Assignment 2 – Tutor Report

I received my tutor report concerning Assignment 2. Just like the last report, it has been very helpful and motivating and makes me think more about my work and how to improve. You will find the report in cursive and my answer in normal font.

Overall Comments:

You have submitted a thoughtful response for Assignment 02, ‘Single Image Narratives’ (Faith); your subject matter has been approached with consideration, both contextually and technically. It is supported by a very good and detailed commentary, which was very informative and interesting to read. There is clear evidence of engagement and an understanding of the assignments requirements, which has resulted in an imaginative outcome.

This is good to read, I always wonder if my research is thorough enough and whether I am able to bring across my thoughts and idea in a consistent and clear way.

Feedback: Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Your series of black and white images have been received well; they exhibit a strong compositional approach and a visual awareness, which coupled with your detailed commentary on composition and framing supports your applied technical knowledge. Out of your final selection there are a couple that may benefit from replacing with other images from your edit. Compositionally, the image titled ‘Followers’ is unbalanced and is perhaps a little too constructed when compared to your other, more sporadic looking images. However, it is still a good portrait with some funny little quirks contained; for example, the gentlemen with the body-warmer on the right side of the frame, I love that his mug is chipped and he appears to be holding it with a little pride. In terms of its compositional standing and its strength in being a single narrative, it may be better if it were replaced with the image titled ‘followers-15’. As you pointed out this image does have the strongest narrative; the command that the Imam has with his words and hand gesture is very strong.

I agree with you that the the image is not very balanced and had not thought about the fact that it stands out as a portrait in a series of images that are taken from a more distant view. I will change it as you suggested.

The monochromatic conversion technique applied has been very successful; there is a consistent tone and texture throughout that holds the series together. Your attention to detail in the post-production stage has been good; even though you have combined a pre-existing image with newly shot material; the image titled ‘Consecration’, that was shot before your commenced Assignment Two flows very well in the final set. Possibly its shadow detail could be brought out more as it is the darkest image of the set, yet tonally, it is balanced with the image titled ‘Remains’.

Thanks for noticing this. I have made an effort to make them look as consistent as possible, even though the images were shot under different lighting situations and some with an other camera, which brings considerate difference in the final images. Through the conversion to black and white and focusing on similarities in contrast and tonal values it is possible to bring consistency in the set. I will work a bit more on the ‘Consecration’ image.

Quality of Outcome

Your objectives for this project have been very effective; through your detailed personal commentary, you have, in a way, moved slightly beyond documentary practices and touched on the autobiographical. Examining your faith and exploring its contextual placement with your new environment has been very interesting to read. You have visually communicated a story of both environmental and personal depth.

Your initial shoot for the image titled ‘Artefacts’ has yielded some good results; which through your assessment and decision to reshoot has evidenced an informed judgement. So, following on from my previous comment about replacing a few images; another one, which I’ll admit I am torn in suggesting, is your submitted one for this heading. You have communicated your reasoning for choosing the submitted image very well, but looking at your edits I find image ‘#3’ to be far more powerful. I like the visual connection it has with some Japanese Shinto Torii’s that can be found in water; I can imagine a spiritual conduit forming that bridges the religions.

I had not thought about this, but you are right. Also because the image is a bit more straightforward in its composition, it might have a stronger visual impact in the series. I’ll work on this as well.

Demonstration of Creativity

There is evidence of some very good creative experimentations with this assignment, which all lead to a positive outcome. Your other shoots, which did not make the final cut still provide a good range of visual material that supports your engagement with the course, well done. With a project such as this, which has a strong autobiographical underpinning, the development of your personal voice is not to be measured against the theme. However, you have demonstrated a depth to your personal voice through keen observations and an understanding of image deconstruction, which guides your practice.

Thank you! These are areas that I’m eager to explore more in Part 3.

Context

Your research and its critical dissection is very good, you have made some poignant comments about the source material. Your post ‘Semiotics: Robert Frank – The Americans’ is one such entry, commenting upon the books editing and layout considerations and how it instils that societal divide is very good.

