Assignment 1 – Tutor Feedback

I received my tutor’s feedback on the same day that the July assessment results came out, so it was a bit of an anti-climax. My reflections are in italics.

Overall Comments

There is potential here and things  to reflect on for future development. Your feedback is set out under a number of headings below.

Her initial overall comment was rather short.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

This is a brief that really challenges – you are asked to approach strangers, and this can be intimidating. You have risen to the challenge. Was it in some way easier to photograph on your holidays, away from your local community? Where you are a stranger and will remain a stranger? I think the answer to this is yes. I would like to encourage you rework the portraits based on the feedback and this time work in your local area as per the requirements of the brief. Is there a hotel, bed and breakfast or an equivalent establishment nearby? If not, perhaps you could work with shop, bar or café employees. Do take forward the principles of your project and enhance the work produced so far using this feedback.

I had photographed the assignment while on holiday. I feel that even though I was on holiday the photographs were make in my ‘local area’ at that specific time.

Your strongest portrait in terms of technical command is (Adriana thumbnail)Good lighting, well composed and the context and setting of the portrait supports the subject. Do experiment with shooting three-quarters length – so more of the body and surrounds of the sitter is visible. Do look at James Tye’s series featuring boxers – you will find these by Googling his name, and in one of the latter Portfolio magazines.

Tye’s framing could be incorporated into your own portraits. Look also, at the facial expressions if his subjects. What do you notice? Do analyse his work in relation to your own.

Please see my response to this on my James Tye posting.

I would like you to analyse your portrait (above) in relation to the rest of your series. What consistencies and what differences do you notice?

Obviously the main difference is that the subject is woman. There is also a little more background visible in her photo than the other four. I can see that I should probably have abandoned the lower vantage position that I had used for the servers to include more background material. Her face also has more dimension to it due to the angle of the lighting coming into the room. Oscar, Server’s photo was taken under a thatch roof and the lighting was very even, so there are no shadows on his face. The other three have a hard shadow behind their heads caused by the pop up flash.

(Oscar, Server thumbnail)

Similar? Could this be enhanced if the background made more sense in terms of his job role? Could this be enhanced is it was shot indoors? What if he was also a chambermaid?

…. Not sure if I understand the third and fourth questions here. The third sentence doesn’t make sense as it obviously wasn’t proofread before sending to me (it’s not my typo). The restaurant was an outdoor restaurant and this was where this particular person worked so I feel the question is rather mute. The last question I don’t get at all.

[Thumbnail of Saul, Server]; [Thumbnail of Oscar, Restaurant Manager]; [Thumbnail of Martin, Server]

And these? Do they look significantly different to the rest?

Apart from the fact that I had to use my pop up flash because of the low lighting in the restaurants and the fact that these three individuals were sweating a lot in the heat I personally don’t think they look significantly different to the other two images.

These last three aren’t working – the flash is too harsh and the framing is inconsistent (the last one is slightly lower).

I agree the flash is a tad harsh on these three photographs, but I was travelling light and did not take my speedlight with me. I’m not sure what my tutor means by the framing being inconsistent and the last one being slightly lower. On her tutor report her thumbnail shows lower but that could be from cutting and pasting either from the PDF version which I had to do or from the website into a Word document that she sent me. All the photographs have a 8 x 10 aspect ratio. I created a contact sheet from LightRoom to check this. They all have the same height and width.


What about the smile that all the sitters are wearing? I say wearing as a smile is thought to be a social mask. Do look at the work of Diane Arbus, she photographed her subjects until they dropped their social mask and revealed something else, something ‘Other’. Uneasiness? Not really sure how to pose? This reveals something of the power struggles at play during the photographic social exchange. I also suggest you look at contemporary portrait photographers such as Rineke Dijkstra and those in Susan Bright’s book Art Photography Now.

I agree that a smile can be thought of a social mask. Smiles can be worn as masks in order to cover sadness or other emotions, or simply because it is expected. However, a genuine smile cannot be easily faked. To detect a genuine smile one has to look at the contractions of the orbicularis oculi muscles around the eyes. This causes the lower lid to rise and close, almost as if one is squinting into the sun. A good explanation of this is on my posting, The Squinch. I would venture to say that both Oscars in the series are wearing genuine smiles as their orbicularis oculi muscles are fully engaged and there is not a lot of white of the eye showing.

[Thumbnail of a Diane Arbus portrait]

Diane Arbus’s portrait, features no smile and personal details (badges etc.,) – there is an uneasiness that becomes the portrait.

I did look at Diane Arbus’s work. Posting is here.

[Thumbnail of a Rineke Dijkstra portrait]

Rineke Dijkstra, please have a good look at all her series.

I will do so.

There is a series of portraits of women who work on perfume concessions in the first Re-Generation: 50 photographers of Tomorrow book. I cannot remember the photographers name, however I do have a link that takes you to a list of the photographers featured in the exhibition and book. It may be worth looking through these to find the work. The framing, subject and deadpan aesthetic applied is relevant here.

I spent over 4 hours researching every single photographer listed on this list and I could not find this series of portraits at all. I put the word out on the OCA Photography Level 1 Facebook group and no one had any idea who this photographer was either. I wasted a lot of valuable study time trying to locate this photographer to no avail so I am moving on from this exercise.

[Update 8 August, 2016]. Thanks to someone who follows my blog, I have been able to identify the oevre and photographer who is Raphael Hefti. My review on this series can be seen here.

I also suggest you look at the work titled Domestics by Julie Moos, which also has relevance here.

I have completed my review on Julie Moos’ Domestics.

