Open College of the Arts

Tutor report

Student name: Stephen Barney

Course/Module Photography 1: Digital Photographic Practice

Assignment number 4: Real or Fake


Overall Comments

I’m glad you have enjoyed constructing your A5 images Stephen, this is a very playful submission. I do feel that it would really benefit your work if you could rethink certain aspects of the project, iron out a few inconsistencies in the images and look at least one of the photographers I suggested to you in my A4 feedback (especially Edgar Martins) From your contextual notes, I can see strands of photographic ideas and practice that you are trying to explore here, like image manipulation and constructed narratives, which is great. However I still don’t feel the connection is strong enough between the pub typology and the star trek narrative. I would advise that you spend time refining your concept and therefore images, before assessment. I have some suggestions of how you could approach the treatment of your photographs, that don’t involve starting from scratch.

My initial reaction to this was a little hot headed, I felt that I was not being understood, however with cool and sober reflection and a little rework I find that Helen is bang on with this comment, I think maybe I have learned to be the fiery artist a little too literally, this was a sobering lesson on listening to what people are saying as they may have a point. So at this point I humbly bow to Helen’s opinion and concede that she was right!

If you read this and think that there is a problem please don’t this was an exercise in the best kind of learning, I started thinking I knew everything and Helen proved I did not it was probably one of the best kind of learning experiences that a Tutor can invoke in you, so thank you for teaching me Helen.

Feedback on assignment

For A5 you’ve consciously tried to incorporate the different techniques explored and developed throughout the unit and your final project is technically quite ambitious. It’s great that you share your inspirations including a more indepth commentary of the work of the Becher’s and also that of Level 2 student, Michael Colvin. Michael’s project is particularly successful because he starts out by considering the social issues and questions he wants his photographic work to explore, then he develops his own multi-­‐faceted, fictional narrative rooted in the familiar and factual, which makes it somewhat tangible. He then produces a body of images that weave this written narrative, found images and his own photography together – offering up complementary layers of visual meaning and provoking the viewer to consider his original questions of social conditioning and what life might have been like in the 1930s for such a person.

Michael is a genius no doubt!

Here, the fact that Star Trek is an existing and popular story and that you are directly imitating one of it’s lead characters, to me starts to undermine the work as a whole -­‐ the viewer knows immediately that they are witnessing a pastiche or parody. From your text, this doesn’t seem to be what you were aiming for and that is why, in A4 feedback I felt this approach was at risk of seeming superficial and I suggested you might need more time to refine your idea. Here’s my suggestions towards a possible alternative resolution:

Actually thats exactly what I was doing but maybe I should not have done.

-­‐ Personally I feel the strongest concept within this project is the ‘threat of decline of the traditional public house’. And you make sound observations of this becoming an interesting example of social change since the UK smoking ban in 2006/7. You make the connection between your interest in the typological movement in photography, the work of the Becher’s and their study of structures at risk of demolition and industries at the brink of extinction. This is all going in a solid direction.

I am glad you picked that out.

-­‐ One of your main observations of typological photography is the isolation of the subject; the way that the process of photographing each subject through the same set of conditions creates a new, slightly abstracted context for that structure or figure. I really feel that this and the above strands of thinking are good enough starting points for your project. I suggest that the Star Trek narrative and the Holodeck design is taking things a little too far and over-­‐ complicating your strategy. Although it clearly requires certain graphic and photoshop skills, time and ambition to create these backdrops, I really feel that it would serve you better against the assessment criteria, to focus more on demonstrating your technical and observational skills in the taking and editing of your own photographs rather than spending the majority of your time on constructing a digital design from scratch.

I did feel I managed to create a great backdrop but I concede that you are right in that I was taking the photoshop and the alteration too far and loosing the photography

If you look at the work of Edgar Martins (as suggested in A4 feedback), where he uses subtle image manipulation techniques (for example mirroring and retouching) to represent scientific, social and architectural subjects and narratives. He captures and then retouches darkened and solid backgrounds from which a single subject is highlighted and taken completely out of its original context and placed into Martin’s subjective narrative.

I found his work to be one of the main inspirations in my final submission thanks for pointing him out.

