A4 rework for feedback

Following my tutor’s feedback (see here), I reworked the edit of the photos and the layout of the book. I think the updated version offers a more consistent edit, better representing the theme of ambiguity inspired by the passage of writing used as a basis for the work. The book layout is also simplified.

I put the rework out for critique on the OCA forum and the feedback was mixed, with some liking the edit of the book as initially submitted (here). I’ve taken some time to reflect on this and will submit the reworked version (as a printed book) for assessment – while I do not find the mixed layout of the original submission as objectionable as my tutor, I will follow his advice on this aspect. In terms of the re-edit and the consistency of images among themselves and with the theme, I think there is a clear improvement and I prefer it this way.

Click to open as gallery


A4: Tutor feedback

I had a telephone feedback session with my tutor on A4 (the work submitted is here) and received bulleted notes of points for reflection, which are attached for reference. On the positive side I found the telephone interaction far more useful to understanding than just receiving a written report and able to better understand the concerns about the submission as a result. On the less positive side, was the recommendation that I go back to the drawing board on the work, which I found a little disconcerting given the positive feedback I’d received on the OCA forum (including resident tutors). But, I believe the observations are valid and I will rework. Key areas to work on are:

  • Reflect on image selection again and stay true to the original concept of ambiguity
  • Layout of book is incoherent, with too many different page layouts. Simplify. Text needs to be smaller for a printed book.
  • Let the images speak for themselves (as visuals) and don’t over-work things. Do not crop sizes down.

In addition to recommendations on the assignment, the work of some photographers collaborating with writers was recommended:

Susan Lipper (Trip Book): http://www.susanlipper.com/trip.html
A J Wilkinson (Driving Blind Book): http://ajwilkinson27.com/galleries/driving-blind/
John Holden (Lots of Company Book) http://john- holden.net/lotsofcompany.html

The common theme I see in this is the priority given to the visuals above the text, including in Susan Lipper’s work where the text is fairly lengthy, but only revealed if  the view clicks an icon to reveal it.


Tutor’s bulleted report is attached: http://identity.fitzgibbonphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/A4-IAP.pdf

A4: Image and text (submission to tutor)

                              Video of page spreads from planned photo book.


The brief for this assignment, Image and Text, was to ‘create a series of work (7–10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place looked at so far in this course, using the written word to play a part in its creation.’ (OCA IAP, p89).

I chose to work in collaboration with a writer, who I asked to provide a passage of text that I might draw upon for inspiration. I was not specific in the request and just explained that I would not be illustrating the text but using it to inspire a broader narrative. Details of the text are here. Over a period of days I reflected upon the text before deciding on the type of photographs I might make (see here) – I read the text as analogous to uncertainty or ambiguity through the transition between light and dark. The title, ‘Not Familiar’, is drawn from the text and reflects ambiguity and lack of clarity.


I worked on the shoot without reference to the words or thinking of the descriptions in the writing. I kept only the mood in mind. Contact sheets from some of the 170 shots are here. It has been a long process to get to the finished output: I decided to work the photos and text into a photo book and my initial thoughts are recorded here, where I decided to make the book text-heavy to avoid the reader making a direct connection between image and text. However, following feedback on my first edit, recorded here, I substantially reworked the photo book and the online presentation of the planned book.

The final output submitted is considerably different from the first edit, both in terms of the book’s content and its digital presentation on the blog (video above). It has increased ambiguity and, I hope, allow the viewer time to take in the images and words and bring their own interpretation. To complement the video are still slides of the page spreads here.


Against the OCA assessment criteria, I conclude:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – materials, techniques, observational – skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Developed a photo book layout (to be printed) for this project in Lightroom and used Photoshop to format the output for digital viewing; the double-page jpgs and video with soundtrack. Successfully combined text and photos in the book.

Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. 

Extended the meaning of the text and photographs to create an ambiguity that allows the viewer to bring their own interpretation. Developed more effective methods of presenting images digitally for web-viewing.

Demonstration of creativity (20%) – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

Used low-light photography to develop ambiguity and light and shade in shots, while using colour photography. Blur was also used to add a sense of mystery. Used the text as a point of access to a creative pathway and presented in the output effectively for both digital and analogue platforms (book to be printed, following tutor feedback).

Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs).

Extensive research reflected in learning log and preparation for this assignment linked in this post.

A4: Edit for tutor submission

The images below show the page spreads for what will ultimately be printed as a book. Click on an image to view as a slideshow. This supplements the movie included in the assignment submission.

A4: Feedback on 1st edit

I requested feedback from the OCA community on my first edit flipbook (here). The feedback offered many aspects to consider and I note the main points here, along with thoughts on how I will use the feedback to shape the next iteration of the book:

  1. Textual content – general feeling that there was too much text and it distracted / confused the impression of the photographs. Suggestion that two versions of the book could be prepared – one in which the text was just hinted at, and other in which the text would be shown clearly, without being over-laid on an image.  I’ll focus on the photo-orientated version and discuss a text-focussed version with my collaborator.
  2. Commented that sidebar on WordPress site was a distraction (taking up too much real estate). Addressed by changing to full width theme.
  3. Too hectic a pace in the book – should be slowed down (eg blank pages) and allowed to unfold like a ‘Scandy drama’.
  4. Some comments lead me to realise I was diluting the output by trying to make the work serve two purposes (paper and screen) – a printed book, but also something that could be displayed online in this blog – and compromising both output forms. I will re-work with the focus on a paper book and then think how to give an impression of that book on the blog. Noted that there would be production difficulties attempting to reproduce the dark screen background in a paper output. One commentator mentioned how it is surprising how much the analogue format of books is used for online replication when there are other options available that suit digital better and make better use of the possibilities of the medium.

So overall, it is back to the drawing board with the creation of the photo book. On the plus side, the images were generally well received.

A4: Photobook for feedback

Below is the first edit of the photo book, which will put the form of output for assignment 4, Image and Text. It is provided here for the purposes of gathering feedback from the OCA discussion forum and elsewhere (page numbering is shown for reference purposes only).

Please leave comments in the forum or, if you do not use the forum, feedback is also welcomed below.

Click or use cursor keys to turn pages



A4: Approach to shoot and photo book creation

I approached the shoot with just the mood of the text in mind, rather than the details of the narrative – this was to avoid the temptation to directly represent the descriptive writing with photos. The contact sheets are here.

The creation of the photo book was somewhat tortuous. As well as the overcoming the technical challenges of producing a book for online viewing (‘flipbook’) in LR’s book module (see here), the selection process to combine image with text felt twice as perplexing as coming up with an edit of images alone.

After initially using snippets of text to go alongside the photos, I found that this not only destroyed the narrative in the writing, but also created a direct connection between the photos and text, suggesting they were meant to be illustrative of the text; even forcing me to make some kind of direct connection. Therefore, I eventually decided to include the full text, which has created a layer of ambiguity, rather than discord. An alternative would have been to exclude the text completely, but then there would have been no intercontextual ambiguity.

In Lightroom, I experimented with various layout options and making of background colours to the darker colours in the images create confusion between the boundaries of image and page. The text pages are over-layed on an opaque water shot, which also features as a stand-alone image. I’ve also included small abstracts of images on the text pages, designed to confuse.

Below are the pages from the first edit of the photo book, as standalone jpeg files.


A4: contact sheets

Having reflected for a while on the text chosen for this assignment and my reading of that text (see here), I decided to base the shoot in a historical / atmospheric place and chose the home town of the Brontës, Haworth, which is a drive across the moors from my home (the moors of Wuthering Heights).

Below are contacts for the photos I considered in my selection. In total, I took around 170 shots.

A4: Image and text – analysis of text and theme

In this post, I reflect on the text I will be using (see here) and how it might be interpreted as a piece of visual art.

I read the text as analogous to uncertainty or ambiguity through the transition between light and dark. The language used is descriptive and full of visual details, but it seems to be mood that is more important than the phenomenal. There is the boy familiar at first, but then dismissed. The boys sees dumped items from a past era and a sofa that is the narrator’s own. The boy is an echo of the narrator’s own past perhaps? More uncertainty. A shift in time, as the light ‘changes to monochrome’, as well as a shift between light and dark.


