do not really serve you well in terms of research (especially when it comes to assessment) [16] . Explicit Wikipedia references tend to be avoided as they do not have the academic rigour that degree level study expects. Wikipedia might be a useful starting point for research but best to use it as a springboard to more academic sources [17] .

Learning Log
From the home page you have clear links to all sections of your work. You are refecting on carefully on my feedback and developing your work in response. Keep adding primary research to your blog in response to visits to exhibitions Keep adding notes or a record of wider reading in response to the reading list and your own research towards each assignment. [18]

Suggested reading/viewing
You might be interesting in analysing the approaches or images from these photographers who are exploring the issues around Brexit, and refect on what the might offer you as you develop your own personal voice. Or include your own research about the subject matter you have chosen for this assignment. [19]

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
• Continue to refect on my feedback in your learning log and adapt your work in response before assessment. [20]
• Research artists and images that you fnd relevant in relation to the development of your assignment, and add detail into your refections on how they are infuencing your own work, or how yours develops in contrast to what they are doing. [21]


Page created 12-Mar19 | Page updated 28-Oct-2019