Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback

On December 6, 2016 my tutor and I had a Skype session for her feedback on my assignment 2. It was very nice to finally ‘meet’ my tutor and establish a proper connection. Truth be told I was a little nervous about the session, but it went well and was quite productive.

I took some notes while we were discussing my assignment and my tutor also provided a bullet-point report.  Overall it was a very satisfactory report. My comments are in italics.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

We discussed images 1, 4 and 5 as being your most successful. The framing, narrative set up, use of ambiguity and in the case of 1 and 5, the lack of camera/eye contact works.

The other images have a different look and feel. The eye contact, and the gestures build towards a literal, overplayed performance. These images give too much away. Give your audience some room.

We discussed how images 1, 4 and 5 reminded me of the work of Philip Lorca diCorcia and Hannah Starkey. We also discussed the use of narrative and ambiguity in Cindy Sherman’s work.

(Photo of Eddie Anderson, 21 years old, Houston, Texas, $20 by Philip Lorca diCorcia inserted)

Whilst the subject matter of yours and diCorcia’s is distinctly different there are similarities in your approach. There is more to learn from diCorcia – light, ambiguity and framing. When shooting do move around your subject to fully explore the framing and lighting.

When shooting outside the bakery (image 5) I had, in fact, shot from a 180 degree radius around the subject, but not all those images made it to my short list. Perhaps I should provide more evidence in my short list contact sheets in future.

diCorcia’s lighting is cinematic. He works at particular time of day. I assume he, (like I do) watches the light over a number of days, and shoots his subject at a time when he knows he is going to get what he wants. I understand at this time of year the skies are mostly grey – you can make the most of what you have. Overcast = amazing soft box!

It actually was an overcast day that day (in between rainfalls). Vancouver tends to have many more overcast, grey days than London does. The average rainfall measured at the airport is 1,153.1 mm per year, while the average rainfall in my city is  double that at 2,477 mm because we live against the mountain (just a short 30 minute drive from the airport). We only really have two months where we get ‘decent’ sunshine, that being July and August. During October and November this year we had a total of 5 days where we did not have rain and those days, if I remember correctly, occurred during the week when I was ensconced at work.

(Photos of Hannah Starkey’s work inserted)

Hannah Starkey’s work depicts women in staged settings. She describes her work as “explorations of everyday experiences and observations of inner city life from a female perspective.” Also see the work of painter Edward Hopper who Starkey clearly references. Susan Bright feature’s Starkey’s work in her book Art Photography Now.

Hannah Starkey states that ‘by collaborating with the people that I cast for my characters and working with them, I find out how others view the world’ (Bright, 2011:96). This is something that I explained to my subject before we started shooting and asked for her input throughout the session, especially as she is closer in age to the fictional character that I was trying to depict. I have had a look at some of Edward Hopper’s work online as well as Starkey’s images and I can definitely see she is drawing inspiration from Hopper.

There is a similarity in pose and mood in Hopper’s painting and Starkey’s photograph above. There is also a similar division of light and shadow and an overall similarity in the muted red tones in the images.

There could be other ways to photograph the girl on the bed, to align the portrait with the two images taken out on location. This image came to mind:

(Photograph of a woman sitting on the end of a bed)

The bedroom that I shot in really would not have allowed for this type of shot for a couple of reasons, namely the room is quite small and there is only about 12 inches between the end of the bed and the wall, which is really where I was standing. So backing up further was just not possible. Also the bed was very high so that the model would not have been able to sit on the sit of the bed with her feet planted on the floor. I understand that a more vertical orientation might have been more in line with the other images, but I really wanted an image of vulnerability and I believe a fetal position achieves this.

Again, this is very different subject matter. But the lighting, framing, pose and use of ambiguity may help you.

(Photograph of Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #63, 1980)

Cindy Sherman’s photograph is loaded narrative and ambiguity. The framing, the body language and the use of light all play a part. I am unsure if something has happened or about to happen. Yet, the context itself is unremarkable. A woman in a building, on a stairwell is pretty mundane and everyday.

The image that we actually discussed during the Skype session was Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #48. I did do a bit of research into ambiguity in photography which can be seen on this posting.

Untitled Film Still #48 by Cindy Sherman
Untitled Film Still #48 by Cindy Sherman

Good assignment one rework. You have taken my feedback on board and produced a series of cohesive images. I particularly like the young man whose hat is lighting up his eyes.

We discussed assignment 3. It may make sense for you to photograph your work community, as an insider. The university is an interesting place. I recommend looking at the management/work portraits of Brian Griffin. These are beautifully lit, uncomfortable examinations of power relations between colleagues. I also recommend Matthew Finn’s long-term project focussing on students. ‘Work’ is a rich photographic area, from the portraits of children in factories made by the socially concerned Lewis Hine to the poetic glimpses of pilots undertaking survival training by Les Monaghan.

I have had a look at these photographers and will be doing separate write ups on their work.

Alternatively, you spoke of photographing at your local RSPCA as an outsider. You mentioned a kind of day in a life approach. I recommend a number of visits, perhaps start with a guided tour, and then ask if you could spend some time at the venue. It may be worth spending a few hours with each volunteer. This will help you become familiar with them, and as such you may find it is easier to photograph them.

Coursework

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Solid engagement and progress – please keep going and keep adding your responses to the work to your log (as you are doing).

Research

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Good research.

You evidence context, reflective think and analytical skills.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Clear and navigable.

You evidence context, reflective think and analytical skills.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

In addition to the photographers outlined above I recommend getting a copy of Stephen Bull’s book Photography. It will provide a foundational way into key concepts in photographic theory.

I do have a copy of Bull’s text.

Do you own a copy of Susan Bright’s book Art Photography Now and Mark Durden’s Photography Today? These are both useful in terms of research and inspiration.

I do have a copy of Bright’s Art Photography Now and Wiliam Ewing’s Face The New Photographic Portrait, but not Durden’s book.

There are some excellent online resources such as the Tate’s website, and

Plus many more.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

Don’t be scared to experiment and explore new approaches.

I found the feedback for this assignment more encouraging as my tutor stated that there was a marked improvement in my work. Some good references have been given to me to explore for assignment 3. I have just had a cursory look into each of the photographers suggested and look forward to a more in depth analysis of their work. I already have a few ideas tugging away at my subconscious as a result of the quick viewing. My big take away from this Skype session was “Ambiguity is your friend”.

Reference List

Bright, S (2011). Art Photography Now  (2nd edition). London: Thames & Hudson

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6 thoughts on “Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback”

  1. Way to go Lynda and good luck with assignment three, I am at the same place where you are at the moment 😊

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