Part 3 Feedback

I’ve had a chat with my tutor about assignment 3 and the work I did during the thrid part of the course. As the chat was online I’ve got the written feedback in bullet form which I’ve included below.

Assignment 3

  • Improvement in Photoshop skills, well suited to the idea you are exploring. The merge function has worked well and to good effect.
  • Overall images lack ‘punch’ this could be addressed through increasing contrast or some saturation. Consider what it it you are trying to convey – what is the relationship between the 2 figures.
  • It’s a strong idea but what is the dialogue/conversation between the 2?
  • How might you better direct the models to communicate your ideas. Were there any barriers in directing them more?
  • Both images are staged against very busy backgrounds which appear out of context/
    incongruous with the activity. Consider how you might overcome this whilst remaining true to your original vision.
  • Sequencing of images could be important in helping you develop and communicate your idea/concept.

As I’ve progressed through the course I’ve used the techniques that have been highlighted in the course notes and exercises. Some I’ve found useful, others not so much. Some techniques I use regularly, others very infrequently.

Recently I’ve been making use of other techniques to improve the quality of my images, spot removal for instance.

One of the suggestions for the next assignment is to make use of the tone curve in order to improve the tonality and contrast in my images. I’ve started doing that with some photographs I took of seals while staying in Norfolk. I also looked at adjusting the saturation and vibrance in a couple of images, which I think make them better.

With regards to the assignment I had considered a number of techniques that would allow me to overlay the images. However, being of the keep it simple school of thought, decided to go with what I felt was the easiest.

The concept behind the series of images is one that I will try and explore further, with other subjects as well as the two that I’ve already used. However, before I undertake further shoots I need to refine the brief and also come up with a bit more of a narrative.

I think the point about directing the models better is a fair one. Although there wasn’t any probems communicating what I wanted, I gave a very high level of instruction and let them do what they wanted. Having a better idea of what I want to achieve I hope will allow better direction.

In general I think I hadn’t given enough thought about what I was trying to convey and the story I wanted to get across. I had a subject for the photographs (performers) and an idea of what I wanted to do (have the same person performing and viewing themselves) but hadn’t gone beyond that. Something I need to work at in the next section of the course.

Projects/ Exercises

Part 1. Series and sequence: good attempt at maintaining the crop – not easy in a
public space. Seasonal change is a well known example to explore. Returning
to previous ideas and exploring them in projects/exercises is beneficial. Good
to shoot a range of options – good that you reflected on that advice! Images
lack contrast, add slight a curve?

Part 2. Difficult as your sitter is sensitive to appearance, what did you feel about this
exercise, might you have chosen a different sitter?

Part 3. Couldn’t be accessed.

With Part 2, using another sitter would have meant arranging a time convenient to both of us when they could have dropped in and we could have taken the photos. The brief requiring us to take photos, and then allow the person being photographed to doctor the images in whatever way they saw fit required access to a printer or some other means of producing a print. Without ready access to this, the exercise involves a lot of scheduling of time and availability of everyone involved.

Part 3 just wasn’t there. When reading through the course notes I missed the part about researching Richard Billingham’s photos. I’ve remedied that now.

Learning Log/Blog

You continue to maintain a well populated learning log that features detailed notes and
thoughts on a range of exhibitions and visits. Interesting to read your reflections on Arbus – what do you think on her approach to her ‘subjects’, to those on the outskirts of the society of which she was a part. Do you find the work voyeuristic or do you think she had empathy with them? She is a much discussed/cited photographer, often much is made of the manner of her death but how much has this shaped our discourse around her?

Consider some of these issues when looking at the work and try to get less bogged down in the detail around her wider life story (husband, children, work etc.). This is important to some degree, but it is background information. What we are discussing here is the work on its own terms – what do you understand/feel when you look at her work – what response do you have to it?

