Tag Archives: feedback

Response to tutor’s comments on Assignment 3

My tutor was away for the whole of August, so I have only recently got the feedback on Assignment 3. It wasn’t as poor as I was expecting, for which I am thankful, but there are definitely some changes which will have to be made before it goes for assessment. Here is a link to the full feedback: 3.HollyWoodward. Going through it in detail, my tutor’s comments are in italics and my responses in plain type.

Overall comments

Overall you have submitted a sound assignment and provided really strong reflective research. Your critical engagement and subsequent analysis has provided the work with depth. The final images do require further interrogation as there is a variant within your composition and this affects the narrative. A little more consideration at the time of shooting and editing would help. I think though that it is a project that as you suggest you should continue with. You raise some interesting points about the role of the female artist and thus supply an interesting foundation for the project.

Good news that the concept was ok, and my tutor was clearly pleased with my background research and my contextualisation in terms of the changing role of the female artist. I agree with his suggestion that some more work is needed on the images, as I outlined in my own reflection on the project. It would have been helpful if I had had a clearer idea before I started on the narrative I was aiming for. I took loads of photographs, but relatively few were suitable for my final project. Fortunately, I have both the option to return and make more photographs of the subjects, and also to collect some new ones next weekend, as the rival Swindon Open Studios is currently taking place.

Feedback on assignment

Points to address:

Clearly you have had issues with your ability to find appropriate subjects. I think that maybe you should try and be less anxious in the future about what you photograph as this has clearly held up your progress. Your overall contextual input is great and it is really apparent that you are enjoying this journey of discovery. I guess it is the ‘fun’ part, taking the images that is harder for you! Remember that you are on a learning journey, you are expected to make mistakes but you will progress through your photography, problems and making images.

Fair point about worrying about it all too much. On the whole, I find not having regular set deadlines to be a positive incentive to my work, but it does leave my mind open to a degree of dithering and uncertainty which would not be possible if a shorter time frame for each assignment was required.

I think that maybe things you could have expanded upon is the location. I find it really interesting that it looks like their studios are within their domestic spaces – sheds in the gardens, rooms in the house etc. In some way you have presented a romantic version of the female artist and idyllic view of the English female craftsperson, it feels very middle class, be interesting to see how a mixed audience respond!

Yes, the studios are all in domestic spaces, which was a part of what I was trying to show. And those spaces are generally very plush, so the middle-class comment has validity too. I was most impressed at the size of the houses the shows took place in, and also their wonderful gardens, and actually asked whether having a lovely location was part of the requirement for inclusion in the event, but apparently not. Just serendipity, they said. However, Marlborough is a very middle class area, and I can imagine that some people might be put off entering because they felt tat the event was exclusively for people with lovely houses and gardens. Possibly not a deliberate bias, but one that has perhaps affected the overall fell of the event. It will be interesting to visit some of the Swindon studios, as I suspect they may show a wider range of studio types. For instance, I attended one yesterday in someone’s garage.

Composition on the whole isn’t an issue but I would say that there is a variation of the way that you deal with your subjects. Image 1 and 6 (yes focus is an issue, be aware and take more time at the time of shooting) have a different dynamic to the other images. Here the artists are directly looking at you, the other images depict the subjects engaged in their work, this is a very different perspective that affects the cohesion of the narrative. This is something that you should be reflecting upon and making more considered decisions at the time of the shoot and indeed during the edit.

I agree with this in retrospect, although at the time of shooting it did not seem to be an issue. My original idea had been to photograph the artists with a direct gaze, but my interest in how they go about doing their work became more important as time went on. I like image no 1 a lot, but perhaps it should be changed for something where the artist is at work. For me, no. 6 is the least successful, and I need to have a rethink about it.

With reference to image 6 you should concentrate on just trying to get the face the correct balance, mixing daylight and fluorescent will prove to be problematic due to the different spectrums of light balance. Again though, I would suggest taking more control at the time of shoot. You have that lovely big window to the side allowing for natural light, maybe with more planning you could have turned off the artificial light.

