Tag Archives: Assignment 3

Assignment 3

The Brief:

a. ‘Mirror’

Choose a community that you’re already a part of. It could be your child’s nursery or your regular gym class, but it should be something that takes up a substantial amount of your interest and time.

Create a photographic response to how this group informs who you are as a person. What aspects of this group or community reflect on you? What do you share? How does it function as a mirror reflection of who you are?

So far this course I can repeat Queen Elizabeth’s words in that it has been an annus horribilis for me indeed. My mother passed away towards the end of June, my father passed away in mid-February and in between I have been plagued with health issues.

In my initial planning for this assignment, I wanted to explore office politics within my working environment. However, after my initial peer feedback it was clear that my message was not coming across very clearly (see feedback). I think deep down I was a little hesitant in really pushing the envelope in ways that I would have liked to – after all I would still like to hang onto my job for a few more years! What message was coming through though was one of community and a diverse one at that. So I have changed plan and concentrated on the diversity of my working environment.

The university where I work is truly a diverse community. It is an American university located in Vancouver, Canada to start off with.  An excess of 40 languages are spoken on campus by staff and faculty. A real United Nations scenario. Apart from the usual European languages, some of the others are: Acholi, Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Burmese, Cantonese, Creole, Farsi, Filipino, Hindi, Icelandic, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Luganda, Mandingo, Marathi, Mende, Russian, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Temene and Urdu. We have students from over seventy different countries around the world. With the exception of a few staff and faculty we are all immigrants. To put it mildly, communicating clearly at times can be quite taxing.

There is not a lot in contemporary practice that deals with offices or universities as such, barring stock images. However, I did look at Anna Fox – Work Stations, Matthew Finn, Brian Griffin and Hania Farrell: Helix as well as Les Monaghan who was recommended to me by my tutor. I was very taken with Brian Griffin’s work and have tried some of his techniques in a few of my photos. Not all my peers liked my group portraits which were done in this way, but I’m not sure if they referenced Griffin’s work before commenting, so I am taking a risk by including some of those group portraits anyway as my tutor had mentioned his methods to me. I added quite a few candid photos.

The building that the university is in used to be an old warehouse, which then became a supermarket and after that housed an IT company.  When we took over the building the original warehouse look was retained complete with huge cedar pillars, open brick work and cement walls. At the time of refurbishment modern glass panels were inserted in offices and meeting rooms with quotations from our then University President and other famous people that reflect the global culture and mission of the University.

Fig 1 – Student Services
Fig 2 – Classroom
Fig 3 – Marketing & Recruitment Dept.
Fig 4 – Student Volunteers
Fig 5 – Hospitality & Tourism Lecturer
Fig 6 – Faculty Offices
Fig 7 – Enrollment Services
Fig 8 – Awards Day – Presenters
Fig 9 – Award Recipient & Campus Provost
Fig 10 – Awards Day – Faculty
Fig 11 – Smoke Break
Fig 12 – Marketing Dept
Fig 13 – Adjunct Faculty Work Area
Fig 14 – Admissions Dept
Fig 15 – Business faculty
Fig 16 – Academic Writing Tutor
Fig 17 – Study Room
Fig 18 – Academic Support Services & English Language Studies
Fig 19 – IT Support
Fig 20 – Lunch Break

Although I was limited to shooting during my lunch hour, which was quite restricting, I managed to take more than 600 photos for this assignment and editing it down to 20 was quite difficult. Out of the 600 images I shot, I edited down to 71 and made my final edit out these contact sheets below.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

I used my Nikkor 18-140 mm lens for this project as well as my new Yongnuo flash. Because of the restricted spaces I was shooting in I could not set up my flash off camera as there was no room for a light stand and it would also have been a traffic hazard for passing students.  I have always struggled with shooting in our university due to the greenish-grey walls and uplighting fixtures. When doing the edits I took my time throughout the shooting process to stand back, review what I had done, evaluate, reshoot and repeat the process.

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

As mentioned above, I decided not to explore the office politics route as it might have been regarded as too personal to some of my colleagues and I do need to keep my job. I initially thought that this assignment would be a breeze to do, but it has proved to be one of the most difficult I’ve done so far. My shooting time was confined to lunch hours, which I tried to vary so that I could make time for different people. Coordinating people for group shots was almost impossible. If I made an appointment with them, they would inform me on that day that they had scheduled a meeting off campus or were not available. All very frustrating! I am not wholly satisfied with this assignment so I will probably try and reshoot periodically until I’ve finished this module to improve this assignment. There are some campus events coming up that might have some contribution to this assignment.

