Monday, 21 October 2013

Final Assessment - November

Formal Assessment in November

It's away. Finally all my work has been packaged up and sent to the OCA for formal assessment.

As my original work for each assignment was printed it is quite a heavy package with all the amendments and tutor reports too. I spent some time trying to analyse exactly what went well and not so well with the course and included a few notes to that effect. (A two page essay in fact) As I said in those I am confident of a pass. Anything more will be a bonus.

In hindsight I can see I spent too much time and effort on documenting the exercises in the coursework and not enough on all the reading or looking at other artists work that I did. I will definitely be taking a different approach to my learning log with the next module which will probably be People and Places.

My fellow student friends at the OCA know I have dragged myself through this course and at points must have thought I'd given up. Thanks to them for their support and encouraging words.

Assessment takes place during the month of November but results take a little while to be ratified so I don't expect to post anything more here until the results are out December/January. Hopefully it will be to say I got a pass. Keep your fingers crossed.

London Street Photography Exhibition

Museum of London  - Street Photography

As I come to the end of this course with the OCA I am tying up a few loose ends before formal assessment in November. I recall a visit to the Museum of London made earlier this year which never made it to my blog at the time. The images from the museums own collection show the streets of London between 1860-2010.

I was interested to read that it is only since 1979 that the museum has had it's own curator of photographs and that most of the images have been collected since then with only a few photographs making it into the museums collection prior to this as "documentary records" of London. I suppose this reflects the huge increase in the accessibility of photography and interest in images for their own artistic or historical significance which has occurred in the last half of the 20th century.

I always find it interesting to see images of familiar places from past decades. Some may have changed dramatically over the years while others appear totally untouched by time until you notice the current fashion or means of transport.

Works by Paul Martin, Laszlo Moholy Nagy and Nick Turpin were on show - all names I have come across before but have not had a chance to fully study yet. There were dozens of images on display but one in particular made me laugh - Adrian Fisk It's Pants in Walthamstow, 2002.  I wonder how long the photographer had to wait before this perfect photo opportunity arose or if it was just a happy coincidence. Either way it made me laugh.

One of the other images that I immediately had an emotional response to was by Lutz Dille Outside a branch of Woolworths, 1961 You can imagine a lot about a persons character from a single image. I say imagine because unless you actually know the person in the image you can't know the character and can only read your impression of the person or be influenced by how it is presented. In Lutz Dille Outside a branch of Woolworths, 1961 (above) I like the juxtaposition between the lady's attire which suggests she is well to do and the fact she is outside the cheap and cheerful Woolworths. The lady looks most displeased and stern.

I was immediately reminded of my great grandmother when I saw the image. (My great-grandmother is pictured below on the right). Probably taken at around the same time judging by the fashion but my great-grandmother was far from well to do or stern.
My great grandmother (right)

The last thing I would have expected was to be reminiscing about my family after a visit to the Museum of London. I suppose that just shows how an image can elicit an emotional response in a person even when it shows something as mundane as a lady outside Woolworths.

I would love to have been the photographer that captured some of the moments in these images. There are a few photographers such as Lutz Dille and Adrian Fisk who I am sure I will look up again when I commence the People and Places module of my studies. The London Street Photography exhibition was a fascinating insight into the City of London over the years and gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own image taking.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Amendments to Assignment 5 following feedback

Assignment 5 - amendments made prior to formal assessment

My tutor's feedback on this assignment recommended mainly changes in design and layout and not too many changes to the actual images themselves.

Front Cover
The title is bolder and now attracts more attention.

Front Cover
Page 2 - About Pittenweem Arts Festival
The main image has been cropped slightly and made smaller to allow the text to run alongside the image and provide some variety in the layout. The remaining images have been increased in size with the text relating to each image alongside.

Page 4 - Invited Artists
The main image was replaced with another sculpture by the same artist as my tutor felt the original was rather tight in the frame.

