Assignment 5 – Rework – Preparations

After a constructive Google hangout with my tutor in which we talked about what kind of medium to use for the presentation of this work, I have fine tuned some of the layout of the book and added a list of illustrations. It was a good decision to leave out the chunk of text in the beginning. The book is much more like a personal journey than an informational book. I like how emotional weight has been added and that there is more room for reflection and imagination.

I have added a shadow drop to all the archival images, stressing the fact that they are found objects and not my own photographs. Besides that, I have added a list of illustrations in the back in order to emphasize what is my work and what’s not.

After trying a few different covers, I ended up with this one. It is based on a photograph Cyrus asked me to take. I like how the cloth and pattern really adds to the feeling of decay. I have omitted the title consciously. I will leave it open to own interpretation and let the book be more like a note book than an actual narrative with a title.

You can find the digital version of the work here

I had difficulties finding a place to have my book printed. I ended up in a shady shop that had an improvised first floor of which I was scared that it would collapse under the weight of the 15 people working there. Anyway, the book has the qualities of a notebook. I have chosen high quality paper, in order to take the shine off and let the colours do their magic a bit more.


I think the layout goes well with the story. The only issue I have is that some of the spreads are not fully visible because they sort of cut through the middle of the image.

But it is assessment suitable and I have added to my box of prints. Yay!



Assignment 6 – Tutor Report

Last week I had my final Google hangout with my tutor. We talked about the unit, finalized a few points that needed changing before handing in my work to be assessed and plans for the future. I look back on an interesting module and really helpful guidance from my tutor. Thanks again Russell!

So here is a short summary of our conversation, written in the official tutor report. Russell’s writing is in cursive.


Overall Comments

Based upon the previous feedback, you have reworked and developed your assignments very well; they retain your original objectives and visual ideas, whilst incorporating new layout and editing suggestions. Your learning log presentation is ideal, it is very logical in its layout and narrative. Assignment five has been reworked to a very good standard, the layout of the book is very good; it’s overall flow works, where there is a good balance of text. There are just a couple of technical glitches, which may be a result of the InDesign export; just ensure these are addressed before you commit to print.

I have changed the glitches and had the book printed. The book has the same texture and feel as a notebook. I think it works well, although one some spreads you miss the central part of the image, so that it looses impact of the photograph. When I submit the work for assessment, I will instruct the assessors to both look at the book in print and online.


As discussed, there are just a few areas to add and consider for your formal presentation; just to reiterate the two technical glitches with your reworked assignment five:
• Page 4/22 – The edges of the bottom Polaroid have been cropped

• Page 15/22 – The left-hand image is pixelated

As you have already printed your images for the assessment, be sure to explain in the conclusion, your choices for each paper stock. This is just to evidence your understanding of the technical considerations when printing and how different papers can guide and alter the reading.

Yes, still need to write a blog on that. I am happy with the quality of the paper and the choices of different types. They have a very striking effect on the photograph.

With the physical submission, be sure to clearly separate each assignment and include a layout/presentation guide for the loose prints. This is to ensure that any narratives/couplings are seen as you intend. This is simply done by printing a cover sheet, which contains sizable thumbnails of the images in either a linear or grid format; then the assessor can use this as a guide for laying out your work.

For Assignment 04, the critical essay, get this produced to a high standard that reflects the overall quality of your other printed work. Use a clean and legible font, keep it doubled spaced and get it comb bound.

Have done that, I think it will be clear for the assessors to look through the different assignments.

Learning Logs and or blogs:

Your learning log continues to grow very well; it evidences not just your OCA work, but also your external photographic endeavours, which are engaging and supportive of the overall reportage theme of this unit. The post ‘In the Meantime’ is engaging and professional; this type of commission is really good, which could lead to further such educational/promotional investigations. There are some good portraits emerging from this set, in particular the little boy on the steps tying his shoe and the interaction between the doctor and the child; well done.

Regarding this commissioned work, be sure to get copies of any leaflets, magazines etc. where the work has been printed; this then provides evidence to prospective clients/commissioning bodies of what you have done. With websites, it would be good to take screen grabs, as over time, sites may be erased; for example, your images being used in the BBC report.

I like this idea! Will do that and add it to my portfolio.

