A2 Tutor Feedback with my comments

Tutor feedback re my Assignment 2: Collecting – Barriers, with my comments in blue.

Formative feedback

Student name Kevin Byrne Student number 515574
Course/Unit EYV Assignment number 2
Type of tutorial Audio-Visual Was it?  


Overall Comments

This is an impressive submission. You’re making excellent progress on the course and there is evidence of a continuing high level of engagement not only with the set exercises and assignment work, but also proactive and independent reading and research.

The accompanying text for the images is maybe a little too long, however, for a highly conceptualised piece of this kind where the images do not offer a straightforward interpretation, I prefer the detail.  I think as your work develops, you’ll probably want to let the images speak for themselves: certainly, you’ll want the viewer to be challenged by what they see.

Your self-evaluation/reflection provides a very good insight into the thinking and development behind the work. I agree that each category for this theme could have been explored independently – projects for the future.  In this set, I like the way you have used the central theme to explore how radically different interpretations arise and allows you to set aside any preconceptions and work with (seemingly random or ‘tenuous topics’ as you call them) subject matter as it presents itself.

I had a chuckle at your comment ‘Robert Fludd dropping in for a dark chat..’,  hovering between alchemy and science; I wonder what he would have made of Malevich and Ad Reinhard’s ‘dark matter’? Ha, I was so tired but so taken with it all that I just couldn’t go to bed!

Assessment potential

Assignment 2

 I understand your aim is to go for the Photography/Creative Arts* Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.   

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

This theme, then, ‘Borders’, allowed you to explore the aims of the brief the additional challenge of the unexpected subject from the broad interpretation.  This works very well indeed, and you have considered and employed a range of techniques and variations with lens’ – not something you would do as a matter of course, but good to know the parameters for future reference. Why is that? Why is it not a ‘matter of course’? The mages are fully supported by some in-depth research, much of which is directly related to the assignment work.  It’s really good that you had a chance to interview Gianluca Cosci and make reference to his work here.  I was frustrated by not finding enough information about him and his work and after noticing how insightful his existing interviews on his website were – I thought that it would be a good idea to see if I could get some answers from him directly! It was a wonderfully pleasant exchange – and much longer than the posted interviews but we both agreed to keep the interview relevant to photography on our respective blogs/sites. At time of writing (20/05/16) I am in ‘conversation’ with about ten photographers/artists and it is simply mind-blowingly stimulating! The square format is an interesting choice, uniformity and formality in presentation, but also a barrier – as any frame – in itself. Yep, that’s what I thought too (as mentioned in the A2 notes and evaluation) – although I did have a massive Peter Panic-pants moment when I read about how we should “…keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.” when regarding lens choice/technique – Arghhhh! But then calmed down when I read elsewhere: “..as there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course”. So there.

Image One : Blue Railings works for me, perhaps in a different way as a viewer, where the barrier is the amorphous/unknown soft focus wall produced through low depth of field, through which I view, like a narrow portal, the environment beyond. There’s a claustrophobic feel to this shot, as if it encloses the viewer in this foreground field of blue.  Rotate 90 degrees to the left and it’s a futuristic corridor, right out of Tarkovsky. Never heard of him – but have now, cheers! – and interesting as the original of this shot was exactly like that (this shot has been rotated 90° clockwise!). Oh, hang on – how come I never mentioned that in my rambling comments? Must remember not to let something like that slip again – although we can clearly see this in the contact sheets, and it’s not like I was withholding information from the powers that be or anything, just slipped my mind till now, so great! 

