Assignment 1 – Post Feedback Reflection

Feedback notes from my tutor – click here

Following submission of my 1st assignment, I had a ‘Hangout’ tutorial with my tutor (22.06.20). He had sent me the note in advance of the chat, so I had an idea of his thoughts about the assignment, but that didn’t stop me feeling nervous.

I was pleasantly surprised by his feedback, as he felt that I produced a ‘mature’ piece of work, which he qualified by meaning: confident, technically proficient and subjects well placed.

He felt that the influence of August Sander and Rineke Dijkstra could be seen in the presentation of the work and he liked the fact that I’d added, terms like ‘furloughed’ and ‘shielding’ to the captions, which helped fix the subjects in time.

We discussed the fact that the work is not that original, but I reflected that, I had realised that, but it was a choice between doing something original or progressing the course. In this time of COVID-19, it’s difficult to explore things, I might have chosen otherwise. My tutor did say that had I asked him beforehand if this was a good subject, he would have said yes.

We had a discussion about what I want to say as a photographer and my preference for genres. I know that I have started to explore much more of my own ideas, and that I prefer to photograph people, but I’m still working on what it is I want to say to the world through my photography, or what it is I want to find in people.

We also discussed reducing the resolution of the images I post on my blog, as they may take longer to load. He suggested a size of 1500 px longest edge and a dpi of 150. I agreed to experiment with what still looks ok on my blog.

Top Take Aways:

  • Work is mature, confident, technically proficient
  • Keep exploring conronavirus as a subject during this time as this in an opportunity to exploit a time that won’t happen again (hopefully)
  • Explore photographing people in their own environments.
  • Consider what it is I want to say about people.

Exercise 4 – Archival intervention

“Memories evoked by a photograph do not simply spring out of the
image itself, but are generated in a network, an intertext, of discourses
that shift between past and present, spectator and image, and
between all these and cultural contexts, historical moments”
Kuhn, A. Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (2002) London: Verso. Pg 09.

Look through your own family archive and try to discover a series of portraits (four or five) that have existed within this archive, but have never been placed together before. The portraits can contain individuals or even couples; they may span generations, or just be of the same person throughout the years (chronotype). Whichever way you wish to tackle this exercise, there must be a reason or justification for your choices. What message are you trying to get across about these portraits?

Through doing this exercise, you are physically bringing together portraits that have never been viewed as a series prior to your intervention. Therefore, you need to think really clearly about what your choices are and who you decide to select. Alan Fletcher (2018), OCA Image Library

You can either make physical copies of the originals and work with these in your learning log, or re-photograph them digitally (or scan) and post them on your blog. Either way, your thoughts about these portraits will be the key to this exercise. Try to articulate what is happening when you bring these images together for the first time. Apart from the obvious – the subject, perhaps – is there anything else that links the imagery together? The location? Dates? Activities?

Moving back to Annette Kuhn again here, think about any inscriptions that might be made on the imagery, detailing whom these inscriptions might have been for, in terms of perhaps owning the memory evoked by the image. In relation to one of her own family portraits, Kuhn describes a caption written by her mother, stating:

“This power-play was an attempt by her mother to force other memories into line with her own. Her mother was pinning the moment the photograph was taken of her daughter to an event that had happened in her own life. Her mother thus literally ‘writes’ herself into the picture (although not being present in it literally), by trying to claim the right to define the memories evoked by it, she is thus attempting to dictate the memory to the viewer.”

Kuhn, A. Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (2002) London: Verso. Pg 17-18.

Write 500–800 words reflecting on this exercise and include it in your learning log or blog.

Helen and I

Helen is my younger sister. There’s just us two, she is now the person who have known the longest in my life, as both of our parents have died. I chose to bring together these images as I haven’t really thought about the special relationship we have before and how that has been recorded through our lives.

I have noticed that I have a lot of images from our early childhood, these were in the most part inherited from my mother after she passed away. These had been digitalised and so easy to find. I am sure that I do have images from our 20’s and 30’s as physical copies but I would have to dig them out. Therefore, there are very few in this collection that show her and I during the time I was bringing up my own children. This is coupled with the fact that we lived in separate parts of the country during that time and didn’t see a lot of each other.

