End of Course Evaluation and Reflection

Photography 1: Expressing Your Vision


One thing I have learned about photography is that there is always something new to learn technically and artistically.  This is one of the reasons I wanted to take this course.  I have been taking photos all of my life and it is a passion, however, I have also felt for quite a long time now that I don’t just want to ‘take’ a photo of just anything, I want it to mean something; say something to me; but what I want to say, I’ve never quite nailed and ultimately been dissatisfied with the results.  Primarily I’m a people photographer, so I felt that somewhere inside me there is something I want to say about me.  Expressing your vision has started me on that journey of self-discovery but it is also equipping me with the technical skills to achieve it.

I have used my blog debraflynnphotography.co.uk/EYV-blog to record all of course work, assignments and learning log.

A few things that have stood out for me completing this course are:

  • I have really enjoyed having a structured way of progressing, revisiting my camera instruction manual was such a useful thing to have done. Although already a confident ‘Manual’ mode user, I have increased my knowledge about settings, depth of field, choice of lens and lighting.
  • Researching ideas and planning what I want to do before taking the images. I really think this has helped with the final results and I have been much happier with the outcomes.
  • I always looked at other work but haven’t really studied other photographers before starting this course. I didn’t think I would be very interesting, but it has been a revelation.  Learning about them and, in some instances actually listening to them, put their work in context has really helped me to think about me and what I’m trying to achieve.  What I would like people to think about my work.
  • Part 5 about view point, really made me think about how my work is presented and indeed what work I want to do.
  • That I don’t have to fit into any genre or style, I can be as creative or not, as I want and produce work that means something to me. And; if I’m not happy with it, I can do it again.  In the words of my tutor “follow your bliss”.
  • Printing my images has really given me a new perspective on taking them to. They look different in print and somehow feel more tangible and meaningful. I have enjoyed choosing different papers to print them on which does change the look and feel.
  • I like working in sets rather than individual images

What I think I’ve learned about me as a photographer:

I was delighted that my tutor thought Assignments 3 and Assignment 4 were good and didn’t require me to make any changes and I am most proud of those two assignments as I think they are closest to showing me as a photographer.  However I think the most growth and learning came out of Assignment 2 and Assignment 5 which I reworked following my tutor’s feedback.  Being receptive to another person’s critical eye can really enhance your own vision.  Clive seemed to really understand what I was trying to achieve from each assignment and was able to help me refocus and rework the assignment.  I also found that seeing your images through another’s eyes and listening to their feedback lets you know whether or not it has the impact you wanted.  I completed the rework of Assignment 2 after completing the rest of the course and actually found going back to it later was a valuable lesson, as with the hindsight of the finishing rest of the course, it felt that the images were better composed and the set works better as a whole.

I now have the burgeoning ideas of what it is I’m trying to say:  There’s something about juxtaposition and not being able to see everything, hidden emotion and light and dark.  I really connected with the work Mona Kuhn, Tony Ray-Jones, Maja Daniels and Christopher Doyle.  I know it’s in there, I aim to tease it out during the course of my further studies.

In all I feel that I have made a good start to the degree course and have successfully attained the stated aims and objectives.  I have added some links to each of the aims which I believe demonstrate these outcomes, but I believe my whole blog is testament to my achievements http://debraflynnphotography.co.uk/EYV-blog/

link to PDF version

What’s in the box – the physical submission is boxed and ready to go:

a few of my favourite images from the assignments:

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Assignment 5 – Rework Reflection

So I’ve finished the course!!

I received my final report from Clive, and it said ‘completed‘!!  It feels like a real milestone. read the report here

Debra Flynn. Brighton Day Out #3, 2018

Of course I do still need to tidy up a few bits and pieces on the blog and get it ready for assessment, but I am really pleased that the first course is under my belt.  I am definitely feeling more confident about my progress and my abilities so I hope to hold on to that to take into the next course.

The final assignment has taught me quite a lot in terms of putting together a series or images.  Clive really helped me hone in on what I should be focusing on and it’s amazing what a difference it makes when you look through your images with a different intention.  In fact he encouraged me to see that I already had all of the images I needed to meet the brief, I just hadn’t focused on the right area.