Image two: Don’t:  There’s an amusing irony through the symbols, and the shifting background blur could be linked to a hastily taken shot to defy the ‘barrier’. That’s true! Nice way of seeing it, a way which I hadn’t noticed!  The image feels a bit sparse, as though – and this is just my subjective response – it needs a bit more context. You mention chromatic aberration a couple of times in your notes – are you using the RAW plug-in Photoshop to reduce this in post – makes a big difference?  Is there a similar option in Lightroom?  Have no idea, don’t dance with PS but flirt with LR; might be worth looking into to see if there is something on LR – although I have an older version, so doubt it. And when all is said and done – the reason I notice aberrations is that I tend to use the 50mm prime wide open which just invites chromatic oddities – and it’s not all that much of an issue either really: I suppose I was just thinking out loud with some of the comments to the photos and could probably snip that out to make things a tad tidier/slicker? Hey, I’m new to all this, so I’m allowed to mess up, and it would be weird to not actually mess up wouldn’t it? Fact is, I started to look rather too critically at some shots; this analysis of my photos is a new and slightly unnerving thing for me which I’m not totally comfortable with just yet – due to it being a fresh new skill to develop? So, I reckon I’m allowed to waffle a bit too, surely? And besides, thinking of the dozen or so books that I’ve got my head into at the moment I can clearly see that nearly all of these writers have visited – and probably stay periodically at Waffleville.

Image three: Tribal Mentality.  Lots of ways to interpret this as you say, physical barriers, religious restrictions, the ‘caging’ of Mary and her separation from Jesus, the distance between the camera and the poster. It works well.  VG reference here to Bratkov. Ha, came across his work in Cotton’s book – and, to be totally honest, I thought it was a pleasant coincidence and a pretty tenuous connection for the inclusion on my part. Still, we could say that that was a demonstration of creativity, can’t we? No, that IS actually what I am saying. Improvements…remove the slice of car roof – even a crop, but then you’d lose the format? Yeah, why not leave it in? I quite like the subtle anchoring or – with fear of waffling too much myself here – a glimpse of modernity scraping away at this oh-so-tedious of ancient games (meaning idols and worship and all the rest of it); the present day Gods chipping away at the old – making their presence felt, forever challenging? Dunno, something like that.

Image four: Language Barrier:  I think the strength of this image is its relationship with your work and interests in language. The concept works very well, with the superimposition of the Indus script creating a second level of meaning and yet retaining a sense of mystery in its connection to the lower text.  IT is on the dark side, although there has to be a balance between the two layers and this will inevitably soften the detail. The ‘improved/revised’ version works better for me, with the old parchment feel increasing the sense of mystery and ambience, and yes an edge, to show that this is a document would enhance the shot. So if I put this in for assessment then I’ll switch the images and must remember to also adjust the text accordingly.

Image five : Stop: is a much more literal interpretation even though it uses the heavy ‘Stop’ sign/symbol.  Our daily lives are full of these barriers and restrictions and I often wonder if they are a genuinely controlling force, something that weighs us down.  The composition is good where you use the diagonals and the repetition of the sign.  I might have lowered the DoF a little more to create a greater impact and definition on the first, foreground sign. Yeah, true: I did try that – as you can possibly see from the contact sheets for censorship (first three pictures) – although I much preferred the interplay with the visual co-text of the urban view with all its details; their inclusion is relevant and necessary I believe. But then, the suburban context makes the sign feel like more of a controlling intrusion.  I love that phrase, ‘oppressive corporate reality of the cityscape…’

Image six: Skin Deep:  Very good use of selected depth of field to produce a narrow horizontal focal plane. This is always a good way of composing subjects, which appear random, continuous outside the frame and have no real fixed focal point. The angle also helps, with the diminishing size of the crazing along the vertical plane.  As you say in your notes, it could be skin… the ambiguity, the mystery, draws in the viewer. That 50mm beauty at F/1.8 again…

Image seven: Take Your Pick.  I like this very much, and the context of barriers creates an unspoken or unresolved narrative for each individual viewer.  Where you suggest a greater context – a whole range of options (and that’s a future project), I would leave it as it is and invite the viewer to add their own. Some additional light – even pulling the chairs forward a foot – to capture that side lighting and separate them from the background might help.

