End of Course Evaluation

Course Evaluation

Context and Narrative has really helped change my approach to creating and taking images.  Through looking at and researching photographers and their images in context, it brings to life the image in much greater depth. I have started to look at images and wonder what the photographer had intended to convey and to question whether there is a story or is it just a decorative wall hanging.

My biggest take away from this course is that everything in an image matters.  For you to truly convey your intended meaning you need to carefully consider what you include, what is implied and what elements may symbolise or denote to the viewer.  Critically reflecting on others’ work is very enlightening for your own. I have also really enjoyed and benefited from the audiovisual conversation with my tutor. Getting feedback that helps develop an idea and see it through another’s eyes is really powerful.  We have had some great debates about elements, particularly in Assignment 4. He has also been able to assess the direction of my work and point me to other photographers and texts that have helped me develop my work even further.

In each of the assignments, I have experimented with new ideas and pushed myself to personalise the images. I have taken my time with each of them and have been pleased with the results.  I feel that Assignment 5 really is a culmination of the work done in course because I have built on the themes I have used for the other assignments, the truth portrayed in images. presenting visually unseen thoughts and emotions, self-absented portraiture and using surrogates and constructing an image to tell a story.
In fact, I have discovered that I like constructing images and really connected with the work of Noemie Goudal, Leah Schrager and Elinor Carruci.

During the course of the study, I have also learned some great writing techniques, such as the PEEL method of essay writing and the Cornell method of note taking.  These have both helped me greatly with presenting my work. I also found a great website that formats Harvard citations for referencing. That has been a great help!

Reflecting on what I need to develop further, my tutor has encouraged me in each of my assignments to reference influences, such as other photographers work, theory and also to say why have discarded an idea, just as much as why I’ve picked one.  In assignment 5 he suggested I look up historical use of flowers in art and their meanings. This is something I hadn’t considered, but when I did it added depth to the image and the story and also made me think about when I make an image, how do I want it to be displayed?  I have tried to incorporate thinking about presentation in each of the Assignments, such as in Assignment 3 which is designed to be viewed on the Instagram platform. However, these are the things I want to work on in the next course.

Overall I have really enjoyed this course and I believe I have developed significantly in making more personal and contextual images.

I have used my blog as my repository for all of my course work, assignments and learning log – Debra Flynn Context and Narrative Blog

Assignment 5 – Post Tutor Feedback reflections

Tutor Feedback – Read here

Tutor Audio Visual Conversation 13.01.2020

Assignment 5 – feedback

As always I had a very good conversation with Les about my Assignment 5 image and some of the things I need to complete ready for my submission for assignment.

Flowers – Les suggested that I research the use of flowers in art and photography and consider expanding on my reasons for choosing them, referenced against historical use and meanings associated with flowers. It is ok to do this retrospectively.

Print – Experiment with different sizes of print and make a case for the choice made. A smaller image, may give the viewer the opportunity to look at the image more closely, whilst a larger image, on a wall might allow the viewer more immersive in the space and emphasise the quality.

Meaning – Think about what the elements and symbols included a constructed image might mean to a viewer, particularly in the days of fine art / still life when a lot viewers couldn’t read.

Feedback – Having shown the image to some of my friends and colleagues, Les suggested I consider including a reflection on their reactions. What did they see or not see? What did they think I was trying to communicate? Did it have the impact I had intended?

Audience – consider what I am producing this for. i.e. social media, a gallery, a book. ‘Imagine it in it’s context’. Am I making something pretty for the wall or do I want it have such an impact that is spurs other people into action?

Assignment 4 – Essay – still need to rewrite – flag up what I’ve changed, show that I have listened and evaluated the feedback, flag up what I’m changed and why.


Finish up the blog, write a conclusion / note to the assessor, guide them to the important parts of the blog, assure them that I am learning and progressing.

In preparation for next course Identity and Place, look at some study visits, good opportunity to discuss course with other students, tutors and others with academic and professional knowledge


The audio visual conversations with Les have been the real highlight of the course, it is so good to be able to discuss and debate the thinking behind your work. He has been so good in guiding me to experience other photographers and read and research areas, I wouldn’t have found on my own. He also seems to have a knack of knowing what would interest me. This has helped we push myself and try different things.

I am really pleased with my final image and I really do feel that it reflects a culmination of the course. I feel like the feedback I’ve been given reflects the little extra bits that can I do to make the assignment really good and has helped me think about how to look deeper into the reasons behind what I’ve produced and the message I want give.


I have recently started using the the Cornell note taking method, which I found really useful to make notes during my conversation with Les . The picture above shows the results. I will definitely keep using this, as it really helped organise my notes and made it easier to write them up for this blog

Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye series: The Fae Richards Photo Archive.




Leonard and Dunye, created a fictional character; The Watermelon Woman. Using archive images, they created an exhibition telling the story of Dunye researching the life of Fae Richards a lesbian American-American woman from childhood to old age.

Dunye attributes her photographic falsification of a life history to the lack of information recorded in real life.

“The Watermelon Woman came from the real lack of any information about the lesbian and film history of African-American women. Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.”

This is another example of individual images becoming more than the sum of their parts and that without context the images can take on another meaning.

The story Leonard and Dunye have created is believable because of the way they have presented it. but it is no more ‘real’ than Harry Potter. They say this is the reality that wasn’t recorded, however, they have entirely chosen which bits of the story to tell.

