Tag Archives: Assignment 4

Assignment 4

The Brief:

Create a series of work (aim for 7 to 10 images) which in some way reflects upon the ideas surrounding identity and place that you’ve looked at so far in this course. Use the written word to play a part in its creation…

Be wary of illustrating your text with pictures and vice versa. Allow for the viewers’ interpretation to be opened up rather than shut down by the pairings. You may decide not to include the actual words in the final production … as long as they have in some way informed the research and development of the concepts and have pushed the imagery further as a result.

Write a short reflective commentary (around 500 words) describing how your chosen ‘words’ have informed your series of images and make this available to your tutor alongside your images.

Working in a university, which caterers mainly to international students coming from all corners of the globe, is always challenging and presents many cultural challenges to staff and faculty. The way students learn in their home countries is very often different to the way education is offered here in North America. Students have to adapt not only to new ways of learning, but also learning in a language which isn’t their mother tongue. Then there is life outside the university – the scenery, ways of doing simple everyday tasks, and the culture is also different.

So with the new intake of students in our Summer semester I decided to tackle the theme of “culture shock” for this assignment. Culture shock is the experience a person undergoes when moving from one’s home country to another foreign country. In this sense I am not referring to the tourists, but to people who have moved for extended periods of times for reasons such as immigration, study, or work. If one is moving from a culture that is very different to the new one, there is usually a sense of disorientation, unfamiliarity and certain transitions that one feels.

“Culture shock” is a term used to describe the anxiety produced when a person moves from a familiar culture to an entirely different cultural or social environment. Familiar sights, sounds and smells are no longer around and small things can easily upset a person and feel out of proportion.

Culture shock for international students

At first everything is new and exciting. This is called the honeymoon phase – a period of romanticism and fascination with the locals. Memories of home and family are still fresh in the mind. Then reality slowly settles in and one becomes aware of the differences between the cultures. One can experience homesickness, difficulties with the language, general frustration and depression often set in at this stage (negotiation phase).

After a while one becomes accustomed to the new culture, has made friends and formed a social group – probably with people in the same situation and one begins to find a sense of equilibrium again. One begins to develop a more balanced point of view with regards to the new culture (adjustment phase). Once a person is completely comfortable in the host country that person will start participating in local communities. The person is more relaxed and confident and better able to cope with life and tend to develop a sense of belonging (adaption phase).

Prior to doing any research on culture shock, I thought that I could just target the new incoming students for their initial impressions, but the statements that I received were along the lines of:

  • “I feel good over here/I enjoyed being here/I love people and their gestures”
  • “I feel very good over here/I like the signals for crossing the roads/I love people as they helping anytime”
  • ”Smiling faces in a lovely city – Vancouver/Close to Heaven “Vancity”/Friendly people/Multicultural diversity”
  • “Welcoming, friendly people. Accepting towards international students/Vancouver is a beautiful city”

I then started targeting a cross-section of the student population ranging from brand new students to students who had just graduated and the responses were much more interesting.


Deepak from India (Honeymoon phase)
Nuttanit from Thailand (Honeymoon phase)
Flavio from Brazil (Honeymoon phase)
Anh from Vietnam (Negotiation phase)
Dayana from Kazakhstan (Negotiation phase)
Henrique from Brazil (Negotiation phase)
Huong from Vietnam (Negotiation phase)
Cesar from El Salvador (Adjustment phase)
Kamonpat from Thailand (Adjustment phase)
Joao from Brazil (Adjustment phase)
Maria from The Philippines (Adaption phase)
Akiko from Japan (Adaption phase)

My edited down contact sheets, largely straight out of camera, for the shoot, can be seen below.


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

I mainly used my 50mm prime lens to shoot this assignment. I was having a bit of trouble with my 18-140mm and not getting very sharp images. There was a distinct improvement when I switched to the 50mm. I have tried as far as I can to apply equal foot and head space to each photograph as this helps cement the coherence of the set of images. As I mentioned in my planning post and in my post for initial feedback I shot the series on the sidewalk outside the university’s building. Initially I had considered shooting in the alley next to the building as well, but as a result of the feedback, which I concurred with, I dropped that idea as the wall didn’t provide much background context.