It was good to see your breakdown and the brief descriptors of the semiotical points; one of these in particular did present itself to me in quite a stirring way. When I was reading your images and ascertaining their form, structure and narrative, the picture titled ‘Remains’ caught my eye. It may have been the dog, but what I was trying to work out was the form and function of the structure. My first thought led to me believe it was an abandoned warehouse, where perhaps the pits were used in some form of industrial process. It was not until I read your supporting description of this facility that I was truly ‘pierced’.

The reason it stirred me so, is that two weeks ago, both my Cousin and Nan passed away and they are both to be cremated. The image you depicted visually reaffirmed my awareness of this industrious method of body disposal in other cultures; but to see the overall environment and the dog did make me think. So perhaps this is a good example of where a textual trigger is required to establish the Punctum.

This is what I am enjoying so much about the course; we are pushed to look at art, books and images in a deeper way. This is done quite subtly and I think other students might get different learning points out of their research, but with almost every exercise I have some kind of a revelatory moment in which I feel that my eyes are opened to the meaning of photographs and how we can read them.

I also notice that it has made me think more critically about captions and information give to the images. How does it effect the viewer, and what kind of experience do I want to give the people who look at my images? Is it possible to steer that in the first place?

Learning Logs or Blogs:

Your blog is very informative and documents your investigations to a very good level. Your criticality and responsiveness to the source material is forming very well and is a good asset. I’ll admit that I’ve been having difficulty in the navigation of your blog; sometimes links do not take you to where you are aiming. Also, I have seen the post on the portraits you have done for the underprivileged children, but I cannot seem to find it again. When I click on ‘Personal Work’ the post, titled ‘Assignment 2 – The Afterlife’ appears in the list. Perhaps a slight restructure of the list and/or the inclusion of a search bar.

Yes, I need to figure this out and become more consistent in my use of categories!

Suggested reading/viewing:

Referring back to the ‘Artefacts’ image and the tenuous visual connection I made sacred to Japanese structures, it may be interesting to look at Michael Kenna’s work, although this will be purely for the aesthetical appreciation, the work does have an allure to it, see:

http://www.michaelkenna.net/gallery.php?id=2

Yes, it does. I also like the meditative effect that the images bring about. The composition and negative spaces have a very soothing and calming feel to it.

Pointers for the next assignment:

With Assignment Three, there is not much of a shift, in terms of documenting your surroundings, only that it is to be in colour, which you have been doing very well. Even though the assignment asks for you convey a narrative at a local level, like you did for assignment one, I would aim to make it very distinct.

Really push the boundaries with this midway assignment, experiment further and explore other options, perhaps it could be on a compositional level or you could explore alternative shooting methodologies. I noticed that you studied Vivien Maier, maybe as part of your documentary approach, you could explore the notion of ‘putting yourself in the frame’ through shadow play and reflections. One of the main elements of this assignment is about constructing a mock book/PDF document. The function of this is for you to consider how layout governs the narrative, which in turn informs and controls the viewer.

This is a very good point, since it is easy to continue working in the same way as with the other assignments. I have been thinking about using different techniques, night, long shutter speed photographs and will also think about the idea to put myself in the frame and how to do that in such a way that it still keeps documentary value.

Thank you very much for your report! On to the next assignment!

Assignment 2 – Faith

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, I did struggle with certain ‘truths’ and convictions and 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. I feel 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 encounter and recognize from my own faith; 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, they all trigger questions about what is real, our dependence on the supernatural and our value and responsibility in the here and now.

Reflection Based on Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I think that the images and the selection 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.

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 the reader I find myself influenced in my work and thinking about photography. In this work I have been influenced 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 I think that 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 a singular 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 a bit 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. Instead, I would like to experiment with different photographic techniques, in camera, lighting, as well as with post processing and practice on working a bit more conceptually. 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.

Context

I believe I’m getting a bit 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 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.