A few years ago Helen moved from London to live only half an hours drive away. I think since then our relationship has strengthened. Living in an area I wasn’t brought up in and having few relatives left, Helen provides me with that shared history and memory that I find really grounding. She has been part of my life through so many ups and downs and I don’t have explain anything to her. It’s comforting.

Reflecting on my selection, I wondered of Helen was picking the images, would she pick any of the same ones. Before showing her my selection, I sent her the file of images I had amassed,to see which 6 she would pick. She picked three of the same images that I did, which was actually surprised me more than I expected. This engendered a long conversation between us.

I think anyone else looking at the images without text, would probably understand that we are sisters.

I also printed them out and moved them around, to see if the order makes a difference to the understanding, but actually liked them as a set that you can move around and touch and look at each one in more depth.

Artist Talk with Anna Fox

Anna Fox

Anna Fox is a British photographer and a professor of photography at UCA, Farnham. On May 16th she gave a talk on zoom to the OCA students.  

Anna Fox (b.1961) is one of the most acclaimed British photographers of the last thirty years and is Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts. Working in colour, Fox first gained attention for Work Stations: Office Life in London (1988), a study of office culture in Thatcher’s Britain. She is best known for Zwarte Piet (1993-8), a series of portraits taken over a five-year period that explore Dutch black-face’ folk traditions associated with Christmas. Her collaborative projects Country Girls (1996 – 2001) and Pictures of Linda (1983 – 2015) challenge our views about rural life in England while her more intimate works My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words (1999) and Cockroach Diary (1996 – 99) expose the dysfunctional relationships at work in the family home in a raw and often surprising manner. Anna Fox Photographs 1983 – 2007, was published by Photoworks in 2007. Fox’s solo shows have been seen at Photographer’s Gallery, London, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago amongst others and her work has been included in international group shows including Centre of the Creative Universe: Liverpool and the Avant Garde at Tate Liverpool and How We Are: Photographing Britain at Tate Britain. She was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. Fox is currently working on the research project Fast Forward; women in photography for which she has been awarded a Leverhulme International Networks Grant.

from the post invitation to watch the webinar by Johnathan 515050

Originally recorded on 15.5.20, I watched the recording of this talk. It as 3.5 hours long, so was a good way to watch it, as it gave the opportunity to stop and start it and look up some of the work she mentioned as it went along. The recording was made with strict instructions it was for the use of OCA students only and therefore, there is no link to share.

The talk was about the idea that Fiction influences photography and helps us understand how to construct a story both within individual images and series.

Anna was very engaging and easy to listen to and the subject matter and photographers she presented have given me plenty to research.

The first section of the talk, concentrated on Anna’s work with Fast Forward: women in photography. Which is a project promoting the work of women photographers and challenging the history of photography and putting women back into it where they have been left out.

A discussion about why women don’t network as well as men was interesting. Anna felt that men are just better at promoting each other and consequently help each other to become prominent together. Because women are dealing with inner doubt, they tend to protect themselves from others rather than work with them. There is not scientific research to back up this theory as yet, but it would be good to see if it’s true.

Photographers to research:

  • Neeta Madahar – the Flora series
  • Hannah Starkey
  • Tom Hunter
  • Sophie Cow
  • Sophie Ristelhueber – Every One
  • Philip-Lorca diCorcia (b.1951 – American)
  • Allison Goldfrapp – country girls

Top Take Aways:

  • shouldn’t be text added to an image or an image added to text, it’s one work
  • what you fictionalise is part of the story
  • there’s a level of fiction in every story
  • understand the process behind making work, wherever you can.
  • you are the author of the story
  • Read fiction to help you understand the structure of stories.
  • collect text at the same time as as taking the pictures, but don’t collect it to fit images.
  • you can use text to create a story with unrelated images,


“About | Fast Forward.” Fastforward.Photography, 2015, Accessed 16 June 2020.

‌“Anna Fox.” Annafox.Co.Uk, 2020, Accessed 16 June 2020.

Assignment 1 – The Non-familiar

Lockdown 2020

Buttermere Way, Littlehampton, West Sussex, BN17


Littlehampton is a small coastal town on the south coast of England. Buttermere Way is a cul-de-sac in the middle of an estate built around 1989. the houses are numbered consecutively from 1 – 52.  I have lived at No 19, with my husband for the past 7½ years.