I have tried to maintain a fairly even colour balance, but as I was shooting at different times of the day (whenever my models were available) and during a wide range of weather ranging from sunny, cloudy, semi-overcast to torrential downpour (and no I didn’t have my model standing in the rain – he was under an awning and I was in the rain) I know that one image is a little off from rest. I did consider changing the white balance and tested it out, but it really didn’t change too much except rendering the subject too orange, so I have left the balance set to daylight on that one.

Apart from the weather challenges, the other challenge I had was shooting around a lot of homeless people taking shelter under the awnings. We have a homeless shelter right next door to the university and I had to bin a few images because of their background presence in the images.

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

Ideally I think I would like to present this work in book format with the photos on the  recto side and the caption on the accompanying verso side. I have done a mockup using the Book feature in LightRoom for the first time – cover front and back and pages inside can be seen on by clicking on the links provided. I haven’t managed to figure out why LightRoom split the covers and book content into two separate files, but I will figure this out in time for assessment. This is a project that I can easily expand on as I feel that I haven’t exhausted all the nationalities that step through the doors of the university. I purposely did not want to photograph my subjects in front of any tourist spot, preferring rather to leave the location in the images identifiably similar but at the same time rather ambiguous allowing the viewer to puzzle over the identity of the actual city.

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

Although my subjects have written their statements from their own experiences in their own handwriting, they all without fail (and without knowing it) have revealed emotions and experiences that I have had as an immigrant more than twenty years ago. I think my project is a bit of an amalgamation of Les Monahan’s Desire Project (although mine was shot in natural light) and Gillian Wearing’s Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say. I have followed Monahan’s format of positioning the subjects, but have used Wearing’s method of using signs to convey the thoughts and concerns of the subjects. I feel that this way the experiences become more embedded in the image. The accompanying captions’ purpose is mainly to identify the country and the culture shock phase.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

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

  • Les Monaghan and Gillian Wearing – public vs private personae of the subjects and different use of text
  • John Kippin – use of text within the landscape genre
  • Helen Maurene Cooper – use of multicoloured text as well as vertical orientated text in margins
  • Karen Knorr – different relationships between image and text. Her presentations are more formal than the other photographers I research
  • Bill Owens – humourous, refreshing way of working with text

Some of the videos and multimedia I have watched between Assignment 3 and Assignment 4 are listed below. The in-depth write ups are on the pages linked below.

I attended the North Shore Photographic Society’s workshop/lecture presented by Russel and Wendy Kwan, detailed notes accessible from the link below:

I did reviews on the following books and journal article, detailed notes are on the pages linked below:

I managed to get to quite a few of the Capture Photography Festival exhibitions that were on in Vancouver. My detailed notes  on the relevant exhibitions that I  attended are on the pages linked below:

Reference List

Counselling Service (n.d.) Culture shock for international students [online] Warwick University. Available at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/tutors/counselling/informationpages/culture_shock/ [Accessed May 30, 2017]


Student Services (n.d.) Adjust to a New Culture | Stages and symptoms of culture shock [online] Simon Fraser University. Available at https://www.sfu.ca/students/exchange/current/new-culture/stages-and-symptoms.html [Accessed 30 May, 2017]






Assignment 4 Feedback

So I posted a few initial images for initial peer review on the Level 1 Photography Facebook group, the Canadian OCA Students Facebook group as well as on the OCA Critique forum for the first time and was very pleasantly surprised with the depth of the feedback I received on the forum. As stated in my original posting, I had been having trouble getting a sharp resolution with my zoom lens for some or other reason, so I switch to my 50mm prime and the result was so much better. This was also confirmed in some of the feedback I received.

Some interesting points that were made (the in-depth discussion can be viewed at https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/initial-feedback-for-assignment-4-identity-place/4859/16):

