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.

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.

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.


Just a note to myself to acknowledge how difficult I’ve found it continuing with this course at the moment. I work for the NHS, but not in a front line role. This has meant that I have been working from home, using remote video conferencing tools to keep in touch with my colleagues.

Covid has become all consuming and doing a portraiture course has been almost impossible. So I kind of just decided it was undoable and haven’t done anything.

However, I joined a Photography Tutor led Zoom session with Andrea Norrington on 13th May, which has given me the impetus to get going again. I haven’t quite got to the first assignment yet, so I’m going to carry on with the exercises and research for the moment and hope to be in a better position to take portraits of strangers when I get there.

Research: Why?

Photography Tutor Led Session with Andrea Norrington

This was the first time I have joined one of these sessions, and overall it was a positive experience. There were students from a variety of courses and from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa.

Top take aways:

  • David Bailey quote “when they’re in front of the camera they’re everything to me”
  • Research should grab you. “always follow the rabbit”, Stephen Hawkins
  • Beware of the historiography – “who is telling the story”
  • Annotate your bibliography, even if it’s just to say ‘don’t read this again’!
  • 30 second rule – (see below)

(having written this blog, I’ve moved ‘top take aways’ to the top, so that it is read first)

A copy of the PowerPoint presentation from Andrea’s session can be read here

So why do research?

  • Stimulate ideas

Watched video “Rankin does Bailey” from a series called ‘7 Images that changed fashion photography”

One comment received re research is people saying that they don’t want their work to copy others. AN says it’s actually quite difficult to copy other’s photos and in fact it’s a really good exercise to try as it teaches you about posing, lighting, etc.

The 30 second Rule:

Immediately after every lecture, meeting or significant experience
• Take 30 seconds, no more, no less
• To write down the most important points:

  • 1 it’s not note taking
  • 2 it’s hard work
  • 3 detail is a trap
  • 4 you must act quickly
  • 5 you learn to listen better, and ask better questions
  • 6 you are able to help others more
  • 7 it gets easier and more valuable

Where are we?

The backgrounds of our lives are not simply brightly-lit backdrops or catwalks to highlight us, the subjects; rather, they inform and direct us – positively or negatively – and become part of the fabric of our lives. Our backgrounds say a lot about who we are and being aware of our environment is important in understanding our identity.

Do you feel at one with the land and belong in the countryside? What does an urban landscape tell us about its inhabitants? How can the spaces between buildings speak of identity? Your ‘place’ may be more psychological or mental than physical. Perhaps you are an introvert.

What does this mean about how you move through physical places? Or perhaps you have a disability. How does this impact your day-to-day life? Does it help or hinder your position in your current environment? These are questions we will think about as we consider the work of many photographers during this course but you might like to reflect upon them now in your learning log.”

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. 2019. Indentity and Place, Barnsley, OCA

I answered some of this in my previous post about constructing an honest portrait of myself. However, it’s a really interesting thought.

For me I think my sense of place is internal, the words from ‘A Million Dreams’ kind of sum it up for me:

I close my eyes and I can see,
The world that’s waiting up for me,
That I call my own,
Through the dark, through the door,
Through where no one’s been before,
But it feels like home

A Million Dreams, from The Greatest Showman

I do like to either be somewhere familiar and safe like my home, or I love being alone in the countryside. This is probably why I enjoy motorhoming so much. I have my own safe place to travel around in and explore.

I don’t like crowds or city urban settings but I do enjoy watching people from a distance. Conversely I really enjoy one to one conversations with people and am inherently interested in other people, culture and what makes them tick.

I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘happy’ photographer, portraying bright happy stories. However, I’ve recently realised that alot of my photography is quite dark and that I enjoy low light. Perhaps I’m looking for the light in dark places, watching from the shadows?

These couple of exercises have been a bit like therapy! I’m not used to laying my innermost feelings out on a page like this. It is, in fact, quite liberating.

Research Task – Identity

What does it mean for me, to be myself.

I have and have had many identities through out my life so far:

  • Female
  • Daughter
  • Sister
  • Mother
  • Nana
  • Wife
  • Divorcee
  • Single Mum
  • Married
  • Step Mother
  • Secretary
  • Charity Worker
  • Business Owner
  • GP Practice Manager
  • NHS Project Manager
  • NHS Quality Manager
  • Photographer
  • Camper
  • Motor Homer
  • Home owner
  • Renter
  • British
  • English
  • Student
  • Driver

I’m pretty sure there are many more that I’ve forgotten as well. I deliberately haven’t added any of my physical attributes with the exception of being female. It seems that we do like to put labels on people, Why?

The first ever identity I was given was that of “it’s a girl”. This is something, that for me, I’m ok with, and am happy to identify as, but that very first identity bestowed upon you, has and does cause a life long problem for some people. Not only does it influence the name you’re given, but also the clothes you wear, the toys you play with, your position in the family. It must be so difficult if you don’t identify with that defining identity.

