Assessment – Results

After a few weeks of nail biting, I got the results of the assessment of this course. I passed with 81 points! I am so happy with this and feel very motivated to continue my studies.

It shows that it pays off to step out my comfort zone, experiment and not rush through the module. It is so nice to experience growth and the development of my own creative voice sheer by just doing and trying new things.

As an advice for my upcoming studies, the assessors suggest to pay as much attention to analyzing my own work as I did when I analyzed the work of other photographers in my essay. This is a good suggestion and will help in taking myself more serious as an artist (and in general!)

Anyway, You’ll find the breakdown of the results here.



Note to Assessors

Dear Assessors,

Welcome to my Documentary learning blog! I am happy to present you my work and let you in on my thinking and development throughout the course.

In the menu on the left you will find my assignments and coursework. The assignment pages bring you to my initial submissions, tutor reports, rework and final submissions. The Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 will guide you to the exercises, research and assignment preparations.

Even though all exercises and assignments contain reflections on myself and photographers, Research and Reflections are more specific.

I would appreciate it very much if you could also have a quick look at my personal work. Even though this is not course related, I do find it reflects the development and growth I have gained through my studies. I am especially proud of the book project, with which we were able to raise 16.000 euros for local charities.

Thank you for assessing my work. I hope you will see some of the excitement and wonder I have felt all throughout the course.

Leonie Broekstra


Assignment 5 – Rework – Final Submission – The Tragic Demise of The Rulers of Oudh


Last February on a walk through the Ridge Forest in Delhi a friend told me about the Prince and Princess of Oudh. They lived in a ruin in the same forest and their life story was by for the most extraordinary I have ever come across. I decided to pay them a visit and ended up meeting Prince Cyrus. His sister had past away a few months earlier. We developed an interesting friendship; I would visit him now and then and we would call each other very often.

Prince Cyrus was a difficult man to be friends with. His requests became harder and harder to answer, up to the point where he asked me to buy him a gun for his protection. I backed off a little bit and didn’t visit him for a while. Last week I discovered he had passed away a month ago. A natural death, but all alone in the remains of his royal past.

When he was still alive, Cyrus had asked me to photograph his home and had given me some photographs from himself and his family. Now that he had expired (as the Indians call it) I photographed what remained of his now ransacked home. I found more photographs and documents that I have saved and scanned.

This assignment brings together my images and the found material. I have tried to tell about the Royal Family of Oudh, their extraordinary lives and strange dynamics that made them the way they were and led to their tragic ends.

I realize that there is much more that can be done with the material. This book lifts the veil of their mysterious lives and aims to give an insight in the feelings and hardships of the prince and princesses.

You can find the digital version of the work HERE


Assessment Criteria

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

This focus of the end result of the assignment is not so much my photography, but the way my own images work together with existing materials to tell a story. I believe I managed to do that effectively, there is a distinct difference in the images that I took when Cyrus was still alive and afterwards, the added texts and old photographs. I think I managed well to let it all support the text of Princess Sakhina’s notes and lift the veil of their feelings and strange life. I struggled with the design of the book, but it really helped to use a template and make changes according to my tutor’s suggestions. I would like to learn more about principles of design and especially take the time to work on developing my own taste and style.

I think I have shown observational and visual awareness skills through my photographs, but also through the way I have selected the images and documents and brought them together.

Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas

I am content with the outcome, although I realize that there is much more that could be done to tell the story and that this book is only a personal impression of a very small part of the history of Cyrus’ family.  I had first chosen an other subject for this assignment and had found myself completely stuck at a certain point. I noticed that when I changed to this subject I found myself knowing much better what to do and how to approach the materials. Looking at the final product, I believe I have met the criteria, realizing that next time I have to look for help sooner if I ever get stuck again.

The final printed version brings together my experience of meeting Cyrus and being in their ruins and the feelings and thoughts of Cyrus and his sister in a way that does justice to my short lived friendship and their lifelong struggles. Even though it is a small book, I am pleased with the way the essence and tragedy of the lives of Sakhina and Cyrus shine through.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

There is still a lot to be learnt in this area. I find that I still lack the technical skills to take a leap in becoming more creative and let the conceptual juices flow. But this being the last assignment of the course, I do see a difference in outcome compared to the first one. I have grown, but feel that there are so many areas in which I can develop more. I hope to build more coherence in all my assignments and develop a stronger personal voice in my practice. However, I am getting there and am happy to see that I have grown in these past years with OCA.

