A1 Tutor’s feedback and my comments

Student name Kevin Byrne Student number 515754
Course/Unit Expressing Your Vision Assignment number 1
Type of tutorial Audio-Visual  

NB Something I’ve been meaning to finish and upload for a few months. Not really fair as I am now viewing the assignment (A1) and feedback with loads of hindsight (over 6 months’ worth!), but enjoyable and enlightening all the same… Kev Byrne, 27/12/16

Formative feedback

Overall Comments

This is a good start to the course. Reading through your notes on preparation, it seems you had a bit of a tortuous time deciding on subject and approach – maybe over-thinking this a little?  The quote from Bunnell is pretty apt: “Half of the photographer’s work is in the discovery of his subject.” Looking is perhaps the most important part of that process – and often without a camera.  With this first assignment, there is a tendency to over conceptualise and strive for something that is ‘different’.  As you say, the brief can appear somewhat intimidating. One approach I always suggest, as part of any preparation, is to walk around a location at different times of day and just look; then after an initial shoot, return and shoot again  – time permitting of course – there is always something different in the way we observe on a 2nd and subsequent visits to a place.
Ok, I see what you mean about taking the view in, looking around to see what you see, something that is easy to say perhaps (for me) but not all that easy to do what with commitments elsewhere. I’ve found myself over the years always noticing things/views/shadows throughout the day with the idea to go back and shoot them later – which doesn’t always happen but I find really useful when it does. So, I see what you mean about revisiting a place, view, subject or whatever, makes sense.

This is a good submission with nine images supported by brief comments, a concise and articulate refection and a set of detailed notes about preparation and workflow, with three sheets of contacts to demonstrate the full range of images captured for the assignment.

Assessment potential

Assignment 1

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment

This set of nine images certainly meets the brief and gets across your interests, ambitions and motivations about the course and about you as a photographer.

You explore a range of techniques and approaches to reveal a level of technical expertise and the set, as a whole, is very well considered in terms of communicating the content in an engaging way. It communicates more of a sense of your working day than your environment, which was a surprise given that you live overseas (I wouldn’t have been able to tell that from this set).
Re the last point, I was trying to do something differently but still stay within the brief:
However you choose to approach this assignment, it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography.
I believe this is what I have done with this selection. Also, couldn’t my “working day” be seen as the environment in which I live (it is, after all, however tight and close the images portray that environment)? My environment is what I see (create?) and that which makes up my routines and habits – and besides I wanted to steer away from the familiar territory of shooting what I know (angles/shadows and abstract views), wanted to look at who I am and what I do (which, I thought, is not that much really while thanks to this exercise, I realise that it is actually loads at the same time!) – which is obviously effected by the environment in which I find myself. But I have always been ME wherever I have lived; I’m not sure my surroundings (or my ability/inability to capture them) would reveal all that much (more) about me. Or maybe I’m wrong?

I didn’t grow up here – although I have definitely grown – and I have lived here long enough for it not to be so ‘new’, so my take on this brief was to look again at my world and try to snatch a few snippets of it (with a newer way of seeing), which, all said and done, I feel has been accomplished, right?
You wrote that, “…a surprise given that you live overseas (I wouldn’t have been able to tell that from this set)”, yeah, ok, fine. But my objectives here were not to show anyone where I lived by looking at the selection, I’m not so interested in the physical ‘where’ (although it plays a huge part no doubt), but rather the who, and how the where is perceived. Am I waffling? I am, right?
And as I wrote above though, I wanted to keep away from the norm, this dull [my words] set, is me trying to ‘see’ in a slightly different way, I think, to force myself to think differently (anything but ‘dull’), hopefully without losing myself in the form, defying the point of the assignment by hiding behind the image so to speak. Surely this is also keeping to the brief’s suggestions of
“…to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings”, as well as, “…it should communicate something about you: your interests, motivations, and your ambitions for your photography.”

My “ambitions” hopefully being communicated: I am prepared to experiment and move out of my comfort zone without too much fear of messing up either, yet quite willing to accept that I have no real idea what I’m doing at this stage of the course!

