Assignment 2 – Feedback and reflection

Yesterday I received my Tutor Feedback for Assignment 2. Having had time to  digest it and to clarify certain points, I have cut and paste it below, along with my reflective thoughts in red. Overall, I have found this feedback to be very honest and constructive, despite my initial reaction which was a mixture of disappointment and defensiveness. Like most, I am my own worst critic, yet I was quite content with the work that I produced for this assignment. On reflection, I largely agree with my tutors suggested areas for improvement and I will make efforts to bear her feedback in mind as I progress through the course.

Formative feedback

Student name Adam Newsome Student number 512403
Course/Unit CN Assignment number 2
Type of tutorial (written)  

Overall Comments

Thanks Adam for sending me your prints and the assignment. The prints were well presented in a consistent manner of presentation and your blog is in good order.  Thank you! Overall I thought the subject ‘Stress’ was an interesting response to the brief of photographing the unseen and showed evidence of you working through your ideas methodically and with a certain degree of success. I think there were points when the images were too literal and a little laboured but the assignment shows an encouraging amount of thoughtfulness and commitment as well as technical ability.

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.

I find that one of the biggest problems with distance learning is the lack of verbal communication between student and tutor. The ‘Overall Comments’ could be construed in a number of ways without tone of voice or body language to reinforce the points. My previous tutor would use this space to elaborate in a general manner, whereas my current tutor is very brief. Given that the prints I sent were the first that I’ve ever had assessed, there is no mention about the print quality, sharpening, colour, brightness etc or how they compare to the online images in my blog which is a little disappointing. I guess that for my next assignment I should just do the same again?

The phrase “with a certain degree of success” had me worried and feeling reluctant to read any further. This to me suggests that the assignment is largely unsuccessful. Had my tutor wanted to suggest otherwise, she would have perhaps written “largely successful” or “with a good degree of success“. I can accept that it may be largely unsuccessful, but I’d prefer to be told straight. The comment is rounded off with a positive remark about “thoughtfulness” and “commitment” which is reassuring given the time and effort that was spent on the project. The remark about “technical ability” is designed to give me a boost but is really a bit of a cop-out, given that this is not a technical course, but a conceptual and creative one. So What? Well, I will need to examine where the project is unsuccessful. This is likely to be the images that are too literal, or which stray too far from the brief, and try to understand what it is that doesn’t quite work.

The final comment in this section is a pre-written paragraph taken from the student handbook, and designed to give students a feel for how they are performing in regards to Assessment. There are 4 of these comments on a sliding scale of best (you’ll probably pass) to worst (you’ll probably fail). Again, this had me a little worried because at first glance it appears to be the ‘best’ comment in the set, until you get to the end, where the words “I suggest that you are likely to be successful at assessment”, have been replaced by the words “I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment”, which are taken from the ‘second best comment’, minus the phrase “provided you work to address the points raised in this feedback”. So, this would appear to be an amalgamation of 2 standardised responses which sends me mixed messages. I emailed my tutor for some clarification and had the following response: “It simply means that I think you will be able to pass at assessment as it stands. I think the work would benefit from a rework but you don’t need to redo the whole thing – these were just pointers for improvement“. This has put me at ease somewhat, and I must express my gratitude for her getting back to me so soon.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work

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

Your choice of subject is very good – well done. I think it is interesting to look visually at the impact of stress on the home environment and I’m sure many could relate to these images. I wonder if you took it a bit far though! I think the more subtle images of the stresses of home life were enough without needing the knife in the bath shot. For me this one, although of course it could be a believable scenario and unfortunately one which does occur, was a bit too extreme. Often it is the little details, like having a cigarette after years, or a flicker of an eye, that tell so much about our inner state of mind.

I have an inclination to agree. I think that subtler images may actually have more effect and would also be less literal, fitting the assignment brief better. This comment has gotten me thinking about Wall’s image ‘Mimic’ in which it is a micro gesture that tells the storyThe final photograph is possibly a bit extreme for this project, but I like it as a standalone image.  I will bear subtlety in mind if I decide to re-work some of the assignment, and will certainly be conscious of it in future. I think that I may have let my desire to create ‘interesting’ photographs cloud my creative judgement in this respect.