ONS data from the 2011 Census (“Custom Report – Nomis – Official Labour Market Statistics”) says that the average age of people living in this area is 39, with 47% being aged between 30 and 59. The population identified as 96% white British. The majority of dwellings are classified as detached, semi-detach or terraced houses, with only 10% of residents living in flats. There were no shared dwellings. 72% of residents were in employment and 13% are retired.

On 23rd March 2020, the UK Government imposed a ‘Lockdown’ on the whole population in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  This meant that the majority of people were asked to stay at home, and could only go out, to go to work in a key worker role, get essential shopping such as food and medicine and for medical issues or collect prescriptions. We lived with the phrase: “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” ringing in our ears.

Many people like myself were able to work at home, but others who could not, were furloughed. People who were particularly vulnerable to the disease were asked to ‘shield’ themselves by not leaving their homes for 12 weeks. Anyone who had Coronavirus symptoms was asked to self-isolate with their families for 14 days.  A movement was started which encouraged people to come out on to their doorsteps on a Thursday night at 8:00 pm to clap for keyworkers, carers and NHS staff as a mark of thanks for their hard work saving lives and keeping us fed.

We stood on our doorsteps clapping for 10 consecutive weeks, smiling and waving at our neighbours, up and down the street. I had often smiled and said hello to passers by as I went to my car to go work, or thank someone who had taken a parcel in for me, but I didn’t really know anything about them as people at all.  Who are they? What do they do? How long have they lived in the same road as me? How have they been affected by this pandemic? What are similarities and differences from me. This series will document this moment in history. The people who lived in Buttermere Way during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.

In making this series, I have had the opportunity to meet and discover the interesting people, who live close to me. Due to confidentiality, it is not the intention of this study to note individual responses, although that data has been kept. It does aim to give a pictorial record of one member of the household.

To maintain a consistent theme, the portraits have been taken in a ‘documentary‘ format, showing the person looking at the camera, in front of their home. Where there is one, the house number has been included and people were asked to leave their doors open to engender a feeling of openess and welcome. Unlike August Sander‘s very formal poses of people with blank faces, images were taken during conversation so that they were relaxed and standing naturally. The camera (Nikon D810 with Tamron 24/70 mm 2.8 lens) was set on a tripod, at the same height for all of the images. The same depth of field and ISO were used throughout with speed and focal length adjusted depending on light conditions and distance. All images were taken in 5:4 format and social distancing rules were applied. By having them posed in this way, it shows that they are willing participants and not images just taken without their knowledge.

The outcome of this project, is a series of images documenting the residents of Buttermere Way during the Lockdown of 2020. This has been a voyage of discovery and a real pleasure to meet and find out about my neighbours. One lady even went to school with my sister-in-law! There are 52 houses in the street, therefore the project will be continued to capture as many of the residents as possible.

For the purposes of this Assignment, portraits of the first five residents I met have been included. However, this project is continuing with a view to documenting as many of the residents of Buttermere Way as possible. Click the button below to see the full series:


Your first assignment is to make five portraits of five different people from your local area who were previously unknown to you

Photography 1: Identity and Place, p53


Research for this Assignment has taken me to a variety of photographers, such as August Sander, Martin Schoeller, Rineke Dijkstra and Clare Richardson. I chose to follow a documentary style of portrait as the person’s environment is important to the story, I want to convey.

Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage.

(Tate, 2017)

understanding the concept of Conceptual Art coupled with the documentary style steered my approach to the images I wanted to make.

To add context to the series, I accessed Office of National Statistics (ONS) report covering the characteristics of people and households in E00160147. This added an extra level of understanding to people living and working in my street and help me describe the area in the Introduction.


Image Brief: fulfils the definition of a portrait (What is the definition of portrait photography) i.e. it Captures the personality or essence of a subject, it is staged and it is made for a purpose. Image staged as: one person from a household, to be directed to stand / sit outside of their home without posing. The number of the house to be visible, door left open. Enough of the property and / or front garden to tell the viewer something about the homeowner. All images to be taken in 5:4 ratio format to allow composition to capture enough of the background to frame the person in their environment. It also appears to be a common format for portraiture.