It’s good that you are using prime lenses and have an awareness of depth of field, but you need to be wary that this, while defining and isolating a focal plane and point, it can often create a distracting level of blur. For example, in your first shot, the blur is a little too dominant, taking in the whole of the bottom half of the frame.
Fair comment, just love it though. Although, can’t see what the kitchen table or the plate or the background window or any other details would have revealed any more about ME personally – I was focusing on food, breakfast (or the storytelling of that action) and not the environment where we find that action. Am I not revealing how focused my brain is, how narrow I can be? Surely I am showing the viewer how I am able to filter out the peripheral and concentrate on what I need. Am I sounding too defensive here? Just trying to think about things. Am I being too myopic about this? Is there a risk of actually revealing too much (how exciting)? Knowing when to draw the line which isn’t all that clearly defined can be tricky.

While the image of the cable and plug socket makes a narrative point, it’s not particularly interesting, whereas the following shot of the broom and dustpan offers a good balance in composition between shape and colour, and an interesting blur that hovers above and yet connects the two.
Yes, agreed, not too interesting – although I didn’t shoot it to be interesting, but rather explanatory, and new (for me) in terms of subject and narrative effect. I personally dislike this shot and its lack of anything other than itself, but I like the fact that it is exactly that: something I don’t usually do (in photography) but which I physically use on a daily basis (razor/trimmer) and thus communicates something about myself and my (admittedly close) surroundings. The plug and cable shot was also a reasonably quick, off the cuff type of shot so, again, something new for me there really.

Better use of DOF in the shot of the mouse, with the subject placed well to capture an angled light that helps define shape, mass and texture. A narrative in this image might better be communicated with the device being held in hand, and maybe a larger background context – even in soft focus.
Yep, I see what you mean – I’ve got a soft spot for macros though, so no real experimental stuff going on here! Although, I could argue that this is actually revealing something about me and my photography more than the context of where it is being taken – again, this is part of the brief too, right?

Indeed – what constitutes a dull photo?  There’s a major movement in the medium that deals with this type of image,  the art of the mundane, one devoid of any emotional content and thus (for me) narrative.  It’s all about the personal (or collective) aesthetic, and it has its place. I’m not sure the angle or reduced depth of field help this shot become more interesting – perhaps a wider and more engaging context (desktop peripheral that define the user, and more atmospheric light might intrigue?
I must be honest, this is unchartered territory for me, I just tried something new in terms of subject matter, lighting, and composition and I think it works in those respects. Although it doesn’t do much for me aesthetically speaking (whatever that actually means) – this is not the type of photography that I do, enjoy, look at, or clearly understand. (What do they call that, deadpan?)
Still, I suppose that is why it is challenging (and presumably beneficial) to me to attempt this style, or approach, and be open to its novelty.

There are strong graphic elements and a good use of colour in the following image, and yes I can imagine that, given you are looking for engaging subject matter at all time, then you’ll find this most anywhere, washing line included.  There’s a good balance to this composition with the varying layers of soft focus background, expanding horizontal white lines and the broken text at the bottom of the shot.
Yeah, this is what I usually do (or prefer doing – or know how to do?) with my photography, so more revealing as to what I know (and what surrounds me constantly?) and not where I’d like to go? These shots pop out all the time for me, I adore them, but find that as soon as I have captured them, edited them, they are done: they no longer interest me. Is that normal? Feels normal to me, I suppose it means that it’s time to move on and look for the next capture, next view, the next fix even (if we can call it that).

There is a sense of mystery in the following image, with the two arrows set on the paved ground and yet no context to suggest their purpose.  As you say, and as I mentioned in my opening notes, going back to the location to capture this in better light and thus enhance the atmosphere is good practice.
Ok, I see. My incessant need to catch these views I always observe around me does tend to crop out other details (isn’t that the beauty of this type of shot though? It is for me!). If I included the supermarket car park wouldn’t these contrasting symbols be contextualized and thus their intended true meaning revealed? And wouldn’t my meaning(s) become irrelevant and be lost –  totally destroying the whole point of me framing them?  (My meanings being: the juxtaposition of the arrows, their (beautiful) conflicting, incongruous nature; my knack/need to capture them to demonstrate how I see the world around me.) Am I looking into this too much? Or not enough? Or just the wrong way? As if there is only one way anyway.

The zoom effect has it’s uses, but for me, once seen quickly forgotten. Worth trying out to see what it offers. As with all of these type of effects, they have an ephemeral appeal and it’s style over content – something that we have to be wary of.
Yes, I lost interest in this technique rather quickly too!
Still, the books are there, they can be seen, I think the movement doesn’t obscure them or my intended idea too much (idea being that I like books but they also baffle/dazzle me too!). Again though, I am simply trying something new for this assignment, trying to move out of my comfort zone, however beautiful or ugly or (un)comfortable that actually makes me feel. I must admit though, I enjoy the uneasiness it creates and the creativity that brings (or tends to).