A final entry to add to your learning log, would be an overall conclusion of the unit; when we spoke, you mentioned how you have seen your work develop, this is great, as self-reflection is a key component in this course. The entry does not have to be long; however, it would be good to include some of the terminology used in the grade criteria as a means of measurement.

Suggested reading/viewing:

I saw this work a while back via Kickstarter; it has earnt some very good publicity, where its mix of pictures and text, which are from Instagram comments have made it quite successful. Please see, ‘Everyday Africa’:

Thanks, I’ll check it out!


This module has come to an end. I have just packed up my prints and will send them off to the OCA this afternoon. It has been quite a journey and I have a nice sense of accomplishment and pride.

I had a look at the assessment results of Context and Narrative and have been thinking about my growth since then. Besides positive feedback, the report suggested the following:

‘I would like to see more detailed and critical reflection on your assignments
perhaps you should try to aim for a similar level of reflection as you managed when writing your 1000 word essay. This (or near to it) would allow you to really begin to know your own practice and would mean that your development would be further enhanced.’ (report assessment Context and Narrative)

Looking at my work and reflections I feel that I have improved throughout the module. There are so many (ethical and artistic) sides to photography and I tend to stay in the grey areas without really forcing myself to ponder on what I actually believe and work towards. The course itself and my tutor’s clear and direct suggestions pushed me to read and reflect a lot, and helped me to conceptualize my practice instead of just starting and see where I end up. I feel that I have pushed myself to express myself more through my work and push myself to photograph out of my comfort zone. Especially writing the critical essay forced me to channel  and communicate my ideas about photography and art in general. This was also very helpful.

Looking at the assignments and the rework, I am happy to see that they are a reflection of the areas I have been working on. There is a balance of portraits and more abstract photographs, narratives that are very personal, and the story of Cyrus, whose life could not be further apart than mine. I have experienced with lighting, struggled tremendously with the design of my books, experimented with self portraiture, used online platforms to present my work and have improved my Photoshop skills.

I believe that the outcome has reached the level of quality and creativity that is asked for and that I have provided an ample context from which the work was created. However, I am not there yet, I hope to work more on improving my editing skills so that I can experiment more with digital art. Besides that, now that I have been able to form opinions and ideas around photographing other people, I want to establish stronger practices that will make me feel more confident in going out and maybe find clients to work for.

On to the next module!



Assignment 5 – Tutor Report

Last Friday I had a Google Hangout with my tutor. Below is his report. I always find it very motivating to talk about my studies and assignments. It really helps in pushing myself to continue and take my work seriously. Besides that, our conversation was very helpful in knowing how to conclude this course and get ready for assessment. Below you will find the report in italics and my response in normal font.

Thanks Russell for your speedy reply and insightful comments!

Overall Comments

Your final submission, ‘The Tragic Demise of the Rulers of Oudh’, is very interesting, both in its personal connection and its historical context. Its topical interest is strong, as evidenced with the BBC news report on the Princes death. This submission has dramatically changed from your initial investigation into the child portraits and interviews; sometimes, making such a change in the development of a project can be a risk. However, through the document based investigation and your personal account, you have produced a very good assignment. As you are aware there are some design considerations to explore, which we discussed during the Hangout and can be found below.

That is good to hear. It was a big step to change the subject and I feel I need to do something with the material that I have of the children. Maybe I could continue with that project in a following course. I’ll work on the design issues we talked about and try to deliver a product that does justice to the intensity of the narrative.


You have invested a lot of time already into your initial investigation, which has been positive; the portraits you produced of the children are very good and the experimentation into the concept posters have been successful. Reading through your learning log, it is clear that you experienced a creative block; yet you have evidenced a positive and successful creative pathway. Your collage test, further supports this strong developmental approach.

I need to become aware of what I need to do to not get stuck or how to get out of the rut. Most of the time it’s my inner voice telling me that I will never be good enough and what am I thinking that I would become a photographer in the first place. This doesn’t help at all, so I need to work on how to change these negative feelings and thoughts into a positive move forward.