Approach: Contact my neighbours, arrange to visit them outside of their homes and talk to them. My primary aim was to get to know my neighbours and secondly to document their residence in Buttermere Way and find out how they have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic Lockdown.

Technical: Nikon D810 camera with a 24/70mm 2.8 lens, to allow a wide enough angle to get the front of the house in at fairly close distance. Needed to be close enough to talk easily with the person, but also adhere to social distancing rules, i.e. >2 metres apart. The camera was mounted on a tripod, at slightly lower than head height for all images to give a consistent composition to the images. All images taken at f/4, ISO 200 with variable speed and focal point depending on lighting conditions and distance from subject.

Contacting People: Initial contact was made through the Buttermere Way FaceBook page; inviting people to help me with the project, adding a couple of example images to let people know what I was looking for. This generated 2/3 responses from neighbours in the top end of the street, i.e. numbers 2 – 10. Striking while the iron was hot, I went and took the first images the next day. Whilst visiting the neighbours who had contacted me, I was lucky enough to capture a couple of others who came out to talk whilst I was there.

Following this, I created a flyer and posted it through all the doors of half of the street. (I chose only half as I wanted to gauge the response). A copy of the leaflet can be seen here. This generated a few more contacts, which I followed up and took images of a few days later when the weather was better.

I found that setting up the camera and then engaging in conversation with my neighbours helped them relax, I held a handheld trigger in my hand whilst talking to them, and occasionally took an image during the conversation. This seemed to work well and actually I really enjoyed the conversations. I got better at asking questions the more I did.

Post Production: images were taken in RAW and processed using Adobe LightRoom. Adjustments made were:

  • lens correction
  • detail sharpening and noise reduction
  • Camera profile set to ‘Camera Standard’
  • some highlight and shadows adjustments
  • cropping if necesssary

Images were reviewed and the final images selected. These were then converted to JPGs and saved. Contact Sheets are posted below.

Presentation: I have used a gallery to display the images and have ordered them in numerical order of the houses with the intention of offering a logical progression and connectedness to the images either side of it. The images are all labelled with the number of the house, the first name of person and their ‘Lockdown’ status, i.e. ‘working from home’, furloughed etc.


I was really excited by this project, It has stretched me to reach out to people and go and talk to them. I have sought the help of others for previous assignments, but have usually relied on people I know. I think the fact that after 7 1/2 years, the reason I don’t know people I live near is because I am inherently introverted. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to know them and this assignment and the Lockdown has come together to offer this opportunity. I did employ the use of social media rather than just walking up to them and asking, but it’s getting easier.

I have been very encouraged by the engagement I have had so far with this project and am keen to continue it and get to know more of my neighbours. My concern is that having made all this effort, I won’t be able to keep up the contact I have now made. I have also collected a lot of data about the people in order to answer my initial questions, I am unsure what to do with it or whether to include some of it in my editorial. As a social history project this may be of interest in the future, but I am conscious of people’s privacy. Furthermore, until I have concluded this project, I don’t think the data is complete.

As mentioned above, I intend to continue with this series of images to create a more complete record of the people living in this street during Lockdown. For the purposes of this assignment, I have kept it to one person per household, however, for the complete series, I am considering including couples or families.

I have created a collection in my personal website in order to keep posting new images as they are collected. This has been linked to this assignment, but I will discuss with my tutor about including the full series here. Ultimately, I would like to exhibit this series, locally, so I am bearing that in mind as I take the images.

Assessment Criteria


Having decided on the theme of getting to know my neighbours to answer this brief, I have researched documentary and typology photographers, as well as portrait photographers. these images are taken in the context of the Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020 and therefore, the portraits are of people in their environment. The only typology used has been the sorting of the images by house number, although a bigger body of work, could compare the different impact of the Lockdown on individuals, such as, furloughed, working from home etc.

Demonstration of Creativity

This series, shows that I have been able to create the work, in spite of the pandemic, I have managed to get to know people and take images within the social distancing rules that currently persist. I defined my aims and used a consistent process to create a unified series of images.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I have demonstrated that I have used my technical knowledge to:

  • create these images, by selecting the right lens to create the images I wanted,
  • using a tripod at the same height for all of the images, to ensure parity across the series of images.
  • standing behind the camera to ensure the subjects are looking directly into it.
  • using my knowledge of Adobe Lightroom, to ensure composition, colour tones, highlights and shadows to create a cohesive set of images.

