Friday, 11 May 2012

Assignment One – feedback & thoughts

I’ve had some positive feedback from my tutor on the first assignment this week, plus some pointers for improvements.  The key comments that pleased me were:

·         I seem to have successfully conveyed the atmosphere of the place.

·         My shot of the pig farm is seen as particularly strong (which sounds like a piece of irony in itself!); composed in a traditional landscape style; feels deliberately ironic; like a landscape painting or a photograph in a pictorial style.  That’s good; I want to present the ordinary and mundane in a manner that makes the viewer sit up and take notice & I quite like the notion of the ‘sublime’ pig farm.

·         My blog seems to be working well.

·         And my images are close to his own interests – which pleases me because it makes me confident that they will be viewed in an interested but critical fashion.

There are of course some further suggestions for improvement and development.

·         The series explores different strands and perhaps I could have focused more specifically on one.  Actually, in many ways, this series is more focused than the last time I put together a series on the local environs.  I have followed highly specific themes in the past e.g. ‘Stone’ for one of the Landscape assignments.  Essentially, the message is not to compromise my own interests for the sake of the brief, which is good, and consistent with what has been coming across from OCA.

·         The feeling is that some of my shots of stonework don’t add much to the series – though a recognition that I have used detail shots to provide some rhythm to the narrative.  It’s actually hard to make any images around here without stonework; it dominates, and that’s why it is so prevalent in my series.  He refers to the feeling of claustrophobia, and that is linked to this theme as well.  I can see how it might feel ‘over done’ but I also know how stone and stone walls dominate this landscape, whatever the scale.  My own tendency to focus on it is, I guess, a kind of emotional reaction; and there is also, perhaps, some metaphorical link I could make ... if I could just find it!!  Perhaps my response to this point, and to the previous one about focus, should be to photograph even more stonework ... push it ... explore it ... obsess with it ... and see what I discover ... about myself??  (Get ready, readers, to be bored out of your tree with stone! Stoned, even?)

·         The last shot in the series (the layers of stone walls), interestingly, is ‘pretty and has a decorative quality but lacks critical edge’.  That is a particularly interesting reaction.  I quite liked that shot and didn’t find it pretty; shot in an attractive light, perhaps, but for me, it said hard and gritty, a metaphor for the layers of history that are laid across the land around here ... and it also felt like a kind of barrier, a stop, a dead end for the narrative.  I don’t mind that it came across differently to him; we put our images out there and viewers will read them as they will; but the very different reading of this one is certainly interesting.

There were a few other useful suggestions about, for example, incorporating a ‘contact sheet’ of all images from a shoot into this blog; and perhaps taking another look at this collection to make a more personal selection (back to the focus and concentration on a theme).

He also encourages the use of a tripod, which I did quite a lot when completing the Landscape module and, latterly, for portraits in People & Place.  I think I quite enjoyed the freedom of handheld on this assignment.  The key point being made here, I recognise, is that I shot quite a lot in relatively poor light & ISO100, which has meant that several of the original images were somewhat underexposed.  I’ve been able to process them OK (Oh yes, one more positive there ... ‘processing seems to be fine’, which is a great relief.  I’m getting there.); but getting a more ‘accurate’ initial exposure with the tripod is perhaps preferable.  That said, I think I’ve felt more personally involved, if that makes sense, wandering the local lanes, unencumbered with too much equipment.

So – encouraged by the feedback; have noted some points for further thought; now time to move on.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Assignment One Submission

I have completed the shooting, processing and notes for Assignment One and submitted them to my tutor today.  The following includes extracts from the notes submitted plus a few other comments and the selection submitted.

The images have been created over a two month period from 25th February 2012 to 24th April 2012.  All are taken within approximately ten minutes walk of my home, in keeping with the assignment title ‘Your own neighbourhood’.  The outings have all taken place between around 10am and 17.30pm, and I have deliberately worked in varying light – dull/overcast and brighter sunlight – though in the latter case I have not worked in the middle part of the day when contrasts can be very harsh

I’ve done the submission a shared Dropbox folder, the first time I’ve used that approach (seems appropriate for this course!).  I’ve also gone a bit overboard on the submissions, I suspect, uploading TIFFS and High Quality JPEGS.  I shot over a hundres images in total, at about 40 different ‘locations’; but from that I pulled out 35 images for a ‘long-list’.  In line with earlier comments on here about this assignment,  I have tried to allow the personal, emotional reaction to motivate my original creation of images and to inform the selection of these 35 ‘best’ outcomes.  There is some variety of style in the 35 – again, a deliberate attempt to not restrict myself.

However, when making the final selection from the 35, I have sought to achieve greater consistency, and several images didn’t make it for that reason.  There are some obvious themes, such as the stone and the moss; but also, perhaps, ideas about history, brokenness, makeshift, decay, man & nature.  I think some images might be reminiscent of the landscape work of Jem Southam, which has always interested me, but they also relate to the George Shaw’s paintings that I discussed earlier. There is a deliberate order to the images, based loosely on three ideas – a degree of narrative progression; a degree of light progression (not entirely consistent, but present nonetheless); and an element of rhythm in the orientation (portrait/landscape).

I decided against the use of text.  First and foremost, I didn’t feel comfortable with the quality of the words that I had come up with in the earlier post on here – a bit too much like greetings cards, as I said at the time.  With a lot more work and thought, the idea could work, but it seems excessive to pursue it further on this assignment, so I have worked with a more straightforward photographic sequence.  Here are the images.

Overall, I am pleased with the outcome and satisfied that it does represent a personal but interesting and accurate reflection on the immediate neighbourhood in which I live.  Of course, if I had set out to document the character of the area in its broadest sense, then it would have been a different set of images, with more people and events, for example; but I see stone, dilapidation, history, ruggedness, absurdity, survival, adaptation, and that is what I have tried to represent.  Man is present in every one of these images, even though there isn’t a single person actually shown.
I still have plenty to learn from the technical point of view and some images might benefit from further processing and/or may have been done better at capture.  Perhaps fifteen is a lot of images to submit and I should have edited further.  I did, actually, but came back to the fifteen that seemed to tell a more thorough story. So, generally, a satisfactory outcome but there is scope for criticism in the detail.