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

I have tried to be creative by experimenting with Brian Griffin’s method of posing his subjects. Whether I’ve succeeded I’m not sure.  Not all my ideas panned out. Even though I directed my subjects not to strike a “modelling pose” I kept on getting this, even after correcting them. I have tried to limit the number of images of people working at their computers which is really what most of us do ninety percent of the time. I tried to vary the different forms of the gaze in the series as well. I have kept my tutor’s advice given after Assignment 2 about using ambiguity to lead the narrative at the forefront while doing this assignment and to a certain extent I think I have accomplished this. I have also tried to incorporate the quotation etchings mentioned above to expand on the ambiguity.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

As requested by my tutor, I have also done some revisions to Assignment 2.

In preparation for this assignment I looked at the following photographers (my details remarks can be found on their pages):

  • Anna Fox – Work Stations – I was drawn to her snapshot aesthetic, use of colour and flash and the fact that for the most part the photographs are not staged or directed.
  • Les Monaghan – although not office scenes, his work is very poetic.
  • Matthew Finn – if my university was more visual arts oriented I may have followed some of his methods. Unfortunately my university is one where mainly business and IT degrees are the order of the day.
  • Brian Griffin – I found his work very inspiring
  • Hania Farrell: Helix – I did not do a separate write up for this photographer as there was only two portraits on Farrell’s website in this series. This photographer was recommended to me by fellow student Holly Woodward (thanks Holly) during some peer feedback. I find it is the first one – the group portrait of the three generations that run the company that interests me the most. I find the style, stances and vibe of that image very similar to Brian Griffin’s The Executive series.

I also did a bit of extra curricula work into ambiguity as my tutor had mentioned it quite a bit during her feedback.

  • Ambiguity in Photography – notes on an article by Mien Thein
  • Ambiguity in Photography continued – notes on John Berger’s essay Appearances
  • As a result of dropping my flash and damaging the battery door cover I ended up buying a cheap manual only Yongnuo flash and had to come to terms with an extremely poorly written instruction manual. I also found that I had forgotten most of what I learnt on flash photography five years ago and had to go through a few online tutorials to get up to speed again.

Some of the videos and multimedia I have watched between Assignment 2 and Assignment 3 are listed below. The in-depth write ups are on the pages linked below.

  • Camera Obscura – a short video on a camera obscura built by local Vancouver photograher Ross den Otter
  • Anna Fox’s Talk – OCA lecture (discussed under my write up on her work above)

Sadly the inclement weather (snow) during these two and a half months have prevented me driving or getting out in the snow/ice to take public transit to get to exhibitions. My detailed notes  on the relevant exhibitions that I managed to attend are on the pages linked below:

I reviewed the following journal article, detailed notes on the pages linked below:

  • Veils and Sunglasses – Botz-Bornstein, T (2013) ‘Veils and sunglasses’ in Journal of Aesthetics & Culture Vol 5 Issue 1, 2013.

Caruana, N. and Fox, A. (2012). Basics creative photography 03: Behind the image: Research in photography. Lausanne: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

EDITING 101 – A Quick Guide to Editing Your Photo Series using Stickies (2013) [online] IPA Invisible Photographer Asia. Available at: http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2013/11/18/editing101-quickguidestickies/ [Accessed 7 March, 2017]





Assignment 3 – Tutor Feedback

My tutor and I had a Skype session for my Assignment 3 feedback. Overall it was slightly better than I had expected. My comments are in italics below.

She mentioned that my initial idea of workplace politics and an approach informed by Brian Griffin have merit, but my edit wasn’t cohesive and I need to hone my conceptual ideas.

I totally agree with this statement. I had struggled with the edit and with the shoot and reshoots as well.

She suggested taking the images and focusing on the behaviour of women in the workplace because making this a gendered body of work could create layers of meaning. Potential readings might include women within the workplace as a mirror of myself (or as multiple selves); relations between women in the workplace, performances and identities of women in the workplace; gender equality within the workplace (glass ceiling, etc).

