Below is my tutor’s feedback for assignment 2 and my reflection in blue italics. For a PDF file of the original feedback please click here.
Thank you, Ghada. This assignment conveys a sense of your growing confidence in photographing people, and also a deeper level of self-reflection than with your first assignment. The results are good, and definitely very encouraging. The series as a whole could be improved by deciding precisely what it is you want to say about your subject (I will expand on this below).
One thing I would like to raise here is your comment, “My main drawback is the fear of not knowing what to shoot and fear of rejection and criticism from others”. Everyone experiences apprehension before the start of a new project. What if an idea doesn’t come? What if the pictures are no good? Etc. You do seem to be conquering this natural fear rather well, though, finding interesting subjects, putting your work online and having good interactions with your subjects and your fellow students. Please don’t let this perceived “fear of rejection and criticism” put you off; there’s no need to post your pictures online until you feel ready. Rejection in this context doesn’t exist. Criticism, on the other hand, can be very constructive if delivered (and received) in the right spirit.
I always find my tutor Jayne’s feedback very informative and helpful and I am thankful for that. Her comments help me improve and I can feel it whenever I start a new project. I do not fear positive criticism as it helps me improve more than praise, what I really fear is failure or more pricesly not knowing what to do and not being able to understand what is needed and thus fail.
I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.
Feedback on assignment
• There’s some striking imagery here, Ghada. Given that you mention having taken lots of shots, I would like to have seen a contact sheet showing more than just the 11 shots you have narrowed your penultimate selection down to. I would also like to have seen the uncropped versions of those images you have cropped.
See post here for this point.
• I get the impression that perhaps having three lenses at your disposal on your shoot made your approach less clear-cut – next time try simplifying things and take two lenses maximum (preferably the fixed wide-angle and 50(?)mm).
I wanted to use the telephoto lens for the close up portrait because I prefer it for the shallow depth of field and to avoid distortion, the wide angle lens for adding drama and character such as the one with the goose and the 50mm for the natural touch it gives to the images and because it’s a fast lens if I decide to shoot indoors with low light and also because it’s my favourite lens. I did plan ahead on what sort of images I am looking for and therefore decided what lens to take.
• The thing that strikes me most about Abu, from your pictures, is the strength and quality of his gaze; his watchfulness. For me, this is the essence of the portrait here, rather than the chickens or the mirror which, although lovely pictures in themselves, are more from a “day in the life” kind of photo-story – which this is not (as it would call for many more images, for one thing). For me, shots 1, 3, 4, 6 and 9 make quite a powerful set as together they describe Abu’s intense (characteristic?) watchfulness. The sequence is also important – try different combinations of your final 5 (whatever decision you come to) and think about the overall visual impact.
I agree about labeling the portraits of the mirror and the chickens under ‘the day in the life of’ kind of photo. Part of me was going into that direction because I found it hard to understand what the assignment is asking for! However, I admit that it is my fault as I did not ask my tutor for help on understanding the assignment. Please check the post for the different combination work here.
• Again, you’ve shown that you can achieve a good rapport with your subjects, gaining their trust and openness. From your point of view, as a photographer, it was important and necessary to spend time with Abu and get to know something of his character; the really difficult part is in working out what to distil from the results to form a strong series. This is also important for your written reflection and has been skimmed over a little bit in the current version.
• There’s little evidence of contextual research here – I’m not really sure what attracted you to the your subject (his occupation? His personality? His ‘otherness’ as a person from another country and culture?) or whether you looked at how other photographers have approached similar. Something to bear in mind for assignment 3 – let me know if you need help or some leads.
I did mention the reason I chose Abu Mohammed for my assignment 2 submission: ” I was drawn to his bubbly character, striking expression and unusual clothing. I felt he would make a wonderful subject for my assignment”. So mainly what attracted me is his personality and character. To me his face is an interesting choice for a portrait. I personally do better with faces I like. In my assignment 1 tutor feedback, my tutor Jayne said: “Try to shoot only people you’re genuinely interested in; the chemistry will be so much better.” and that’s what made me choose Abu Mohammed.
• Again, you’ve really engaged with the coursework exercises with some good results. The ‘people unaware’ seems to have been a good exercise for you in terms of observation and also overcoming the (understandable) self-consciousness entailed.
• The pictures of Priyani are good (the colour version works best), and make for an excellent piece of coursework, but you were absolutely right not to settle on these as for the assignment and to strive for more. (There are various techniques for balancing flash with window light, by the way – have a look at some online tutorials, practice the techniques at home and let me know if you have any questions).
I did have a look at some online tutorials before the photoshoot (Here) and I tried to apply what I learnt during the photoshoot, I am however very intimidated by flash and I feel that it is something that I need to delve in deeply before I decide to shoot an entire series using it. I fail sometimes to include some of the extra learning I do into my blog which I have to think about from now on.
• I’m glad to see that you took up the reading suggestions from your feedback. It’s a good idea to make notes as you’re reading (analysing the text and noting key quotes) and to transfer these to your learning log.
• Keep this separate from your visual research into other practitioners. (Generally, having two separate categories under the Research heading works well).
I re-organized the (Researches) menu and the (Reflections & Exhibitions) menu for this.
• See if you can reflect on how this research is feeding into how you think about and take photographs.
• You made a good post reflecting on your feedback for assignment 1 – this needs to be included within your tab menu for assignment 1 or is in danger of being lost.
There is a link in the tutor feedback post that links to the color saturation post but now I also included the post under my assignment 1 tab menu like my tutor advised.
• 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.
• Behind the Image by Anna Fox & Natasha Caruana – techniques for building up a body of research for the production of photographic projects (see post).
• Portraiture by Richard Brilliant – general and theoretical study of portraiture (see post).
• Joel Sternfeld’s Stranger Passing – an important piece of work in photographic portraiture, and one which you might find inspiring visually and conceptually.
Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
• Would you mind sending me a brief (200ish words) proposal for your next assignment please, Ghada, articulating the kind of images you hope to create and why (and also how). I have been asking students to do this recently and most have found it very helpful in focusing their initial thoughts – so give it a try.
I will do so after starting with unit 3 of the course and email it to my tutor.