You may wish to consider shooting only women (chambermaids or waitresses or which ever service role you wish to focus on), to tighten the series and perhaps make a comment on women’s working roles and nod towards class and ethnicity/cultural background.

I don’t think I will reshoot any hospitality service subjects. I will come up with another idea.

In comparison I recommend looking at the work of Karen Knorr – Belgravia and Gentlemen particularly.

I am familiar with Karen Knorr’s work and find it a bit pompous personally. However, I will do a write up on it.


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Your blog demonstrates your engagement with the exercises. You have undertaken the photographic work as required and provided written analysis of the subject – and cited your sources appropriately. I am particularly draw to you ‘Korean’ and ‘Mexican’ typologies. This series of portraits could have been tightened through the use of a shallower depth of field, to drop the background out a little. You appear to have used fill in flash on the first portrait ‘Zimbabwean’ yet not the rest? Remember standardization is key to a solid typology. Also try to use the same magnification throughout and ensure the same ‘feet’ to ‘edge of the frame’ distance will help hold the images together. I recommend looking at the Dussledorf School – Bernd and Hilla Becher, Candida Hoffer, Tomas Ruff, Thomas Struth et al. Also look at the section titled Deadpan in Charlotte Cotton’s book The Photograph as Contemporary Art.

I agree a shallower depth of field would have been preferable in Exercise 1.3. The lens I was working only has a f3.5-f5.6 spread. I only used fill flash for the Zimbabwean set as the location was in a very dark, dimly lit corner. The magnification was pretty close – two photos were at 18mm and the rest were between 20 and 23 mm. However, point taken and I’ll try to work on same ‘feet’ to ‘edge of frame’ distance as well.

I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of your coursework as you progress through the course.


Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Research is incredibly important to both to being a student of photography and practicing as an ‘engaged’ photographer. It is essential to know ones subject (broadly) as well as understand the context in which one operates (your own defined area). Your blog features a ‘Research’ area, from this it is clear to see that you are engaged. Well done for using both cited material, analysis and thumbnails. I encourage you to try to incorporate your research into the work you are making (utilize your research) e.g. your typology research is important to assignment 1 – standardization, deadpan aesthetic. Perhaps you could have extended the dual portraits, framing and theme into assignment 1.

I thought I had incorporated my research into my assignments (see Quality of Outcome where I mention my influences). Looking back at the section I see I did not put in hyperlinks to my posts there, so my tutor might have missed that. I have now rectified that.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Some good analysis and research evidenced on your blog. Keep going with this.

 Good blog – simple menu structure, clearly laid out and easy to navigate. Well done.

Do add thumbnails and outline editing choices, to your assignments. I would like to see your whole process in addition to the final outcome. This will be beneficial to the assessors too.

I also recommend that you evidence your engagement with the student forums.

Suggested reading/viewing


Please research the names/books outlined in the feedback.

I very much recommend reading the essay’s featured in the book titled:  Face On: The photograph as Social Exchange by Mark Durden. It focuses on the power relationship at play during between sitter and photographer. It will most likely change how you think about photographing people.

I have ordered this book and am waiting for it to be delivered.

Also, please read an essay titled: What’s in a Face by Julian Stallbrass. It will help you think through what it means to smile (or not) for the camera.

I have worked through this journal essay and my notes can be seen here.

Susan Bright Art Photography Now – this is a bookshelf must have and a good way to gain an understanding of the varying approaches to photography. It’s a good resource when first researching a project/assignment

I do have this book.

Stephen Bull Photography – another bookshelf must. This will give you a first introduction to critical theory for photographers.

I also have this book.

Please start looking at photography magazines that feature engaged photography such as:

Photomonitor (online only)
Lens Culture (online only)

I regularly look at online photography magazines. I have an email subscription for LensCulture, LenScratch, American Photo Magazine, American Suburb X,  Art in America, ArtNews, British Journal of Photography (its too expensive for me to subscribe from Canada), Canadian Art Weekly, Colossal, Conscientious Photography Magazine, Dazed, Foam, Guardian Art Weekly, L’Oeil de la Photographie, Luminous Lint, Phaidon, Photographer’s Gallery to name but a few. I also have a subscription to Aperture and access to their magazine archives.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

  •  Do have a look at the book titled Street and studio published by Tate and the exhibition as featured on their website.

I have the book and I have also watched some of the videos (two of which I commented on during the Context and Narrative module).

  • Vice Versa theme
  • Take what has worked from the exercises and extend
  • 5 images – hold together as a series
  • Experiment, reflect, analyse, edit, research, experiment more, reflect, analyse… this is an iterative process. You should go through this a number of times until you get to the images you are happy to submit for feedback. The go through it again after feedback. Do evidence this ‘journey’ on your blog.

I was a bit disappointed with the type of feedback that I received on this assignment. Perhaps I have to adjust to a new tutor’s style, but I am the type of person who doesn’t respond well to a barrage of questions thrown at me without offering accompanying explanations. This just leaves me bewildered. Throwing questions out there is fine in a bricks and mortar situation, but it just doesn’t work in a distance environment. I also feel rather overwhelmed at all the extra readings I’ve been told to do. In my part of the world we do not have the plethora of photographic texts that is available in the UK, so I have to resort to purchasing texts which can be extremely expensive, especially for this module.

Reference List

Hurley, Peter (2016) The Headshot: The Secrets to Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits. New Riders

The Anatomy of a Photo Portrait Smile [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 July, 2016]
























3 thoughts on “Assignment 1 – Tutor Feedback”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s