I did have a good chuckle when my tutor suggested removing all the men from the series as “they weren’t doing anything anyway”. I think maybe I may have been trying to be too representative to all the various groups on campus i.e. faculty, all departments, student groups, instead of focusing on something which was in retrospect emerging in my work, namely the female colleagues. I have a few more ideas floating around in my head which I think will be able to bring more cohesion to the series.

My tutor mentioned my strongest visual are:

  • Fig 20 – the lighting in this image is cinematic. Combined with the pose it creates a narrative and she positioned it within the context of Hannah Starkey and Philip Lorca di Corcia.

I was very pleased to receive the feedback on this image, because I almost didn’t include it in the series as it was repeated image of the same colleague. I agree the lighting is amazing. Our staff kitchen has these jam jar lights which hang over the counters and create wonderful pools of light which are extremely atmospheric.

  • Fig 14 – my tutor mentioned that this image would have been must stronger had my colleague who was standing had a deadpan facial expression.  She also suggested that I step back so that more of the office and desk could be seen. She liked the uneasy pose of the subject who was standing and the power dynamics and hierarchies at play in this image.

I am pleased that the power dynamics came through in this image because that is what I was aiming for. In fairness to my colleague, she is lucky to have one of those mouths that turn up at the corners even when she is serious. But I have informed my two colleagues that I want to reshoot this image and will hopefully managed to get her to engage in an extremely serious expression.

  • Fig 12 – my tutor mentioned that this image also has potential, but she would prefer to see a disengagement with the camera and more of her office space.

I do have an image of her looking down at her computer and which also shows more of her office space, so will include that in the rework.

  • DSC5102 from my contact sheet – my tutor said there was real merit in this image, but my colleague on the left was not making eye contact with the camera and was half smiling again. The image would be stronger if she was also looking into the camera. The tightness of the office space, the blandness and the paraphernalia work in this image and the positioning of the subjects are good.

In defense of my colleagues I had asked the two at the back to look in different directions, as in the work of Brian Griffin, but the one on the right looked into the lens just as I pressed the shutter. However, I do see my tutor’s point and will reshoot this one with a bit more interaction.

  • DSC5249 and DSC4839 were also mentioned as potential interesting images.

DSC5249 is an image of students preparing food for an event on campus, while DSC4839 is a candid image that I fired off from behind my desk of my assistant eating a muffin. I would have included that image in my final edit if the resolution had been decent. As it stands the focus is quite soft.

  • Fig 3 also had some potential in a Brian Griffin style.

I was a little hesitant about including this image as two of my colleagues were having the giggles posing for this image, possibly because they were being observed by a group of students. I may be able to reshoot this image, but won’t be able to do it with the same subjects as one of the ladies no longer works at the university. Perhaps I can substitute with senior student.

My tutor is happy with my coursework, evidencing of my research and analysis on my blog and finds that the blog is easy to navigate and demonstrates my learning journey.

She suggested that I look at Hannah Starkey and Philip Lorca diCorcia and also the work of Sarah Jones, particularly the uneasy looking young women in rooms.

I have looked at Philip Lorca diCorcia’s work before during assignment 2 and also in Context and Narrative (post here).  Hannah Starkey was also mentioned in my assignment 2 feedback and I also researched her in Context and Narrative (post here). Sarah Jones’s work I am not familiar with and I look forward to exploring her work.

Pointers for the next assignment

My tutor suggested that for the next assignment which makes use of text and visual, I should look at Les Monaghan’s Desire Project (in relation to this we also discussed my place of work, a university and the potential of photographing graduating students. this is an interesting event (transition) happening at an interesting point of their lives (a kind of coming of age), we talked about the relevance of Rineke Dijkstra’s work here).

When I had mentioned graduation to my tutor I had meant it as a possible source to supplement my assignment 3. I will be taking photos of the processional, students as they come off the stage and the recessional at graduation. There is also a flashmob that is performed each year, but I know I will be very hard pressed to extract serious, deadpan faces at this event. So I will have to see what transpires on the day. I did have a look at Rineke Dijkstra’s work while working through Julian Stallabrass’s journal article ‘What’s in a Face/? Blankness and Significance in Contemporary Art Photography’

Karen Knorr – the series Belgravia and Gentlemen

This work was suggested to me during assignment 1 and I thought I had done a write up on it, but it might have slipped my attention, so I will relook at Knorr’s work.

John Kippin

I’m not familiar with Kippin’s work so look forward to seeing how he combines text and images.