  • This is a really interesting theme and I think continues the interest in cultural differences / mixing from some of your other work. I think the assignment briefs are best shaped to something in which we have a personal interest, as work then feels genuine, made with care – I already feel this in your planning. … Personally, I feel you photos that show the environmental context are more interesting (even the moving cars) as it adds to the sense of place; which is partially what you are conveying, people in new places and their response. (Andrew)
  • I like the project and all this people stuff! The white card consistent throughout is a definite I think, different colours is a unnecessary distraction and takes away that sense of uniformity. The variety can come in the location and obviously the subject. … As for background information I think it ultimately comes down to personal judgement – but I think it works say the last 2 with none and the one with a stationary car blurred out – fine, for me they all would still work together. … But an interesting topic and heading in the right direction! (Alan)
  • One last thing from me; it’s going to be a good series but so far some of them are a bit ‘moody’ as Alan says. There’s a lot you can do these days to fix things like that, investigate soft masking and the Shadows/Highlights control in PS. [Example shown – thanks for that Clive! That was a great help]. (Clive)
  • The girl “it’s common to say YES to SEX”……”never” on her top, says a lot. (Alan)
  • Fascinating project though challenging I guess. Personally having spend most of my life in foreign countries and cultures I can truly relate to the topic and the ‘change process’, something quite typical for all changes that one is facing in life. And the adaption process is truly a personal thing as it tells more about oneself. … The visuals are impressive, the surrounding space has something to say (includes clothing, gesture, mimic, and posture). Personally I try to look into the face of the person, what they are saying (like the text boards, quite social media distribution proof) and how it relates to content. (Stefan)
  • I think this is a great idea for a project, surprised none’s mentioned this project by Gillian Wearing: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/mar/04/gillian-wearing-signs-in-pictures2. Of course as a photography student the aesthetic is important and so demonstrating either competence (more than demonstrated here) or awareness (which you discuss) on a project which is prone to different conditions as a by product will, I’m sure, be acknowledged by your tutor. Nice one! (John)
  • A really interesting project Lynda and I am reminded of the Humans of New York approach. I found the text allowed me to engage further. Photographs #3 & #4 worked best for me as no distracting elements in the background. Perhaps a more shallow depth of field would work in this situation? (Nicola)
  • Yes of course Wearing but what about Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” film (I am not sure it was video back in ’65!)? Use that as a reference as well and think why in both cases. Is it a lack of voice? Is and an emphasis of voice? Don’t just think of the visuals, it isn’t just a way of carrying text in still image but much more. This is worth looking at for some insight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY4HtQ-XJQE (Peter). I have had a look at this video twice and am still chewing over Peter’s questions as this now introduces sound into the equation.
  • Some comments/suggestions from other Canadian students were to place my subjects at identifiable tourist attractions in Vancouver. I felt that this would restrict my project too much as I specifically want it to be rather generic in tone, and I also wanted to use the university location as part of the background.
  • Other comments can be seen at https://lyndakuitphotographyiap.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/assignment-4-planning-1st-feedback-request/#comments

I have taken on board quite a few of the suggestions: trying to eliminate people passing by the subject – although it is a very busy sidewalk where I’m shooting so I’m trying to restrict passersby to the background as far as possible. I’ve also had the students switch to white legal size paper to write their messages and have requested that they only write one thought instead of a few bullet points. This is more legible and they actually seem to think more about their message when they have only one thought to record.

I’m hoping to get an even mix of male and female students with a fairly equal distribution among the different culture shock phases, although I have no way of knowing how long the student has been in the country until we actually do the shoot. Its a question of getting the volunteers and then asking the questions. I’m also trying to get as diverse student representation as possible. At the moment I’m trying to round up some of the first students that I photographed for retakes – but that is a process rather like herding cats at the moment.

Overall I feel that this project is progressing along nicely. I’m feeling more confident about this assignment and am fairly confident that I will make the deadline this time.

Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback

Because I was on holiday in Mexico when my tutor was trying to set up a Skype meeting and not knowing what kind of internet connection I would have, I asked her to give me a written report instead.

My responses are in italics.

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

This is a playful and engaging project, which responds solidly to the brief and is contextualised through relevant research material. The work is also poignant, in terms of the time it has been made – I’m thinking namely Trump, and the refugee crisis, and Canada’s open arms. There is real merit here. Your idea is strong, yet – and I’m so sorry to write this – your visual approach needs a further push before assessment. Currently the aesthetic is an emulation of Gillian Wearing’s ‘Signs That Say…  

I believe I had explained my use of Wearing’s Signs under “Demonstration of Creativity” in my assignment write up. Wearing did not have a consistent typology for her subjects in her project. Her framing varies from full body shots to three-quarter body shots to half body shots, from having one subject in the frame to having two, whereas my project has a more uniform aesthetic. I also don’t believe that Wearing has sole proprietaryship on photographs with signs as similar images have long been used in advertising (see Bic Pens) as well as photojournalism (protests and marches). Other photographers, as pointed out in Steve Middlehurst’s blog, such as Grace Brown (giving voice to sexual assault victims); Kiyun Kim (racial comments) have also incorporated the use of signs in their work, and succeeded in putting their own stamp on their work.