Page 5 and 6 - Food at the Festival and Family Fun
As recommended one of the images on page 5 has been removed and the layout amended to provide more variety. The images on page 6 have been increased in size and the top half of the page is now a 2 x 2 layout.

 Back Cover
Design and printing credits have been added.

Overall I enjoyed this assignment. The main headaches have been when it came to design and printing of the magazine and perhaps creating a digital copy would  have been easier. However now that it is complete I am quite pleased with my little magazine although if I were to do it all again some professional publishing software would be a prerequisite.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Assignment 4 - Preperation for formal assessment

Amendments Assignment 4

My tutor feedback for this assignment was quite brief. His comment that my "approach to a subject is often quite innovative, leading to some interesting compositions and ideas" was a highlight. He commented briefly on the 8 images of the assignment and as a result I have amended and reprinted only 2 of the images.

Texture 1

Texture reprint
My tutor commented - "Your lighting technique has revealed the texture very well. I suggest that the colour balance is rather too blue."

I studied the print again as a result of his comments and can clearly see the coolness in the image. I don't know how I missed it the first time around and having re-opened the RAW file can see the colour temp recorded at 4650 kelvin which would explain the blue tone. I have adjusted the colour temp to 5700 and reprinted the image.

Shape 2

Shape reprint
Although my tutor did not comment on the white balance in this image I felt it too had a rather cool colour cast and was also slightly underexposed. I have corrected both of these issues and reprinted the image for assessment.

Mark RothKo

Mark Rothko 1903 - 1970

Untitled, 1969 (acrylic on paper laid down on panel)
Untitled 1969
Whilst I was concentrating on the colour assignments of this course the obvious artist to spring to mind was Mark Rothko. The American abstract artist who cites his early influences as Milton Avery and Matisse favoured simple compositions with a bold use of colour.
Before he developed his signature style of painting his earlier figurative work became more surreal.

Later still the familiar asymmetric horizontal bands of colour start to appear before developing into his best know images. As an artist he excelled in depicting emotion with numerous variations of colour, form, balance and composition leaving the viewer to evaluate and ascertain their own understanding.

Preferring the viewer to take their own meaning from his artwork he was reluctant to discuss his work in this context believing his paintings could "represent the fundamental nature of human drama".

He is also quoted as saying "It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."

Might he have said the same about a photograph?  Unfortunately he committed suicide in 1970. Before he died his art took on a more sombre mood, an example is in the image above. A case of art imitating life perhaps?

 Image courtesy of Bridgeman Education Libraries.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Assignment 5 - Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative.

Assignment 5
The final assignment requires images for 6-12 pages of a story to illustrate a magazine. The theme of the project itself is unimportant but the images must work together as a set to illustrate the project from start to finish. As ideally you are creating a picture essay which will tell the story the text to accompany the images is unimportant but brief captions are required to explain and link each image.

In order for this to succeed the images will need to be informative, varied and interesting.

Things to consider:
  • sequence of events. i.e. images which show project from beginning to completion. An eye catching introduction to the project to set the scene.
  • size and positioning of images to show continuity and progression of the project.
  • viewpoint - distant, large scale or close up.
  • use of colour to catch the viewers attention and influence an emotional response from the viewer.

With these points in mind I have presented the following magazine pages to my tutor for his feedback. At the moment this is printed but my initial idea was to produce this in digital format. I may revert to this idea depending on my tutors feedback.

Below are the individual pages and a brief note on my thinking behind the images used and their placement.

Front Cover

  • illustrative
  • void space for text
  • the essence of the subject
  • a hint at what's to follow
  • uses bold eye catching colours which are continued throughout the magazine.

Page 1 - About Pittenweem
  • the larger image gives an overview of the village and illustrates the importance of the harbour to the area.
  • the 2 smaller images pick up interesting details.