I think he means No 7 here, and I completely agree with the comments. I definitely plan to go back for another shoot with this lady, as the lighting just doesn’t work and I am sure I can do better. It will be easier without all the other people about who were visiting at the same time as me.

I think that you should continue with this project and reflect further upon your contextual input as it has got interesting connotations.

Ok, there’s still some work to do here before submission for assessment, but that is fine. I have the contacts to return and reshoot some of the images, and there are a couple of other artists of whom I was unable to get a reasonable image that I might add as well.

Suggested reading/viewing

Photographers etc to look at:

Barbara Yoshida: http://www.barbarayoshida.com/women-artistportraits/index.html#

Maurice Broomfield: http://mauricebroomfield.photography/industry/

Brian Griffin: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/a-lifein-portrait-brian-griffins-latest-collection-2093909.html

Something for another post.

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Assignment 2 – tutor’s comments

I received my tutor feedback for assignment 2 yesterday, and it can be read here. 2-hollywoodward-tutor-report. Overall, it was positive, although he seems to have picked up on my feelings of frustration with the work, and maybe I should tone that down for the assessment.

Overall Comments
 
You have submitted a good assignment and demonstrated some excellent research and an ability to engage in critical analysis. It’s clear that you have worked very hard on the assignment. Your input is solid and although you aren’t entirely happy with the final images, I’d suggest that you have learnt a lot and the experience has been very beneficial. There are some points that you can address with the final selection and also points to bear in mind for future assignments. A little more controlled application at the time of taking the images would be beneficial and help you to produce images more aligned to your aims. Keep up with your focus and commitment as it is evident that you are progressing well.
Having left the images to one side for a while, I am now feeling better about them, and am coming round to the belief that they were among my better work. I take his point about controlling the portrait shoot more – I had never really done a formal shoot  before, and there is  much to learn about how to manage the meeting in order to get what I want out of it. Up to this point, I have largely been taking photographs of the client without direction, and this needs to change in future. I need to read some books by photographers who talk about this aspect of portrait photography, and two books I own need to be reviewed in detail, Jane Bown’s Faces and Gregory Heisler’s 50 portraits. I also plan to visit the Taylor Wessing exhibition in London in a couple of weeks and will review that from this viewpoint too.

Feedback on assignment 

You have produced an interesting assignment, and one that you have clearly laboured over! The submission is appropriate and reflects upon the brief’s criteria. The premise for the project, photographing Parish Councilors is fine and demonstrates that you are considering the context of your work. The theme holds the series together and allows another layer to the work rather than it being just a set of random portraits.
 
The final images demonstrate your ability to apply critical analysis. On the face of it they are a set of classic minimalist portraits. They demonstrate a uniformity within their framing and camera position. Through your visual research you have identified an appropriate visual strategy. The main inspiration appears to be Joel Sternfeld’s ‘Stranger Passing’ a solid body of work. However, as you have realised, producing these types of portraits is not as straight forward as it appears.

Previously I spoke about interacting with the sitter but make sure that you are in control. You should be directing the shoot. If you are too passive you will not make an interesting shot. I think that it’s this control that is missing from a few of your shots and in some way your reliance on wanting to show your personal relationship has affected the outcome. Regarding their facial expressions, if you look at Sternfeld you will see that the majority of the sitters are almost expressionless, like the lady at the garage, this allows the image more ambiguity and gravitas. Often it appears that it is a fleeting moment, this needs working on by the photographer.

Feedback on individual images

Your first portrait is the most successful as we discussed previously. No changes required for this one.

The guy at the phone box is not a bad portrait but I don’t think it’s what you had imagined, the smile is over familiar and the pose a little contrived. Hard to see from contact sheet but shot P1520046 looks like it may be a better option, remember though what I said about framing options.

I have posted both images (before & after) below. My concern about the second one is that the subject is in shadow in what is otherwise a bright, sunny image.

Man in the woods, again not such a bad shot but maybe would have been better him still and more effectively posed, how about shot P1520991, sitting down but still full frame, again can’t see his expression though.