To use that much-despised phrase – ‘you need to find your own voice’.

I do believe my personal voice is beginning to emerge – it will take work and thought, but it won’t happen overnight and I don’t believe it can be forced. To quote Clive White (article on the Discussion Forum, available here https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/personal-voice/3047/13) : “It means making the work about something that’s personally driven, other than technique or formal qualities. It’s about finding your themes through reflecting on the work one’s making in a way that looks at meaning rather than colour palette, composition, line and mark making, etc. ” I have over the Context & Narrative and this module made work that touches on immigration aspects and diversity within communities so I do feel something is emerging.

You can make this project your own through further visual experimentation. It could simply mean removing/photographing your subjects without the signs and using their comments in another way. The comments on the signage are playful, amusing and speak of ‘culture shock’. I particularly enjoyed the young woman holding the sign that reads: ‘It’s common to say yes to sex’, the term ‘NEVER’ (in caps) printed on her t-shirt, hangs below the sign. What happens to the reading of the photographs when the signs are removed (either digitally) or shot without them holding them? Do the statements become captions? Or is it enough to have ‘Falvio from Brazil (Honeymoon phase)’ written underneath?

After getting some more feedback on the Critique Forum I am going to remove the categorising caption below the photograph so that the photos are left more open to individual interpretation.

You may find the series Divided by the Sea by James Russell Cant of interest.

Cant writes:

Using the sea and the tide as metaphors, Divided to the Ocean considers the divisions of time, place and self, as well as the potential for melancholy, inherent in the process of migration. These portraits of individuals who have migrated to England by sea are composites, palimpsests of 24 images made over a period of time punctuated by high water. The subsequent backgrounds are the seascapes of the waters they crossed on their arrival. Ebbing and flowing, the sea both connects and divides the subjects from their land of origin.

I did look at this work and found it interesting. However it is easier to use a single metaphor using the sea and the tide for an immigration theme than it is for culture shock. I did not have the luxury of knowing what the student was going to write on his/her paper ahead of time and as you can see from the written statements they are all over the map really.

I am interested in the use of his environment. Can you make more of the place in which you photograph your subjects? How is this place relevant to them? Is it shot on the university campus? Could you be more explicit by showing us more of the context? Perhaps shoot in a landscape format? You are commended for the consistency of your images. The images are well framed and well lit.

I chose to shoot on the sidewalk because this is the path that all students take to the university. The university is a city campus, located in one building, there are no outdoor spaces belonging to it. When I did the shoot I did do landscape as well as portrait shots (some are on my contact sheets), but found that the landscape shots didn’t really add anything to image – basically just more windows/walls and parked cars were added which didn’t change the context I felt.

Also, the use of text in Jim Goldberg’s photographs maybe a useful research point. He uses the handwriting of his subjects directly on his photographs.

I did have a look at Jim Golberg’s work, both in this module as well as in Context and Narrative. I would have to ask the question if I were to use Goldberg’s method of having the subjects write on the photograph, wouldn’t I again be accused of emulating someone’s work?


Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

You are working through the coursework and evidencing it on your blog. Well done.


Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

You evidence your research and analysis on your blog. Well done.

Learning Log

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Navigable and evidences your learning journey.

Suggested reading/viewing


Please research the practitioners mentioned above.

I will do a write up on James Russell Cant. Jim Goldberg I have already covered in my work.

My Further Reflections

I have decided, based on the subsequent feedback that I received on the Critique Forum I am not going to reshoot this assignment, but will substitute a couple of images and add another two.

The series works very well, though I am unsure about the categorisation captioning, it’s as if this is a selection from a much wider body of work – a taster perhaps.

What I do like is that the idea plays into my conception of racial stereotyping, it asks me to question my own prejudices. And that, above all, is the strength of the work. Great concept, very nicely delivered. [John]

I don’t think the categorisation adds anything though. The strength for me is bringing my own interpretations to the images, they lead to more questions, both of myself and my own preconceptions and also thoughts about the people depicted – their backgrounds, interests, motivations etc. What initially appear as neutral expressions start to take on potential deeper meanings. [MichaelM]

As mentioned above I will be removing the categorisation caption.

I think you missed a trick here, the ‘distracting action’ could have been incorporated taking it to a different place from Wearing’s work, actually enriching the imagery.