Arbus was an interesting person, reading the biography showed that. What I didn’t do was move beyond the biodgraphy and explore her work in enough detail, critiquing some of her images. I’ll look to do that in another post, and also remember to do something similar with other photographers whose biographies I read. Although understanding who they are or were is important, exploring their work is the way to develop ourselves as photographers, looking at what it is appeals or intrigues us, draws us to them.

In response to the questions posed:

I don’t feel that her work is voyeuristic. I believe that she was drawn to the people that she chose to photograph because she had a certain empathy with them. They weren’t part of mainstream society, and she herself didn’t fit how society might have dictated she should behave. By photographing “freaks” and people who were different she was highlighting how diverse society is. Although her photos could be seen as voyeuristic I don’t think that she would have been able to capture the images she did without instilling trust in the people she photographed. No matter how good a photographer you might be, without your subject trusting you, you’ll never truly personal and intimate images.

I think the manner of her death will colour any discussion of her work. If you know something about a person, how they lived and even died then it will have an influence on how you see their work. If you know the circumstances around a photograph they’ve taken, you begin to see it differently.

For instance if you were to see an image of someone in the street and they appeared angry then you’d wonder what has caused them to be angry. If that person was part of a crowd at a demonstration then that anger could be directed at the target of the demonstration, police or armed forces that were policing the demonstration, people who were protesting against the demonstration. You could not be sure but could come up with multiple reasons. However, if you were then told that moments after the photograph was taken they ripped the camera away from the photographer you see the image differently and an entirely different set of reasons for their anger opens up.

If Arbus had died of old age, illness or in an accident then her work would be seen in a different light. Arbus taking her own life, colours how we see her work because it becomes the product of someone who struggled throughout her life, who didn’t always have control over the work she produced but did have control over the way her life ended. It also lends a degree of tragedy to her work and leave the question of how successful a photographer would she have become if she’d not committed suicide.

Suggested reading/viewing

You might enjoy the film on Diane Arbus ‘Fur’
A recent show in London at The Barbican ‘Photography on the Margins, more here:
Do some more research around the show, read some reviews (it has since closed)
investigate some the practitioners listed further.
For the next assignment – have a look at the work of OCA tutor, Andy Hughes here:

I’ll be looking at ‘Fur’ when the opportunity presents itself. An initial look at the trailer and reviews show a film that is a very artistic spin on Arbus; although based in part on fact, is focussed on a short period of her life, and which doesn’t touch upon her eventual suicide in any way.

For assignment 4 I want to try and build on some of the photos I took in Cyprus that reflect man’s impact on the environment. Although the assignment relates to still life I look to take this outside the confines of a studio/home and instead capture images in situ, but in a way that leaves the subject matter isolated from the environment and so making it unclear as to whether it is natural or constructed.

The biggest challenge being finding locations and creating the still life, do I capture objects as is or build something from them.

4 thoughts on “Part 3 Feedback”

  1. Some really good direction from your tutor and great to see your positive and proactive response.

    I look forward to seeing how you build upon your Photography from Greece. It was something I particularly connected with.


    1. Have just been reading an article on the BBC news website which starts off with a brilliant quote
      “If you opened your curtains in the morning and found that the grass was scorched, somebody had dumped a load of rubbish in your garden and animals were eating it – you’d be appalled. But that’s what’s happening in the oceans”

      Going to have to think carefully about this assignment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenna, interesting comments from your tutor.
    Regarding adding a bit more punch to your photographs, I don’t know if you have tried the clarity slider? It is one that I often use, it gives contrast to the mid-tones I believe and does make the image “punchier” but you have to use it carefully.
    Regarding the exhibition Another Kind of Life – photography on the margins. I went to see this a while ago and tried to write a short review here . It is a great exhibition a lot to see, in fact there was too much for me in one day. It did have a profound effect on me particularly images by Jim Goldberg, Jim Clark and Mary Ellen Mark, I can highly recommend it.


  3. Thank you for sharing your feedback and responses and for all the follow up references. The richness of our various tutor interests and experiences is one of the most valuable aspects of OCA I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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