Tutor Reports for PwDP

Progressing with Digital Photography

NB PwDP assignments 1 and 2 were with a tutor who asked that his comments not be published, copies will be included with my submission but not on this blog.

PWDP Assignment 1

My original tutor did not want comments placed on-line therefore, respecting his wishes, they are confined to my submission documents. Having re-worked the assignment I did ask if my new tutor would mind taking a quick look as I was not confident about the first attempt. Feedback was positive which was really good to hear. Many thanks for taking time out at a really busy time of year, I really appreciate it :o)

Comments were:

I have had a quick look at the assignment one re-submission and thought these were a very interesting and diverse set of images shot over a variety of locations, at a variety of different times, covering many issues both personal and local to you etc. (I particularly liked the first shot of the flowers and bus and also the bus through rainy window and the last shot of the abstract colours)  I think I only took over as your tutor during assignment three, so didn't feedback on the first set .... But I've had a quick look at these as well and quite liked them also.

The main things as discussed is that you have responded very positively to the feedback offered and re-visited the work etc.  I liked the research you conducted into Paul Graham / John Davies  .... which is all very relevant as far as I am concerned.

PWDP Assignment 3

Overall Comments

Many thanks for submitting this assignment Jan, which included an interesting selection of imagery, which I thought worked really well together.  As you have been transferred over to me we do not have any outstanding issues to address from the last report, but I will include several practitioner recommendations for you to look at if you haven’t already done so.

I note from your assignment that you are very disciplined with including the technical data, but I think I’d like to encourage you to start using academic referencing within your annotation and writing if possible.  You may already be aware of this, but the reason why we cite ‘academic reference’ is to demonstrate you have engaged in wider reading of secondary sources IE: Books, Journals, Films, Websites etc.  Quoting from, or alluding to these sources to back up the points you wish to make, shows a sophistication of writing and expression, which is what is required at degree level study.  By referencing clearly, you can show which ideas are your own and which ideas you have borrowed from other sources [thus avoiding plagiarism].  By relating the work of others to your own, you establish a ‘Critical Position’.  The quality of these sources is always very important so forget Wikipedia !  These are just on-line encyclopedia entries by anybody with an interest and don’t hold any academic rigour, scrutiny or peer review.  Make sure you are looking at relevant sources and always include the full ‘Harvard’ reference in your bibliography [The same as entries in the Suggested Reading section].  This may sound a bit heavy, but you need to balance the level of practice to theory on a visual arts undergraduate programme of study – you can’t just get away with taking pictures alone unfortunately !

Feedback on assignment

As mentioned above, I really liked your output for this assignment and thought you demonstrated a clear, methodical and professional approach to organising a shoot for a commissioned piece.  You prepared well and did research the location prior to arrival, giving consideration to required equipment etc  … I would also perhaps liked to have read some further historic research into the pumping station, which then may have subsequently influenced what you decided to shoot.  I was really impressed to see that you returned for a second shoot to obtain the images you had pre-visualised.  This is really important and all too often ignored by many, who just settle for what they end up with on the day !  The idea of obtaining access to the venue when it is closed to the public, immediately gives you an advantage in terms of making some interesting images that will look very different to what most of the viewing public will have.  It will also mean that you don’t have other people taking photographs in the photographs you present. – which can be a little off putting if it has not been done deliberately or for a particular reason.

Your final layout worked really well in my opinion, including a wide selection of  images that really supported the text.  I liked both the detailed shots and the wider views with the image included below really catching my eye in terms of both scale and composition.  I am curious however as to why you have elected to remove the colour from this particular image and submit it as monochrome ?  I couldn't really find any justification for this and I felt it could have provided you with an opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding the colour versus monochrome debate.  This could be to do with removal of distractions or even to try and associate the image with a more historic context perhaps.

In terms of the photo story please consider the following prerequisite images - The four key images a picture editor will be looking for in a photo story / essay are as follows:

The Establishing Image - In order to place an event, activity or person within context of their environment, it is important to step back to get an overview.

For example, if your story is about a small coal mining community in a Welsh valley, you will need to get a shot of that valley in order to set the seen of the location.  This image is often referred to as an ‘Establishing Image’ but doesn't always necessarily have to be the first image in the sequence.  This image can often be taken from a high vantage point, thus setting the stage for the rest of the story.  It is obviously one of the most important images to get right as the success of what the entire story is trying to communicate can rest upon this one shot.