-­‐ I suggest you experiment with such techniques for your set of photographs. You could try setting the pubs on a solid dark background, possibly black or dark grey (you could experiment to find the tone that works the best) -­‐ black is often associated with notions of ‘the abyss’, the ‘unknown’ and ‘death’, which could be a simple way of communicating visually the idea of ‘decline’. I would focus your accompanying statement on your original concepts and avoid constructing a fake narrative at this stage.

As it turns out this was probably the most important statement you have made, the black background is pivotal to the final submission

There’s a second consideration I feel you need to take into account, and that’s the visual treatment of each of the pub images. Whilst you have taken a lot of effort in the shooting of the images in terms of consistent perspective and waiting for the scene to be clear, Some are very finely ‘cut out’, around the details of benches, a-­‐boards, planters etc (like The Forresters, The Wellington, The Windmill) then others appear less refined which makes me think you didn’t apply the same level of technique, like the Plume of Feathers, The Six Bells, the Golden Gate. I would spend some time refining these edges and consider taking out your two least successful images (the brief states 10-­‐12 images), thinking about the consistency of lighting conditions and character of the buildings themselves. I would say that The Running Stream does stand out here, as in the sunlight falls strongly on the roof and leaves the frontage in shadow with low contrast.

I have taken this on board and done some refinements for the final submission

Learning Logs or Blogs

-­‐ Your research notes at this stage of the unit are more developed, including quotes and your interpretation of them and relevant illustrations with observations and summaries of your thinking. It would be great to see you retain this level as you progress onto your next unit.


-­‐ Review how you log your practical process for A5 -­‐ your first section of background notes is already 8 paragraphs long – take time to read back through, identify key points and edit your text so that it is a little shorter and more succinct. As I’ve mentioned in previous feedbacks, try using documentary images, diagrams, scans of any sketchbook materials to break up your assignment planning posts as these can illustrate your points and provide a more rigid structure for reflection and summaries.
-­‐ You’ve started to upload Identity & Place links, which is being prepared but actually might be distracting for assessors of DPP. They need your DPP work to be most visible and prioritized on your Learning Log (LL) and so I would recommend that you raise this unit up to the top of the list just until after assessment.
-­‐ I would remove the ‘Links’ page at the top of your LL. At the moment all that is there is the OCA page, which assessors don’t need to click through to. You want everything on your log to direct assessors to considered, relevant content.
-­‐ If keeping this log for all of Level 1 units, I recommend spending some time tweaking the presentation. Buttons and text are very large and take up a lot of space that would be better used for content, images and written work. Also your new image zoom function doesn’t always load for me, so I’m not sure if the files are too large. I would advise reviewing image funcions and trying to ensure buttons are simple, minimal and relatively petite -­‐ giving as clean and sophisticated appearance as possible so as not to detract from your content.
When preparing a website or blog, I always conduct research and try to emulate formatting or styles that I feel work well.
-­‐ Also it’s not so easy to navigate between your contextual posts -­‐ I would insert links at the bottom of these pages, one to return to that assignment’s home page and one to move to the next post.
-­‐ Take time to proof read posts for type errors. This is important to show that you aren’t rushing, have attention to detail and a considered approach to your written work.

I have moved the new module to the bottom until after assessment and taken on board your comments

Suggested reading/viewing

Please take a look at my suggestions in A4 feedback and especially note Edgar Martins (link in A4 feedback) Also if you have access to a copy of ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’, I really think you’d get a lot from reading or revisiting this text. I think you’d find pages 15 to 19 in the introduction of interest, where author Charlotte Cotton refers to the work of the Becher’s and the New Topographics exhibition of the mid 1970s and also Chapter 2, ‘Once Upon a Time’ about storytelling in photography.

I read and reviewed most of those books during the Art of Photography hence not appearing here

I hope you are pleased with reaching the end of the unit Stephen. I realise I have turned this feedback around faster than normal but this is only as I feel like you could really benefit from the extra time to slightly re-­‐think, experiment and refine this assignment and to carry out further research. I think it’s great that through the later DPP assignments, you’ve identified constructed photography as a genre that you’d like to explore further, I hope that my feedback highlights key questions to ask and approaches to adopt as you develop this side of your practice. Please don’t forget to consider presentation for assessment – remember to label your work, to upload your tutor reports & your reflection and consider using simple, consistent type setting as mentioned on earlier assignments.