Tutor’s feedback for assignment 3. Remarks and reactions in blue.
For your third assignment on Context & Narrative, you have indeed made a very good series that is supported by an excellent and highly contextualised learning log. It would seem that the research is where you excel; the breadth and depth of it is highly indicative of a sustained theoretical approach associated with degree level study. Really good to read too…
Your final series of images are good with a strong visual presence; it may have been suitable to investigate other forms of photographic shadow play that depict more interactive and playful narratives within the visual arts.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
I was interested in the opening image of the contact sheet to this assignment, which has the potential to be developed as a mode of presentation; this will be mentioned in ‘Quality of Outcome’. There is no doubt, your technical and visual skills for this project is good; you have evidenced an interesting project that draws upon an very good observational and visual awareness skillset.
It may be my personal taste for square compositions, but I found the contact sheet arrangements to be slightly more visually appealing in terms of their design and structure than a few of your final images. Then again, they are compositionally very tight and don’t allow room for flow and suggestive narrative.
As mentioned in my self assessment I was tempted to use a square format for this series. Following Russell’s comments and our email exchange that followed I will test out some ideas where I combine square and 3:2 images in the final presentation.
In terms of base composition, it is the image titled ‘FS 13 Waverley’ that is the strongest; it shows more presence regarding your position and relationship with the environment. Yet the image titled ‘FS 3 Runner’ depicts something else, it hints towards another level of interactivity and possible discourse that could have transpired. Questions that arise for me, did you observe the runner for a moment, tracking her/him as they approached you, or was this something more spontaneous? Elements of the ‘Decisive Moment’ come into play and also a sense of grounding occurs where there is physical contact with the shadow and the shadows owner, a point of origin so to speak.
The runner was a “decisive moment” shot. I positioned my self in a quite narrow colonnade outside a supermarket thus reducing the width of the pavement and rather forcing passersby down down the channel I wanted to photograph them in. It then became a matter of timing to capture shadows and just a hint of their owner.
Based upon your research; one visual element that you could have commented on and perhaps integrated it into your compositional designs, was your posture and camera stance. With Brunelli’s shadow self-portraits you can assume he is shooting from his waist/hip level, which obviously has an impact on his shadow. Now with yours, they are either composed/shot from eye height or from your chest. Investigate ‘shooting from the hip’ to add another dimension to them.
I did take quite a number of waist level shots with the intent of adjusting the length of my shadow but none made the final cut. I will review my originals to decide whether one or two could come into this series to provide some variety. As I am 6′ 5″” my waist height angle may seem higher than average.
Quality of Outcome
The application of knowledge, in particular your visual research and its developmental qualities is excellent. The work has been presented very well, if not overwhelmingly so with its quantity. You have a vast amount of supporting material and commentaries that clearly documents your progression and validation for your work. Your ideas have been communicated well, which again evidences growth and development from your previous assignment. The study into reflective self-portraits is equally strong and merits further exploration.
The proposed book layout is not overly strong, however this series would make for an eye catching printed piece for the formal assessment. One thought I had, when I saw your opening contact sheet, was how much it reminded me of a comic book spread. Perhaps your images could be arranged in a similar manner where they start to form basic grids and mini narratives. Although in your book layout there are images opposite each other, they would be stronger if formed into tighter diptychs.
I recognise that my book designs are unimaginative and uninspiring and this is a key area for improvement. My tutor and I have subsequently exchanged some ideas via email and I intend to create a few different test layouts before finalising this assignment for assessment.
Demonstration of Creativity
The developmental aspect of this project is very good, coupled with an imaginative outcome makes for a successful submission. The monochromatic conversion for this series is good, which yields a stronger and more structured final resolution; and your reasoning for this is very good. Just to see another comparative in your learning log, it would be good to include one of your original colour images* juxtaposed against its processed B&W white version.
Good idea, will do so.
*I’m saying one of your original colour images as I’m assuming you have shot this series on a digital camera, as the images do not exhibit any noticeable film grain.
Yes, all digital.
With this project it is your developing personal voice coming through that is noted, more so with how you have approached this project. Even though shadow/self- portraits have been done time and time again; your take, comes across with conviction and clarity, partly through your categorisation and examination.
With your categorisations, I feel that visually, they slightly bleed into each other as they typically evidence elements from each. Another variance/heading that was evidenced into your research, which would have added some depth and three- dimensional qualities to the series, is that of direct interaction. With Hines image of the newsboy, you can just make out his engagement with the photographers shadow. Your shadows do feel removed and not directly engaged with their environment; yes they have a large and striking presence in the scenes, yet not much connectivity with anything or anyone else. Look into the notion of shadow play and how you could make your shadows connect with other elements.
Good point. I set out with a few types of images in my mind that I never really found. One was Hines’ Newsboy (here), another Kalvar’s Women in a Park (here) and many Erwitt images including (here). I agree that the series would be improved by replacing a couple of the weaker images with a strong direct interaction image or two. I am now planning an additional shoot.
Learning Log & Contextualisation
The research part of your submission is evolving wonderfully into a very strong and sustained piece of supportive material. You have made reflections and conclusions throughout, which tie in with your self-assessment. Overall, you have evidenced an articulate and very well researched piece, well done. Your learning log continues to grow and is providing a great source of supporting material, continue with your approach and strength.
Suggested reading/viewing & Pointers for the next assignment
Assignment 04 is a 1,000 word essay based upon an image of your choice. The brief does suggest that you can use an image of your own, but I feel that exploring another artists work would be more beneficial as there would already be critical essays and theoretical analyses of their work online for you to read from which to establish a basis. Going by your writing thus far, I do not see this assignment being much of a challenge, your referencing and structure is very good, coupled with your already established visual research list.
Your hypothetical idea of me asking Vivian Maier about whether or not she is taking enough risks is interesting; given the time period she produced her work, her gender and her social status, I believe she took many risks both compositionally and thematically with her work. This essay could focus on your interpretation of one of her images, say one of them that the self appointed curators have discussed in length. Then you could make a more in depth analysis and contextual interpretation based upon the obtainable facts about her status, nationality, age, social hierarchy etc.
I was beginning to think about an image for the 1k essay and the idea of looking at Vivian Maier is interesting. I found her work intriguing and there is the added dimension of it being selected and published posthumously.