This shot should really not just be of a sign in front of a company declaring what the company do etc … try not to be too obvious.

The Action Image - This shot refers to a medium distance image capturing the action or interaction of the people or place that the story is about.  Many images fall short within this area, especially if there isn't an awful lot happening in the story !  The photographer should try and change the vantage point frequently for this image to be effective.  Too many images from the same vantage point can be considered visually repetitive and would probably result in the editor removing them from the story.

The Portrait Image - Portraits are really important in any story as people are generally interested in people and the viewer will want to identify with the key character or characters of a story.  Viewers will generally be drawn towards the portraits unless the action images are particularly exciting / bizarre.

The viewer will expect the photographer to have connected with the subjects in the story and the portrait image is a method of showing this connection. Environmental portraits differ from straight head and shoulder portraits in that the character is seen within the location of the story.

The Close up or Detail Image - The final category requires the photographer to identify a significant detail within the overall scene.  This detail is enlarged to both draw the viewer’s attention or to increase the amount of information the image offers.

The detail shot might offer the viewer the opportunity to read an inscription or clarify a small detail.  For example, if the story is about a crafts person that works with their hands, a good detail shot might show a close up of their actual hands, or a detail of an artefact they have made.  These shots are quite unique and help to tie a story together, thus avoiding image repetition.

Learning Logs/Critical essays

Your Blog is progressing very well in my opinion – It is being regularly updated and is very easy to navigate around.  I was very impressed with the different number of exhibitions / shows / talks you have managed to attend.  Having a link to this and being able to review what you have seen all adds academic weight to your final submission for summative assessment. Please keep up this good work !

Suggested reading/viewing

Londei, J.2007.Shutting Up Shop:The Decline of The Traditional Small Shop. Dewi Lewis Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1904587460

Germain, J.2005.For Every Minute You Are Angry You Lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness.1st Ed.Gottingen,Steidl.
ISBN-3: 86521-077-5

Wood, T.1998.All Zones Off Peak.1st Ed.Dewi Lewis Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1899235865

Soth, A.2008.Sleeping By The Mississippi.3rd Edition.Gottingen,Steidl.
ISBN-13: 978-3865217530

Try to conduct research into the above practitioners, all of which are very worthy of your attention, if you haven't stumbled across them already.  Try to look very closely at this photographic work and read about ‘WHY’ these photographers have tried to achieve what they have done as opposed to ‘HOW’.  It is only from this standpoint that you can define your own practice in relation to these others.

The next assignment is the 2000 word Critical Review – You will need to get in touch here to discuss your possible options.

It is also a good idea to have this proof read prior to sending, which everybody must do when writing academically.  You can often get too close to the text and make assumptions that others with fresh eyes won’t understand …. So it is always better to try and iron these out in the first instance prior to submission.

Again, I hope all this helps Jan and I'm looking forward to seeing your assignment four.

     J. Germain      Alec Soth

   Tom Wood

Date  30/07/2013
Next assignment due Sept 2013

PWDP Assignment 4

Overall Comments

Thanks for submitting your ‘Critical Review’ Jan, which I thought offered an interesting debate from start to finish, including some great quotes and references in support of your argument.

The key issues I mentioned within my last feedback report were as follows:

  • Start to cite academic reference within all written work submitted if possible.
  • Further consider the monochrome versus colour debate.
  • Consider the four photographic elements to a photostory including the establishing / portrait / detail / action images.
  • Look at the work of Londei / Germain / Wood / Soth
  • Further develop your critical position by considering ‘why’ as opposed to just ‘how’.
  • Ensure you proofread all written work prior to submission.

I think you have responded very well to feedback offered to date Jan and have noticed your blog reflects much of this advice now – which is excellent to see.

Feedback on assignment

Please see the detailed specific feedback included in your PDF.doc, which has been sent back along with this report.
Learning Logs/Critical essays

This is still progressing very well indeed and has a wealth of photographic practitioners which you have looked at as well as exhibitions visited…. All providing strength to the research conducted to date.

Suggested reading/viewing

I’m looking forward to your last assignment now Jan [Covering an Event] and perhaps a chat to discuss the specific assessment submission requirements nearer the time.  Let me know what you have in mind for Assignment 5 anyway via email if possible.

