People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log


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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

Phone

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

Mini

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

Cobbles

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.

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Assignment 4: tutor feedback

I got the feedback report from Sam my tutor at the end of October but then went away on a short holiday (back to Vieux Nice as it happens!), hence the delay in posting this.

It’s an insightful and thought-provoking set of feedback as usual, and is thankfully generally rather positive. There are of course pointers on how to develop and improve, and in a couple of instances preferences for my ‘alternative’ shots, but on the whole it’s pretty good feedback.

From the Overall Comments section:

“You have demonstrated a good technical approach to the capture of colour and your work on this is a real strength. The prints are of a good quality and have translated very well from digital.

The work presented has a clean and professional look and hangs together coherently. It would be easy to see this in a travel magazine environment”

The comments on the use of colour pleased me greatly, as I saw that as a significant part of the success of the assignment – and increasingly an element of my evolving ‘personal style’. I’m equally pleased with ‘clean and professional’ as this was exactly what I was aiming for and I put a lot of attention to detail into the presentation.

Comments per set:

1. Establishing shot and 2. Medium shot

  • The comments on the first and second page shots were intermingled, as the tutor feel that a stronger opening shot was what I’d considered for the second page (2a Medium)
  • “The image you chose for the second page, is very strong and visually engaging. The light on this is very beautiful, I wonder if this would be a more engaging establishing front page shot? It is very strong and next to the busier more traditional image I do think it has more impact.”
  • “The alleyway image has some impact. The yellow building front is pleasant although again is not as strong as the one you finally decided on.”
  • So I’m considering swapping around 1a and 2a

3. Interaction shot

  • “The artist at work on the street works well, I am pleased to see you including people as this also provides the suggestion that others go there and maybe I could be one of those people experiencing that space too. It gives the feeling of access.”
  • “The alternative market shot has potential and the reflection is well seen but it has disengaged feeling, so less of the idea of making the viewer be involved.”
  • I agree on both comments and will stick with 3a in the assessment version

4. Detail shot

  • “This study of the traditional seller is challenging to look at as it has some strange equipment! The cone shaped cover is interesting and I think the man with the strange black helmet on is fun to look at.”
  • “I do like the alternative image with the tangle of aerials. I wonder if this would have been stronger with a tighter crop. Your mention of using the other images as a small body of work with people as the connection, is valid and does work.”
  • “The image of the red bike is also strong and as you say the colours are amazing, this could be further emphasized with a slightly different composition? The windows to the left are a little distracting and the image does drive the viewer to look there and away from the more graphic blocks of colour.”
  • I think I will try a different crop on the scooter shot, but I’m looking back I’m not as drawn to the aerials image; I do still like the idea of keeping the connection of these images being of people though

5. Portrait shot

  • “This [5a] is a very engaging image, what lovely facial hair! His face is very expressive.”
  • “The other image is well balanced and it is pleasing but it does not have the human connection the other image has.”
  • Agreed on both counts – I really like the moustachioed gent shot, it has a nice serenity to it; the other shot is definitely less engaging in that respect

 6. Closing shot

  • “The detail and lighting in this image are strong and do evoke the idea of life and the end of the day. The bold colours work very well.”
  • “Your alternative image is strong and graphic and interesting although is a little more distanced feeling.”
  • “The doorway photo is bold but as you suggest it is a little bit of a change of pace than the other work.”
  • I concur with the comments on 6b and 6c and so intend to stick with my first choice

Closing comments

“Do read around your approaches to continue to develop your theoretical stance. Consider looking at the history and development of documentary / editorial practice in photography and where it stands in contemporary photography.

I think this work could be considered for publication rather than left as an exercise, do some further research into suitable publications?”

I’m very encouraged by this final comment! Nice to think that someone considers it worthy of publication. I’ll look into that.


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Assignment 3: tutor feedback

I’ve had my tutor’s report on Assignment 3 for about a week and while I’ve absorbed it and decided what to do with the feedback, I’ve only just found time to write this up.

As ever it’s a very thorough report, taking time to comment not only on the assignment but my wider learning log including the exercises in this section. It’s generally positive and encouraging, with a few pointers on where to improve and what to rework before final submission time.

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

“An energetic submission and you have practiced and considered the images taken. You are thoughtful and questioning in your journal entries, and you are honest in your initial reflection.

Exploring the assignment with the concept of illustrating stages in your own life is interesting. This gives a sense of the story unfolding and the places you chose begin to reflect this well. Some of the images could have been more sensitive to the ideas and I understand the challenge of this as the idea came after the images were taken.

The prints are clean and sharp.”