My favourite image is the one at night as insomnia is a strong symptom of stress. I liked the darkness of the image and thought it was subtly produced. Perhaps you could have enacted other symptoms or researched them on the NHS website for example. Actually some of these images look like they could be on brochures in doctors offices and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. The technical standard is high but some of them feel too overacted. I like the idea of staging your own ‘dramas’ and I particularly enjoy that style of photography but try, if you choose to do this in future, to make them look more realistic. I think it needs to be more subtle. I am also not sure about the blurring head by the computer – this is because it seems out of keeping with the rest of the set. As a set I think they hold together well in general with a consistent the[m]e and narrative flow but, as you say, a lack of repetition which is encouraging.

Overall, this is very constructive, but disconcertingly, my tutors favourite image was the image that I initially liked the least. I guess it just goes to show that everyone’s taste is different, but given that my tutor will have forgotten more about Art than I can ever hope to grasp, I will trust her judgement over mine. I DID do reasearch on the NHS and other websites which is documented in my research posts. I probably shouldn’t be pleased about the ‘brochure‘ comment, but deep down it means that they’re technically and aesthetically good. Creatively, and in the context of this assignment, not so. The fact that it could be on a brochure means that it is far too literal. In order to really portray what can’t be seen, a metaphor is needed. I’m not going to take the comments about the overacting to heart. I’m a photographer, not an actor. I don’t have the luxury of ‘classmates’ who could help me out and model for me, and this is the first time that I’ve included myself in any of my work. I will take the point on board because it may be pertinent to Assignment 3.  I get the point about the ‘blurring head’ image. It is the only one of its type using double exposure, and therefore it disrupts the flow, but I find that it adds an element of interest and depth to this image that a ‘straight’ photograph wouldn’t.

Your mirror shot, although a bit literal, was executed well.

Perhaps you could tone down the obviousness of the drinking shot for example by having a wider scene – showing the character in context and further away from the lens might give more of a sense of a film still look. This is something you could develop further in other work as I think you show potential here. The development of narrative is a high point of this submission.

I hadn’t considered the ‘film still’ look, but then I’m not sure it has a place in a project that is about photographing the unseen. It’s definitely an interesting avenue to explore though. As for the wider shot, it was a consideration, but given that my kitchen was my studio, it didn’t really seem viable. I was also worried about having too many distracting elements in the frame. One of the things that I learnt on the last course (Art of Photography) is that I create better images when I keep the composition simple. Maybe this is an area where I need to take more risk?

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context

Your research is very thorough and consistent. Great to see you go through the exercises and go into depth in your reflections. Keep it up! It’s good to see you adapt the exercises to suit you – li[k]e instead of using a poem in the traditional sense you responded with something uniquely pertinent to you – good.

Remember to keep your analysis critical and reflective and less prosaic.

Have you done much extra curricular reading or seen any exhibitions recently? Don’t forget to write reflections about things you are engaging with beyond the course notes too. Assessors particularly like this!

I’m glad my work between Assignments is being looked, and it would appear that my tutor is pleased with the work that I’m producing for the exercises. I had to look up the word “prosaic“:

Adj – Not challenging, Adj – Lacking wit or imagination, Adj – not fanciful or imaginative.

I guess this means that my analysis has been un-challenging? I will try to address this, but will always be limited by my knowledge and understanding of Art. I’m a practical person, and will always argue that Photography is a practical skill, supported by technical and creative theory. This course is about Art, supported by photography. I can read Barthes and Sontag all day long. That doesn’t mean that I’ll understand it and be able to analyse it critically using academic language. What I can do however is try. 

YES – I have done lots of reading. The reading from the Reading List is recorded in my log. Perhaps I should also document my reflections on journal articles and articles that I find regularly on the web. I haven’t been able to get to many exhibitions or study visits, in fact I’ve only been to one exhibition during this course, but it is documented in my log. I will make efforts to see more exhibitions, but again, OCA tutors need to understand their student audience. Many of us work full-time, with families, and are doing this on top.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Jeff Wall – staged tableaux scenes based on real life Vs Gregory Crewdson – staged tableaux scenes which look very filmic

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled film stills would be a good reference for you.

Note how realistic they look – perhaps write a reflection on the above photographers and relate it to how you could develop this style in future.

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Be creative and play with different options before choosing one form of self portraiture that you feel best suits your expression style.
  • Write critically about the other photographers you are looking at and tell us what you learn from them and what you reject. – i.e. how do they influence your work.
  • Go off piste – try to get to a gallery or a study visit.

Noted. Will do.

Tutor name Sharon Boothroyd
Date 10.09.15
Next assignment due 10.11.15 approx.

My huge thanks to Sharon for her time and effort in providing this Feedback.

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