Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback and Response

A2 Feedback

I received the feedback on Assignment 2 from my tutor.  I was encouraged that I had fulfilled the brief but he made the comment that it lacked something, something with which I agree.

“I think the end series falls short of a really interesting set of images that would engage an objective audience but I have a feeling you are aware of this.”

I found this assignment very frustrating because I could not translate what I had in my mind into images on a page.  Eventually I settled for something that I felt was not what I wanted to submit but I had spent so much time chasing it, I needed to submit something and move on.  The end result was competent but not what I had wanted to achieve.  In fact, it was probably what I had achieved with the Fire Officer photos but with a slightly different emphasis.

He suggested looking at Celia’s Children Albert + George Clark, Los Angeles April 7th 1982 composite polaroid, 35 x 23 1/4 in by David Hockney as a comparison to see how the connection could be made between a photographer and the subjects.  I can see that the children are sitting awkwardly but there is a connection, and although they appear to be unwilling it is perhaps because of their age.  With Barney, there was a sense that he was humouring me and I found it difficult to draw out of him exactly what it was I wanted to portray.  I think that this is what my tutor is alluding to, that there is a distance between me as the photographer and Barney as a sitter.  Hockney was not the boys’ parent but still managed to capture something of their youth with a fondness.  Maybe that is where I failed in that Barney is my older son and that is the barrier to effectively direct him.

Portrait photography has never been  my strong point, maybe photography is not my strong point, and this assignment confirmed how difficult it is to produce works that have a connection.  One of the reasons that I choose to do academic study in photography is to stretch myself and try to get past the snapshot to something more interesting.  In this assignment I had seen a glimpse of what I was trying to do while essentially playing around with an idea, and while I pursued this it actually got further away from me leaving me feeling frustrated, annoyed and doubting that I could do anything of any value.  This is what my tutor picked up on but he has suggested that I might revisit the original idea again in order to experiment more to see what happens.  I am aware of time constraints in that I don’t want to take the full two years but I would like to do exactly that to see if I can find what I was looking for, even bossing Barney around a bit more.  I think that by not directing him and allowing him to do his own thing I actually moved away from creating something meaningful.  Obviously I need to plan better and have a clearer idea of HOW I am going to achieve my goal rather then letting it happen around me.  Maybe that is what my tutor is saying!

 

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First thoughts on ‘The Non-Familiar’

Assignment 1 asks to make five portraits of people who were previously unknown to me.  I have ignored it for a couple of weeks hoping that it might go away but I finally had to knuckle down and do something about it.  I admit that I not the most gregarious of people and I find portraits quite difficult anyway in that I tend to rush rather then take my time, as I feel that the sitter will be impatient with me taking time to sort out focussing and all that on the camera.  When they say that it is out of the comfort zone, I tend to agree for this reason as I refer to be invisible.

I didn’t really have a definite plan in mind of who I wanted to try to find to photograph other than I wanted them to be from where I live, so the people who work and live here.  I live in a tourist area by the sea and when the sun comes out, so do the people and locals. It seems that we almost hibernate during the winter but as soon as the first rays glow, out they come casting off clothes and ready to face the world.  I would like to say that I had it all planned out, that I would go to a certain place and find the right people.  In reality, I took my camera to several events and hoped that it would come to me.  In my favour is the fact that I seem to have to air of someone who knows (a) where they are going and (b) where everything and everywhere is, plus I must be approachable as I have been asked directions in the USA, Canada, and Germany as well as the local Sainsburys.  I have seen Martin Parr in action in programmes and he makes it look so easy.  I am no Martin Parr, on several counts. But I hope that when I did approach people that they weren’t intimidated by me.  I even asked a young man who seemed very wary but allowed me to photograph him anyway.  Interestingly, I think this is the one image that shows the lack of connection and has a ‘far away’ feel to it.  The others were very accommodating and it was ok after all although I did have trouble with the focussing on my small camera on one occasion that I panicked over a little but laughed it off.  That is the learning part of it.  I was once told by a piano player that you never stop playing if you make a mistake, you carry on and most people won’t even notice and assume that it’s part of the piece.  I am learning to carry on playing so that it all looks intentional while to me it appears that it’s chaos.

Below are a couple of the few photos that I took in order to move towards getting them to pose for me.  Dan is the only one that I remembered to ask his name, and I took some of him making the coffee before stopping him to get him to look in the camera.  With the ice-cream seller, it was a breezy afternoon on the seafront and the wind whipped up under the canopy as I was taking the photos.  She was laughing at her hair going all over the place and while this was a moment, it was not the moment.

Non Familiar contact-1
Dan making the coffee

 

Non Familiar contact-2
Timing

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I have finally come up with five images and while I am not sure that they are the best I have done, I am submitting them as a first draft in order to get on with the rest of the course and not be bogged down in this.  As time goes by, I will be persevering in photographing strangers and hopefully getting better at it as I do.  I feel sure that this is not the final five as the course progresses but for now, I have got them.

Getting Started

The course materials have arrived, I have a brand new notebook, I have set up this learning log, and I am about to contact my new tutor.  All I need to do now is to get started.  I really enjoyed Context and Narrative as I hadn’t really considered my own sense of identity in my photography.  It came at a good time, or a not so good time depending on how you look at it, because my dad was declining in health and temperament and subsequently passed away between Assignments 4 and 5.  My role changed over the months that I was studying as my duties caring for my dad’s wellbeing went up a notch, my role as a parent went sideways and I took on different responsibilities with my family.  The assignment of “Putting Yourself in the Picture” really was a discovery as I looked at where I was and the roles I play.

 

Identity and Place will be a continuation of that exploration and I am hoping that I can now focus more fully on the more rounded aspects of studying, with reading, visiting exhibitions (most are in London which are hours away) and taking more photographs. That really  is why I started this course on the first place, to take more photographs and better ones that show more thought than just a snap of a moment in time.  Although I enjoy those too, my phone camera is put to good use every day.