Write an essay of 1,000 words on an image of your choice. The image can be anything you like, from a famous art photograph to a family snapshot, but please make sure that your chosen image has scope for you to make a rigorous and critical analysis.
- If you choose a well-known photograph, take time to research its context – the intentions of the photographer, why it was taken, whether it’s part of a series, etc. Add all this information into your essay to enable you to draw a conclusion from your own interpretation of the facts.
- If you choose to use a found photograph, a picture from your own collection, or perhaps one from an old family archive, use it as an opportunity to find out something new. Avoid telling us about that particular holiday or memory – look directly to the photograph for the information. It may be interesting to compare and contrast your memory with the information you’re now seeing anew from ‘reading’ the picture so intensely.
It’s not enough to write an entirely descriptive or historical account of your chosen image. You must use the facts as a means to draw your own conclusions about what the picture means to you. You may wish to apply what you’ve learned in Part Four regarding translation, interpretation, connotation, signs, punctum, etc., but be sure you get the definitions correct.
There are many good examples of writing about single images (e.g. Sophie Howarth’s Singular Images), which you may find helpful to read before attempting your own. Take note of the level of critical analysis and aim for a similar approach in your own writing. You may write about personal connections but ensure you express yourself in a formally analytical and reflective manner.
Follow thought associations and other images that relate to the discussion, directly or indirectly. Look at the broader context of the image and its background and specific narrative as well as your personal interpretation of it and what thoughts it triggers for you. Follow these associations in a thoughtful and formal way. Allow yourself to enjoy the process!
Send your essay to your tutor, together with the relevant pages of your learning log or blog url.
Don’t forget to check your work against the assessment criteria listed in the introduction to this course guide. Include your evaluation in your assignment submission.
I decided to write my essay about the image ‘pieces of me’ by Meg Bitton. Having emailed the photographer for permission to publish her image on this blog, and not having had a full response, I have chosen to created a passworded page to display the essay.
I started researching for this assignment by reading the recommended reading and also reading essays by other students to get a feel for the style and details required. read my research notes here
Whilst reading the feedback to one student’s essay, I came across a comment by his tutor that suggested he use the ‘PEEL’ method to organise his paragraphs.
I used this method to organise my paragraphs,
I have organised the essay around the theoretical tools for reading photographs described by Derrida and Barthes
Once I had decided on the image I wanted to review, I did some research on the photographer, in order to be able to add some background and context to the essay.
As the photographer and this work is current, I emailed the photographer for her permission to publish the image in this blog. As I am still awaiting a response, I decided to go ahead with the essay, but have passworded the page so it is not publicly visible.
Pre-tutor feedback Reflections
When I first read that I had to write an essay, I have to admit, I thought it might be a bit boring. However, I have really enjoyed the process. Spending the time to really look at an image in detail was really interesting and it’s amazing how many extra things you see, when you actually spend time looking. I also found researching the photographer very helpful. Although I have been following her work for a while, researching her history and other work, really helped put the image in context and added to the level of understanding and possible meaning she was trying to convey.
Using the PEEL method to organise the paragraphs, really helped me focus on the points I wanted to make and stopped me going off at a tangent. Something that was really useful when you only have a limited number of words.
Assessment criteria points
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. (40%)
Visual skills were needed in this assignment in order to study the image and identify the signifiers and signs that help you read the image. Knowledge of composition skills also helped to give insight into the photographers intentions.
Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. (20%)
In this assignment, I have displayed quality of outcome, by producing a coherent essay, where I have presented my analysis in a logical and reasoned manner. Drawing conclusions using the theoretical ways of seeing presented in the course.
Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. (20%)
For Assignment 4, the demonstration of creativity has been demonstrated in the reading of the image. Starting with imagining the meaning of the image, but then evidencing those thoughts in an rational and systematic way.
Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. (20%)
In order to complete this assignment, critical thinking, research and reflection have been really important to interpret the ideas that the image has connoted and being able to present them in a formally analytical and reflective manner. I have used a recognised writing tool; PEEL, to focus the essay and reflected on the result.