People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log

Assignment 1: tutor feedback

3 Comments

My tutor Sam reviewed Assignment 1 and sent back her report very quickly.

And a very thorough report it was too – she commented on all of my ‘People Aware’ work, exercises and research blog posts as well as the assignment itself, which was incredibly useful. I’ll focus here specifically on the assignment feedback.

Generally the feedback was positive and very encouraging – this was a relief as I’ve said a few times that portraiture isn’t my favourite style of photography and this assignment pushed me out of my comfort zone.

The ‘Overall Comments’ section is reproduced below, after which I will summarise the comments per picture and my response to them.

“You have approached the work logically and been prepared to practice a variety of techniques in your understanding of the brief requirements.

Your standard of presentation is good and the blog is easy to navigate. Excellent to see your sketches and your research into what you wanted the images to show, the personality of the model and ideas for composing the photographs.

Your research into a number of artists proved to be a very useful exploration and your work was influenced by some of the images you looked at. Continue to work in this way, look at artists bodies of work so you really get a feel about their message, style and approach.

You have demonstrated good technical and visual skills, your ability to work with people is very obvious here and a real strength.

The reflection you provided is honest and searching and you are developing your own personal style. Keep working on the refinement of your images, in particular the lighting and composition, as you have bought together so many other elements so well.”

Comments per image:

1. Face

  • “Image one is very engaging, you have demonstrated a good selective focus and the lighting is gentle.”
  • Good that the selective focus worked, as in my assignment write-up I felt that I might have gone too far with that, too wide an aperture and a softening of the focus too close to the centre of the face.
  • The lighting worked out pretty much how I wanted, so pleased that this gets a mention.

2. River

  • “Image two has a pleasing point of focus although the lighting is quite harsh on the side of the face and this would make this more difficult to print. This is an image that could lend itself to more space on the right side of the image.”
  • Yes, very true on the lighting. I tried to dampen the highlights on that portion of the image a little but the harsh strip of sunlight is probably too bright.
  • Interesting comment on more space to the right – I actually thought I’d composed that with enough ‘space to gaze into’ but maybe even more space would improve the image.

3. Laughing

  • “This image is very much capturing a moment and is fun and works well even though the focus looks a little soft on the eyes? The burnt out background is a good visual canvas for this image although it could prove a challenge to print as there is limited detail and the division between the curve of the shoulder and the background is lost.”
  • Agreed on the soft focus on the eyes. I was trying to keep the focus on the eyes as far as possible in this shooting session but the spontaneity of the pose and my exposure settings meant that it didn’t quite work in this one. I did realise this but decided to keep the image anyway!
  • The background was a deliberate choice although with hindsight, if I’d have tried to print this one out before completing the assignment I’d have seen exactly the challenge that Sam has pointed out here.

4. Hood

  • “This is a powerful image and so reminds me of the work by Steve McCurry of the Afghan girl. Having only one eye visible is interesting and the focus on this emphasised by the crop further points to this.”
  • I know exactly the picture she means, but any inspiration was entirely subconscious… in fact the shoot started off as an ‘homage’ to the classic Bailey/Jagger hood shot but took a different direction.
  • This is my own (and my wife’s) favourite of the set – it’s printed and framed at home already – and so I’m very pleased that others see it as a powerful image too.

5. Bath

  • “Some gentle lighting and the profile angle with closed eyes has a different feel. The curving bath edge and light and dark work well. I wonder if the rather obvious sign and candles in behind are almost too much. The image is strong and evocative without these further signals?”
  • Fair enough, maybe a little too much. Although the sign is in the bathroom anyway, I guess I didn’t need to have it in shot. Less is more!

6. Book

  • “Well seen here and this time the background is less useful visually? A closer crop of this would be more successful. The mix of a portrait along with text creates another story by itself. The author has been very controversial and the melding of the model in this text has another message. Look at the work by Joachim Schmid.”
  • The background comment is a fair point; I actually considered having more background showing, for context of where Ann was reading the book, but with hindsight Sam is right – seeing that it takes place in a particular space doesn’t add to the image (unless you know the subject well).
  • The mix of the author and the text with the image is, to be honest, something that never crossed my mind! I simply liked the visual trick of the book cover as mask. Whilst I’m familiar with Rushdie’s other works, I don’t even know what this book is actually about… so a lesson learned here: sometimes an image can carry unintentional messages! I need to keep that in mind.
  • Very good shout on Joachim Schmid; wasn’t familiar with his work before but the similarities came across immediately – the way he plays with identities by merging parts of old photos. Interesting.

7. Pale

  • “This is a gentle image and challenges the perception of a portrait very well. The limited colour palate and controlled point of focus works well here. This is a confident presentation and provokes questions”
  • I’m really very glad that this worked, as it was the most experimental shot of the set. Interestingly a couple of people I showed it to (including the subject) didn’t think it worked so well, but I disregarded the advice and stuck with my instincts on this one!

Overall, I’m very pleased with the feedback – both the reassurance on what did work, and the pointers on what worked less well and where I need to continue to develop.

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3 thoughts on “Assignment 1: tutor feedback

  1. Hi Rob great set of images. I particularly liked the laughter and hood ones from the first section and well done for keeping the pale image in as it has a lovely ethereal feel to it – very nice experimenting.

  2. Pingback: Assignment 1: Portraits of Ann | People & Place

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