Assignment 1: Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Just two months after my cousin passed away; my grandmother who I consider as my mother since I lived with her all my life till I got married; passed away too after a pacemaker surgery!  It was a shock that left me heartbroken.  She was the most wonderful person in the world and my best friend. Although I had lots of sad incidents in my life but none have been nearly as hard as this.  Her absence left a hole in my heart that can’t be filled.  It has been a week now since she left but I still can’t believe it’s true.

Just two days ago, I received my tutor’s feedback on assignment 1 and I was worried it would be something negative but fortunately it wasn’t.  I am glad that my tutor liked my work, and that the feedback is detailed and informative.  I just wish I could say I was happy but I had this empty feeling inside.  I could not enjoy the praise.  However, I am glad I started this course as it will help keep my mind away from negative thoughts.

Below is My tutor’s feedback and my reflection in blue italics.  For a PDF file of the original feedback please click here.

Overall Comments
This is a really positive start to the course, Ghada, achieved under difficult personal circumstances. It’s clear from your comments that you very much had to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to photograph strangers for the first time, and you’ve done so with good results – well done! I hope that with this experience under your belt, you’ll feel more excited by the possibilities that open up once you’ve gained the confidence to approach and photograph people who, for whatever reasons, pique your (natural photographer’s) curiosity.

I’m very pleased to see that you’ve created an entirely new learning log for this module. Please do use the learning log (or accompanying notebook) for your thoughts and ideas as you go along, and bear in mind that the LL has the potential to be so much more than a receptacle for coursework and assignments.

It’s good to see that you’re engaging with other students online, and I’d very much encourage you do so as much as possible.

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.

I am working towards my degree so I will be submitting my work for this course for assessment like I did with my previous level one course.  This is my last level one course.

Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills (Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

• Very well-controlled shooting, overall, with a consistency of approach that lends a strong aesthetic coherence to the series.
• Choice of aperture has blurred the background nicely – leaving just enough information to provide context.
• This consistent approach is often hard to achieve outdoors (without controlled lighting).
• I wondered if the tripod was kept in the same position throughout the shoot, as the distances from camera-to-subject seem to vary a little. (If you need to move your tripod during a shoot like this, it can be helpful to mark out the position of its feet, (and your subjects’ feet!) first, with masking tape.

Unfortunately, I did not carry my tripod with me at that time so we used a rock to mark the place for the subjects.  Each one of them stood with the rock between their feet but I guess not all of them did that and I also did not pay attention to that being busy taking the photos.  I will have to keep that in mind next time.

• Have you added a vignette to the final images? (We can chat about this online if so…)

I did not add a vignette to the images, the slightly vignette touch showed after I added the HDR filter, I will have to check if it contains the vignette option.

Quality of Outcome (Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas)

• It’s clear from the pictures that, despite your initial apprehension, you achieved a quick rapport with your subjects and were able to make them feel at ease; this is an invaluable skills in itself – many photographers never achieve this – so, please – congratulate yourself!

I would say the company of my close friend put me at ease.

• You set yourself some tight parameters (e.g. consistency of framing) to work within – this is good practice, and can be surprisingly liberating because, once your ‘framework’ is established, you can then give your full attention to everything that unfolds within it.

I totally agree with that.

• Your research on typology in portraiture has clearly inspired your work. Perhaps you could expand on why you decided to adopt this approach, in your written summary?

To begin with, I was going to take the photographs of my subjects while working.  The typology idea of the hard working construction workers was there but the approach changed because Of the reasons I mentioned in my post Assignment 1: Initial Plan went awry .  My desire to use typology is because it was a new subject to me and I wanted to experiment with something new and do something different to what I am used to doing.  I also enjoyed the typology exercise in this course.

Demonstration of Creativity (Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

• This was essentially an experimental assignment, and represents a huge leap forward in terms of a risk taken – to good effect.
• Your research into approaching strangers to photographs has paid off for you in terms of building up your confidence levels in advance. Excellent preparation, Ghada.
• It was good decision not to go B&W with these images (and why would you?). The most striking thing about the series, aesthetically and conceptually, is the identical hardhats and shirts – which would become ambiguous without the binding colours. (I’m also pleased that you decided against HD effects – which, without strong purpose, can seem terribly clichéd.)

