A1 – tutor feedback

My tutor’s feedback on assignment one is below, with my responses and reflection recorded in red italicised text.

Overall Comments

You have successfully completed the first assignment. You have produced the required amount of images and demonstrated a solid approach. You have submitted a sound and informative evaluation to accompany your images. It’s clear that you are enthusiastic and engaging with all aspects of the course. Your blog is coherent and easy to access. Continue to work through the course exercises. Your final images demonstrate your technical abilities and also show that you have good communication skills. It’s great that you have produced various portraits and a contact sheet with the relevant technical information. In future, be prepared to push your creativity and experiment. Overall, this is a very good submission, well done.

‘Push creativity and experiment’ – I need to think more about creativity in the context of photography; A1 set a specific task of taking portraits of strangers. My focus was more on how and where I might approach the task, rather than how I might approach it in an experimental or creative way. What I could have done differently:

a) The camera as machine – I shot the assignment in low light and made a conventional choice for settings to achieve clear images (i.e. wide aperture to maximize light to the sensor, high ISO, and a shutter speed that would avoid blur). I could have made other choices that would have resulted in a less conventional image. For example, deliberately underexposed to reflect the darkness, or a slow shutter speed to allow image blur, reflecting the movement in the night market (re Egyptian photographer).

b) POV – the images were all shot with the camera at the same level as the face and with the face framed. This was a deliberate choice but a different approach could have been used. For example, full-body in the frame with image blur to create an anonymous portrait, reflecting the unknown strangers.

Assignment 1 Assessment potential

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Yes, I intent to submit my work for formal assessment.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work

You have produced the required amount of images and successfully completed the assignment. This is a very good submission and one that will stand you in good stead for future submissions. Your reflection that accompanies your submission is very good and contains lots of relevant information. It’s clear, concise and provides a good evaluation of your thinking and practice. It’s clear that you have been looking at relevant references and these have inspired you and expanded your knowledge.

Producing portraits on the street with unknown people is difficult. The exercise will help progress your confidence and communication skills. The images all appear to be competently produced, technically they look fine. It’s also great that you have included technical information re the shoot; this gives an indication as to your knowledge and skills in this area.

I wasn’t sure whether to continue including EXIF data in my contact sheets as I was increasingly reaching the conclusion that technical considerations were not too important in this course. However, if a creative approach to exposure is used (as opposed to a conventional one), including EXIF data would provide an indication of how the creative effect was achieved.

As I said this is a solid submission and one that I cannot constructively criticise too much at the moment. The first submission is more of a diagnostic exercise that allows us to take stock of your skills, both contextual and technical. You have fulfilled both of these requirements but do make sure that you continue to push your practice and thinking. The area to concentrate upon now and during your progression through the course is to apply more of yourself to your projects. Often we (tutors/OCA) talk about the importance of having a ‘personal voice’. Obviously this takes time but do try and produce projects that interest you and carefully think about the context and concept of a project.

Yes, I understand and am aware that I’ve not yet found a personal voice, as I continue to develop and try out different approach to photography and post-processing. I need to reflect more on the components that signal a personal voice and make it recognisable. There is a parallel with music and the ‘sound’ of a particular guitarist, but unlike with photographers, I am more used to articulating a personal ‘sound’. I think it would be helpful to consider this aspect as I look at the work of other photographers.

Another point I would make is not to get too bogged down you’re your technical output. Photography is about being creative, it’s about having something to say, and it’s about communicating with an audience. Sometimes overly concentrating upon the technical outcome of a photograph can kill an image. An image may not be technically perfect but may be able to convey a feeling, emotion and narrative to the viewer. Do bear this in mind as my initial reaction to your process is that you may concentrate too much on technical details which is understandable at this stage but don’t let it dominate your practice. In future assignments be prepared to experiment and push your ideas/creativity, this is the time to do it!

I agree that I do currently have a significant degree of focus on technical aspects of photography. My thinking has been to master and absorb these before letting go of them. A bit like I would learn musical scales on the guitar and then forget them when improvising. There is perhaps a similarity that I should use in photography – there is a time to practice technical aspects and a time to let go and just go with it.


It’s great to see that you are working through the exercises with enthusiasm. Make sure that you continue to apply yourself here. Use the exercises to experiment and push your creativity. Input here will certainly help your confidence and personal approach.


Continue to apply both independent and course initiated research. You are clearly engaging and offering reflections upon the course material. Your reflections accompanying your assignment images are really important; the final assessment team will read these. Continue to apply critical analysis here, reflect upon your input, influences and practical input.

Learning Log

Your learning log/blog is coherent and easy to navigate. The separate folders easily identify your different outputs. Continue to add to your folders including research and reading.

One point I would make is that your final assignment images should open up larger. Presently they are too small. The assessment team and I will want them to open up to a larger size when clicked upon. This is possible, please look at how to do so this, you can get advice from OCA.

Noted – I know how to do this and will re-upload the images to assignment 1 (same images, without changes, just available to open larger) and note the post-feedback change in the blog. See adjust post here.

Suggested reading/viewing

Have a look at these photographers:


Bettina Von Zwehl: http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/alina.html

This work shows 12 young women, who look to be around the same age – they are all dressed in similar white vest tops, the photos are shot against empty backgrounds (white / grey), and none of the women are engaged with the gaze of the camera, but look to be in quiet contemplative moments. The series makes us wonder why the different women are contextualised in the same minimal way, all contemplating something. No explanation is offered. It is the fact that the work is a series attracts interest; I don’t believe any of the images on their own would be of much interest. For me, it is the uniformity of the subjects’ gazes that adds interest.

James Mollinson (James and other Apes): http://jamesmollison.com/books/james-other-apes/

These are portraits of 50 apes, taken over 4 years and published in a book. There is an artists statement on the work (see – http://aphelis.net/james-mollison-photography-james-other-apes-2004/), in which he states ‘I traveled to Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to meet orphans of the bush meat trade and live pet trade’.  The project may have been supported by Benetton as it also features on their corporate website (http://www.benettongroup.com/media-press/image-gallery/institutional-campaigns/james-and-other-apes/). Mollison identified with a specific cause and this appears to have driven his project – whereas each photo has a similar aesthetic of closely cropped head-shots, it is the clear cause that is central to the series. This can be contrasted with Von Zwhel’s work, the reason for which is unclear, so we are left to come construct our own narrative (if we have the inclination to do so).

For Assignment two:

See separate post here

Joel Sternfeld, Passing Stanger: http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/joel-sternfield

Katy Grannan: http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/feature/grannan.html

Phillip Lorca diCorcia: http://www.vice.com/read/richard-kern-on-philip-lorca-dicorcias-hustlers


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