The comment on some images suiting the ‘life stages’ idea better than others is bang on – I admitted that the over-arching construct only occurred to me after I’d taken most of the photos and was struggling a little with how they could hang together as a cohesive whole (something that I am particularly interested in when it comes to assignments, for better or worse – I think it’s important that the images work not just individually but as a series that adds up to more than the sum of the parts).

On a practical note, I’m glad the prints came out well as I’ve had comments from both my tutors on my prints before now. I think I’ve finally got the hang of colour calibration to make sure what I see on my monitor matches what ends up on the photo paper. I invested in a decent display calibration tool and that seems to have made the difference.

Comments per set:

1. Promenade du Paillon Fountains – ‘Play’

  • “Your personal caption is fun and the images illustrate the idea. I do wonder if you have made the weakest image the largest? The leaping boy is really energetic and I think with some more careful and sensitive cropping this could be better as it looks a little unbalanced. Consider also the other images seem to be taken from a greater height. Is this you looking back as an adult height or do you hunker down to child eye view? With the strong reflections there are some potentially exciting images here, you have taken simple landscapes of the area. Think about what the children see when they are in this place? They will probably have no notion of the wide vistas as their view would be the water and the most immediate surroundings.”
  • Fair point on the layout – I took a standard approach throughout to make the first and largest image the widest view of the whole space, but with hindsight Sam is right, I should select the best image
  • The crop of the leaping boy image – for most of my prep this was a tighter portrait crop but at the last minute I bottled it as the other 17 images were landscape ratio and I went for full consistency; I will rework this back to the original crop idea and see if the layout works better
  • The comments about the child’s-eye point of view are interesting, and yes maybe I should have taken this more into consideration when shooting; at the time I was shooting as I normally do, full-height, camera to my eye… now I see it could have been more interesting to shoot from low down, from a child’s point of view – luckily I am back in Nice this week and could do some reshoots

2. Giessereihalle – ‘Friends’

  • “Again your caption is very reminiscent, and actually rather sad. This brings the images together and makes them make sense. The big industrial hall is interesting, the point of this time is that it actually didn’t matter what the space was, it was the social group that made it. So the magnificent and striking surrounds become insignificant to the social event. Just look at groups of young people today, some stand around in the most uninspiring places but that doesn’t matter. The space photographed here has lots of potential for bold geometric compositions. (Look at the work by Candida Hofer).”
  • In terms of the ‘life stages’ theme, this was a little more of a stretch than some of the others… if I hadn’t chosen the narrative format, I’d have featured more of the building itself, as the roof structure in particular was magnificent in its industrial design… but once I’d committed to the life stages construct I had to select images that fit the narrative of young people meeting up
  • My favourite of this set is definitely the first one, and that’s the one that most makes sense in the context of Sam’s recommendation of Candida Hofer – I see the genre similarities

3. King’s Cross – ‘Commuting’

  • “The caption is the key again to this set. You have hinted at some very profound ideas here. The image of the man alone in the crowd is the most obvious portrayal of this and I think could be the main image. Also think about the people in that space, all that rushing around and the space having a function but also being nowhere. I wonder if a long exposure with the movement a blur could have been a development?”
  • Again I concur on the choice of main image and will rework the layout
  • I have taken long exposures of the same space since the assignment and may insert one into the set to replace one of the first two images

4. Negresco Royal Lounge – ‘Culture’

  • “This is rather a beautiful space but could also been seen as a simple interpretation of the idea. I think it is very valid to consider that a time comes when you start to think about the rushing around and striving and what it means, it also has to do with mortality issues which leads us further into ideas about memory and celebration of understanding creative legacies. I like the detail image here. The main image is pleasing and has an interesting composition. The other interior architectural image looks rather cramped and either needs to be closer in or further out or more visually challenging.”
  • I agree on the second image looking cramped, and as per the leaping boy image from set 1, I had tried a portrait crop before settling on this framing – I will rework along the lines of Sam’s recommendation

5. Coach Restoration Workshop – ‘Labour of Love’

  • “This set of images works best in an image sense but is a little less successful with your caption. Maybe this is because you are imaging the future? This is a good selection of images what explores the space, the image you chose to print is interesting and the man framed in the curve of (whatever it is) works well. The intense concentration is really evident here.”
  • Yes, I see what she means about the caption, it does come across as a little tenuous and disconnected compared to the others; I think the concept makes sense (to me anyway!) and maybe I need to come up with a better caption to link my idea and the images better

6. Quaker Garden – ‘Tranquility’

  • “A nice idea or dream! I wonder if this could have been an occasion to interpret the images of you actually now stopping and looking at the world more because all the other ‘stages’ have been about very immediate or almost internal explorations. You suggest this is a time to sit and really look at the world and reflect on what has been? This would change your compositions and maybe also your angle of view, think of the space. (You have actually explored some of these ideas in your text, that knowledge needs to be used for your visual exploration too)”
  • I must confess, I’m still digesting the comments on this… I think I know what Sam’s suggesting but I’m not wholly sure how to rework or reshoot to get the message across… I’m still thinking about it – I reckon the key to it might be to actually sit up there for an hour in quiet contemplation (but unfortunately I’m out of the country for a week…)

Recommendations

Sam has suggested I take a look at the work of some photographers that might inform my thinking on this kind of work:

“Look at the work by Andreas Gursky for your next assignment, this work gives another scale and measured observation, which is fascinating to see.