In a way, you have submitted two assignments, which both merit comment. The strength of your portraits are very good; the compositions are engaging and the connectivity to the sitters are positive, which evidence your interpersonal and thoughtful approach to this demographic. From the various shoots, the most successful portraits are as follows:

• Shiv playing at the piano with the religious icons above his head. • Somya standing with her legs crossed on the dirt track.
• Eva standing, smiling with her right shoulder angled forward.
• Lana standing with her right hand on her hip.
• Lana sitting on the grass looking away from the camera
• Sophie looking over her shoulder with the gentleman in the background

However, your actual Assignment 05 submission is the mixed media documentary of the last Rulers of Oudh. This is successful, you have explored historical documents, personal photographs and have pieced together an engaging document. As you are aware, there are some design considerations to address in terms of layout and the edit of the material. A main element that needs addressing, is the body of text. Your introduction is pivotal, this informs the reader of the connection you had with Prince Cyrus, so leave this in.

The other account written by Alex Ninian, is very interesting, but it is quite a bulk of text, which although adds context, perhaps overloads the reader. Consider omitting this text in favour of the interspersed narrative from the Princess’s writing; which supports the images and further contextualises them.

As we discussed, I will put these documents in an annex, so that the main focus will be on the Princess’ account, but the reader can access background information if it would wish to.

As discussed, it would be good to differentiate the found images and the shots you took; this can be done through photographing the original found images on a neutral background, or adding a very subtle drop-shadow. Although you can start to tell, which images are yours, the visual clue may work in strengthening the consideration of the text/image relationship. What you are aiming to achieve, is to elevate the found photographs from being two-dimensional records, to being artefacts that have an intrinsic physical value. Please see the comparative example below, where a subtle drop-shadow gives the photograph a three- dimensional value:

This technique is slightly evident within your layouts, where a couple of the letters/images have creases in them, which again alludes to them being a physical object. With the found images, the vertical triptych of Polaroids are the most successful; the placement of the matriarch at the top supports the account of her being strong and determined in her mission.

I think I should rephotograph the images anyway, when I photographed the ones that are in the book I didn’t use very good lighting. After that, I will add the drop shadow if it is not there yet. It does make a difference in showing what is my own work and what not, which will add value to the found photographs as historical objects.


As we discussed, in terms of layout, it is recommended as part of the rework to consider editing the following pages:
• 12, remove one of the interior shots and enlarge the other.
• 13, add one more similar image and arrange in a grid of four.
• 14, remove bottom right image and resize/align the exterior and dogs to match.
• 16, remove archway shot & top right text, resize/align the found images.

• 17, resize and align top of left image to match right.
• 18, remove small bottom right image and resize/align the before after shots.
• 20, remove right side text, align image of fridge.
• 21, add new page to only accommodate letter.

With the design and structure, it would be logical to include a ‘list of illustrations’ page, this would then clearly assign each image/letter to its respective owner.

All these changes will really help in strengthening the narrative of the the photo essay. I’ll work on it and then we can discuss the result before I have the book printed for assessment.

Learning Logs and or blogs:

You have evidenced your development well, however, the abrupt change of direction may be good to clarify in the opening introduction to your final assignment, when it is sent for formal assessment. Use an edited version of your ‘Change of Thought and Assignment’ blog post.

Good idea

You have reflected very well for this assignment; questioning whether or not to use the found material evidences good ethical judgment. Going by your account of your relationship with Cyrus coupled with how you have used the images, you have shown great respect; as long as the images are correctly documented and assigned, then ethically, their use is fair.

Suggested reading/viewing:

With regards to the layout/design of the book, it would benefit greatly from further design research into photography books. For example, the front page could look very dynamic if done in a similar style to the example in the top right of this picture:

Pointers for the next assignment:

We discussed about the presentation of your assignments; Assignment 01 will be the online interactive map, Assignments 02 & 03 will be archival inkjet prints, remember to try out different inkjet papers and keep them all to the same size. Assignment 04 will be a standard document print, test a page with 1.5 & 2.0 line spacing and see which one reads best. With Assignment 05, a book will be very fitting; so, explore the new edit and layout, then we can chat more about it for your Assignment 06 feedback.

I am very eager to get the work done and move on to a next course. Thanks for your support Russell!

Assignment 5 – 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.

The Tragic Demise of the Rulers of Oudh



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 strange lives and feelings. I struggled with the design of the book, but it really helped to use a template. I would like to learn more about principles of design and especially take the time to find my own taste and style.

I think I have shown my 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 booklet doesn’t do any justice to what has happened to the Royal Family of Oudh. 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 assignment I might look for help sooner if I get stuck again.

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 the 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.

