Assignment 3 – Self Assessment

Wheel, selected entirely on the basis that I haven't processed a colour photo in weeks.

Wheel, selected entirely on the basis that I haven’t processed a colour photo in weeks.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

This is the first project since joining OCA where I have used black and white, in fact it is something that I rarely use so there was a steep learning curve involved in both visualising my images in black and white at the point of capture and in post production. Arguably black and white processing offers more choices and therefore demands more decisions than colour so I am reasonably pleased with the results and with the thinking behind my processing decisions. (see research here) I would argue that visual awareness, observational and design skills come together in a monochrome project of this type. The success of these photographs relies hugely on their graphic nature and I am, again, reasonably satisfied with the results. I have more doubts regarding composition as I switched back and forth over whether to use a square format in the style of Francesca Woodman (see research here) whose use of the square format constricted her working space and seemed to emphasise how her, or her models’, bodies related to the empty space she often surrounded them with. I completed the childhood memory exercise in this format as a test run but eventually stayed with 3:2 because a few of the pictures I wanted to use lost their impact in a square format but I accept that this is a weak argument.

Quality of Outcome

I have some doubts about the coherence of this work as, by the end, I felt I was trying to represent too many ideas in a single project. The research for this assignment took on a life of its own and threw out pages and pages of notes that often defied distillation. I feel comfortable that the final series is coherent in itself but whether the short introduction gives it a proper context is another matter. The underlying idea of exploring my shadow in a landscape that I work in on a regular basis seemed to be a reasonable concept to develop and I believe that I was able to carry forward that theme in diverse environments that reflect the different locations I regularly use.

Demonstration of Creativity

I never find any of these headings easy to work with but I always find this the hardest one. It appears to me that this question can only be answered relative to my previous or perhaps natural levels of creativity. The whole project took me into new and previously unexplored territory; I had to embrace monochrome photography, a genre I have consistently avoided because I feel I lack the necessary skills to achieve good results; the project demanded that I engaged in self portraiture which made me uncomfortable from the outset, and it asked me to invent an approach that I could work with and that met the brief but that did not involve a “straight” self portrait. In terms of developing a personal voice, maybe there is the beginning of a whisper. I feel that I am beginning understand better what it means to have a personal voice in the context of photography; that it is about reaching a deep understanding of a subject and learning how to draw attention by photographing it effectively. I am learning more about the value of introducing ambiguity and mystery into my work and how to position the outcome in a way that asks the viewer to give it more than a fleeting glance. In an age where we are bombarded by millions of images the fledgling artist needs to initially aim for the viewer to pause and look a second time, maybe to wonder about the image for just a few seconds before they move on.


For someone who left school at 16 its something of a revelation that I am possibly a better scholar than a photographer. I continue to be surprised at how much pleasure I derive from the research element of this course. Austin Kleon tells us to “write the book you want to read” (1) and whilst I’m not close to taking the photograph I want to see I feel, in this last period, I am getting closer to writing the essay I want to read. This assignment has felt to be far better rooted in direct research than any of my previous ones, I believe that there is a solid thread running from my earliest ideas through to the final series. When I started TAoP I was dazzled by the minds of all the critical writers, wanting only to agree with them and to use their ideas but as my reading has expanded I have realised the obvious truth that art critics are never stating facts, just offering opinions. As a consequence the most important skill to develop is that of active discrimination; to understand a point of view and build on it or to argue against it from one’s own perspective; I believe that I am beginning to do this.

Sources Books

(1) Kleon, Austin. (2012) Steal Like an Artist. New York: Workman Publishing Inc.

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3 Responses to Assignment 3 – Self Assessment

  1. Catherine says:

    Excellent self-assessment from my standpoint.

  2. Carol Street says:

    Well thought-out self-assessment Steve. Good luck with the assignment!

  3. Thank you Catherine and Carol.

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