I have over 143,000 photos in my collection, there must be an archive in there somewhere

Hearing is believing


Record a real conversation with a friend. (It’s up to you whether you ask permission or not!) Before listening to the recording, write your account of both sides of the conversation. Then listen to the recording and make note of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, miscommunications etc.

Reflect upon the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied to constructed photography. What do you learn from the conversation recording process and how can you transfer what you learned into making pictures?

I often record meetings I attend, so that I can listen again, if I can’t quite remember what has been said. especially if I have to write up points made afterwards. Often sometimes later. What I find is that I hardly ever actually listen to them again and what I write down is the essence of the conversation. It’s a like a summay, my understanding of the conversation.

I think that a photograph is something similar, what you bring to it as the photographer isn’t a precise record of the event, but capturing or creating the feeling of the moment. Trying to tell the viewer, what it is that the scene meant to you and how it made you feel.

I think you can transfer, the lighting, the feeling and the ambience of the moment as it felt to you. Trying to recreate the context in which it was taken is also important in conveying the story.

“Questions for the Seller” – Nicky Bird

Nickybird.com. (2020). Question for Seller – Nicky Bird. [online] Available at: http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

This was an interesting project, whereby Bird bought images from the internet. Mostly old family portraits, which had not sold or were going really cheaply. She asked all of the sellers the question ” How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them?”

She then displayed them in a exhibition and resold them via auction. Some were sold at a much greater price than that paid. 


Question for Seller re-situates images in a different context and in so doing allows for a new dialogue to take place. Reflect on the following in your learning log: •

  • Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?
  • Where does their meaning derive from?
  • When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?

I feel that their presence on the gallery wall doesn’t necessarily elevate them to art, but to exposure and re-interest. The fact that someone has taken the trouble to collect them and display them gives them an interest. It may also be because of the age of some of them, people enjoyed the social history aspect of the images.

Where does their meaning derive from?

I think their mean comes from being rediscovered. Human nature likes to uncover things that are lost or solve puzzles. There’s a mystery about them

When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

This is an interesting question. I believe that there increased value is a result of them having been part of something bigger. By bringing them together and displaying them, Nicky Bird has added value to their meaning. It’s like the poppy display at the Tower of London in 2014. Each of the poppies was sold off afterwards. I bought one. It’s been in it’s box in a cupboard ever since, but I own a piece of the story was part of and that makes me feel good.

Cindy Sherman

This is an interesting artist, Cindy Sherman is an American photographer / artist who uses herself as a model to take images that replicate poses and situations of women in films.

My initial thought was it reminded me of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, in the message she is trying to get across. She is commenting on how women are portrayed in the media and in films. However, in reading some of her interviews, I wonder if her response is more personal. She states her mother was older and she looked to media and films for role models in her formative years, perhaps this is how she realised that their portrayal is often not reality and felt the need to comment on it.



Who was your role model growing up?

To a certain extent, it was just women I’d see in the media, actresses in movies, mums on TV, women in magazines or the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. My mother was too, I suppose, but she was an older mum when she had me, so I think I really looked to the younger women in the media.

Tate. (2019). Getting to know Cindy Sherman – Interview | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/cindy-sherman-1938/getting-know-cindy-sherman [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

This extract from the ‘Getting to Know Cindy Sherman’ interview seems to contradict her work in some ways. If these women were indeed her role models, why does she now wish to highlight their depiction as vulnerable and fake. Did they not live up to her expectations? Did they in some way let her down?

The context of images is not immediately apparent without reading the narrative that goes along with them. For me the parodying of images that she also considered to be fake, just accentuating the fakeness of them, which I suppose is what she’s trying to do, still does not show the reality. for me showing women as they really are, juxtaposed to these images could be powerful. Is she scared of the real her?

Gregory Crewdson

accessed 30.10.2019

Research point

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online.
Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the
questions below.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14]

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
  • Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
  • What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

Crewdson’s work is deliberately cinematic in style and as a result is often very popular in
commercial settings. The dark nights, the heavy lights and the perfectly styled locations
and actors aren’t meant to fool us into believing those moments are real, but rather they
seduce us into entering the world of fiction. This visual strategy of elaborate direction,
as in film, makes us lose our sense of reality and become absorbed with the alternative
reality we’re faced with. Some commentators regard this is an effective method of
image-making, but for others it lacks the subtlety and nuance of Wall and DiCorcia’s
work. What do you think?

A lot of Crewdson’s images are created a twilight, which he says he has always had a fascination of that time of day. It seems that it kind of represents the subject matter too. His images are on the cusp of reality and surrealism, I think that’s what makes a them ‘psychological’. We know that what we looking at isn’t real, but it’s close enough for us to question it. The half light also adds to that eerie feeling.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with making your main goal about beauty if that’s what you want. My tutor said to me after one of my assignments, that I should consider how I want to display my work as part of the planning. So if your goal is to make a piece of art that decorates a room, then mere beauty may be all you need. Besides not all real life is dark and miserable, it’s good to depict the beautiful things around us, why can’t an image be both ‘real’ and beautiful. I personally don’t find Crewdson’s images ‘beautiful’, but I do like the surrealism of them and it’s something I often create in my own images, by adding things that aren’t really there:

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