Open College of the Arts

Tutor report

Student name: Stephen Barney

Course/Module Photography 1: Digital Photographic Practice

Assignment number 3: Monochrome


Overall Comments

Although there’s been a fair delay Stephen, it’s brilliant to see your A3 submission. Well done for ploughing through and persevering. I am also glad to hear you’ve already moved on to A4, as we’ve discussed, it’s important to try to build up some pace now if you’re aiming to complete by November. Checking your new learning log, I can see that you have made some positive changes since A2, for example; improving the navigation of your blog, writing up more ideas development, practical project research and a couple more photographer profiles, which is great. Saying that, I feel that as you approach the mid-­‐point of this unit, there are steps you aren’t yet taking to expand your research, which will both open up your creative experimentation for projects and provide you with important knowledge of contemporary photography that you can use to reflect on and contextualise your own work.

Feedback on assignment

Boxed prints have been submitted, and as such are in a very good state, free of marks and scuffs, showing due care and attention. I have no concerns about print quality, and the tones are coming up well on the lustre paper. I would say that although the printed out key shows all the images contained in the box, it doesn’t really equate to labelling prints individually – I also personally find stylised typefaces difficult to read. One alternative to consider could be creating a title page/succinct written project synopsis in a minimal, clear typeface, and then going straight into prints; placing the church and the century it was constructed as a title for each image on a label on the reverse of each print. Ensuring that you number them in sequence.

I think the strength of this assignment, is that you are applying a strategy in the making of your images. Your treatment and processing is consistent across the set and creates the makings of a typological study. I do think you should question further your decision to crop each images to different ratios – although I think on an individual basis the framing you’ve applied creates a similarity across the board, having such variable sizes of print across a set can cause issues in presentation and conflicts with the visual consistency applied within the images. I agree with you that Image 10 of Douai Abbey, stands out in the set, both in terms of composition and how you’ve been able to capture it’s setting and larger scale. The brief does state between 5 and 10 images, so you could take it out, but then if you removed it, would it take away from your conceptual ideas for the project?

In terms of the lighting conditions you’ve captured in the different images, it’s interesting how much clearer the details and textures of the churches (the spires, the bricks) stand out against a clear sky – yes the clouds provide drama, theatre and atmosphere, but I feel image 3 -­‐ 1200 AD, St Leonard’s Hartley Wintney this lowers the overall contrast in the image, making those details more difficult to make out. And in 5 – 1400 AD, Mattingly Church Hook, I wonder if the high contrast in the clouds detracts from one of the most intricate and highly textured of all of the subjects you’ve photographed. Think about what we would notice if the sky was clear/bright in each image and if the images were exactly the same size, taken from the same angle – would we see the passage of time through architecture more acutely?
Would we start to make comparisons more quickly?

In terms of articulating your strategy and aims for the project, I can’t actually find your written statement that should accompany the final images – please refer back to the brief and ensure this is present for assessment. I wonder if you could expand upon the function and aesthetics of this genre of photography, what is that you are hoping to discover through this study? How does your work compare to typological photographic work, like Bernd & Hilla Becher’s Water Towers http://ow.ly/Q4BhY for example?

A5 – As I said in a recent email, really challenge a subject choice that means you have to pay for a model or hire a studio space. Especially as you have shown such recent concern over costs of producing work for the course. Consider the value of this experience in relation to your skills and ideas development on this unit > is it essential that the model is professional? Will the limited timeframe allow for adequate ideas and equipment testing opportunities? Is this going to help you communicate your ideas about the subject or topic you have chosen to illustrate or explore? Why not explore some initial ideas and use research into the work of other photographers, reflecting on a range of techniques you could use to approach the same subject matter.

Learning Logs or Blogs

This new version of your learning log has certainly ironed out issues raised in A2, and your work is much easier to find. I did go to click on sub-­‐titles thinking they were links, though, as they are the same colour. Is there something you could do to differentiate them more?
Perhaps underlining links and then making subtitles bolder, or choosing different colours.

‘DPP3 Discussion’ – It’s good to see your notes, scans of notebook pages and reflections on how you approached your subject for A3. Coming at your work again after such a long time, I didn’t realise I would find your ideas development work and reflective project notes in here, so in an aim to make everything as clear as possible, perhaps consider ‘DPP3 Contextual Work’ as a title?

Great to see you’re identifying photographers who inspire you, selecting those whose practice for you epitomises the key questions of the assignment and DPP unit. I’d like to see your notes expanded however, to include reflection on the images themselves, not just a summary of the photographer’s profile. I feel this is still lacking from your learning log, and I would certainly recommend starting to build this up especially for your final A5 project.

Suggested reading/viewing

I noticed that you haven’t yet looked at any recommended sources since the start of the unit. I think you’d enjoy image-­‐based research more if you could find a way to incorporate it more strictly into the ideas development and planning stages of your projects. Obviously, you are still consistently thorough in the depth of your practical research for shoots, which is great, but could you create a post or sub-­‐section in your ‘DPP3 Discussion’ post, that investigates photography of your subject matter? You could be reflecting on images of architecture for example? What techniques do other photographer’s use – how do they capture, line, perspective, horizons? Are there any trends you can observe across a range of photographers in the genre? How do they depict buildings of historical significance?
AS you move into A4, start sharing your visual references, even if they are not necessarily traditionally photographic, they could be design based, cinematic or even from painting. Also consider images from a range of sources, for A3 you could have looked at anything from local postcards to Rodchenko… Just make sure its visual and you’re commenting on it’s form, composition, image qualities and how you think these elements affect your understanding of it. Look back at A1 and A2 feedback for tips.

Conclusions / Pointers for the next assignment

Really well done for getting over the half way hurdle Stephen! As I say, a nicely presented piece showing your ability to treat a range of digital files to achieve a final series that sit together, having a similar tonal range and quality. Your learning log is improving each time I see it and I’m really hoping to see another good leap forward in terms of image-­‐based research by the next time you submit. Remember to look back at A2 feedback where I suggest looking at OCA guides for research and also tutor posts on the OCA blog:

Good luck with the final stages of A4, let me know if you agree with the following deadline. I will be taking some holiday at the beginning of September, and I’m aware of your deadline for completion. Let me know what you think.