Assignment 1: Formative feedback

I feel pleased with the feedback from this assignment.  It is clear that I’ve engaged successfully with it, meeting the intention of the brief and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.  A very encouraging start to what I feel will be the most challenging OCA course so far.

My tutor encouraged me to take a wider view with my learning log, using it not just to formally record exercises and assignments but as a reflective repository for thoughts and ideas as I go along.  Hopefully it can be seen that I’ve already engaged with this idea and finding it to be an excellent prompt to become more reflective about what i see and read.  I quickly found however that my ‘Research and Reflection’ section in the blog became quite messy and unstructured.  As suggested by my tutor, I subcategorised menus further by named practitioner, exhibitions, books, etc. in order to restore a logical indexing to it.

A ‘strong aesthetic coherence’ and consistent approach was noteSuggested d by my tutor, well controlled and showing consideration towards background choice.  My tutor felt that they were engaging and it was clear that I’d put my subjects at ease – noting that some photographers find this to be a huge challenge.

A couple of the shots were about 1/3 stop over exposed – perhaps most notably as far as I’m concerned on Hilary’s hair.  I have to agree, having properly calibrated my monitor again since and, I admit, trusted the Auto button on Lightroom to have got it right at the time. A salutary lesson learned!!!!  I have reprinted these since at a slightly reduced exposure ready for Assessment in due course.

There was debate about how well one of the images worked – John and Unknown.  I noted in my submission that I knew i was taking a bit of a risk with this, by including two people and one of them being intentionally out of focus.  But my tutor noted that ‘the text supported the image well’.  I  take on board my tutor’s point that it disrupts the rest of the set, making it the oddball in comparison.

A suggestion was made to deepen my research around the observation that smokers and cyclists appeared to be the most approachable subjects.  I’ve added this to my personal list of ‘potential future project ideas’ as it is well worth exploring, both to simply understand better but also to stay close to what might well be a lucrative sector of society when it comes to finding volunteer subjects!

That said, my tutor provided some sound advice that really resonated with me – to be choosy and go for subjects that you genuinely find interesting, not just whoever might say ‘yes’.  Along with keeping contact cards readily to hand, flattery and conviviality and – last but not least – to remember that being a photography student is actually a great justification in the first place.

Suggested reading/viewing

  • Street & Studio, Ute Eskildsen (ed.), Tate Publishing, 2008
  • Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes (Vintage Classics), 1993 – particularly the sections on being photographed, and on the relationship between photography and theatre.
  • Irving Penn’s Corner Portraits make a fascinating study into the completely individual ways in which people compose themselves for the camera.
  • Think about this short account by Alec Soth talking about how the use of a large format camera changes the encounter between subject and photographer entirely (in fact he uses a similar (slow) approach – with tripod – when shooting commercial work with his digital SLR)

These items will be followed-up on in separate blog posts.

My tutor’s feedback report can be found here.


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