Quality of Outcome

The quality of outcome is shown by the realisation of the vision. Having conceived this idea based on the constraints of the current Lockdown, engaging with people previously unknown to me and the production of a series of coherent and composed images that tell the story, I had envisioned.

Works Cited / References

“Custom Report – Nomis – Official Labour Market Statistics.” Nomisweb.Co.Uk, 2011, Accessed 12 June 2020.

“Harlemville – Clare Richardson.” Clare Richardson, 2019, Accessed 13 June 2020.

“How To/Techniques: The Documentary Portrait – Insights.” Arts.Ac.Uk, 2020, Accessed 13 June 2020.

“Labour Market Profile – Nomis – Official Labour Market Statistics.” Nomisweb.Co.Uk, 2011, Accessed 12 June 2020.

Tate. “Documentary Photography – Art Term | Tate.” Tate, 2017, Accessed 13 June 2020.

—. “Documentary Photography – Art Term | Tate.” Tate, 2017,,on%20the%20bed%2C%20NYC%201982. Accessed 13 June 2020.

—. “‘Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994’, Rineke Dijkstra, 1994 | Tate.” Tate, 2010, Accessed 13 June 2020.

—. “Rineke Dijkstra Born 1959 | Tate.” Tate, 2017, Accessed 6 June 2020.

Victoria. “Contemporary Documentary Photographers – Victoria and Albert Museum.” Vam.Ac.Uk, 2016, Accessed 13 June 2020.

Contact Sheets:

Exercise 3: Portraiture typology

Portrait Typology

This work attempts to capture the changes in a subject’s facial expression on hearing words associated with emotion. The words were drawn at random from a pack of 40 flashcards. The first image was a control ‘blank’ image, the remainder are displayed in the order in which they were taken.

Brief: In response to the work of the artists you’ve read about so far, try to create a photographic portraiture typology which attempts to bring together a collection of types. Think carefully about how you wish to classify these images; don’t make the series too literal and obvious.

Once complete, post these portraits on your blog or in your learning log, with a written statement contextualising the work

Great article: “Can the photographic typology be defined?” suggests defining typology by:

  • Subject
  • Environment
  • Process
  • Presentation

As I don’t have access to many people during Lockdown, I think I will have to consider a typology around a single subject.

Subject: Considering the work of Martin Schoeller , I like the idea of photographing the portraits in a consistent manner especially in close up. I could combine this with different facial expressions, much like Heubler‘s work. Therefore, my typology would be more about comparison / difference than similarity.

Environment: A neutral background, close up, shallow depth of field

Process: Schoeller’s idea of a consistency will be used to light the subject, who will be framed close-up in the frame, flat lighting to illuminate all parts of the face. This is in contrast to Yousef Karsh’s lighting which used light and shadow to create depth and mood. A word will be read to the subject and take one image, per word, asking the subject to react however they wish to the word. In his video about identical twins, Schoeller’s technical set up is shown, I will try and do something similar.

Martin Schoeller – portrait photographer

Presentation: the images will be presented as a gallery together so that the view can compare the different images together.

I started with a set of 40 flashcards which I found on the internet with the words: star struck, sleepy, surprised, suspicious, unhappy, woozy, worried, ok, grumpy, cold, sad, hungry, embarrased, puzzled, happy, content, scared, in love, excited, rich, hot, cool, shocked, in tears, exhausted, injured, feeling down, angelic, meh, fine, angry, nauseous, furious, annoyed and sick.

These are all emotions with stereotypical faces / reactions attached to them, it would be interesting to see if the subject pulls the faces similar to those drawn on the cards? I feel it would be good to ask a few of these, but also to add some more topical words that new to our vocabulary, such as ‘Brexit’, ‘black lives matter’ etc


I was mostly happy with the technical results of images. I attempted to recreate Schoeller’s framing and lighting, but found that although the camera was set up on a tripod, and wasn’t moved during the session, the orignal focus which was on the eyes, became out of focus as the subject moved in response to prompts. If I did this again, not only would I take less images, but I would attempt to reset the subject back to their blank expression prior to delivering the next prompt.

I would also use strobe lights on a trigger rather than the constant static lighting and this would increase the speed and reduce blurring around the eyes.