Duane Michals, Arnold Newman, Matta Clarke, Hannah Starkey also have challenging images on people and place.

Annette Kuhn and Rosy Martin write about memory and the family album.

Read theory text by Liz Wells to explore some of the ideas you presented, ie memory/ space/ function/ buildings.”

I’m familiar with some but not all of these, so will take time this week to research them all. I confess that I started reading Wells but found it quite hard-going so put it to one side!. Maybe it’s time to try it again.

In all, I’m pleased with the feedback – it points me in directions of thinking and working that can improve my photography. I’m definitely starting to think about the possibilities of photography as a visual language – for storytelling, for communication generally – over and above the purely aesthetic. It’s exciting and scary in equal part…


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Assignment 2: tutor feedback

I’ve had my report back from my tutor Sam for just over a week but it’s taken me this long to get around to writing this up

As for Assignment 1, it’s a very thorough report, commenting individually on each picture submitted. It’s also a very balanced report, with some really good constructive feedback on how I might improve some of my work.

The ‘Overall Comments’ section is reproduced below, with my general response. Then I summarise the edited comments per picture and my response to them.

“A committed response to the assignment and you demonstrated good preparation and logistical organization by planning your position and observing and revisiting the event.

Good work spending time on documenting so many people, that careful observation does inform the story. Clean and crisp photographs submitted.

Your assignment presentation is clear and relevant, keep working in this way. Taking the time to practice and read up about different approaches is informing your work.

You have created a body of work that documents a story. The images are bright, crisp and bold and connect the viewer to the event. I would suggest a development would be to take a variety of images, some with close up detail as well as some location work to almost set the scene, the sense of place? I also wonder if this is rather a clean observation? These train types like to get oily and dirty and this is great for atmospheric shots.”

I’m obviously pleased with the overall positive tone of the comments. I was particularly proud of this set of images and keen for my enthusiasm in the outcome to be shared somewhat by the viewer. Sam’s comment about the lack of variety in the type of images is totally valid; with hindsight I did take a rather strict interpretation of the overall brief (and section title) and focused very much on the people themselves. A more rounded narrative would have included some more contextual/environmental images and more close-ups of specific activities (e.g. the hands of a crew member uncoupling the engine). The one comment I’m not sure I agree with is the suggestion that I may have sought out ‘clean’ subjects! There was no attempt on my part to (literally) sanitise the subject matter, so maybe the reputation steam trains have for being particularly dirty and oily is somewhat undeserved?!

Comments per image:

1. Driver coming in

  • “This is a good observation and the drivers’ complete concentration is really interesting. Good point of focus here and the framing of the window adds to the composition. […] Deciding to cover this event in colour has worked well. I love his grubby hands in this shot!”
  • Very pleased that this came over pretty much how I intended it: the concentration, the framing, the colours
  • As noted in the assignment itself, this was the image that inspired me to ditch my original plan to work in b/w and I was relieved to see that this worked well

2. Driver

  • “This man has a great face and it is nice to see him in all his train uniform. […] I would really advise you not to use black and white as a default to cover any issues in the quality of an image. Black and white is such a beautiful medium and should be used to support and develop a narrative.”
  • The b/w comment is because I wrote in my submission that I felt that this might have worked better in b/w due to it being a little too noisy – meaning that I think b/w can ‘carry’ more noise than colour images as it’s accepted as ‘grittier’… but I am suitably chastened! I know what Sam means, I shouldn’t see a b/w conversion as a ‘fix’ to an image, however tempting that is sometimes

3. Decoupling the engine

  • “Love the retro hat and health and safety high-vis vest combination. A really bold combination of colours, with a bright point of interest, it could have been a wider shot to add further emphasis to the ‘mighty machine and small man’ intervention?”
  • Another one where I was glad I went with an overall colour aesthetic
  • Good point on a wider shot – unfortunately this is only very slightly cropped so I can’t go back an make this much wider than it appeared here

4. Phoning the other end of the platform

  • “How funny! Love this pic and the serious look on the guys face, and not often you even see this type of phone now. I do like the composition although I wonder if it could have been a little bolder on the person? Good colour and good control of the highlights.”
  • So glad this came across well – it was one of four last-minute replacement shots that made the cut on my last day of shooting and it completely validated my decision to go back for one last session
  • Interesting comment on composition; unlike image 3, I thought this actually suited going wider –this ‘corner composition’ approach, with the train itself providing the context, was a deliberate choice. Having said that, I will go back and try a different crop