It’s a Level 1 course so I think you’d be given a bye on it being a familiar trope but with less of an attachment to the original visual concept and moving it along it could have engendered admiration.

Having said all that I think it will be still well received so no cause for you to be concerned or rework just bear it in mind for next time … [Clive]

I have taken Clive White’s suggestion to include some of the homeless elements that I had previously discarded and have added a couple of images that reflect this.

First, I was wondering about your consciously staging set. Similar as possible with less ‘distraction’. I think you did very well by reducing contextual varieties and therefore to leave more space for the viewer to imagine and to relate to. Although, while reading about the ‘homeless shelter’ I found your editing is ‘shutting down’ opportunities. I understand the intention to keep focus. But I can also further relate the notion of ‘home’ to your subject matter ‘culture shock’ as well as the clear notion of the new home for the students. You stated clearly that it is about those way moved for longer or perhaps for life. I personally feel this huge difference, staying at one place for weeks or months, versus staying for several years or longer. Finding a new home. In this context the ‘home-ness’ versus ‘home-less’ and relating to the expression by the two students ‘homeless sleeping in the streets’ and ‘here it’s an individualist society’ could be a quite different subject matter. [Stefan]

Good feedback that echoes Clive’s sentiments.

Reference List

Brown, G (n.d.) Project Unbreakable [online] Available at: http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/ [Accessed 16 July, 2017]

Follow up Critique for Assignment 4 Identity and Place [online] OCA Discussion Forum. Available at: https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/follow-up-critique-for-assignment-4-identity-and-place/5101 [Accessed 16 July, 2017]

Jackson-Edwards, P (2016) ‘It’s a miracle!’ Female workers ridicule Bic’s pink pens ‘For Her’ with sarcastic hand-written messages – while a man can only produce squiggles [online] Daily Mail. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3484499/Female-workers-ridicule-Bic-s-pink-pens-sarcastic-hand-written-messages-man-produce-squiggles.html#ixzz4n2ZpCnps [Accessed 16 July, 2017]

Pinar (2013) Racial Comments Heard by Teenagers on a Daily Basis [online] My Modern Met. Available at: http://mymodernmet.com/kiyun-kim-racial-microaggressions/ [Accessed 16 July, 2017]

Assignment 4 – Rework

As mentioned in my feedback to my tutor’s report I have taken on board suggestions made in the Critique Forum especially those by Clive and swapped out a couple of images and included another two to include some of the serendipitous moments (of homeless people congregating outside their shelter) that occurred on my shoots. After much deliberation, I have chosen not to reshoot the project as I believe another kind of approach by removing the signs as a possible suggestion by my tutor, would have lost the focus of the message I am trying to get across.  Another reason why I am not attempting to reshoot is that some of the subjects have now graduated and are not easily accessible any more. I have also removed the categorisation caption below the image, replacing them with the number of the photograph, mainly for reference purposes. I think the revised edit brings out the “the ‘home-ness’ versus ‘home-less’” as mentioned by Stefan in the Critique.

Below is my final version of this assignment.

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Assignment 4 – Planning

After tossing a few ideas around – again centred around the university where I work, I came up with a short list of options. As it is the start of a new semester I thought that it might be viable to photograph new incoming students – our student population is mainly international – and see what their aspirations for the future were.  My other option was to do something with light projection and have text projected onto the students’ faces, but the more I thought about it I realised that some of the text might not be legible as it wraps over the facial planes. On the first day of the semester I came up with the idea, after watching the new students, of doing something related to culture shock – having the students comment  on differences that they experience in Canada from their home country.

I’ve done a few test shots and put this up for discussion in the Canadian Students Google Hangout this past Saturday and it was quite well received. One of the other students also confirmed my misgivings about light projecting text onto the students’ faces, but I’m keeping this idea in the background as I may be able to do something with it in Assignment 5, although I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

For consistency I plan on shooting the students in three locations only – well two really – depending on the light and time of day. The one location will be right outside the university on the pavement – and depending on the light, they will either face north or south – so essentially two slightly different backgrounds, and the other will be in the alley at the side of the university.

One of the Canadian students suggested photographing the students at local tourist spots, but I feel that this would tie the project down to the actual city too much, instead of being more generic and ambiguous. Once I have taken more images I’ll post a selection for peer feedback.