Set up taking these images, also had black reflectors by side of subject’s head and blinds were drawn

I’m not sure that this project really fulfils the brief, because of the use of only one subject. When I am able to access more sitters, it would be good to recreate with further subjects to see if their expressions are similar when prompted by the same words. Testing the theory that expressions are learned behaviour rather than natural reactions.

Light bulb moment

Conceptual Art

where the concept or idea is more important than the aesthetics of the image?

OMG I get it! I’ve always considered that the aesthetics are as important as the concept. Now I understand, why haven’t understood some photography. I do however, feel that for me the image is about the aesthetics as well, but now I understand this, I can be aware of it and explain it in my work.

Douglas Heubler

Variable Piece #101, 1972

Douglas Huebler entitled Variable Piece #101, 1972

This work by Douglas Heubler (1924 – 1997) – a pioneer of conceptual art.

Conceptual art, also referred to as conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic, technical, and material concerns

Heubler was an American artist who moved from painting, sculpting and installation art work to documentary photography to explore social environments and the effect of passing time on objects.

Huebler took 10 portraits of the photographer Bernd Becher (himself a noted typologist) showing a sequence of deliberate poses Becher was asked to perform (priest, criminal, lover, old man, policeman, artist, Bernd Becher, philosopher, spy, nice guy).

A few months after the portraits had been taken, Huebler forwarded them to Becher and asked him to make the correct associations. The two different
sequences are then presented to the viewer, the captions determined first by the photographer (Huebler) and second by the subject (Becher).

Heubler never exhibited the images in the original order and with the original classifications, only with Becher’s choice and we never know which ones were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Perhaps that’s the whole point. The viewer will always use their own classifications or typologies to organise a set of images. Especially in a portrait where there is no other information about the person.

I think this emphasises the fact that it is very difficult to imbue meaning and or knowing about a person in and a portrait, especially studio images with little or no extra ‘clues’.


Someone I know . . .

someone I know

Make a portrait of someone you know, paying very close attention to what
is happening in the background of the shot. Be very particular about how
you pose the subject and what you choose to include in the photograph.
Ideally, the background should tell the viewer something about the subject
being photographed. Reflect upon how successful this project was in your
learning log or blog, discussing specifically what your intentions were in
terms of the background you chose in your image.

I made these images based on the work of August Sander and Rineke Dijkstra. This is served as a test for the work I would like to do for Assignment 1, The Non Familiar.

In Sander and Dijkstra’s images, their subjects are in the centre of the image and they are looking at the camera. Their poses are generally very straight on to the camera. For my images, I wanted to explore a social history of the street where I live, to document who lived in these houses during ‘Lockdown’.

These shots are of my house and my husband. There are 50 houses in our street, it is a cul-de-sac so the people we see walking up and down the street pretty much all live here, with the exception of the postman and the amazon delivery drivers, who come to our house most days!. My husband and I both work full time and although we have lived here 7 1/2 years, we really don’t know anyone that well. We know our immediate neighbours names and say hello them, but really that’s about it.

for Assignment 1, I would like to see if I can photograph people from my street who I don’t know outside their houses.

Background as context

Project 2: Typologies – Exercise 2, pg 41

August Sander (1876 – 1964)

Study Sander’s portraits in very close detail, making notes as you go.
Look at how his subjects are positioned in relation to each other or their
environment. Are they facing the camera or looking away? What, if any, props
does Sander use?

Do these props seem relevant or are they strange? What
physical stance does the subject adopt?

August Sander – google search

August Sander was a German photographer who’s most prominent work was made between the two world wars (1918 – 1939), but continued all of his life. His notable work ‘  People of the 20th Century sought to document the people of Germany during this period. dividing them into seven distinct groups: ‘The Farmer’, ‘The Skilled Tradesman’, ‘The Woman’, ‘Classes and Professions’, ‘The Artists’, ‘The City’ and ‘The Last People’. (Tate, “Five Things to Know: August Sander – List | Tate”).

The exercise above asks us to look at the his images in close detail and note the use of the ‘five elements model‘ described by David Bate. However, it is also worth noting that Sander continued to use a large format camera even after the smaller Leica’s became available, as he felt that they gave a better detail of the faces. Because of the slowness of the image making, this of course may have influenced the poses and facial expressions of the sitter.