However, in the preparation of this assignment I have experimented a lot, struggled through finding my voice and concept amidst all the materials I had gathered (also in my first attempt). I feel I need to be a bit more methodical and hope that this will get stronger with practice and sheer persistence.

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

Without having done the exercises in the reader and the 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 ethic of using this material that is not mine. I feel I let down Cyrus as a friend and not sure if I am the one to keep it and use it for my own studies. Am I treating the material with the respect Cyrus wished for? These are questions to think about and reflect on while using the material in other projects. I’ll go back to the ruins one more time to see if there are more documents that are worth saving.

Assignment 5 – The Rulers of Oudh – selection and layout

There is so much material to work with! To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning and didn’t know where to start. The initial idea was to make triptychs that showed the decay of the objects and how the connection with the Rulers of Oudh disintegrates over time. However, the more I read from Princes Sakina’s notes, I realized that I wanted to focus on the personalities and dynamics of the family members as well.

Through using the photos that had been given to me and that I had found in the ruin, I was able to construct much more of a narrative in which the visuals enforce the text and vise versa.

Below are my first trials of the triptychs. I soon realized that design is not my forte and bought a photo book template from This gave me just the push that I needed to continue and be motivated.

Cyrus try outs-2

Cyrus try outs-1

Here is my first trial, I added a newspaper clipping in order to put everything in context. I decided to use exactly the same font, punctuation and capitalization as the princess used in her notes. It gives more insight in her confused mind and shows which elements of her story are stressed.

1st Book

After the first trial I realized that the story needed more context and smaller narratives to gain a greater understanding of what had happened. I added a newspaper article of which I find that it describes the lives of the prince and princess in the forest very well and explains about the death of their mother in a clear and engrossing way.

I also felt I needed to add the story of my own relationship with Cyrus and how I came to know in and got hold of all the material. I have not made it too personal, because I still feel that I should have visited him more in his final months. I don’t own this story, nor want to claim to have had a special relationship with him. I could have been a much better friend, and I still find it hard that he died all alone.

2n Book

I wanted to remove some of the visual noise and thought the titel of the book would be visible enough in the photograph itself. So this was the next result:

3th Book

I have added an extra newspaper article that talks more about how they ended up at the Railway Station, and their trials and tribulations there. I also moved around other images and decided to bring more variety in the photographs.

4th Book

Back to adding a title, because I realize the front image is not strong enough to let the words pop out as a title. I have also added a written note of the princes, because it gives an idea of what her handwriting looked like and her confused way of thinking.

So this is the result, I am sure I can make more changes, but I am eager to hear feedback from my tutor first.

Final Book


Final thoughts and questions:

  • Should I write captions with the photographs so that it is clear which are mine? I think that if you read the story it is all quite obvious, but still… Maybe I should add a part with captions only?
  • Does the layout do justice to the story and does it bring across the heaviness of it, the struggles of the people involved, but also the craziness of the whole situation? Can people actually draw the conclusion that the mother was really stubborn and sort of ruined her kids lives? On the other hand, shouldn’t I leave the interpretation to the readers?
  • Was it good to add so much text?

Assignment 5 – The Rulers of Oudh – preparations

As you have read in my former post, I have changed the subject of my assignment. I have a collections of photographs from the same place and objects over a period of time and will present them together in such a way that it tells and underlines the unique and sad life story of Cyrus and his family.

Because there is quite a lot of documentation of Cyrus; old photographs, newspaper articles and letters, I have a wealth of angles to work from. I want the narrative to be wider than just the family story. Through looking at the photographs I want the viewer to become aware of the passing of time, the importance and meaning we put on object and status and what remains.

Because there has been quite a lot of attention from the press, I want to add two stories that I found, one online, one among the papers, that give a good sense of the events that defined their lives. To add my own personal experience, I will focus more on the relationship I had with Cyrus and how I got all the material.

Especially after reading Cyrus’ sister’s notes, I feel that it is important to keep the memory alive. Not so much because I am stuck on royalty, but more because it is such a dramatic example of how status and property can ruin peoples life. How dreams and grudges can block reality and eventually undermine who you are.

Cyrus, his mother and sister died lonely and poor. I really believe Cyrus could have been so much happier if his mother hadn’t been such a stubborn lady and hadn’t molded them into believing their status was the only thing to live for.

These are the kind of ideas I want to show through my own photographs and in the way I order them in the book. In the next post I will show the different steps I took and my though process along the way.