Image eight:  X4.  It takes a while to wok this one out.  Even without the notes, there is a disturbing undertone to the shot – the plastic glove on the extended hand, the hooded figure (make or female – hard to tell from the shot?), the odd, suspicious or slightly nervy expression of the woman to the left, and then this great L shaped element framing and dividing the figures.  With this kind of work, the composition can be a bit messy; we’re not looking at art but incident, and this works very well. I agree with you about the endless fascination with the ‘decisive moment’, too many people seem to spend their (photographic) lives looking for it.  Interestingly I remember the images that I missed more than the ones I got, and that has led me to leave my camera at home on some occasions, or to leave it hanging there on others while I have the luxury of looking. Interesting. Yeah, when I tell people I’ll be off to see the Northern Lights one day – I usually find they all say: “Yeah, of course – bet you’ll take loads of pictures of it, won’t you?” How wrong could they be? If I ever get up into that wonderful northern part of the world I will indeed take my camera gear with me, but it won’t be to watch the Aurora – that needs to be seen with my eyes and mind to the sky…nothing else. I would call it slightly perverse to even think about covering my eyes with a camera while that gift from the sun was going on, wouldn’t you? Like people who look at their phone screen while filming an event instead of actually looking at it with their own eyes!!
Well, regarding Cartier-Bresson, I’ve enjoyed my time with him recently, but kinda had enough of him for a while, so I’m not gonna start repeating myself again here with things I’ve already gone through (but would love your thoughts on the two blogs I wrote about him?)

Your very self-critical, a good thing while you’re exploring and developing your own photographic voice, but I would say there are far more positives here than negatives. Well, thanks, that’s great to hear! Thing is, not really having much experience with self-evaluation (regarding photography) I wanted to be pretty thorough and experiment – for want of a better word – with being critical and analytical (trying to stay within the framework of the assessment criteria of course). I was trying to put myself in the shoes of someone else – use a different voice – so to speak. Wasn’t easy. But quite liberating too, I suppose. I look forward to doing it again!


Frozen Moment – well constructed exercise with vg research references. Really good work with shutter speeds for Movements. Very good reading and commentary throughout – Sugimoto, Diaz et al, Holdsworth’s work is extraordinary.
Would really love to have a more in-depth feedback about some of these exercises.


I’ve discussed aspects of your research elsewhere, but note again that your independent study is exemplary – especially the interviews you have undertaken and published in your Blog that reveal a different side of your professional and intellectual curiosity. I think this is obviously the best paragraph of the whole feedback 🙂 well chuffed and happy! Thanks a lot! I am genuinely loving this OCA adventure!

Learning Log 

See General Comments

Suggested reading/viewing

Street photographers, I’m sure you are already familiar with: Trente Park (New! Thanks!); Gary Winogrande among many – here’s an article about Eisenstaedt:

The course notes recommend you look at the work of the practitioners from Project 3. Done did!
The scope is much wider and you can determine which aspect of the DM you would like to explore.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

The next assignment is “Decisive Moment’ –  maybe (referring to your Blog entry about this concept) you could explore an alternative position?  Let me know when you begin to explore a linking theme. I started about a month ago with some preliminary ideas (all in my notebook) which I am still working on… Exam time at my schools/college so have a little less time for the next 4 weeks, but I am on it all the same. Just. July, Aug I will give the final parts of this course my 100% attention.

Feedback via Google hangouts is becoming increasingly popular. If that’s something you feel would be constructive, then perhaps we can try this for A3 – let me know. Yeah, I’m sure it could be positive, why don’t we give it a try?

Please inform me of how you would like your feedback for the next assignment: written or video/audio.
Written is much better for me.


Tutor name Russell Murray
Date 14 May 2016
Next assignment due Please remember to include a date here, even for Level 3 students, and even if it is nominal – it is helpful for HQ. Ah, ok, cool – I certainly will.

Just had some feedback from my tutor regarding my comments, and he recommends that I keep my comments to a more formal register. So, something else to remember! In my defence (not that I really need to defend myself here – but just to clarify), seeing as this is my blog and post assignment, I just thought that I would informally voice my views and thoughts – I’m pretty sure (even considering how silly I usually can be) that I wouldn’t have used this tone if I were submitting these comments with the assignment for formal assessment. I’m not that much of an idiot.


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