See my Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple (Reworked) here

I am much happier with my reworked assignment and the discovery of Tony Ray-Jones work was a revelation for me.

So off to complete all the loose ends and prepare for the submission for assessment in November . . . . . .  . .

Tony Ray-Jones, Photographer

Photographer Tony Ray-Jones 1941-1972

google search for images by Tony Ray-Jones – (the central image on the bottom row is Ray-Jones himself)

My tutor, suggested I look at Tony Ray-Jones images as way of describing what he meant by trying bring a more observational and dispassionate feel to my images for assignment 5.  He is described by the Science Museum group as:

“Fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs, Tony Ray-Jones spent the latter half of the 1960s travelling across England, photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life”.

This remarkable photographer was only working for about 10 years as he tragically died from Leukemia at only 30 years of age. However, the instant I saw these images they resonated with me on so many levels.

Firstly, I am of an age whereby I remember my parents and grandparents wearing these kind of clothes in the 60’s / 70’s and found them provoking many nostalgic moments from my childhood

Tony Ray-Jones’ images are reminiscent of my own childhood depicted in these old family photos

Secondly, although brought up in the landlocked Midlands, I now live on the South Coast in the midst of some of the Seaside towns depicted by Ray-Jones.  So many of his images could be taken today and would look so similar.  My husband who was born and brought up in Bognor Regis recognised buildings and seafronts immediately.  We both sat up late into the night reminiscing about these images and the quirkiness of the English! The image below is of Worthing, the Dome cinema is still there and Macari’s are still a local cafe chain!

Tony Ray Jones. Worthing Seafront, c1968

Finally, and probably most importantly for this course, I understood exactly what Clive was trying to get at with these images.  What they depict is not the relationship between the photographer and the subject but he is observing how people interact with each other and the things they do together or even separately within the same space.  In some instances groups totally oblivious to the exploits of those around them.

In the video below Martin Parr talks about how Ray-Jones inspired this work, but also comments that he doesn’t think you could take images like this today, because people are so much more aware of cameras and themselves as being watched.  

I found the section on Ray-Jone’s notebook very interesting giving the following advice:

  •  talk to people
  • stay with the subject mater
  • be patient
  • vary composition and angles
  • be more aware of composition
  • don’t take boring photos
  • ‘get in closer’ (Robert Capa quote)
  • If the photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough
  • don’t shoot too much
  • no middle distance

Parr also commented that there was a spacial quality to Ray-Jones work which he had tried to copy in his study on Non-conformists.For my this indicates that Ray-Jones really looked and composed his shots before taking the images.

I would really love to emulate this kind of work. particularly as I live in this area, it would be great to revisit some of these views and see how they look today, are the English people still exhibiting the same quirky habits.  I’d wager we are 😉

click the link below to:

go to Assignment 5 – Photography is simple (reworked)

Assignment 5 – ‘Hangout’

Having submitted my final assignment, I was finally able to talk with Clive (my tutor) face to face.  Work commitments have meant I’ve only had written feedback up until now so it I felt it was really important to actually speak with him this time and I’m really pleased I was able to.  Certainly a learning point for future courses; to speak with my tutors more often.

Clive had looked at my assignment and my blog and gave me some great feedback. 

He felt that I need to get away from the ‘day out with my kids’ theme and try and put some distance between myself and subject to give them a more observational and dispassionate feel. More of a comment on what a family does on a day out rather than this particular family.

He suggested I take a look at the work of Tony Ray-Jones as he felt my work was somewhat reminiscent of his and Martin Parr, although Martin Parr is a little less flattering of his subjects. Having now done so, I totally get what he means.  My write up Tony Ray-Jones can be read here.

On the individual images Clive felt that image #1 was weak and very ‘postcardy’ which I completely agreed with him on.  I had included this image to try and set the scene, but to be honest it doesn’t inspire me so why I thought it would anyone else is a silly.  I only have 10 images to make an impact and I chose that one!!!! 

he picked out image #2 as interesting and #9 as a good ‘stock’ shot but not adding much to this project.He thought #7 was a strong image.  Having looked again at that and Tony Ray-Jone’s work I think I understand what I should be looking for now.

