Saturday, 16 July 2011

PwDP Part one: Writing about photography overview

Part one: Writing about photography contains three projects and five exercises:
  • Writing descriptively
        Exercise: Describe a photograph
        Exercise: Write a caption
  • Writing analytically
        Exercise: Analyse a photograph
        Exercise: Research and analyse
  • Reading about photography
        Exercise: Analyse an essay

Project Writing Descriptively

Due to the nature of photography we tend to become more absorbed in the idea of taking a photograph more in the terms of it practicality and technicality. Occasionally it is more useful to take a step back and evalute the timeline between conception to the final product. In the process of completing my NCFE photography courses it was necessary to write a final synopsis of how, why and when images were taken so am familiar with the concept. Having said that because it is something previously undertaken I appreciate just how difficult it can be, it is easy to get bogged down with the focal length. aperture and exposure etc rather than the ideas, feelings and intention behind the shot. The other problem is for shots whch just 'work' and are happy accidents. Trying to then attribute a backstory is when you can fall into the track of spouting rubbish just for the sake of it...or as a discussion on the weareoca thread summed it up that's also known as 'marketing' ;o)

Exercise: Describe a photograph

Taking one of my own photographs I have to describe fully the timeline of shooting, comencing with the circumstances or background. Using at least 200 words the aim was to be complete and factual informing the reader about the decisions made leading up to the making of the picture.

Exercise: Write a caption

Using the same photograph as in the previous exercise I have to firstly write a 50-word caption about the subject of the photograph for a general audience and secondly write a 50-word caption purely about the photographical elements of my image , as if for a photographic magazine, describing things like the composition and movement within the frame.

Project Writing Analytically

Whatever the reason, for entertainment, pleasure, meeting a brief the underlying theme of this course is that photographs are produced for a purpose. It is important therefore that I can 'read' a photograph, look at them with an analytical eye and be able to ask answer what did the photographer set out to do? How was it attempted? Was it successful?

To begin this process it is recommended that I start by looking at my own images as I would have all the background information about them. Then to assist with the structure of this thought process a handy checklist is provided, things to consider are:

  • The genre
  • Intended use
  • Situation facing the photographer
  • Was it planned or unplanned
  • Technical details if important
  • Style or mannerism
  • The photographer's intent
  • Is there sufficient information available
Exercise: Analyse a photograph
For this exercise I had to choose one of my own images and subject it to this analysis based on the 10 points above writing approximately 500 words. Has this detailed analysis altered my opinion of the chosen photograph?

Exercise: Research and analyse

Given the choice of four iconic photographs Pikes Peak Park, Colorado Springs,Colorado 1970 Robert Adams, London Street 1951 Robert Frank, Shell-shocked Soldier,Hue 1968 Don McCullin and Afghan Girl 1984 Steve McCurry I then had to choose one of the images and perform the same exercise ensuring I stuck to fact rather than opinion and complete the analysis using 1000 words.

Project Reading About Photography

A well planned and thought through essay will be useful and follow a structure which develops an argument and uses good evidence to back it up. An essay may take many forms, be light-hearted or provocative.

It is always useful to read acknowledged essays whether you agree with their stance or not.

Exercise: Analyse an essay

I have been given a copy of John Berger's essay Understanding a Photograph written in 1972. After reading it through  several times I have to highlight areas or make notes on key points or anything I do not understand. I have to summarise in one line the point of each paragraph and answer some pertinent questions.


  1. Very interesting. In my opinion the essay section of the former version of PWDP was the bit most in need of work. The subjects were very broad and there were no preparatory exercises to get you into teh right frame of mind. It was tremendously difficult to write and I know that many people struggled and have spent months on it.

    I am quite used to writing and I found it a struggle to come up with an interesting theme and then organsie all the material. I will be revisiting it for a further edit before assessment. This revised version looks so much better. Look forward to seeing how you get on with it.

  2. It does look so much more interesting than the old course, but also challenging! I'm also wondering how I am going to get on ;o) We shall see together lol.

  3. I had no idea that PwDP had been rewriten! I don't what to feel, and of course I'm a bit disappointed. I'm finding this version challenging from what I've read on your posts so far but at the same time a lot more interesting.

  4. I think I was lucky Yiann, that I had a conversation just before completing and sending in assignment one about the course seeming to repeat a lot of DPP, this is because DPP was re-written. Downside is I am one of the first to work on it so not really any other blogs out there for reassurance ;o)

  5. Hi Jan, well I just sent in asst.1 and would not mind doing the new version. I sent an email to HO and got my own enquiry with different wording, I'm so annoyed that they didn't notify the students. I was told that it was released last week but they haven't even upload the new version PDF sample to the site, that the new course bears little resemblance, as if this particular point isn't important. Do you still have the same or most or some exercises as in the old version?