I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a ‘rule’, but I do generally find myself casting my eye of a student’s photographs before taking a look at their accompanying text. Because there was the very minor chore of having to free your images from the zip folder that contained them- for future reference, attaching photos as individual files is easier- I took the reverse tack and found myself glued to your notes: really engaging stuff that’s eloquent, emotionally engaged, brutally honest, and self-awarene. By the same token, the accompanying text also points to someone who seems to have given herself quite a hard time with this assignment. You’re, of course, grappling with significant and deeply personal issues here, and it seems like you might have already landed on something that can help you to work through them- but do try to maintain a sense of balance (whatever that means!!). Effectively channelling what you’ve outlined here is key (but you’re certainly on the right track).
The photographs: equally interesting, sometimes evocative, sometimes flawed, always complementing what you’d written. Just to give you an idea about how the feedback process typically works with me, what I’ve outlined in the Feedback on assignment section below is my initial impression of the work, which I then used as the basis for my comments during our tutorial. For future reference, it’s inevitable that issues beyond those documented below will pop up during our tutorials, so it’s a good idea for you to make a note of these as they are happening, rather than relying on remembering them at a later point. But, looking at your blog, which is equally encouraging and engaging, I’m guessing that this is something that you’ll be doing as a matter of course anyway.
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
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
There are many parts of your accompanying text that I could pick up on, Sarah, but ’the feeling of someone looking at an area without trying to be part of it’ had a particular resonance: fascinating stuff and if, as you suggest, this is work that you’ll come back to again in some form or another, this could be something of a modus operandi. The essential ambivalence that runs through this assignment is summed up really nicely by that passage.
The photographs themselves work as a nice complement to the text. The image of the silhouetted plants and house against a pink sky is ambivalent and poignant, and the bridge/ river/ bars photograph pulls the viewer in all sorts of directions. There is not necessarily a strong aesthetic connection between the photographs, or an overarching ‘style’ per se, but, when viewed in conjunction with your text, this is by no means a ‘weakness’. I wasn’t particularly struck on the underpass photograph though- what you were driving at wasn’t particularly clear- and the gun photograph was worth taking, but it did feel a little too much like a snap. Nevertheless, the set does hang together, and as a first assignment, and a quickly-made one at that, oodles of promise are on show here. I did take your point that you ‘haven’t worried too much about the technical aspects of my photography for this assignment’, and have put your focus on other things, but this is something to direct your attention towards now. It mightn’t be practical for A2, but I’m utterly intrigued by your suggestion of documenting this world that is at once your home and also anything but with a Lomo camera. The primary ‘meaning’ of photographs produced by Lomography cameras tends to be based on some dubious and cliched sense of ‘nostalgia’, so it would be really interesting to put it to use in the service of a project that followed on from this one. Something to think about for A5?
There are a number of themes running through this work, but ‘home’ is perhaps the most significant one, and certainly one to reflect on more closely if you decide to make any amendments to the assignment (which, by the way, is always something to think about following tutor feedback). I guess that part of the idea of ‘home’ is based on becoming part of a particular environment/ place/ area in some way, whether it’s local, domestic, national, whatever. It seems fairly clear that we could be looking at a larger project here, so I think the key is to start to map out the various themes and sub-themes, start experimenting and see where it takes you.
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
Looking good. It’s really nice to see how you’ve dived straight into everything, and your reflective thinking is massively encouraging. If this is allied to a commitment to frequent excursions and explorations with your camera, and to wider reading and viewing, then it’s easy to see things moving along nicely throughout the unit (and beyond).
Si Barber is particularly interested in the idea of ‘England’, and his The Big Society project from a few years ago offered a scathing counter to the Conservative government’s vision of the country. His most recent work- on the ‘kings and queens’ of small towns and villages- continues this interest, but with a very different tone, and is also something that I’m sure would resonate with your interest in this side of England. He’s a- and this might be seen as blasphemous in certain circles!- less kitschy Martin Parr (whose 1980s work on Englishness, class and identity, in particular, is also well worth exploring). Simon Roberts’ We English offers another, rather more affectionate angle on English life that’s worth a look.
Also take a look at Val Williams’ book How We Are: Photographing Britain and see what you think. It’s a text book, and one that should give you a much more detailed sense of how others have thought about and looked at the UK, so should help you to think about wider contexts.
Pointers for the next assignment
The (brutally) simple advice is to keep going, keep shooting and keep experimenting. The more you do this, the better placed you’ll be to visualise your ideas and feel confident in their realisation. There are lots of strands to what you’ve outlined here, so honing the core ideas and working through the aesthetic possibilities will help you to more effectively make sense of everything that you’re drawn to. You mightn’t necessarily feel the need to explore these ideas in the next assignment, but whatever you decide to focus on, please feel free to fire over an email if you want to run through a few ideas. Well done, and I’m eager to see where you go next.