Context – reflection, research, critical thinking (learning logs, critical reviews and essays)

Without having done the exercises in the reader, reading and looking at other artists’ work, I don’t think I would have ever gotten where I am today. I feel very inspired and pushed to go beyond my comfort zone. This assignment is the result of thinking about the function of spaces and objects, the value we add to them and how photography adds on to that. I feel that especially in the older photos a lot can be learnt from the gazes of the members of the family, it also shows that captions enforce images and make new connections and connotations with the subject matter.

I have struggled with the ethics of using material that is not mine. I feel I let down Cyrus as a friend and didn’t want to let him down again by using his material in a way he wouldn’t have wanted. I ended up giving everything I got to a journalist who works at the New York Times. She used to be a friend of Cyrus as well and is doing thorough research about the origins of his family, their claim to royalty and what actually happened to Wilayat.

I trust she will be able to write an article that will honour Cyrus the way he deserves. I hope my work will be a nice addition to that.

Assignment 2 – Faith – Final Submission


About 6 years ago I stopped going to church. I had grown up in a Christian family, been an active church member and had always been able to find strength and comfort in what I believed. However, struggling with certain ‘truths’ and convictions, I realized more and more that most of what I lived for was based on the context in which I had grown up and the people I surrounded myself with. I decided to let go of my faith. Ever since, I have felt relieved and free and so much better about not having to be right about everything all the time.

In this series of photographs I want to focus on elements of faith that I used to embrace but still encounter and recognize in where I live and travel; the tension between truth and belief, the importance of context, ambition to improve, trust in the divine or own power, abuse of environment and others for the sake of one’s own spiritual growth or power and finally the meaning of life in light of our mortality.

Although each photograph touches on one specific element of faith, they all trigger questions about what is real, our dependence on higher powers, the value and place of self, responsibility towards the other and meaning of the the here and now.

Faith - artefacts--1
Faith - context--1
Faith - remains--2-1


Reflection Based on Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The images, selection and editing process show that I have been improving my skills and discernment in knowing which photos work and which don’t. I think there is always room for improvement and even though I think the images in my final submission are on the right level, I do want to improve through learning other photographic techniques, use other types of lighting instead of only ambient light, work on slow shutter speed, different angles, etc. The prints have turned out beautiful, bringing an added layer of meaning and enhancing the viewing experience.

Quality of Outcome

Looking at the overall result, I am happy with the coherency of the images, even though I have taken them at different places and over a stretch of time. I realize that with the exception of ‘Followers’ they are all quite similarly balanced, which may add to the coherency, but might also take away some of the independency of the narrative character of the images themselves.

After having read and researched through part 2 of the reader I find myself influenced in my work and thinking most by Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’, mainly because the assignment was to show an overarching idea in individual narratives, which we see in his book as well. I have learnt to be more aware of signs and symbols in my images and which has influenced my decision making in taking and selecting the photos.

Even though the concept ‘Faith’ is quite abstract, it helps that there are many visual outlets in which it is shown. I find that I have found a nice balance in showing different aspects of faith, without focusing too much on one particular religion.

Demonstration of Creativity

Some photographs show more signs of creativity than others. I am especially content with ‘Consecration’, which took a bit of post processing to get to what the image looks like now. I think that in my preparation, I have made an effort to work more conceptually, especially with creating a staged photograph, but I do think there is still room for improvement there. In my next assignment, I will try to get off the beaten path of finding a concept I’m looking for and photograph it. I would like to experiment with different photographic techniques, in camera, lighting, as well as with post processing and printing. I think there will be still ample room for impromptu beautiful surprises, but I realize, especially after having done the street photography exercise,  that restricting myself, for example to a certain technique or idea opens up a new world of photographic opportunities I would not encounter otherwise.


I believe I’m getting better at reflecting on my work. I’m starting to grasp concepts that are taught through the reader and am able to find similarities in other people’s photography or even in my own practice. However, I do feel I need to work on expanding my vocabulary and take the time to formulate my ideas better. There is always much more I have thought about and looked at than that I actually write on my blog.

In the Meantime – Family Documentary Photography

To be honest, I haven’t figured out which direction I want to go with my photography yet. I really enjoy a lot of different genres and mainly feel that I have not explored enough to make a decision in the first place.

I watched a course on by Kirsten Lewis on family documentary photography and thought I should give it a go. I like the idea of photographing real family life, without staging or directing. Getting a real sense of the dynamics that take place, showing the affection and frustration and individual characters in one family unit.

So I asked my friend Keren if I could come over and photograph in her house. Keren and Dan have 4 kids, of which one 5 month old cute baby. Here is a selection of the photographs. It seriously was a lot of fun and I feel this is an area that I want to explore more.



