Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Assignment 1: Tutor Feedback

Been several weeks now since I got my tutors feedback on Assignment 1, but I wanted to have  a chat with him about a couple of things before writing up my reflections/thoughts/reactions etc. Done that now and as with the previous couple of calls it has been very helpful in sorting out some things running around my head.

Purely practical

A couple of the comments are purely practical and, as I agree with them, can be implemented without further ado. Springboard diving – Image 3: a slightly tighter crop at the top to reduce the amount of background seems very sensible, as does the suggestion to do something about the extraneous blackbird in Image 5 – Rifle Final

Image alignment with concept and assignment

Image 10 – Beach volleyball: Simon felt this was being shoehorned into the concept, and on reflection I think I agree with this. In particular his point that the beach is too dark to be seen seems spot on. I obviously can’t retake it as that defeats the concept so I may have to substitute another image/sport. In the Jari Silomaki set I referenced the link between the image and the news item is sometimes tenuous at best, but in my case I am trying to engage in visual punnery so I feel different ‘rules’ apply.

In a related vein he notes that the opening and closing images suit the concept well but it wasn’t clear what they said about summer. In mind at least the first was intended as a comment about the peacefulness on summer in my part of Cumbria (in contrast to the madness of the opening ceremony), and the second made a point about how rapidly summer fades. I have a couple of choices: the first is to change the shots – but then I lose the top and tail of the set. The second is to explain my thinking more clearly – so I’ll be going for that option.

Tension between the allegory and the assignment and final portfolio

By this I mean that some of the images suit the sports well but maybe illustrate the feeling of season less well. I was aware of this tension as I proceeded, especially as the concept required that I take photos in less than summery conditions. While I acknowledge it as a tension I believe it is something I have to live with. The simple truth is that summer in my bit of Cumbria is frequently damp and grey – I can choose to pretend it isn’t so, or I can represent as it is. In the context of this isolated assignment I saw no issue with this. For me this particular summer was about the Olympics, and if I didn’t capture that idea in some shape or form I would be missing an important facet of the summer.

This lack of summeriness also provides some tensions for the final portfolio. Would I be able to find other major events to hang the other seasons off, and how do I differentiate the summer shots from spring or autumn (as Simon pointed out). Had I carried this concept forward I might well have found that I was forced into a less honest edit with some essentially false seasonal differentiation, and a much weaker concept because I would not have had the headline events to hang the future images on.

In reality however I was already fairly committed to this idea before the penny dropped that I really need to use the course as an opportunity for exploring my interests photographically, rather than as a set of exercises to be completed in a tick box sort of way. My final conversation with Simon was about the potential for submitting this assignment, and substituting three entirely different images in the final portfolio. Happily we have agreed, and I have confirmed with the office, that this is appropriate given that I have now had an opportunity to think about the overall direction of my interests.

For me this was another key piece of learning – a lightbulb moment – a clear concept certainly helps with a brief, but even more important – at least in the context of academic study - is a clear concept that fits into a structure, so that I am not simply leaping from one unrelated idea to the next.  If I want to take my photography beyond simply shooting whatever comes to mind I need to understand what it is that interests me and why, and then work out how I can use photography to investigate it.

I think that my recent posts show a couple of clear threads – one associated with perspective, and one associated with the idea of portraying time in a single image. I haven’t got my thoughts quite clear on these yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s the direction in which my final portfolio lies.

For the meantime this has been an extremely useful assignment. I need to make it as good as I can, make sure I heed the lessons and move on. The next challenge is taking these thoughts forward into Assignment 2.

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