The contrast between the helmet and shirt was the main reason for me not to go B&W and also the feedback I got from my family, friends and most specifically my OCA friends so I thank them all for that.  Regarding the HDR effect, I did not want the result to be fake (overcooked) so I just added a hint of HDR not much because I liked the effect it gave to the sweat which in my opinion adds to the photographs. 

• The colours therefore strike me as being important signifiers for the commonality between the workers: their shared effort & labour; their combined strength and power; a collective portrait. They also highlight, conversely, workers’ individual contributions to the building project, their unique traits and their individual circumstances. Great that you were able to ask the men about themselves – their singularities could turn this into a fascinating project if you wished to develop further.

I will keep this in mind and think about it.

• My personal inclination here would be to desaturate less, if at all – happy to discuss this point, if you wish.

See my tutor’s explanation and my reflection regarding this in this Post

• Bear in mind that in fact most people (just not most photographers!) will actually be pleasantly surprised to have a photographer show an interest in them and will be flattered to have their picture taken. You can make the whole process easier for yourself with some of these approaches:-
o Try to shoot only people you’re genuinely interested in; the chemistry will be so much better.

I thought of photographing old people in nursing homes but I have a soft heart!

o Have a contact card ready with your details, so they can get in touch with you for a copy of the picture (- most won’t).
o Decide first on a strategy for shooting: formal or informal? Candid or posed? Direct gaze, or off-camera? But retain flexibility around this.

For this assignment I went for the direct confident gaze.  I asked the subjects to look at the camera with confidence.

o If you’d like to capture someone ‘candidly’, you could explain why you’d like to take their picture and ask, would they mind if you discreetly stuck around for a while?

I was planning to do this when I decided to photograph them working but unfortunately I was not allowed to take photos so I went for the staged shots.

o Or invite your subjects to be photographed at another time & place.

I did this.  I asked them to meet in a certain place and time and we took the photos.

o Flatter them!
o Remember that being a student of photography is a very good reason to give for the photograph…

I did use this reason at the beginning but it did not work out for me, the contractor and engineer were still worried and did not approve.  I think it depends, someone else might agree so next time I am taking my OCA student card with me as a proof.

Coursework
• It’s clear that your attention to the coursework exercises has informed your assignment work, and helped you prepare toward photographing strangers.
• Your Square Mile project is particularly striking, and your typology grid makes for interesting viewing.

My square Mile project was about the house I lived in (my grandfather and grandmother’s house).  I think I do better when I work on something that has sentimental value to me.

Research
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
(Reflective thinking, research, critical thinking, analysis)

• It’s a little early for me to comment at this stage, but I would stress the importance of reading widely for your personal interests – which you are already doing.
• Well done for reflecting on the assessment criteria. Try to be self-critical as well as positive; think about obstacles overcome and what might have worked better, what you might develop further in future…

I will certainly work on the that for my next assignment.

Learning Log
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
(Reflective thinking, research, critical thinking, analysis)

• This is off to a good start.

• Utilising the horizontal menu bar – adding tabs to the drop-down menu as the log grows – works very well indeed.

• The log should also function as a blog or notebook for your thoughts and ideas as they develop; including tests, experiments, independent research, self-reflection.

I agree, I don’t write much about my experiments and tests so I will start doing that.

Suggested reading/viewing
• Street & Studio, Ute Eskildsen (ed.), Tate Publishing, 2008  (See my post here).
• Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes (Vintage Classics), 1993 – particularly the sections on being photographed, and on the relationship between photography and theatre (See my post here).
• BJP – current issue on BJP’s Portrait of Britain nationwide exhibition (See my post here).

I ordered the books although I read lots of comments and reviews about the Camera Lucida book that it is written with strong language and that it’s incomprehensible and that’s scares me.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
• Document the various stages of project development in your learning log, including successes and failures.
• Keep to the main (most essential) points in your summary, in regard to the finished work.
• Experiment, explore, take risks – the results may surprise you.

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4 thoughts on “Assignment 1: Tutor Feedback and Reflection

  1. Catherine says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss Ghana. I was very close to my maternal grandmother and still miss her after many years so can only imagine the gap in your life.

    There are some really consecutive and positive comments for you in your feedback so do hold on to them.

    Liked by 1 person

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