Assignment 1 – Two sides of the story

This post, along with colour prints sent to my tutor, is my submission for Context and Narrative Assignment 1 – Two sides of the story.

The planning and research for this assignment, along with the assignment brief can be found here.

For this project I set out to create two sets of documentary images that inform the viewer, by documenting a sense of place. Each set of photographs is designed to show a different side of this place, leaving the viewer to decide for themselves which is the “real” version of the truth. The place in question is the Flitch Way, a bridleway/footpath that stretches from Bishops Stortford to Braintree, along a former railway line. The route is designated a Country Park and is managed by Essex County Council and a charitable organisation, the Friends of the Flitch Way.

In order to achieve the aim, I embraced my own subjective views of this route. Having gotten to know the subject well, I identified a single stretch of approximately 4 miles, from Great Dunmow to Rayne, in which to capture all of images. I was keen to confine the subject, for the sake of Integrity. It would have been far too easy to create conflicting stories with 16 miles of landscape to play with. Also, the stretch in question is close to my home, and is therefore closer to my heart.

I have attempted to create photographs that are documents in terms of their believability and accuracy, and that are aesthetically pleasing to look at and so will hold the viewers gaze and invite them to read into the images. But I’ve also tried to make sets that are polar opposites in terms of content. To do this, I have used available light and weather conditions to my advantage in order to create mood and connote meaning.

This is the Flitch Way……

No, this is the Flitch Way……

A self assessment for this assignment can be found here.


Assignment 1 – Self Assessment

This post forms the Self Assessment to accompany Assignment 1 and is broken down into 3 parts:

1. Performance against the Assessment Criteria.

2. Performance against the Course Outcomes.

3. Moving forward.

The Assessment Criteria

1. Demonstration of Technical & Visual Skills

Because of the candid nature of the assignment, and the issues regarding safety and being inconspicuous in certain areas, all the images were shot handheld, and without the use of flash. I was careful to use natural light when it was best suited to the subject of the image I was taking, combined with some under or over exposure to create a feel or to saturate/de-saturate colours as necessary. Where photo’s were taken in low-light, a higher ISO was used to maintain the desired aperture and depth of field, but in retrospect, the use of a tripod may have been better suited to some images. The resulting noise has been managed in post processing, where some exposure, contrast and saturation adjustments have also been made. Observational skills have been utilised to identify scenes and to frame images, whilst the elements of design have been employed in composition to lead a viewers eye around that frame, or to create dynamism. One area I didn’t experiment with was the aesthetic of on-camera flash, which may have added some edginess to the second set of images. I will remember this for future experimentation.

2. Quality of Outcome

The final product meets the assignment brief, but not all of the images necessarily have the look of contemporary documentary photography. The brief says to be “experimental”, which I have tried to be. The content shows an application of what has been learnt so far in the course in terms of documentary, reportage, photojournalism and art photography, by amalgamating elements associated with each discipline into the images. The work is presented in a coherent manner in my log, with each set presented in its own gallery, representing a side of the story. I considered presenting the images in pairs, with 1 from each set, contradicting the other, but felt that this did not have the desired effect. I have submitted my images for printing, and look forward to seeing how they look on paper (This will be my first printed work) and learning from the physical prints, and my tutors feedback on them. My thoughts and planning for this assignment have been loosely documented in my log, but the majority of the projects development has gone on in my head, and could perhaps of been better documented in order to show how my thoughts have been conceptualised and to communicate my ideas.

3. Demonstration of Creativity

I took 498 photographs for this assignment, which was a nightmare to whittle down. This is because I like to experiment, not only with settings/composition, but also light and time of day. I took some inspiration from local media images, the Friends of the Flitch Way website and the Flitch Way brochure, but used my own creativity to create images that I felt best document that sense of place. Although I really enjoyed this assignment and felt enthused about the subject, I have found it hard to stamp my own creative voice on the images because the context is fixed. That is to say, that there is an expectation of what “documentary” images look like if they are to be believable, and creating images in this style shows little individuality or creativity. That is why, despite my better judgement, I stuck with my DSLR, and opted to add some subjectivity to the images, rather than opt for the phone camera and snapshot aesthetic.

4. Context

The context is here in my learning log, with reflection, research and critical thinking all documented, although I feel I should spend more time putting thoughts into words, rather than keeping them in my head. On receiving feedback from my tutor, I will document my reflection in my log and will re-work elements of the assignment as necessary.

The Course Outcomes

1. How have I demonstrated a practical and conceptual understanding of the appropriate use of techniques in creating my images?

The conceptual understanding has been demonstrated in the exercises leading up to this assignment, where I have discussed the use of such techniques. In my assignment planning, I have detailed how I may be able to use such techniques to achieve a desired effect. The images produced demonstrate the practical understanding and appropriate use of these techniques.

2. How have I demonstrated an emerging critical awareness and ability to translate ideas into imagery?

More work needs to be done here. I am content that I can demonstrate a critical awareness, to both my own images and those of others based on their context. For this assignment, I regularly reviewed my images in a critical manner in order to improve upon them, but I have not documented this with examples. I will seek to improve this in future assignments. I have however demonstrated an ability to translate ideas into imagery through the planning posts in my log.

3. How did I conduct research, development and production in response to the themes raised in this course?

Much of the research that I have conducted has been directed by the course material as exercises. On top of this, I have been making my way through the essential reading list which is documented in this log. For this assignment, my research has been web based, but has also been in the form of practice as research and through informal conversation with stakeholders of a project.

4. How have I shown a critical understanding of contemporary imagery in relation to historical practice and theory?

I’m not sure. Perhaps my tutor can help me out here? I see and critically view contemporary photography all of the time, it surrounds us in this image saturated age. I also see and read about historical practice during my course study and it interests me no end. The issue that I have is that I don’t understand the former in relation to the latter, and I don’t know why I would? Theory informs practice, and lessons learnt throughout the history of photography now inform the way we create images today, but for me, that is where the tenuous link between contemporary and historical theory and practice ends. Theres are so many images created and published everyday, that I feel we no longer have to look to history or the “masters of photography” for inspiration.

Moving Forward

1. Strengths and Weaknesses

I see my strengths being my perseverance, patience, enthusiasm and willingness to experiment/learn. If only they were all that was required to make a good photographer! My weaknesses lie in realms of Critical Understanding. I have bags of objectivity, and an ability to understand critical debates and even formulate my own arguments and opinions from these, but there’s a lot of it that I just don’t get. Where a critic sees one thing, I often see something completely different.

2. What would I do differently?

Time permitting, I’d have experimented with the use on-camera flash. I’d have used a tripod for certain images, and may have experimented with a point and shoot camera. I would also have liked to experiment with another subject, but time is never on my side.

3. What have I learned which I’ll take forward?

I’ll hold off on answering this one for now, but will re-visit it once I receive feedback from my tutor.