Helen Maurene Cooper’s, in her book Paint and Polish, positions text down the side of the page. http://www.onomatopee.net/project.php?progID=3aeacd7195c415e05a925c68cb7b9f50

Assignment 3 – Rework

Much time has gone by since I first tackled this assignment and I am nowhere closer to liking it any more than when I first started it. Trying to do a rework in the most busiest semester our university has every experienced proved almost impossible as I barely had a chance for a lunch break most days. This assignment has morphed from one theme to the next, starting out as office politics, then moving to diversity in the work place and eventually moving to women in the workplace as per my tutor’s suggestion. I am hoping that traces of each theme are still evident in the work though. I brought in a tighter edit for more cohesiveness. I have also changed the captioning of the photographs, choosing to highlight attributes of successful leadership traits in women instead of providing explanatory departmental captions, which provides more ambiguity to the images.

Fig 1 Passion
Fig 2 Knowledge
Fig 3 Experience
Fig 4 Ambition
Fig 5 Communication
Fig 6 Fairness
Fig 7 Approachability
Fig 8 Collaboration
Fig 9 Consistency
Fig 10 Integrity

Morrison, M (2017) Top Leadership Traits – Positive and negative [online] RapidBi. Available at: https://rapidbi.com/top-leadership-traits-positive-and-negative/ (Accessed 27 December, 2017)

Assignment 3 – Planning 2

Well since I began working on this assignment last month (initial planning post here), it has been a stop-start-stop pace which has been most frustrating. I’m finding that with the growth of the university I don’t have many free moments to slip out of my office and walk around and photograph anymore as I did a few years ago. With the result my shooting time has mainly been confined to my lunch hour (when I’ve managed to take one of those).

I’m lucky in that most of my colleagues are very used to being photographed as this is something that happens on a daily basis on campus, so I didn’t experience any resistance there. I would have liked to have more staged photographs by this stage but have only managed to get a few as getting all required people together at a specific time is proving to be a bit of a challenge what with folks being in meetings, out of the office and so on. At the moment my collection is a mix between staged and candid photos. I’m still struggling to figure out my new flash and when I’m finding a decent flash exposure I’m finding that my photos have quite a bit of noise in them and I haven’t been shooting above 500 ISO. My Nikon D7200 is supposed to perform marvelously in low light, but I’m not finding this. So not quite sure where the problem is although I’m suspecting it is probably something that I’m doing (or not doing).

At any rate I’m posting some contacts here to get some peer feedback, hoping for some pearls of wisdom! I really need to crack on with this as I’m going to be late with this assignment.



Assignment 3 – Planning

For Assignment 3 we have to choose between doing a ‘mirror’ or ‘window’ series of images. For the ‘mirror’ option we are to choose a community that we are already part of, something that takes up a large amount of our time. For the ‘window’ option we are to become part of a community that we don’t know much about and tell their story with the aim of becoming an insider.

As my time is eaten up with work and studies I have elected to do a ‘mirror’ on my work place. I work at a small university. With the research that I have done thus far on the corporate environment – and there really doesn’t seem to be very much out there – I am particularly inspired by Brian Griffin’s work. I like the tension and quirkiness of his group portraits with the mixture of various gazes – so very unconventional for the corporate portrait! While researching gazes last night I came across a few paintings that also employ this mix of direct, internal and averted gazes like Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, Jan Steen’s The World Upside-Down, Pieter Claesz Soutman’s Cloveniers Haarlem and Ferdinand Bol’s Governors of the Wine Merchant’s Guild.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

As with any corporate environment, universities also have the inevitable office politics and it is this concept that I would like to explore in my assignment. How best to depict power and hierarchy, passion and political behaviour and “tribal conflicts” within a university structure is something that is going to require quite a bit of thought.

The Mindtools website has a useful article on dealing with office politics with some pointers that I may wish to explore further:

Re-Map the Organization Chart

Office Politics often circumvent the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
  • Who is respected?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organization”?

Understand the Informal Network

Once you know who’s who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
  • Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
  • What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
  • How does the influence flow between the parties?


I know the answers to most of these points as I have been with the university since its inception in Vancouver and have had the opportunity to observe a lot of comings and goings over the past ten years. My aim is to use these pointers as building blocks and see where I go from there.

Reference List

MindTools Editorial Team Dealing with Office Politics Navigating the Minefield [online] MindTools.com. Available at: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_85.htm [Accessed 10 January, 2017]