Date 31/10/2013
Next assignment due Jan 2014

PWDP Assignment 5

Overall Comments

Many thanks for submitting this final assignment Jan.

The key issues I mentioned within my last feedback report were as follows:

Various observations in relation to the written ‘Critical Review’
Update blog with any recent posts / gallery visits / exhibitions

You have responded very well to all feedback offered to date, which is great to see Jan.  Remember the allocation of marks for the assessment is based upon the following:

Demonstration of Technical / Visual Skills                          35%
Materials / techniques / observational skills / visual awareness / design & compositional skill

Quality of Outcome                                  20%
Content / application of knowledge / coherent presentation of work

Demonstration of Creativity                          25%
Imagination / experimentation / invention

Context                                  20%
Reflection / research IE: Learning Logs

Feedback on assignment

I thought this was a strong submission and was a good choice of event from the outset.  I liked the fact that you had the option of numerous related activities attached to the event in order to explore also, which was sensible as many have hung their hat on one short and quick presentation - often provided disappointing results.  The 2013 Rochester Xmas Festival provided you with numerous venues and performances within the framework of an event.  I also liked the fact that you had selected a worthy practitioner with which to inform the work being proposed.  The ‘Mantra’ you listed in your research was really useful and will certainly have contributed to the success of the imagery captured.

The submission was comprehensive and included some very strong technical considerations, which I think you will have learnt a lot from, especially the lighting considerations.  I was also impressed with your marketing aspect included, which is something often overlooked at this stage of an undergraduate qualification.  It was good to read the comments offered and even if you haven’t secured a financial reward from this particular activity, people will recognize your name with a quality product, which at this stage is very important.

As you well know there is so much more to making a great image than just pressing the exposure button !  I’d like you to have a think about this process detailed below for a minute or two:


The ‘capture’ in red is the action of taking the picture itself …. Now look at all the other stages we go through both before and after this stage which are so important also.  Within the ‘PLAN’ stage, we might have in our minds eye a pre-visualised idea about what kind of imagery we are looking for.  In the ‘RESEARCH’ stage, we might be thinking about the work of individual practitioners that may inform the way in which we go about making the work. (In your case here …. Ray-Jones)  Within the ‘EQUIPMENT’ stage, we must spend time on technical consideration such as cameras and accessories and this includes considering locations, permissions, travel etc.  All this before we even pick up a camera and arrive at the ‘CAPTURE’ stage, which will force us to consider the medium [analogue / digital] and composition / exposure / focus etc.  We then THINK and capture …. When we finally have the images, we must first of all dispose of the shots that do not meet the criteria – we go through a ‘1st EDIT’ .. any out of focus or badly exposed are the first to go here ! Next we become more selective and try to use only the shots that add to the theme within the ‘2nd EDIT’ – it is at this stage that we apply any post-production to the work wherever necessary.  Finally we move to the stage of creating a tangible object with a front and a back …. called a photograph ! Many photographers these days are excluding this final and most important stage … what is the point of going through all the above if you then allow your efforts to languish in binary algorithms on a hard drive somewhere !!!

I think it is important to always try to conclude with a print !  Please feel free to share any thoughts you may have on this via your blog. (I did read your notes on the possibility of a Silverprint Portfolio / Archival box, which I would strongly recommend)

You have successfully captured a series of images here, within both first and second selects, which not only convey the essence of this festival but also get close to the action – which I think will be of benefit to you further down the line.  There was clear evidence of confidence in your ability to engage within the event, with all the shots showing technical competence, in terms of both focus / composition / exposure etc.  I also thought that some of the portraits within the 2nd select of the Seven Dials Rapscallions worked particularly well, but would still urge you to be very mindful of background when making any compositions.  Background can always add context.

Learning Logs/Critical essays

The blog works very well indeed and contains some great research into practitioners and critical thinking surrounding the discipline.  It is very easy to navigate, which should score you points with the assessors, as they will be able to find evidence very quickly. It’s also crammed full of both practice and research which demonstrates a clear dedication to the subject.

Suggested reading/viewing

All 5 assignments now submitted.

It might be an idea to give me a quick call on my mobile to discuss the actual submission for assessment. Drop me an email to arrange this.

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