Assignment 1 Tutor Feedback and Response

Overall Comments

Your first assignment for ‘Context & Narrative’ has been received very well; you have submitted a good set of images, which are supported by an excellent learning log. Your interpretation of this assignment is good and is presented in an ideal manner. The deadpan approach you have taken with the images has worked to a point, although compositionally some of them could do with improving.

Your strongest element with this submission is your learning log; you have made some poignant statements that are reinforced through good visual and theoretical research.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Overall your deadpan aesthetic has been good, the images all evidence a continuous technical skillset indicative of this style. The slightly de-saturated look has been very good in conveying the sombreness of this project and its harrowing theme. Your technical and visual skills are of a very competent nature and are very suited for this level of study.

I would say that compositionally your images are good; although there is a variety of shooting angles clearly evident, their frames do come across quite tight. In some of the shots, the viewpoints need to be more extreme or less, perhaps shooting square on to a location and/or taking a step back would improve this.

One of the more distracting images I find is the one of ‘Sussex Street’; it may be the inclusion of the scooter riders or the angle. Even though there are people evident in three other images, they appear as part of the background and do not come across as a strong compositional element, whereas the scooter riders seem quite prominent in the scene.

The strongest composition is ‘St Pauls Hill’; it has a suitable amount of space in the scene, allowing for the viewer to start their investigative journey. Which of course is guided by the text and its importance in the images interpretation. Look again at Stephen Shore’s work at note the space that surrounds his subjects, it gives a little more tension to scene.

You used the Fuji X-T1 with the 18-55mm lens and most of your images are shot at about 18mm, which is the equivalent of a 28mm on 35mm/Full Frame. How do you find this focal length and do you have a wider prime for the D800 that may help in capturing more spacious scenes?

Now the issue of composition has been raised I totally understand and agree with the point, the cross reference to Stephen Shore being particularly helpful. I will look at the compositions again and select more appropriate views if I have them. One or two locations need to be visited again with this in mind. 

I have got into the habit of using the Fuji because it is lightweight and discrete and is ideal for street photography. In hindsight the D800 with a wide angled lens would have been a more appropriate tool for many of these shots. I do not have a wide prime but I have a 16mm – 35mm zoom which should help, especially in the streets where taking a step back was not an option.

It is pleasing that it was felt that the dead-pan approach worked, I was less than confident as it was not something I had used before, or at least, not to any great extent.

Quality of Outcome

In terms of fulfilling the brief, this submission has been successful; you have explored a few different ideas and communicated these effectively throughout your project. In this distance-learning framework, electronic submission is a fundamental element, where a blog is the most powerful tool. You have tapped into this very well and presented the images to an ideal standard. The three ways to view the images is good and the slide show presentation works, having a side flickr page link is a good touch, well done.

With these initial assignments the presentation is typically electronic, which is good for the tutorial process. I do not know how your work was presented for TAoP, but try to think ahead about how best to present this work. Would a panel of images or loose prints convey your current themes better?

Before submitting this assignment I thought about how I would prefer to present it. The blog is perfect in many ways but very limited.


My current thought is to present the prints something like the example above. However, I need to do some test prints.

Demonstration of Creativity

Your development and experimentation with this assignment has been good; you have evidenced a strong working methodology through your initial test shoots and subsequent research. Although not fitting with this project, your image ‘Traces on Wall in Alton’ is great to see, this fits in with what we might have discussed on ‘architectural palimpsest’, if not, see my OCA post on ‘Photographic Palimpsest’ where I have included a short yet interesting link on this, see:

The development of a personal voice in this project is very good; there is evidence of risk taking through your initial shoots, which I believe you felt were not fitting; yet you pursued them anyway. You have produced a sympathetic and non-voyeuristic body of work; which I presume has no autobiographical context, thus providing further evidence of your visual and creative scope in stepping out of your comfort zone.

There is no autobiographical context.

Learning Log & Contextualisation

As stated, your learning log is excellent and has been your strongest assessment element with this submission; it evidences your research and progression to an extremely good standard. It does have scope for improvement though; yet this is only minor points like the layout and order; one suggestion is to look at your menu bars as there are two of them, one at the top and the other to the left; perhaps remove the left side one to allow more space for the text to spread out across the page.

This is good advice. Unfortunately the WordPress 2014 template is very restrictive unless I start adjusting the code which would be another learning curve that I have no wish to climb. I have tried a few other templates and have settled on one of their much older ones which gives a wider text area and a menu bar.

Your critical thinking and self reflective writing is also noted as being very good, in particular your interpretation and response to Rosler. Photographers’, I would say are largely voyeuristic, as we begin with the act of looking and observing our subject with a level of scrutiny. Yet can this be defined and measured to avoid the tag of voyeur? Something to explore about taking quick ‘snapshots’ in there…

This is a good question and I am certain that I will return to the subject of ethics, voyeurism and Rosler’s ideas. My overall issue when approaching the subject of rough sleeping was the high risk of being exploitative when photographing street people. There appeared to be three approaches that were acceptable to me – either:

  • I dedicated significant time researching rough sleeping, research that would have included connecting with the subject, even gaining their collaboration in some way,
  • or if my my work was going to play some part in addressing the problems that rough sleepers face
  • or I looked for a different way, a way that excluded photographing the rough sleepers themselves.

If I had wanted to take on a Martin Parr type project I would not have faced the same problems. I believe the right to photograph each other in public is an important freedom. I therefore believe that, with a little more thought, that voyeurism can be “defined and measured” and the photographer does not need to be a voyeur. 

Suggested reading/viewing & Pointers for the next assignment

Assignment 02 has two possible routes, the first is ‘Photographing the unseen’ and the second is ‘Using props’. They both have great potential for personal development and experimentation. The latter seems to be the popular one; it asks you to use one of two props, which can be limiting, yet your limitations only lie in your imagination and creativity. I think that with Assignment 01 you have already photographed the unseen through your late photography, but it is still has a lot of potential.

Look at Mark Power’s series ’26 Different Endings’; here he has visited the 26 ends of the London Underground tube lines, which in away define the edge of London. He has photographed the locations directly above ground, so the unseen periphery of London is captured with these deadpan style images. See:

Look at Robert Barry’s ‘Inert Gases’ project, in the link below click the ‘pict’ text to see the image. The work is not so much about photography but it is an interesting conceptual piece that has some starting points for photographic explorations.

For a bit of random research look at Taryn Simon’s series ‘The American Index of The Hidden and Unfamiliar’:

I have started looking at these three.


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