Assignment 1 – Rework – Final Submission

My Community

My husband works for The Netherlands Embassy and with that comes living on a compound. We moved here in 2015 and really enjoy life in this little green bubble in one of the dirtiest cities in the world. However, there is a very surrealistic element to it. Not only the sharp contrast in our living environment compared to that of the average Delhilite, also the contrast between the people living and working on the compound itself. The local staff, many of whom have worked over decades for different expats, live in small quarters, have financial and other worries and come from a completely different cultural background than the expats do. The expats have often lived in many other countries, face loneliness, adaptation issues and unemployment (if they are spouse). Regardless, there is always an upbeat and positive atmosphere and all work hard to keep the compound a beautiful and inviting place.

This personalized Google Maps aims to locate where the compound is, how people live and show the diversity of characters, personal histories and daily tasks. When you zoom out, the context of the narrative changes, giving hints of the humongous city Delhi is, its beauty, problems and diversity. Zooming in brings the viewer to ponder on how every individual lives their separate lives, but on the other hand chooses to live and work together in communities all across town.

This is the community I live in.

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 11.10.34 AM



Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

I have not made a lot of actual changes to the photographs that I first submitted, but have experimented with different edits and crops. I believe this process shows an exploration and growth in my technical and visual skills.

Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I am happy with the way the captions and photographs work together and that the images together convey an added meaning to how I look at and interact with my community. I have tried to be respectful to the people I have photographed while still staying true to how I look at my community.

I think the final presentation and use of media does most justice to the narrative I want to tell and shows the context in which my community lives in the most effective and original way.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

Even though the images are quite similar to my initial submission, I think that by placing them on a Google Map and adding my personalized captions I am giving an otherwise objective tool my personal voice.

Context – reection, research, critical thinking (learning logs, critical reviews and essays).

I have not really looked into work of other photographers who have worked with Google Maps, this is something that I would like to explore more. Also the idea of sharing your personal space and interdependency in a community is a subject that asks for research and gives room to exploring ways in which to build a visual story around it.

Assignment 6 – Final Assessment

When I had my work assessed for Context and Narrative, I remember being a bit frustrated about the quality of my notebook. It was a bit messy and looked more like a family photo album than an artist’s portfolio.

So this time I wanted to present my work in such a way that it was coherent, but still let the individual assignments stand out as separate narratives. In order to let this happen, I realized I had to come up with unique ways that did most justice to the stories that I was telling. Below you will find my line of thought for per assignment:

  • Assignment 1
    My tutor had suggested to transform the photos to polaroid style images. I had done that and liked the outcome, but realized the assignment was more about the idea of people from different backgrounds and nationalities, with all their own life story, work and live together in a small area. Zooming in from Google Maps accentuates how you can go to a random place and find all these individuals together, but on the other hand so apart. With adding the captions I have made the map my personal space and given personal interpretations to all the individuals you will find there.
  • Assignment 2
    This part of the course focused on the function of desaturation in images. In order to let the grey tones stand out and shine in their subtlety, I choose an archival bright white paper from the Hanemuller collection. I am really happy with the results, the difference in tonalities bring such a depth to the images. Even though I have taken all images in different places, because of the final edit and choice of paper it has become a clear, coherent unity.


  • Assignment 3
    The assignment said to present this book as a PDF file, which you can find on my blog. However, I thought the images really lend themselves to be printed on metallic paper. I am always impressed with how the metallic effect brings out the highlights in the photograph. Since all these images were made at night and lit by artificial light it is really suitable for it. Looking at the prints now, I feel they add to the feeling of mystery and longing that the series aims to bring across. I love the effect of the colours changing when holding it in different angles from a light source.


  • Assignment 4
    I had my essay laid out and printed in such a way that it is an easy and comfortable read. I tried different spaces and fonts and sizes, and feel that now it is a clean document. I decided to print the images in colour to do justice to the work of the photographer I am discussing.
  • Assignment 5
    The narrative of Cyrus really lent itself to be published in a photobook. Because I had never used online printers before and couldn’t be sure about the quality of the prints, I decided to have it done at the same place as where I had my documents printed. It was hard to give them detailed instructions of what I wanted it to look like, but I am happy with the result. It looks and feels like a notebook, which works well, given the fact that the text comes from a notebook. It is a pity that some photographs are spreads across different pages. I feel that some details are lost now.





I have put all assignments in separate folders so that it is clear to the tutors to keep the work apart. Everything fits in an A4 box and is sent together.


Happy and proud to have sent it off!