A2 – vice versa: tutor feedback

A pdf of feedback on assignment 2 (here) is attached below. Overall it was positive and encouraging, but also provided some useful food for thought. In this post I focus on the areas for development, rather than on what went well.

Some extracts of feedback taken out of context, but reflecting the areas to be addressed:

A more considered review of the final work and a development of your visual strategy could have resulted in a more coherent and successful series …  feel that you could have maybe used more time to have reflected and responded to your critical analysis of your final work … It feels to me that presently, judging by the submission, you are struggling to transfer what you know into the final images. To put it into simple terms, I think that you should be engaging further with the actual assignment.

It is a ‘unique aspect of my personality’ (as I explain in the exercise here) that my strength does not lie in finishing things and dealing with details – I am naturally interested in the big picture and debating ideas and concepts, rather than implementing them. I would rather move onto the next challenge. While I’m not often required to deal personally with the details in my day-job, it is something that I have had to make a conscious effort to focus on when necessary, although I find little pleasure in it. In retrospect, I think I am succumbing to the same pitfall with my assignment work – full of enthusiasm for exploring the ideas and concepts during the coursework and when initiating the assignments, but running out of enthusiasm when it comes to the finishing touches. I need to be mindful of my natural preferences when completing assignment work. In future, I will leave a space between completing the shoot for the assignment and dealing with the editing and the final selection process. Allowing some refresh time. My tutor provides the following advice:

As photographers and artists we need time to reflect and review our work, stand back and critically engage with it. Then after a period of reflection try and analyse the pros and cons and then go and produce more work, the period of engagement obviously depends upon the timeframe but it’s a strategy that you should be applying to your work.

For A2, I will revisit the series of photographs and consider alternative selections and post-processing.

It was suggested to look at these portrait photographers:

  • Steve Pyke (b1957), Philosophers.
    source: pyke-eye.com

    Pyke’s work is in square format, shot in high contrast black and white. His subjects are tightly framed and the borders on the photos emphasise this. It is almost as if they have been squeezed into a box.

    The high contrast adds drama and grit – something that would have occurred naturally in black and white film but not with digital images converted to black and white. They do not flatter his subjects by softening the lines of age, but the give a well-lived-in characterful appearance. Post-processing of black and white in digital requires some work to recreate this appearance – mimicking the traditional qualities of film.

  • Bill Brandt (1904-1983), Portraits. Unfortunately the link suggested (http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw71450/Bill- Brandt?LinkID=mp05099&role=sit&rNo=8) is a link to a Cecil Beaton portrait of Brandt and Brandt’s own portrait work is not shared online by the National Portrait Gallery (‘for copyright reasons’). However, I used sources from my look into Brandt during the OCA C&N course and the book Photographs 1928 – 1983, which includes a section on his portraits.
    source: vam.ac.uk

    The portraits by Brandt show sitters in context, unlike Pyke’s philosophers, who are extracted into boxes. But the framing is visually dense with busy details.We see the same high-contrast black and white characteristics of film, but Brandt’s work is softer on textures of the skin as it is not shot in extreme close-up.



  • Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002). Karsh’s website provide generous access to his portraiture and to some short video-clips of him being interviewed. He was a photographscreen-shot-2016-10-31-at-20-08-55er of celebrity who states that his aim was for his work to compliment his subjects, not to show ‘worts and all’, but to provide a record for the many people interested in celebrities and for history.The portraits appear carefully staged. Again there is high contrast black and white, but not the grittiness of Pyke’s work or contextual interest of Brandt’s.

These photographers create different moods and impressions of their subjects. In my own practice, I prefer a gritty approach, but have a concern how that might be received by my volunteer subjects. I suppose that I’ll just have to get over that, or offer them something to their own taste also in return for sitting!


Brandt B (1993). Bill Brandt – Photographs 1928 – 1983. Thames and Hudson, London.

Fitzgibbon A (2015). Context and Narrative Blog. Bill Brandt (19 July)Available from: http://context.fitzgibbonphotography.com/bill-brandt/ [accessed 31.10.16]

National Portrait Gallery [online]. Bill Brandt Portrait. Available from: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw71450/Bill- Brandt?LinkID=mp05099&role=sit&rNo=8 [accessed 31.10.16]

PDF of A2 IAP Tutor feedback

Steve Pyke [website]. Philosophers. Available from: http://www.pyke-eye.com/Philosophers/1/caption [accessed 31.10.16]

Yousuf Karsh http://www.karsh.org/#/the_work/portraits [accessed 31.10.16]