The second image was my alternative selection for this person. However, when I consulted my peers, they had felt that the fact he is seated distracts from the coherence of the whole series. For myself, I prefer it as an image, as it is more static than the walking one.

Yellow coat lady, I like the way she is standing, also note that she is not smiling feels more compelling. Again look at composition, should have shot landscape in camera she should ideally be shifted over to her left slightly, let the window frame her, window frame sticking out her head is annoying.

As it happens, the original photograph for this image was taken in landscape. I have cropped it differently above, as suggested by my tutor.

The final image is nearly there but it lacks a certain element to pull in the viewer, image P1530048 when cropped may be stronger. I think that you have neglected a stronger shot, (Amanda) images P1510890/P1510892 or P1510902, look good from what I can see on the contact sheet, try them in the final set. 

Here are the before and after selections for image 5. Again, the second was another that I had considered, but rejected on the grounds that the positioning of the subject was out of kilter with the other images. However, that is no longer an issue as the overall positioning are now different, so I will include it instead of the first.


The other images he suggested were:

The first of these had been in my original selection, but was discounted by my peer group on the grounds that the background was not very informative. I prefer it to the second, so will reinstall it in the overall group, at the expense of the telephone box one, which I think is the weakest of the set.

So, after tutor feedback, the suggestion is that I go with the set below.


 Suggested reading/viewing

Have a look at these portrait photographers:

Rineke Dijkstra: http://www.popphoto.com/how-to/2008/12/conversation-rineke-dijkstra

Hannah Starkey: http://www.independent.co.uk/artsentertainment/art/features/hannah-starkey-twenty-nine-pictures-2187389.html
 
Pieter Hugo: http://visualmelt.com/Pieter-Hugo-The-Hyena-Other-Men

Plenty of reading there to keep me going.

Assignment 1 – tutor feedback

Noted from feedback this morning. The rest will come by email, to include refs.

Chris liked the way the blog is laid out – clear and accessible. There were a couple of links missing, but I have already sorted those out.

He said he also liked the idea for my assignment, thinking it quirky and using the assignment to look at an idea (flyers at the Festival) rather than simply taking pictures of five unrelated people. H also thought the text added value to the images, providing an explanation and another layer to the story. As a tutor he is much more interested in the context and concept than technical brilliance. We briefly talked about his own work, and how he is interested in injecting some humour into his images. He says his work is as much about the places he photographs, and the process of understanding them. He was complimentary about my research and references too.

We then discussed the significance of the smile in portraits. See my previous post here. I said that I thought the smile was an important part of the mask the subjects were wearing, as they promoted their shows, but that I had a niggly feeling that the smiles gave a snapshot aesthetic, which had not been my intention. We discussed how almost any expression is a mask, and that it is practically impossible to get to the essence of a person. He referred to the deadpan aesthetic, and Thomas Ruff’s influence, which had come from architecture, and tried to remove subjectivity, treating people like buildings. However, as a photographer, one should have control over the shoot and if a mask of any type is used, that is fine as long as it was the intention and can be explained.

We also touched on the photographer/subject/viewer power relationships, and how the photographer has most of the power. I have mentioned this in another post. I said that in the assignment series, I felt that I had most of the power, and we agreed that in a more collaborative portrait sitting, such as the one I have just done for Exercise 2.1 (same ref as above) the sitter has more agency. One should never forget though that the photographer has a lot of power in any portrait, in the setting and selection process.

Chris finished by saying he thought my reflections were good and also my research. The message was carry on, you are doing fine.

Moving on to considerations for assignment 2, he said that this one was more about the place than the person, and what tied the person to the place. He will be sending me a bullet pointed written report, but suggested in the meantime that I look at the following work:

Philip Lorac diCordia – Heads, and The Hustlers

Alec Soth

Joel Sternfeld – Stranger Passing

Bettina von Zwehl

Joel Meyerowitz

Stephen Shore

I like the video tutorial and felt it was very useful to enable us to get to know something about each other. Chris said that he usually did tutorials by phone, but was happy to have a go at video feedback.

Edited to add: Chris was admirably quick at sending me my feedback and it can be found here:tutor-feedback-part-1