I suggested redoing the whole assignment, which Clive thought was a possibility but also that having looked at the contact sheets there may be enough, with some re-editing to refocus this set of images.  Having had another look through, I do think this is a possibility so am going to try that first. Especially with the inspiration from Ray-Jones and Parr I think I have the basis of what could be an interesting study.

In relation to my blog, Clive advised to change my banner photo to something more appropriate to work I have been producing as he felt that it might give the wrong impression of the kind of photographer I am to an assessor.  I have taken that advice and changed it.

I was reminded about buying a clam shell box, which I’ve already done and about printing my images ready for assessment, making sure to leave a decent sized boarder on the sheet.

Thanks again Clive, it was great to talk with you

My actions from this:

  • look up Tony Ray-Jones’ work and relate it to my own
  • rework my assignment from a more observational and dispassionate viewpoint
  • let Clive know when I’ve redone it so he can give feedback
  • start preparing my work for assessment in November

back to Assignment 5 – Photography is simple (reworked)


Assignment 5 – Self Reflection before feedback


“Check your work against the assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor. Make some notes in our learning log about how well you believe your work
meets each criterion.”

For this final assignment of Expressing your vision I have returned to my first love of documenting my family on a day out in Brighton.

I knew I was going to use this for this assignment, so I was more conscious of the images I was taking and am lucky that they are so used to seeing me with a camera in my hand that they largely ignore it!  Unlike my last assignment where I was able to go back and start again because I wasn’t happy with the results, this time it was a ‘one day only’ opportunity – so No pressure!! 

Technically, I have often struggled with taking picture of people moving in the past but since finding the auto ISO setting on my camera, I am now able to reduce blurring so am much more confident in that respect.

Having taken over 200 photos, my biggest challenge was whittling it down to just 10 photos.  Unlike other assignments where I ‘made’ the images and could take what I need for the project this was more about selecting 10 images that work individually, together and tell the story. To do this I set myself some strict criteria, each image must contain either a member of my family or myself (in some way).  It must add new information as per the brief and it must be compositionally pleasing.  I also wanted them to work together as a set and tell the story of the day.

Needless to say there were a number of permutations considered until I came up with my final 10. So I tried to imagine what it would look like as a magazine article and picked images that I thought would go enhance the story.  It meant having to leave out some images which I really liked, but I guess that’s what this assignment is about.  The ability to express your viewpoint for a subject within a limited number of images giving more impact and greater context to them.

mock up of what a magazine article might look like

Ultimately I am pleased with the results and the images I have chosen.  I do believe they are a coherent set which tell the story I wanted to tell and meet the criterion of the brief.  This section more than any other has made me think about how I select and present my work.  

and just to prove I was there on the i360 here’s a picture of me taken by my husband. A rare event indeed 😉

Ralph Flynn. The Day Trip, 2018

back to Assignment 5 – Photography is simple

Book Review – Ways of Seeing (John Berger)

Having been nudged by my tutor to do some more reading, I ordered a number of books from the Essential and Recommended Reading lists.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger was the first book to arrive and it turned out to be a very timely purchase, as the first essay was all about viewpoint, which is just where I am in the course right now.

It is a small book that is split into 7 essays; 4 using words and images and 3 using only images.  They can be read in order.


Essay 1

Even a photograph. For photographs are not, as is often assumed, a mechanical record.  Every time we look at a photograph, we are aware, however slightly, of the photographer selecting that sight from an infinity of other possible sights.

The author argues that sight and seeing come before words and that whilst words are important, they are merely an attempt to describe what we are seeing.  Furthermore, he says that what we see is influenced by what we know.  Much of our ‘knowledge and experience’ is gained from historical art which we interpret from our current viewpoints.  He says that that art is also sanitized from reality by the artists viewpoint. This is evidenced by the quote:

What we make of that painted moment when it is before our eyes depends upon what we expect of art, and that in turn depends today upon how we have already experienced the meaning of paintings through reproductions.

