Assignment 4 – Self Assessment

321 East 108th Street New York - Google Street View

321 East 108th Street New York – Google Street View

This assessment was re-written after my tutor provided a more appropriate set of evaluation criteria.

Demonstration of Subject Based Knowledge and Understanding

It has been interesting to use this assignment as the basis to look closely at a single practitioner, especially one whose status in the world of photography is so ambiguous. The research programme and suggested reading list for this assignment helped form, what I hope is, a solid foundation upon which to build visual interpretation and analytical skills.

I believe that I have built a reasonably comprehensive understanding and knowledge of Vivian Maier both in terms of her published work and in terms of the social environment from which she came and in which she worked.

Demonstration of Research Skills

My research base for this project was very broad including three out of the four books on her work that have been published, the two films that document the discovery of her photographs and a significant number of websites.

At the outset of this assignment I decided to develop an understanding of different visual analysis approaches so before looking too closely at Maier I read Jonathan Bayer’s Reading Photographs (1), Chandler’s Semiotics (2), Barthes’ Rhetoric of the Image (3), Ellis’ Introduction to Reading Photographs (4), Szarkowski’s The Photohgrapher’s Eye (5), Shore’s the Nature of Photographs (6)  and Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment (7). This reading list established a base from which to approach Maier.

A significant amount of the published commentary on her work has been presented within the framework of a 21st century paradigm so I invested a significant amount of time looking at her’s and her contemporaries work in parallel.

Overall all I believe that, the the context of working towards a 1,000 word essay my research was comprehensive and well organised.

Demonstration of Critical and Evaluation Skills

Maier offered significant scope to work towards meeting this criterion. A significant amount of the commentary on-line, including essays that were originally published in British or American newspapers and magazines take the film Finding Vivian Maier (8) as their start point without questioning either its accuracy or vantage point. When I watched this film and Who Took Nanny’s Pictures (9) back-to-back it was apparent that there were different views on the most basic details about her archive and this made me question the validity of the whole story.

I feel confident that my research was broad enough and carried out to enough depth to allow me to arrive at a critical position that, whilst not unique, is based on my own analysis and interpretation.


I found the 1,000 word limit a challenge and will probably never be completely satisfied with the result as I was forced, quite rightly, to be highly selective. I believe that the essay has a reasonable flow and communicates most of my ideas effectively but I am frustrated at not having the skills to build in more of the ideas that I would have liked to discuss.




(1) Bayer, Jonathan (1977) Reading Photographs: Understanding the Aesthetics of Photography. The Photographers’ Gallery. New York: Pantheon

(2) Chandler, Daniel (2007) Semiotics: The Basics (second edition, Kindle edition) Abingdon: Routledge

(3) Barthes, Roland (1977) Rhetoric of the Image (published as an essay within Image Music Text, translated by Stephen Heath) London: Fontana Press

(4) Ellis, Ainslie (1977) Introduction to Reading Photographs: Understanding the Aesthetics of Photography. The Photographers’ Gallery. New York: Pantheon

(5) Szarkowski, John ( 2007) The Photographer’s Eye (originally published in 1966 and based on a 1964 exhibition at the MoMA) New York: The Museum of Modern Art

(6) Shore, Stephen (2007) The Nature of Photographs: A Primer. London: Phaidon Press

(7) Dyer, Geoff (2012) The Ongoing Moment (originally published in 2005 by Little and Brown). London: Canongate Books (Kindle Edition)


(8) Maloof, John (2104) Finding Vivian Maier. Produced, Written and Directed  by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel. Distributed by Soda Pictures.

(9) Nicholls, Jill (2013) Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures. Produced and Directed by Jill Nicholls for BBC Imagine, Presented by Alan Yentob. A BBC Arts Production

This entry was posted in Assignment 4 - Essay, Research and Reflection and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Assignment 4 – Self Assessment

  1. Catherine says:

    I think that’s a very accurate reflection based on all that I have read on your blog. Pleased that you enjoyed doing it as well rather than experiencing it as a chore.

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