BA Phot

C&N: Assignment 2, Photographing the unseen

Due: end of March: submitted 24th March.

C&N - Home - Blog - Index - About

Back - submission - rework - development - contact sheets - tutor feedback - essay
Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5

Choose between the following two assignments:

1. Photographing the unseen
Start by doing some reflecting in your learning log. What kinds of subjects might be seen as un-photographable? How might you go about portraying them using photography? List a few examples of things you’re experiencing now or have recently been thinking about. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth or revealing, but it can be if you want. Equally, it might be something as apparently trivial as how you’re going to fit everything into your busy day. At first you may come up with literal examples, but the more you think about them the more those ideas will develop into specific and more original ones.
Make a list of at least seven ideas. Try and keep to things you have a personal interest in or curiosity about. Keep a notebook with you at all times and make notes when ideas strike you as interesting. (This is good practice for all stages of the degree and beyond. Ideas books are something to be revisited time and again for ideas and hints for the photographer you’re becoming.)
Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 images.

2. Using props
This option is about photographing an object to suggest a narrative.
Choose between a white shirt and a handkerchief for your object. Once you’ve decided, make a series of 7–10 photographs which tell a story about or including your object. You can make your photographic style anything you like. You may wish to include the prop in all of your series or just some of the images, depending on the narrative.
Bear in mind that the story is being alluded to through the use of the prop and its location – and characters should you choose to include them.
Draw a storyboard before you start to help you consider the progression of the plot and how you’ll set up the shots.
Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 images.

Whichever assignment option you choose, send your series to your tutor by the method agreed together with an introduction of around 300 words. You should also send to your tutor the relevant pages of your learning log or blog url. Boothroyd (2017) p.69

[spellchecked ]

[19Mar] Submission text

Although, as instructed, seven projects were outlined (see the printed Development page), only three were ever really going to run — gents' toilets (gents), the tops of churches (churches) and forbidden zones (forbidden). It soon became clear that the available toilets are too similar to sustain a worthwhile series and so gents was subsumed into forbidden. Forbidden was by some distance the more interesting project, but there was always doubt whether enough subjects would be found: churches was the fallback.

Ultimately, the minimum image requirement was met for forbidden before the submission deadline and the coronavirus restrictions arrived and so this is being submitted.

The concept of forbidden is to take photographs where one is not supposed to: although not strictly 'unseen' in the title of the assignment, they are, to a greater or lesser extent, theoretically 'un-photographable' as specified in the assignment brief (Boothroyd, 2017). To judge from posts in the C&N students' GMail chat group, my interpretation is, perhaps, more literal than some.

spy pen
Box A
32GB 1080P HD Spy Pen Camera Video DVR
Covert Hidden Discreet Recording Audio

© croydon-gadgets

While five of the targets are merely unethical, two are illegal or, more strictly, in contempt of parliamentary and judicial rules and liable to prosecution were they to be published (Law Commission, 2012). On the web site and in the main submission, therefore, those two are shown blurred beyond recognition and might well be faked.

The targets were: a cinema screen, a museum and a church where photography is not allowed, a public toilet, a photographer's market stall, a magistrates' court and the House of Commons. It was hoped to round the series off by ‘stealing’ a shot of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, but this proved impossible.

The equipment used included a £13.99 Spy Pen Camera (fig. A1) bought on eBay for this project (croydon-gadgets, 2020).

Word count 289

[26Mar20] It is noted that Jeremy Corbyn's advisor, Seamus Milne, was ejected from the House of Commons press gallery on 25th March for trying to photograph Corbyn's last PMQs on his mobile (Letts, 2020).

Asg. 2 Asg. 2 John Soane Museum Gormley Gents' toilet, Wetherspoon, Bromley Asg2 Asg.2 not HofC
Box B - Final selection
1-2. Cinema, 6th March
3. John Soane Museum, 12th March
4. Gormley, Canterbury, 9th March
5. Gents' Bromley, 16th March
6. Greenwich Market, 14th March
7. Untitled, 16th March
8. Untitled, 12th March

Assessment criteria


Technically, online, the images appear to be competent, but it remains to be seen how successful the physical prints are. There are two concerns here, firstly, all the B&W prints for Asg.1 were rather darker than I would have liked; secondly and more importantly, the new (to me), rather primitive and decidedly haphazard spy pen is largely a matter of luck in use. Having become used to the cushioned ease of modern digital cameras it was a partly refreshing and partly worrying change to not know what had been captured instantaneously. Furthermore, the pen is low resolution and then some images had to be cropped quite severely for a combination of aesthetic , moral and legal reasons.
That said, I made the target of seven images (although two of those might be faked, of course) on time.

Quality: I believe that the project chosen for submission is the 'best' of the seven originally floated in terms of combining subject interest with practicality. As already stated, my interpretation of the brief seems to be rather more literal than some of my fellow students who tend to define 'unseen' and 'un-photographable' as 'intangible' or 'abstract'.

Creativity: There is some originality in my offering: it is, perhaps, unlikely that many students have submitted ostensibly illegal images for this assignment, faked or otherwise.

Context: The images are linked conceptually but the aesthetic connection is not obvious without an explanation of the project. The decision to shoot the whole of the course in 6x7 format is helping in providing some visual consistency, at least at the presentational level.

I was a little concerned about not having any influences to cite for this assignment, but the day after I sent the images to print and I wrote the text intended for use on the envelope of optional images (19Mar20),

Box C
War Porn,
Christoph Bangert

The enclosed images may be considered to be in breach of parliamentary and/or judicial protocols.

Please do not open them if by doing so you might be inclined to report these breaches to the relevant authorities or if viewing them might offend your ethical principles.

Christoph Bangert
b: 1978 Western Germany
Artist's site

I read of the news photographer Christoph Bangert's 2014 book, War Porn, in which he published a selection of his images that the news media had refused to use on the grounds that they were 'too disturbing' (Bright & van Erp, 2019, p.90). The relevant point here is that some of the pages in the book were unseparated, so the viewer has to consciously choose to physically cut the pages in order to access some of the images.

In summary, I have found the assignment personally satisfying to shoot in terms of conceptual, technical and organisational challenges.

I may comment further when the images arrive from the printer. [27Mar] Only to say that this batch seemed significantly better than Asg.1 which I thought too dark. It looks as though this might be the last C&N assignment submitted in print - online only for the foreseeable future because of The Virus.


The assignment specification asks for a 'tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 images … of subjects [that] might be seen as un-photographable' (Boothroyd, 2017, p.69 ). I believe the project chosen meets the assignment brief, that the images produced are technically competent and that they are of sufficient visual interest and (when the context is explained) consistency to merit submission.

I will comment further when I get my tutor's reaction to the Forbidden Zones.


Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and narrative. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Bright, S. & van Erp, H (2019) Photography decoded. London: Ilex.

croydon-gadgets (2020) 32GB 1080P HD Spy Pen Camera Video DVR Covert Hidden Discreet Recording Audio [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 March 2020].

Law Commission (2012) Contempt of Court: Chapter 5: Contempt in the Face of the Court [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 March 2020].

Letts, Q. (2020) Jeremy Corbyn refuses to go quietly at his last PMQs [online]. Available from [Accessed 26 March 2020].

Page created 13-Mar-2020 | Page updated 27-Mar-2020