Essay 2

This is one of the pictorial essays, which seems to be a comment of the portrayal of women in art and advertising. Beyond that I could no discern any great meaning.

Essay 3

in this essay the author discusses “the social presence of a woman a being different in kind than that of a man”.  He describes how women in art, particularly nudes are displayed for the viewer, (presumably a man) 

Essay 4

to follow

Essay 5

to follow

Essay 6

to follow

Essay 7

to follow

Conclusions and Reflections

To be honest got a bit bored with this, I think the point was made about the use of women in art, photography and advertising, so didn’t need to read the rest.  Although this was published originally in 1972 and woman’s rights wasn’t as high on the agenda then, it does still resonate and seems very pertinent to today


Berger, J, (1972). Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books



5.3 – Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare (place holder)

Exercise 5.3
Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in
Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see
an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single
element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns
again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?
Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can
be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might
want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko
Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto
discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words. 

The element of Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare to which I continually return is the white space between the man’s legs and his reflection as he jumps.  It is the brightest part of the picture and looks a bit like an arrow pointing in the direction the man is jumping. It is image that is presented as one HC-Bs most iconic images.


5.2 – Assessment Criteria – Context

Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log.  Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five. 

The image I have selected is John Wilhelm, who is a Swiss photographer who considers himself to be an artist only using his own images to create surreal photos of his children and family.

image by John Wilhelm

too see John’s work click here:  https://www.johnwilhelm.ch

One of my passions is digital manipulation and this kind of photography is something that I have done quite a bit of.  The image I have created, in ‘homage’ to John’s work, picks up the themes of daisies, children and miniatures.

Debra Flynn. Daisy Pinata, 2018

images used to create the image above

In his essay Terry Barrett (to read click here) suggests there are three sources of context: 

  • internal context – the picture itself, it’s name, who made it and when
  • external context – how and where it is presented 
  • original context – the understanding of the environment in which the photographer physically and psychologically made the image.

all of these elements can affect how the image is perceived or understood by the viewer.

Robert Doisneau. Paris Cafe, 1958

This is described by Barrett, using Robert Doisneau’s image of a couple drinking wine in a Paris cafe.  It has been published 5 separate times in different forms and each time it’s context has been altered.

  1. by Doisneau in a set called Paris cafes
  2. by the Temperance League extolling the perils of drinking alcohol.
  3. by a French scandal sheet with a caption about prostitution
  4. by a photo gallery in New York as an artwork
  5. in a book about modern art, suggesting it be a ‘possible seduction’.

Depending on which description the image is given at any one time (internal context) or the place where it is seen or published (external context) the viewers understanding of the image can be changed.  To really understand the context of the image the viewer should endeavour to understand the environment which caused the photographer to make in the image in the first place. (original context) i.e. when, where and why was it taken, what was the political or moral environment in which it was taken and what was the viewpoint of the photographer.

As a photographer, this makes me think very much about how and where I present my images.  In these times of Facebook and Instagram, 500 px etc photographs are rarely printed and once uploaded to the internet are pretty much free to be used by anyone.  Particularly when creating an image like the one by John Wilhelm and my ‘homage’ to it, there is a lot of work gone into collecting the right photos, and then digitally creating the image, to then just upload it to social media where it can be used at will, does that denigrate my hard work or reduce it the level of the selfies flooding the internet?  It’s a difficult one, because like most photographers I want to share my work for others to enjoy too.

Contextualising my image:

internal context: Debra Flynn. Daisy Pinata, 2018

external context: published on instagram / facebook (see here

original context: as the photographer, I physically have the equipment and computer software to produce this image, including the knowledge, skill and artistic vision to create the image.  Psychologically; I am drawn to the surreal and adding a bit of magic to children’s lives.  In the examples below, all but one are members of my family.

link to Assignment 5 – Photography is simple (reworked)



Click to access Barrett-1986-Photographs-Contexts.pdf


Part 5 – 5.1 – Place holder

Exercise 5.1
Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on
the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a
sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your
learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just
according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate
it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4).
In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the
photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:
Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t
mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever
you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your
intention, but because it is there.

still to do