And so, I will explore images that create ambiguity, between light and the dark, certainty and doubt, past and present.

A4: Image and Text – brief and concept


The brief for this assignment, Image and Text, is to ‘create a series of work (7–10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place looked at so far in this course, using the written word to play a part in its creation.’ (OCA IAP, p89)

One of the ideas I’ve worked with is how text can provide a creative access point to inspire a photographic work. I experimented with this in an exercise using a poignant letter from my grandfather to his future wife, describing his escape from HMS Ark Royal, which was torpedoed with the loss of 800 lives (see exercise here). My intention was to create images that symbolised the mood in the letter, photographing an oak tree to the point of abstraction, but nonetheless remaining symbolically connected. For this assignment, I wanted to work to a similar process.


The idea for this work is to create a visual response to a piece of creative writing, but to stretch the meaning of both the text and the images, leaving space for the viewer to engage their own imagination. It is only this concept that acts as the direction for the upcoming work; I will see where it takes me and analyse later.

I wanted to collaborate with a writer on this work and luckily an old friend, James Wall, agreed to work on the project.

source: fictivedream.com

James’s work has been published in the Best British Short Stories 2013 anthology, Tears in the Fence, Unthology 6, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, The Nottingham Review, Prole, The View From Here, Long Story, Short Journal, Fictive Dream, and in Matter Magazine. He has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Sheffield Hallam University. I am fortunate indeed to have such a friend!

I explained the concept to James and asked him to send over a couple of text extracts, without explaining the context or full story, so I might choose one and create a visual response. I’ve also requested that James shares his views on the images during the editing process – so I’m looking forward to good coffee and a long natter as the work progresses.

The extract I have chosen to work with is reproduced in full below. As a next step, I’ll absorb these words and let some creative ideas surface.

I stood and moved to the window, gazing out into the evening. The darkness was winning against the light, and the streetlights were already on. Cars were parked up now that most had returned home from work. I couldn’t see anyone walking by. The park was shrouded in black, with the occasional light from the old-fashioned streetlights dotted about the pathways. Then a light appeared from the right. It was moving, veering one way and then the other. As it crossed by one of the streetlights I could see it was a young boy on a bike. He was travelling along the paths, up the hill, then round and back again by the small roundabout there that had a flower display in the middle of the grass. I followed his route further, watching his light illuminate the park before it passed again back into darkness, with just the faint red of his rear light. Then it shone onto the lake. More objects were jutting out of it. White from a fridge reflected in the light briefly. What looked like marks were scattered about it but they looked too uniform to be dirt from the lake. They were in blocks, and reminded him of the fridge magnets he used to have at home. The light shifted a little and I switched my gaze to see the boy light up a cigarette. Wasn’t he too young to be smoking? I caught a brief glimpse of his face in the flame, at once familiar, and I inhaled sharply. I peered in closer, desperately trying to get a clear view but he was too far away and it was too dark. No, I must have been wrong. Not familiar. I couldn’t see properly from this distance. The boy remained, in the half light one leg straight and on the ground, sitting on the saddle. I couldn’t see but I imagined his other knee was raised, his foot resting on the pedal.

The orange glow from the boy’s cigarette sped to the ground and then disappeared. The bike’s light moved from left to right, as if scanning the lake, revealing more objects sticking out of the water: the top of what looked like the Eiffel Tower, half of an old black and white TV set that had a programme showing, an old record player, with a red lid that we had kept in a corner in the living room, and a sofa with a cream throw over it. The sofa had been a mucky brown underneath. It was meant to be temporary until we could afford something nicer but it was years before we bought another.

The light swept across the lake now and then up towards the trees at the top of the park, where it and the red rear light diminished until finally disappeared altogether. I grabbed my coat and made my way downstairs. The evening’s chill chided me as soon as I was outside. I passed the two stone pillars marked the entrance to the park. I wondered whether there’d once been wrought iron gates here fixed to the stone. My footsteps echoed as I followed the path towards the lake, and the light changed to monochrome. (James Wall ©2017)