I feel that I have a good sense of self within my personal life, but sometimes find that within my professional life, once people have decided who they think you are, that persona is very difficult to shift. This has led to me having to move jobs to reaffirm myself. I currently work with a number of clinicians who struggle with the fact I am not a clinician doing the same job as them. This I think, is more of a challenge to their own sense of identity, than it is to mine.

Saying Hello to my Tutor

Started as I mean to go on, by having a ‘hangout’ conversation with my new tutor. I immediately felt comfortable with him, which is a great positive start to the new course.

He had already had a look through my flickr feed which was a bit daunting, but at least he could see the breadth of my photography work and realise that I’m happy to have a go at all genre’s.

I gave him an outline of my initial ideas for the first assignment and was encouraged by the fact that he thought this could be interesting, he also suggested some ideas for enhancing the concept. This is great, I’m definitely going to work through this idea and see if I take it forward.

In the meantime, I need to keep working through the coursework, don’t run before you can walk!

Night Moves: A Dark Look through the Lens

15th February 2020 – attended Jerry Webb’s workshop:

A different look at photography. This workshop will take a darker look at life using techniques and ideas that reflect that and provide you with drama and tension in your photographs. How to work in low-light, bright light, twilight and darkness, using a number of different techniques including motion blur, contrasting exposures plus a host of ideas that give you moody, atmospheric and sometimes tension creating images. We will be using varied environments, from wide open spaces, to streets, dark corners and car parks. You will be shown camera set-up and some processing procedures, ultimately demonstrating how you can take dark or moody photographs.

The afternoon will be followed with a photo-walk where you will be tested on these skills, given simple tasks and followed afterwards by an informal review of your work either online or via email.

In the midst of storm Dennis, I expected this workshop to be a complete washout, but it turned out to be really interesting. What’s more I came to the realisation that a lot of my images err on the side of the dark / film noir style. Assignment 4 of Expressing your vision, and Assignment 5 of Context and Narrative to name but two.

Jerry introduced us to a number of different photographers, some of which I have come across before such as Brassai, Cindy sherman, Erik Johansson, as well as fair few I hadn’t.

Film Noir or Dark images were described as having the some or all of the following characteristics:

  • shadow
  • concealment / hidden
  • tension
  • drama
  • enclosed spaces
  • veils
  • cropping faces
  • hidden context, (can’t see what someone is doing)
  • hidden eyes or mouths
  • silhouette
  • moody and atmospheric
  • masks
  • empty spaces
  • blur

People in these kind of images are often, alone, vulnerable, either a victim or perpetrator.

Create drama, by taking images from angles other than eye level, i.e. either looking down, or up. Keep subject simple, lots of contrast and only one light source.

List of Photographers to invesitgate

  • Donald Cameron
  • Bruce Davidson
  • Mark Morrisoe
  • Dennis Oppenheirm
  • Patsy Smith
  • Lindsey Addario
  • Daido Moiyama
  • Trent Park
  • Ben Clera
  • Tsim Sha
  • Wing Shya

“darkness is always visible”

Don McCullin

Following the workshop we undertook a photowalk, with a view to creating ‘dark’ images with the following headings:

  • confusion
  • surreal or double exposure
  • something concealed
  • light in a dark place
  • empty space
  • blur or distortion

As it was incredibly wet we only spent about an hour doing this, but below are some of the images, I’ve taken:

Getting Ready:

Exercise 1:

What do you want / need from the course  unit?  At HE Level 4, the course unit aims to introduce some of the main ideas and practices of your creative discipline, and for you to begin to explore how you can creatively and critically respond to these. Level 1 is very much about exploration, so it’s a good starting point to consider what you might want or need to explore. To help you think about this, consider what you want and what you might need from the course unit? For example, whether there are areas you are keen to explore for the first time, gaps in your knowledge you would like to develop, areas you would like to expand, or study skills you would like to brush up on.

Write a short paragraph or around 5 bullet points identifying what you want and what you might need from the course unit. To help support your learning it’s also useful for your tutor to get a sense of your own creative background, your expectations of the course unit, motivations for this level of study, and any other information you‘d like to share. Write a short  paragraph or 5 bullet points summarising what you’re bringing to the course unit.  

Tip: Sharing your needs  Exercise 1 may be a good opportunity to consider any personal or health issues that might impact on your ability to study. Contact Learner Support to make them aware, and to access guidance and support: []

This is a difficult thing to quantify; what do I want / need from this course. My initial thoughts are:

  • I need to finish and pass this course, so that I can continue on to the next levels.
  • I want to improve my confidence especially around approaching strangers to make portraits.
  • I want to approach this in a more organised way.
  • I want to embrace my love of editing as an integral part of photomaking
  • I want to get better at referencing my reading and research.
  • I want to work at doing more reading from reference books and critically reviewing them.