5. Filling the water tank

  • “This has great potential as it is so very strange looking. I wonder if a horizontal crop across the top would be interesting or even a vertical crop of only the left of the image. The man at the bottom of the frame is distracting as he is looking in your direction but the arm waving man is very interesting. The exposure seems fine with good colours.
  • I tried a crop as suggested and I found you lose the scale and the context too much
  • However, I do see what Sam means about the man bottom right not adding anything (although I actually liked the implied triangle) – so instead of cropping this, I will go back to the many outtakes and find one where man bottom right is less prominent

6. Checking the engine

  • “This is a good study of a person and you have been quite controlled in your point of focus. I wonder if the composition supports this gaze? The man’s shiny head has lost some detail in the print. The colours seem fine and it is sharp.”
  • I tried different crops after the comment on the gaze, but found none as satisfactory as the one I submitted (maybe I’m being too stubborn!)
  • Fair point on the print – I’m still learning on that score

7. Train crew waiting

  • “I like the waiting image, the tension is very obvious, although I did want to see more of the man on the left, the composition could have had less sky, more foot room and more information on the left.”
  • This is an unfortunate instance of me completely agreeing with her comments, but being unable to address them! I shot the main man and only after the event realised that I’d cropped the man to the left too much… the only thing I could do is chop out a bit of sky

8. Waving the train back in

  • “This image is really fun. Great energy and colour, I also like the slightly bewildered look on the spectators face! I wonder if this image could have had a bit more room to give a bit more of the environment and that sense of performance!”
  • Again, an example of where I can’t go any wider than I shot, so to improve on this would mean going back for a reshoot – and I’d  need to be lucky to capture the moment as well as I think I did here

9. Recoupling the engine

  • “This is a very bright and colourful image. It does look like you have caught this chap up to some mischief, he is concentrating so hard.”
  • Not much to add – again I was drawn to the colours and the character, and both of these seem to have come across to the viewer

10. Train guards ready to go

  • “This is very much a waiting image, I am not sure it is telling the story you have suggested, I wonder if the image taken from further back to show the actual carriage would have been more informative. There is a loss of detail in the highlights of the print but the colours are suitable.
  • I do agree that this doesn’t add much to the series… yet again the feedback is that I should have gone wider to take in more of the surroundings

11. Station guard blowing his whistle

  • “This image has so much information in it and it is also quite active. I life the composition with the bridge arch. The exposure looks fine.”
  • Another last-day replacement shot as I wasn’t happy with the composition or lighting on the previous candidate, so I’m very pleased that it worked out

12. Train guard smiling as train leaves

  • “This image is very strong. The good compositional elements really come together here and of course the great expression. The print interprets it well and you do get away with the slight softness. The print is slightly darker than on line and not quite as warm in tone but still pleasing”
  • This is another instance of me taking several variations with different guards over different days, and I knew straight away that this was going to be the one I used
  • It’s only just occurred to me in hindsight that I have in effect bookended the series with two similarly composed shots – framed by a train window; I’d love to claim this as deliberate but it’s subconscious at best, probably pure coincidence!

Other comments – and inspiration…

Sam made some other comments on the overall set that I found interesting and mused upon for a while:

“One element of your story I would really like to have seen explored is who all these people were. You have taken some nice images of a variety of people in a distanced manner, the next step could be to know their names and something about them. This along with a variety of close up shots as well as scene setting makes this a story that you could then approach the railway people or local magazine as a story?”

My initial response to this was that I’d stuck to the true spirit of the assignment (well, the section title) of ‘People Unaware’ and my intention to take all these as candid shots was the right approach. However, I then came to realise that I could have spoken to the subjects after the shot, to find out more about them. In some instances this would have been tricky, as many of the volunteers are kind of busy during this process! But others are very much waiting around, so I could have engaged them in conversation.

On the plus side: Sam’s idea that I could do something else with these images has really taken hold – I’ve already decided to contact the marketing team at NMYR and see if they’re interested in doing anything with the pictures. They occasionally have a volunteer recruitment drive, and these photos might be suitable for something like that?

Also, the station has a small visitors’ centre with exhibition space, and before now I’ve seen other photographers having small shows there. 12 photos isn’t really enough for something like that, so I might take a little time to go back through the contact sheets – and pictures I’ve taken at the station over the last six years of living in Pickering – to build a more rounded narrative that takes in the trains and the station itself as well as the staff.

Wish me luck!


3 Comments

Assignment 1: tutor feedback

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.