People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log

Assignment 5: tutor feedback


I’ve had the tutor report on this for a couple of weeks now but have been getting stuck deep into Context & Narrative and neglected to close this one off properly until now.

Given that I felt this was the most difficult assignment to date I was very keen to get an objective perspective on it. I was half-expecting a more critical response but thankfully it’s come across as more of a ‘qualified success’ than a ‘noble failure’…!

A few extracts from the Overall Comments section (and the opening and closing comments from the main analysis):

“I can see the dedicated work that you have gone into, to take these images and the result demonstrates this as a body of work exploring your idea. You have done some good research into a large variety of photographers and this has informed your approach. […] The reflection you provided is honest and searching and you are developing your own personal style.”

“You have engaged in the idea of exploring a theme and were experimental in the assignment task. […] You have really challenged yourself and been disciplined in the techniques you explored and your attention to detail shows as this body of work has a good harmony with the consistent lighting and colour palette.”

“The work presented hangs together well as a body of work.”

“Keep having fun when taking your images, as there is a becoming a real sense of that humor and irony in your work.”

I’m very pleased with this feedback – especially the opinion that it hangs together well (I was concerned about this) and the emerging sense of humour (something I don’t consciously aim for but admire in others). I do wonder whether the assessor/s will be quite as understanding…!?

Now follows brief comments per image and my reaction to them:

1. Sweet Shop

Sweet Shop

Sweet Shop

  • “A simple typographical study of the sweet jars provides a visual rhythm that is pleasing. There is a slight reflection in the glass and as it is white and falls across a dark jar it is slightly noticeable. I don’t think it greatly detracts from the image though. The colors work well here with the gentle lighting.”
  • I hadn’t noticed the reflection before but see it now; I’m happy to leave the image as-is

2. Charity Box

Charity Box

Charity Box

  • “This image does make you smile and the passing dog wandering in behind makes it. This is quite closely cropped top and bottom and depending on the outcome this might limit the usability. I mean in the sense of layout options as it becomes a format that is less usual.”
  • Glad the passing dog worked – I needed a juxtaposition to make this image sufficiently interesting
  • Hadn’t considered the tight crop being a problem; from memory I cropped so tight due to distractions at the edge of the original framing

3. Phone Box

Phone Box

Phone Box

  • “This image has quite a different feel to the previous two as the other images are quite timeless and yet this one really demonstrates a changing environment. The stark colours work well and the person wandering out of the frame further implies being left behind. The print is very crisp and clear and the detail of the graffiti and stickers shows how unused this box is. The print does become slightly blown out on the far right.”
  • Very pleased that the composition of this worked and got across the intended message; my ideal composition was to have someone passing using a mobile phone, but that didn’t happen in the time I had available… the ‘walking away’ image is a good second best
  • I was aware of the blown highlights and tried to rescue them as best I can

 4. Phone



  • “I like your intent with this image, the more active idea of it being in use. I do find the angle a little unusual. All your other images are measured and very straight vertically and horizontally so this does look out of kilter with them. The image does have a nice colour and as you say the brown atmosphere fits that time.”
  • This comment on the angle presents an interesting dilemma; I started with a very straight-on shot of the phone but it looked too static so I changed to this shot in use. I do see the point about inconsistency but remain unsure whether to select a different shot (or reshoot) in this instance

5. Milk Float

Milk Float

Milk Float

  • “Again a measured observation, the print is very clear and in focus. I didn’t see it instantly as a milk float but the number plate and Dairy Farmers of Britain logo gives the hint and also parked in a weedy yard speaks about its abandonment.”
  • I thought it was evident it was a milk float but the feedback is a good reminder that not everyone immediately sees what you want them to see!

6. Milk Bottle

Milk Bottle

Milk Bottle

  • “The milk bottle is very subtle in this image! The whole scene does give the impression of disrepair and neglect. I would suggest it is closely cropped and not quite straight so it looks a little forced. The print looks almost painterly with the paint texture on the door.”
  • I was OK with the bottle being subtle, although I do have an alternative shot with a different viewpoint and tighter framing so that the bottle is more prominent
  • I thought I’d got it straight so will revisit the master file to see what I can tweak – or may swap it out for the alternative shot mentioned above

7. Mini



  • “The mini does really have an iconic look and does say so much. I did wonder what the man was doing looming over the car, I wondered if he was patting it or thinking about how to break into it! I wonder if this could be cropped so the slightly distracting white pvc conservatory was not so prominent?”
  • This comment made me smile! He’s supposed to be cleaning it – to denote pride…  but as per the milk float it reminds me that the viewer doesn’t always have the reaction that matches my intent
  • Spot on re the conservatory; I was trying to keep the images to the same ratio and this framing initially felt right, but I will go back and re-crop as suggested

8. Pint Pot

Pint Pot

Pint Pot

  • “Again another icon, it does look a little on a lean? The addition of the person holding a bottle in behind also infers a change so that further supports the idea.”
  • As per the phone, the lean was deliberate… was trying to invoke the feeling of being in a pub! (it was actually staged at home, and that’s me in the background…)

9. Cobbles



  • “This image does document the cobbles and the curve and selective focus works but would suggest this image is not as interesting although in the example of a magazine article this could be useful to lay text over.”
  • I concede I did struggle with how to make cobbles more interesting

10. Flat Cap

Flat Cap

Flat Cap

  • “This is a clean and crisp portrait, I love his outfit and he does look rather dapper. It is nice to see an image with a person involved. The print for this works very well and the lighting is very gentle and a great foil against the dark background. I like to see a person as this adds to the story but I wonder if it then makes me want to know that person’s story? The other images have traces of people but they are more about the item and the environment. Just a thought.”
  • I really wanted to have more people in the set actually; one idea was to feature professions, but that faltered due to lack of material
  • With hindsight, I could have focused more on the hat and made it less of a portrait

So in all, an encouraging set of feedback for what I felt was my weakest assignment. I do think I’ll go back and tweak and/or replace a couple of the images, but will leave that until I have the big pre-assessment tidying up exercise. I think I need to put a bit of distance between me and the P&P assignments and come back with a fresh pair of eyes in a month or two.

5 thoughts on “Assignment 5: tutor feedback

  1. Very well done – I hope you are very pleased with it. I like the portrait a lot – is it someone you know or were you just lucky to find him ? As I am hoping to do the revised People and Place after C&N how did you find it overall ?

  2. Thank you! The portrait was a random spot… I took lots of portraits when my town had its annual Wartime Weekend festival at about the same time as I was doing the assignment, and this chap’s hat happened to fit my brief. More from that set here:

    I’m going to do a wrap-up post on the whole of P&P at some point so will let you know when I’ve done that, but in short: I really enjoyed it. It’s more focused than Art of Photography and for me at least, much more useful in helping you to develop your personal voice. It’s more practical than C&N, as you might expect. When you say ‘revised’, do you know what’s changed?

    • Only that they are going to focus more on portraiture – as per Sharon Boothroyd at my last study day. I don’t of course know how that would compare to the existing course.

      • Ah OK. Portraiture is one part of the five, and I was happy with that ratio as it’s not my favourite type of photography! I endured that section more than I enjoyed it…

  3. Pingback: Assignment 5: Disappearing Britain | People & Place

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