My observations:

  • in most images the subjects are straight on to the camera with their feet apart.
  • the sitters are looking directly at the camera
  • multiple people are lined up in a flat row with their hands by there side. This may because of depth of field being used and / or the use of the large format camera.
  • the depth of field is shallow enough to allow some blurring of the background, but not so much that you can’t see where the person is. It does give an element of separation. (perhaps f/34 or f/5.6?)
  • photographs of the trades people utilise props, usually the tools of their trade, where as the middle class portraits tend to have less props and more environmental backgrounds.
  • Props are either held or shown, rather than being used.
  • the majority of subjects are photographed full length or cut off at the legs.
  • the images of the circus workers and artists have more relaxed poses.

I believe Sander is considered important because before this, ordinary everyday people were not photographed in this way and it now leaves us with a wealth of information about how people live, dressed and working in those days. In these days of selfies, people really don’t consider the context of the image!


  • “August Sander | Artnet.” Www.Artnet.Com,
  • Baker, Rob. “The Extraordinary Photos of German Photographer August Sander – Flashbak.” Flashbak, 30 Jan. 2019, Accessed 6 June 2020.
  • Tate. “Five Things to Know: August Sander – List | Tate.” Tate, 2017, Accessed 6 June 2020.
  • Wikipedia Contributors. “August Sander.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2020, Accessed 6 June 2020.

‘Five Element Model’

The ‘five element model’ as described by David Bate in ‘Photography: The Key Concepts’, are:

The Face: This can be used to illustrate the feelings of the sitter, given that facial expression can signify a repertoire of different states and moods including happiness, sadness, anger or frustration. It should be noted however that the expressions worn by the face are not necessarily indicative of a fixed state of being.

The Pose: Can be described as a visual argument in itself, or a form of rhetoric. The various body language conveyed by a sitter can be read in combination and can connote all kinds of perceived characteristics. Just as the expression of the face is the rhetoric of mood, so the pose contributes to the signification of character, attitude and social position.

The Clothing: Can be used to indicate a great deal about a sitter’s social identity and how they relate to that identity in their pose. Uniform’s for instance can not only differentiate a factory worker from a police officer, but can also specifically identify rank and the different regiments within the armed services.

The Location / Background: social science, background setting (or lack of it) of the person in the picture.

The Prop: Can significantly alter the meaning given to the identity of the
portrayed figure.

Much of these elements are instinctive when taking portraits of people, but when you are actually cognoscente of them, it can help you really consider what the image is saying about the person.

This is something I have learnt from making mistakes in the past. I am a master at removing elements from images, that I didn’t see when I took the photo because I was concentrating on the face!


Bate also describes the three general cataegoresis of people we encounter in portraits:

  • Familiar – friends, family, ourselves, relatives, neighbours, acquaintances, colleagues, etc
  • Unfamiliar – strangers, foreigners, etc
  • Social representations – people who are known to us, but who we do not actually know, i.e. celebrities, politicians royalty etc.

He describes Freud’s theories on the pleasure derived from recognising something familiar which is akin to the current theories on habits described in Charles Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habits’. i.e. we repeat things over and over again and once it is ‘hardwired’ in, our brains create a shortcut to that same outcome, which is why we do things without even thinking about them.

Therefore we look for familiar elements in photos to aid our recognition of the subject. People familiar to us will often be depicted in domestic settings, whereas and those that social representations would be in settings that place them in the place they are know to us. i.e. parliament. Once an association is made with a familiar face, it can then be used effectively for advertising because the association that you have already made with the face can be projected on to the item to be advertised, or vice versa.

The unfamiliar face is therefore the most difficult for us to recognise, in a studio photo with no background and mood lighting, it would be very difficult for us to ascertain a true reading of the person in the image, other than by what the photographer has included, ie. the five elements above.

NB: this is an interesting point to note for the first assignment! What should I include in an image of 5 strangers?


Bate, David. Photography : The Key Concepts. 2nd ed., London, Uk ; New York, Ny, Usa, Bloomsbury Academic, An Imprint Of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2016. ’five elements model’ August Sander. (4: Seeing Portraits)

Duhigg, Charles. Power of Habit : Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014.