The shot of the student at work is too cropped to offer any real information in this context and could essentially be anyone, anywhere, anytime.
No, I disagree. If the picture were presented on its own without any ‘co-text’ as well as context then we could say that, we could call it incongruous (although I bet there are those that could argue against that too). But this image comes within a brief, and is also part of a set, and is presented on a blog (with explanatory text) within a page with images before and after it, so, I feel it does offer information within the context of the sequence of images and through its presentation. Besides, what does it even matter who it is? It’s obviously someone, or an image of someone at least, that I have chosen to include through its (their) relevance to me, to the story that I want to tell and to the narrative context I have chosen to provide it in. Is that not right?
“Anywhere”? Well, couldn’t any picture arguably be anywhere and nowhere at the same time? No, wait, what does that even mean??
As to whether any photograph ever refers to any TIME – other than the moment/context in which it is taken (as well as, more interestingly, when it is presented or viewed) – is just as onerous (and fascinating!), don’t you think?

Still, this ‘student shot’, I believe, has a place, it has a “-where” in my view: the inclusion in my series obviously gives it a place – we can assume (and only that) that this photo belongs to my set due to this inclusion, can’t we? I mean, why else put it in there? I’m not mental. Well, not that mental (at least not yet). The text here also serves a purpose, doesn’t it? To clarify, to remove ambiguity, to explain, to contextualize. So, it doesn’t really matter who it is – it’s obviously someone, and someone presumably relevant to my narrative; it’s got to be somewhere – it is – even if you could argue that it isn’t actually anywhere/anything – just ask a jellyfish or something – and certainly nothing more important beyond its intended use in my attempted series of shots here; and it is of course “any” time – as in any moment of time – although I have clearly coerced it into this context, I have given it a time to exist, given it a purpose quite far from the meaning of “any”, I believe: now it has “a” time, not an unlimited amount, it has been anchored (reborn even?) by being placed within my set, placed within my meanings.
I am waffling again, right?

The final image, again a technique worth exploring and in this instance a vertical movement provides the strands of rising light and a glimpse of the nighttime exterior.The lights work well, but there is little to see in the setting – no distinct focal point.
Yes, I found this fun, and different too, and I also found it pertinent in the story I was visually trying to narrate here: tired, walking home, exhausted, night, end, consciousness waning, sliding away… This shot, I would say, has less to do with what is in it (and its settings) and more to do with its meaning (or meanings) – what the viewer could infer from it, and what it actually communicates (or what I intended for it to communicate). Whether this photographic effect captures those meanings (within the context as the conclusion of this set) is for others more qualified than myself to say (or perhaps not, perhaps it should only be up to me? Or equally so?). But it felt right at the time for me: fortuitous even, lucky and weird, weird or lucky, but right nonetheless.

So a pretty good set, and one that certainly demonstrates your interest in the medium, your approach to looking at the world around you to communicate something beyond the ordinary, and a high level of technical engagement.  This is summed up in your thoughtful conclusion, and I’m pleased that you found the assignment engaging and in allowed you to work in a more creative way.


The development work for the assignment is good (see my notes above).


This will develop more throughout the course and it’s important to contextualize your own work with that of your professional peers. It is also important to look at the work of your OCA peers and where possible join the community weareOCA

Learning Log

Your Blog is still in a fairly formative stage, with evidence of reading and research and the current assignment components uploaded.  I’ll be taking a further, detailed look as you progress towards the 2nd assignment.
I have created a WordPress site, but kept the Blogger site as a backup.

Suggested reading/viewing


There’s a comprehensive reading list for the course and additional reference points for you to explore for each project.

Here are a few alternative links to online sites that I recommend to everyone as a resource for a whole range of approaches and styles:

http://www.magnumphotos.com/ www.lensculture.com www.aesthetica.com

Referring to my earlier comments about ‘dull’ or ‘mundane’ images, Cotton covers this in Chapter 2 of his book – ‘Deadpan’ images.

Cotton, C. (2015). The Photograph as Contemporary Art. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Pointers for the next assignment and Suggested reading/viewing Context

Assignment 2 is ‘Collecting’. You can choose from one of the options offered in the course handbook or may have an idea of you own – feel free to run that past me.

Tutor name Russell Murray
Date 15 March 16
Next assignment due 15 May 16

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