Assignment 2 – Photographing the unseen

This post, along with prints sent to my tutor is my submission for Assignment 2 – Photographing the unseen.

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


The unseen subject chosen for this assignment is Stress. Stress is both a physiological and psychological reaction to given circumstances. We have all suffered stress to some degree and can relate to the subsequent feelings and states of mind that stress causes, or which contribute to our levels of stress.

You will note from my previous posts that I had a great deal of difficulty generating ideas for a subject for this assignment. Stress is not something I can claim to be an expert in. I have a high tolerance for it, but have suffered from it. What I remember most about being under stress is the fact that I kept it hidden. We (people) have a tendency to just ‘get on with it’ and hide our stress from our bosses and colleagues. It is at home where the effects and symptoms tend to become visible and play themselves out – something which I wanted to convey in this assignment.

In small amounts, some stress can be a positive thing. It can focus the mind and improve productivity, but when a Challenge becomes a Threat, and circumstances seem to be beyond our control, stress levels can increase to a point where they are detrimental to both our physical and mental health. It is these more serious aspects of stress that I have tried to portray by focusing on the elements and feelings that a sufferer would go through, from something as simple as Denial, to the more extreme end of the scale i.e Depression. I have aimed to create images with sufficient meaning and content to stand alone, but which when viewed together combine to give the viewer a greater sense of understanding. The series, although not a photo essay, has a narrative theme and is intended to be viewed in a linear fashion as displayed below.

Stress Unseen:

Image 1


Image 2

Image 3

Anger & Despair

Image 4


Image 5

Bottling it up

Image 6

Image 7

A self assessment for this assignment can be found here.

Assignment 2 – Self Assessment

This post forms the Self Assessment to accompany Assignment 2 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

This assignment has been shot entirely indoors, requiring the use of tripods, long exposures and multiple off camera flashes. To achieve some effects that are not possible in-camera, Manipulation has occurred in 3 of the images. Combined, these are a demonstration of Technical Skills. The last research post in which I exhibit the sketches and the development of each image’s framing and composition is a demonstration of visual skills. The composition, lighting and detail in each final image is also a demonstration of visual skills, as is the visual consistency across the set. I think I’ve done quite well in this area, and have put both my technical and visual skills to good use. In the image Denial, The focus is a little soft in the subjects face yet is sharp on the Final Demand. In hindsight, a smaller aperture should have been used and the focal point changed slightly. As each image is essentially a self portrait, focusing was achieved using the EOS Remote application, which focuses using Live View on a mobile phone screen. This took a lot of trial and error to get right and consequently a number of Takes took place for each image.

2. Quality of Outcome

I believe that my images meet the assignment brief and I’m pleased with the outcome, but I fear that my tutor will believe I’ve been too literal in my interpretation with not enough use of metaphor. In a bid to take more risk, I was quite bold in what I wanted to acheive, and am glad that I did so. I have pushed myself with these images, creatively and technically. Given that Part 2 of this course is about Narrative, I believe that each image has its own narrative which is then emphasised as a set. The prints for my last assignment never made it to my tutor, so these ones will be the first prints that I’ve had assessed, so I look forward to her comments on these and identifying the areas for development.

3. Demonstration of Creativity

I would hope that the images themselves are a demonstration of creativity in their content, style and the idea. The development of each image and the assignment as a whole back this up. By highlighting the key inspirations through my research and then adapting and developing ideas for myself, I have shown a creative process and workflow.

4. Context

As for all of my other assignments, the context is here in my learning log with reflection, research and critical thinking all documented. This assignment has taken me an usually long time due to factors outside of my control (until now I’d completed an assignment every 3-4 months). Because of this, I feel that my learning log has been lacking in constructive input and that I’ve perhaps not documented my approach to this assignment as thoroughly as I have others.

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?

The posts detailing the development of this assignment demonstrate the ability to translate ideas into imagery through analysis of what I want to achieve and how I will achieve it. This is supported by sketches showing the initial idea and how the image develops. My emerging critical awareness is demonstrated by applying what I’ve learnt and read to the creative process.

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.

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

I have looked at both historical and contemporary images and their authors as part of my research for this assignment. I am beginning to see how historical practice has influenced contemporary practice and can identify where photography theory has played a part in the development of contemporary photography, particularly in relation to topics such as Semiotics, and how we read images. This is documented in the research posts and in the discussions of books on the essential reading list.

Moving Forward

1. Strengths and Weaknesses

At the moment, my biggest weakness is a lack of engagement with the OCA student community, whether that be on study visits or in forums and this is purely due to time constraints. I feel that I could gain a lot from other students in terms of critical debate which would develop my understanding. I hope to get on a study visit soon as I feel that I learnt a lot from the last one. I still see my strengths being my perseverance, patience, enthusiasm and willingness to experiment/learn.

2. What would I do differently?

The answer to this depends on the feedback I get from my tutor. I want to say that I’d have played it safe and used more metaphor in the assignment to communicate my ideas rather than bold staged scenes. But if the risk pays off, then there wouldn’t be much I’d change. Lets wait and see what the Tutor Report says.

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

The main thing that I’ve learnt is that the use of sketches can be invaluable in the development of ideas. By shooting during the ideas stages, it’s easy to keep a record of developments and to see where improvements can be made.