I received my tutor’s formative feedback on my Square Mile assignment today. The good news is that there is no rework suggested. There are some important points to ponder and actions to take as I move forward into Part 2 of the course.
Substantive feedback is set in blue text below. My responses are in black.
The challenge in this assignment is to produce images that show visual qualities that identify and express your ideas of the subject. It can often be difficult to get ideas and concepts into the images that we make and in this assignment you have confronted some of these issues. You have also taken the time to consider alternative interpretations of the subject.
You have considered the formal elements of image making and transferred these to your own work. I was pleased to see that you had considered some alternative images for your presentation and that you had included these in your learning log. One of the skills to develop as a photographer is the ability to discriminate in the selection of images.
I was pleased to see that you have considered and reflected upon the work that you have produced however this needs to be developed in greater depth so that critical reading is undertaken that is relative to the work. This will allow you to evaluate it within a critical context of the processes undertaken coupled with the underpinning ideas and concepts contained within critical reading. I would like to have seen your comments upon the work of other photographers with specific examples of their work rather than just linking to external sites.
The critical text element is limited to 500 words, to cover rather a lot of ground. I have made those comments, and drawn some examples, in my blog entries. I used links to avoid plagiarism issues – presumably not quite the problem I had assumed; I will do more direct quoting of text and images in future.
Overall you have made a good start to your course and have demonstrated a willingness to be challenged and to think about the creative process that you are engaged in.
Feedback on assignment and supporting work
There is clear evidence in this submission of a good technical ability and an eye that can spot potential images in developing a theme. You set yourself a task and maintained the topic throughout the piece. However the work, although narrative in structure is rather tentative in approach to photographing people. As you state “The exercise was a personal challenge because I am uncomfortable with street photography. Several of the images appear voyeuristic, as I did not want to be seen to be invading subjects’ privacy, and would probably fall foul of Robert Capa’s oft-quoted maxim, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” This has had an affect upon your work in that the majority of images show people with their backs to you or walking out of the frame. This does not engage the viewer. It might be useful to consider the worries that you express regarding the voyeuristic nature of photography within the context of critical /theoretical reading. It could be argued that the very nature of photography is voyeuristic regardless of the nature of the specific genre. Another aspect of this that could be reflected upon is what constitutes privacy in today’s technological society. Does your Olympus in some way intrude more than the common use of the camera in a mobile phone?
I would have been more comfortable with a longer lens, perhaps 85mm (full-frame equivalent) but (a) I had already decided to use the Trip35 and (b) I am aware of the other maxim, attributed to Eric Kim, that “Creepiness is proportional to focal length”.
The voyeuristic nature of photography as a whole is a topic that I will spend some time researching. A first response to the question of privacy is that we grudgingly accept passive surveillance (fixed CCTV) but people are more likely to question the motives of photographers actively turning a camera on them. I think the Olympus may intrude more than a mobile phone because it is camera-shaped, rather unusual, and is clearly being used to take a photograph, rather than make a phone call or play a game.
I note that in the learning log you have included captions with the images that are straight descriptions of what is seen in the image. I am glad that you did not include these in your final presentation as the images can be read quite clearly however it would be useful for you to reflect upon these decisions within the learning log as part of your thinking upon the image making process.
I had thought about emulating Karen Knorr’s ‘Belgravia‘ in my eventual assessment submission, with photographs printed 5×3″ on A4 paper and an extended caption on the lower part of the page. I may still do it, but will think hard about it first.
I was pleased to see through your contact sheets that you had a variety of alternative images under consideration for your presentation and that there is some analysis of your thinking as you go through the process of final selection.
Overall you have made a good start to your course and have demonstrated a willingness to be challenged, to question and to reflect upon the medium.
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
There were a number of opportunities to broaden out ideas in this work through further analysis of issues arising. In particular the nature of voyeurism in photography and who actually is the voyeur. Is it the photographer or the viewer?
First thought – both but in different ways. The photographer is active, having selected a subject and time, and physically pressed the shutter. The viewer is more passive but still complicit.
Is photographer so special in today’s world that we consider it to have the power to intrude or are there now so many images that it just cancels itself out? More images have been made in the last ten years than in the whole previous history of photography so why should we consider that the photograph has a special status?
First thought – the photographer is less ‘special’ than hitherto, as a result of the proliferation of digital cameras and camera-phones bringing competent image-making into the general public realm and divesting the ‘photographer’ of his mystique. Similarly, the photograph is now just a set of charge-states on a silicon chip rather than a piece of paper to be held in the hand, collected in an album or hung on a wall.
In starting your course to develop your skills and thinking in photography it might appear ironic that due to the proliferation of images you might have to address the question of what is the very nature of photography. As part of your course you will start to question the practice of photography and to delve further into the meaning of images. This can be illustrated in the learning log through research and development into a critical theoretical approach to image making.
‘Watch this space’, or at least the Notes section of the Research & Reflection menu.