Assignment 4 – Tutor feedback and initial responses

I have now had my tutor’s feedback on Assignment 4. The good news is that he seemed to like the images but suggests a rework to explore other ways of presenting them. As ever, there are some intriguing suggestions for further research.

Tutor’s substantive text set in bold. My initial responses in plain text.

Overall Comments

This is an interesting interpretation of the brief exploring light and colour. There are some strong images in the submission and you have included relevant contact sheets. Colour is used as a strong tool in composition and meaningful content. You have clearly observed and recorded colour in the work and created your own colour palette. In relation to this I would like to have seen further development with research into theory and symbolism in the use of colour.

This will mean dipping into the ‘technique’ books, which I had set aside in favour of ‘criticism’ books for the duration of the course. I know there is some useful material on colour theory in several books by Michael Freeman. I will have to explore further to find material on symbolism.

You have researched into the work of other practitioners using light/colour and some analysis of their approach to their work.

You make an intriguing statement in your submission that caught my attention – “I will not comment on ‘personal voice’ because I am not yet entirely sure what the phrase means” yet later on you remark that you have selected purely on subjective grounds. If you are questioning the concept of a personal voice in photography this is a valid line to enquire into as we may very well question the idea that it has any voice that can impart meaning.

I am not questioning the concept of ‘personal voice’, which I have heard expressed from several directions – course notes, forum postings and my RPS mentor. I’m just not convinced that I have found mine yet – or at least, I haven’t recognised it.

If a personal voice represents an expression of individualism perhaps we might consider “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism. However this self- aggrandizement now appears to dominate the media and culture to an extent that the concept of an individual voice may be in danger of disappearing. Yet Sartre contends “In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait, outside of which there is nothing. No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes, and futile expectations.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism. So can this portrait be the personal voice of the individual in reality or does this voice only reflect some grandiose claim for legitimizing the practice of photography as art? As the say on the exam paper – discuss.

A big topic and one for a future blog posting. To some extent it depends on your definition of ‘art’. I came into this course with a view that photography is essentially a craft activity and that ‘art’ is a supreme expression of a craft. Over the past few months, I have been exposed to some other views (apparently equating ‘art’ to some form of political statement) and I need to take time to assimilate that.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work

The work submitted for this assignment demonstrates knowledge of technical skills that are clearly evidenced in the learning log. On looking at your prints I was struck overall by the impact that was made by your use of colour. There is evidence of well observed details in the series and across the contact sheets as well as your control of lighting. A profitable evening’s walk enhanced by the effect of water. I particularly like as single images img6903, 7000 and 7014. The remaining pictures are colourful but a little bland as single images.

None were intended as single images, although a few are capable of standing by themselves.

However looking at these and at your contacts I would suggest that there could be more impact made with the images if you considered the possibility of presenting them as a series of triptychs along the themes that you indicate in your submission shadows, puddles and so on. Another possibility would be to consider a single dominant colour for each triptych. The final outcome is of course down to you as in this project you have produced enough images to consider a range of presentation ideas and interpretation of the subject in a variety of ways.

To be honest, I had not considered the physical form of the submission beyond a collection of prints spread out on my kitchen table. I had a hint of problems when trying to arrange them in a 4×2 grid for a blog posting; I’m not entirely happy with the result.

Presenting as triptychs, two or three of them, will allow me to reconsider using portrait format images as the ‘outers’ to support landscape format central images. I will need to think through linking themes. ‘Colours’ is intriguing – gold and red/blue can be done with my existing material but I will have to revisit some traffic lights to find enough greens.

For physical form, I could either print three images onto a single A3 sheet, or produce some sort of folding mount to emulate the traditional altarpiece that is part of the dictionary definition.

Overall a good piece of work that may need to have the format for presentation reconsidered.

Thank you.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Good references to the work of other photographers but do spend a little time outlining how their work has influenced your approach. This could be underlined by your analysis informed by critical reading.

An important point, but one that I am going to have to work at. Unless I am creating an homage (assignment 2) I do not consciously recognise my influences. That does not mean that I am not influenced by other’s work (which would be an appallingly arrogant thing to say), just that everything merges into my subconscious, from which I dredge up ideas. I recall CS Forrester making a similar point (using a metaphor of barnacles) in ‘The Hornblower Companion’ [ISBN-13: 978-1557503473]

As mentioned I would like to have seen some research into colour particularly as symbol. I have included a brief extract from The Art of Colour and also a link to the full Sartre essay that may be of interest to you.

There will be a blog posting or two about colour before the end of Part five.

The Barthes essay linked in the previous feedback will also have a relevance to the idea of a personal voice.

I have reviewed ‘The Death of the Author’ previously. It was not a happy read and I doubt that I will gain much by repeating the experience this soon.

Remember when you consider submitting work for formal assessment the assessors will be looking to see evidence of reading, reflection and meeting all criteria. At this stage prior to formal assessment it is possible to rework and reshoot assignments based upon feedback given and your own analysis of the work at this point. Before any submission carry out a review of all work and consider any changes that may need to be made.

Suggested reading/viewing

Dark City

Existentialism is a Humanism


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