Tutor’s Feedback for OCA Learning Log, Part Two: Digital Image Qualities and Assignment One: Workflow

I have included the feedback that I have received in regards to this assignment. I will make any changes to my work, and will update them at the bottom of the assignment.

Tutors Feedback

Overall Comments

Many thanks for submitting this first assignment Chantelle, details of which were featured through your blog.  As this is your first assignment submission, there are no previous feedback issues to reflect upon at this point in time.

Over the coming months I will try to get you to read around what can be considered within photographic academia as the ‘key players’.  It is always interesting to see what imagery students are attracted towards, but often enough some of this work might be a little misleading, in that it has been produced by amateurs working within the field, that have generally not been acclaimed or established themselves on the world photographic stage.  Not to say that you shouldn’t look at these more ambiguous works, if it can help generate ideas etc, but I would always recommend supplementing your research with a large dose of the notable practitioners. You will need to be able to show evidence of this over the coming assignments.

It is also as well to remember that the field of photography contains many different camps, many of which consist of people who don’t even take photographs, but study and comment on the theory behind the works being produced.  At undergraduate level you must have a foot in both practice and theory camps in order to maintain a relationship between the works you produce to the work that has been produced by others who have gone before you.  Within Levels two and three, you will be expected to be able to position yourself in relation to these other practitioners.

The reason I mention such issues is that although I’m aware, much of what is to be completed at Level one can be considered experimental and predominantly practice based, it is as well to be aware at this stage that if you progress onto the higher levels, your photographic output will be concerned with ‘why’ you have chosen to take your particular images, not just ‘how’.

You may wish 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 life-long 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 offer you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment

In relation to ‘workflow’ I think you have developed an understanding of how to effectively manage your time efficiently towards the lead up and during a photographic shoot and then the subsequent period of post-production. The assignment posting on the blog covered most aspects of this in a comprehensive manner.  I was very happy with the way in which you demonstrated your methodical approach to image making, which showed good practice in places [IE: Planning / Image Capture / Post Production stages of your submission]  I did note that some of your written work could have perhaps been described as being a little held down more by technical considerations, as opposed to critical reflection though, which you could perhaps address with the next assignment through considering ‘why’ you are taking the pictures you take [as already mentioned above]… and perhaps in relation to the work of others also ?

Having looked through all the imagery submitted via your blog, my main criticism would probably be your choice of subject matter, which I felt didn’t really push you out of any sort of comfort zone to be fair !  I think you need to use this module as an opportunity to really try something different in terms of image making …. Even if you fail visually, you can learn from this for future modules.  Lastly, you have elected to show this work as monochrome and really need to try and justify this much more clearly.  If the work has been shot in colour originally, it is a big decision to completely remove all colour, which in my opinion is a step that should not be taken lightly.  There is a series of debates still raging about monochrome versus colour, which you need to make reference to in your contextualization.

It is quite difficult for me to comment much on the actual imagery to be honest as the contents of this assignment is really more to do with the methodology and processes at this point in time.

Learning Logs/Critical essays

On a more general level, your blog is progressing very well and has been regularly posted on and updated.  It is very comprehensive and easy to navigate with the tags all being clearly labeled and intuitive.  This will stand you in good stead for the summative assessment of the module should you wish to go down this route. One observation would be to perhaps consider stripping out what has been completed for the AoP module, so as it is less confusing to the assessor

Wherever possible try to keep your writing as formal as you can, from a written academic perspective – so remove all jokes !.  I would also try to start using references and a bibliography if possible.  When you start to have a critical position [opinion] on the work that is informing your own practice, you need to be able to back these thoughts up with referenced academic materials.  All references should then relate back to your bibliography.

EG:  John Tagg states ‘The portrait is a sign whose purpose is both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity’ [Tagg,1988: p37]  …… You could then argue whether or not you agree with this statement giving your reasons why and your bibliography would then contain the actual book the quote came from, using Harvard referencing.

You may already be aware of this, but the reason why we cite ‘academic reference’ is to demonstrate you have engaged in wider reading of secondary sources IE: Books, Journals, Films, Websites etc.  Quoting from, or alluding to these sources to back up the points you wish to make, shows a sophistication of writing and expression, which is what is required at degree level study.  By referencing clearly, you can show which ideas are your own and which ideas you have borrowed from other sources [thus avoiding plagiarism].  By relating the work of others to your own, you establish a ‘Critical Position’.  The quality of these sources is always very important so forget Wikipedia !  These are just encyclopedia entries by anybody with an interest and don’t hold any academic rigour, scrutiny or peer review.  Make sure you are looking at relevant sources and always include the full ‘Harvard’ reference in your bibliography [The same as entries in the Suggested Reading section].  This may sound a bit heavy, but as mentioned earlier, you really need to balance the level of theory to practice on a visual arts undergraduate programme of study – you can’t just get away with taking pretty pictures alone unfortunately !

I’m not sure if you have started a workbook / sketchbook as yet, but you would certainly find this useful in terms of a place to collect both your research and ideas development, in addition to the written element of the assignments.  If you start one of these then you can always photograph / copy a number of pages and insert them in a word document for me to take a look at – or include them on the blog

I would also recommend, if you haven’t already started, that you start visiting various galleries and museums that are holding photographic exhibitions and retrospective shows.  It is important for you to know who is doing what out there in this field and you can include both the literature and the research into your sketchbook or journal / blog …. trying to gather all this information in different sub sections.


Suggested reading/viewing

Cartier-Bresson, H.2004:The Mind’s Eye.1st Ed. New York. Aperture Publishing

ISBN-13: 978-0893818753

Koudelka, J.1997: Exiles. London. Thames & Hudson

ISBN-13: 978-0500542082

Koudelka, J.2011: Gypsies. 2nd Edition. London. Thames & Hudson

ISBN-13: 978-0500544020

Clarke, G.1997:The Photograph. Oxford. Oxford University Press

ISBN-13: 978-0192842008


Conclusions and targets for next assignment

I’ll recommend what I would normally for a student at your level of undergraduate study, but if you have already looked at what I recommend, then please just drop me a quick email and I’ll suggest something different.

As a starting point I would always recommend looking at the work of the French photographer Cartier-Bresson, which is simply very stunning work, specifically in relation to compositional consideration.  His writing can be a little ‘quirky’ which can often be attributed to the translation, but in my opinion all photographic students should read ‘The Mind’s Eye’ at least once even if you only take away 25% of it afterwards.  He may have already have been suggested to you in previous modules though !

The other photographer who has been working within Magnum since covering the Russian invasion of Prague in 1968 is Josef Koudelka.   Again, compositionally his work is truly spectacular and often opens up a whole new genre of unknown Czech photographers to students. [IE: Victor Kolar / Peter Zupnik]

I’m conscious of the fact that this is a digital module, but I’m reluctant to go down the route of suggesting photographers who are working solely within the digital domain.  Pretty much all modern photojournalism is shot digitally these days, but predominantly all the steps prior to actual image capture are the same regardless of medium … besides, if you are serious about photography, the work of the practitioners I’ll recommend, you’ll really need to know about regardless of what or how you shoot !

I’ll look forward to your next assignment Chantelle