Assignment No 4 – Post Tutor Feedback Reflection

To read tutor feedback click here

The conversation with Les about this essay was both long and animated. He was really concerned about one of the elements in the image which I had not mentioned, but really was a ‘punctum’ for him.

It relates to the fact that the model is posed in way that she is pulling her dress up revealing her leg, which is bent. The model is dressed in a what Victorian style dress which makes her look like a young girl rather than an adult woman. which I believe was the photographer’s intention. for Les however, because the girl is posed in this way he said it had sexual connotations which really disturbed him. It did not have these connotations for myself.

What was interesting is that before submitting my essay, I had asked my husband and a male work colleague to look at the image and my essay to gain some feedback, both of them also raised the issue of the raised dress showing the bare leg.

Following the conversation with Les, I asked a female work colleague to read the essay and found that she also did not pick up on this as something that she found uncomfortable.

On further discussion with the two men who had previously read the essay, they reflected that although the model is probably over 18, the way she is dressed makes her appear much younger and seeing her posed in what they saw as sexual pose made them feel very uncomfortable. Therefore, I can only conclude that I did not see this as a problem because I did not see the sexual connotations with the model. As a mother of girls who would stand like that, I suppose I saw it quite innocently.

So the question here really, is did the photographer direct the model to stand in this way because she did understand the reaction a man would have to this pose? Did she deliberately pose her to illicit that reaction in male viewers?

This is something I can’t directly answer, but I am aware that she has used this pose for other images as well.

I also know that in most of her portrait photography teaching, she advocates ‘if it bends, bend it’. Therefore, she may merely feel it was a more flattering pose. The truth is I don’t know.

What I have learned though, is that in a completely constructed image such as this one, one should question every element as to why the photographer has chosen to pose the model in this way

Alice, by Les Monaghan

and also that Les’s experience with his own image ‘Alice’ and the subsequent ethical dilemma it left with the publishers and himself have really impacted on the way he now views photos.

This can been seen here, where he took a photo of a young girl dressing up in pink shoes was seen in a totally different light by the commissioners of the photos who saw connotations to child prostitution and exploitation.

Bates says ” these meanings change, according to the frame of thoughts and culture that the viewer brings to the picture” . . .

Les also comments in his feedback; that I should include a ‘punctum’. This I have actually done in my comments about the red light. I think he missed it because his own punctum wasn’t the same as mine.

I think it would be simpler to “say what you see”, then ask what each detail and the whole makes you think of. David Bate’s Key Concepts is good for this

I thought I’d done this so, I guess that’s not how it read, maybe using the PEEL tool, wasn’t quite right for this, my understanding from Les here is that it would be better to first describe the image and then try to link that to the connotations and intentions.

I have now downloaded Key Concepts by David Bates so will see what insight this can give to structuring my writing.

Review of David Bates

Assignment 4 – “A picture is worth a thousand words” – Reflections/Assessment

Brief:
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.

Reflection

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.

Assignment

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.

Assignment 4 essay – ‘Pieces of Me’ can be read here (password protected, awaiting permission from photographer)

Approach

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.

Assignment 4 – Research

some of the blogs I have read whilst researching for this assignment:

https://ian513626photography1contextandnarrative.wordpress.com/category/assignments/assignment-4/

MB: Ah, well NYC has a lot more important things to worry about than me taking pictures. I was born and raised in NYC. It is where I am most comfortable.

https://blascontextnarrative.wordpress.com/

Theoretical Tools for Reading Photographs

Deconstructions – Derrida – to fully understand how something has been made, you have to take it apart before you can put it back together. don’t take things at face value be prepared to delve deeper and be opening to alternative meaning.

Semiotics – Barthes – the study of signs and language

SIGN = SIGNIFIER + SIGNIFIED

The signifier is the element in the photograph that signified what we think we are seeing or feeling in an image. Together they are the sign that contributes to the overall effect of the photograph

Denotation – states the facts, the literal translation of an object, the accepted version of what something is. ie there is bucket in the picture, it holds water.

Connotation – interpretation of the facts, (open to our experiences, knowledge and preconceptions of what that object could mean on an practical or metaphorical level). ie. the bucket holding water could be interpreted as life giving drink, or a means to clean yourself. This is a more personal take on the element.

Studium – another term coined by Barthes in his book ‘Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography’. to describe the general status quo of an image. The studium is the photograph’s cultural, political and social meaning. By this he means the overall feel of the image that places it in a comfortable, understandable space for us as the viewer.

Punctum – as opposed to Studium, punctum is an element in an image that ‘punctures’ the meaning. It the thing that doesn’t fit or draws our attention to it. It’s the element we are viewers are drawn to that makes the image more interesting and creates a connection.

Intertextuality – the individual background, education and experiences that you bring to your interpretation of an image that you view. Each person will read a photograph and bring it to life in a different way. Barthes says that sharing these readings with others will also enrich the experience and the understanding of the meaning.