Page 2 - About the Festival
  • larger image - use of the diagonal to make the image more dynamic.
  • visitors arriving and all moving in one direction.
  • smaller images illustrating the significance of the signs and how small spaces are transformed into gallery space.

Page 3 and 4 - International Artists

  • centre spread illustrating importance of the international artists and their work.
  • more "serious" muted colour tones used 

Page 5 - Food at the Festival
  • bringing the viewer back to the location of the event
  • demonstrating the festivals popularity and the relationship that binds all aspects of it to the fishing harbour.

Page 6 - Family Fun
  • demonstrates a wide range of activities
  • important to show all ages and families.

Back Cover
  • continues the "family Fun" element of the previous page.
  • rounds off the magazine with a display that would also be the finale at an event.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Preperation for formal assessment. Assignment 2 - Reflections

Formal Assessment Preparation

Work starts in earnest now to prepare and focus all my efforts on the formal assessments in November. With a view to this I have prepared a plan of action.

1. Ensure I have all the required criteria and guidelines from the OCA downloaded and read before I start anything else.

2. Review, assess and rework one assignment at a time paying particular attention to my tutors feedback.

3. Print and organise each assignment fully so that it requires no further work then leave it alone.

4. Print up the accompanying notes to include along with my tutors feedback.

5. On a practical level order ink, photo paper and a display box for presentation of the assignment.

6. Complete and tidy up my learning log. This I am dreading as I have various exhibition notes, exercises and some reading to catch up on. However as the mark for the blog is only a small proportion of overall marks I must concentrate on my prints and their content first.

So today, I ordered all my supplies, printed off the guidelines and read them all and have reviewed my tutors feedback.

As assignment 1 is included with the work sent for formal assessment but not graded I have decided to start my re-evaluation of the assignments on assignment 2 - Elements of Design.

My original thoughts on the assignment and tutor feedback is here - and having looked back at the images and having had time to reassess my tutors comments I have decided to made the following changes.


Original image.
Pattern Original
My tutor commented " good framing and use of space. The cropping has resulted in a lower quality than others here and the image is possibly over sharpened."

Both these points seem valid however the image is neither cropped or sharpened. So the poor image quality is probably due to poor camera technique on my part coupled with the fact the image is of a very grimy railway station roof. Technical as well as visual skills form part of the assessment therefore I have replaced the image with this new one.



Original image.
Diagonal original
My tutor commented "The multiplicity of lines and patterns make this an interesting picture, well composed, although it doesn't have a strong diagonal feel for me".
I looked at this image again and considered cropping the image to below the horizontal iron bar at the top of the frame. However this actually makes the diagonal line of the railway tracks even less pronounced. Personally I can see diagonals all over the image but, being the first time I have had any work formally assessed and not being sure just quite what to expect, I have deferred to his judgement and replaced the image with this one.


Certainly the new image has much more obvious diagonals in both the structure and shadows however I feel it's a bit predictable.


Original image.
Curve original

My tutor commented "There are all manner of complex curves here and the couple make a good focal point. The lighting has revealed the right hand structure really well but the left side is a little muddled. For this exercise you could maybe have focused on the right side of the walkway, possibly using portrait format with a wider-angle view".

In the size and format shown here it is very obvious that the top left corner of the picture draws the eye. It's certainly more noticeable on the digital image than the print. However I took several other images at the time and have decided to use the one below in my submission. As suggested I had cropped out the left hand side and still included a figure as a focal point. However I don't agree that a portrait format, even with a wider-angle of view, might have been better and am sticking to landscape format.

Finally - I have re-printed all the images on Epson semi gloss paper ensuring the print is technically perfect. i.e. no blown highlights, blocked shadows, banding etc and left a margin for handling around each print. The prints are all labelled and not mounted as requested.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013



The object of this exercise is to produce one image that would illustrate a magazine cover with the subject: Rain.

No rain here at the moment only snow and more snow. So here's my image for snow instead.

Not a great image to use as a magazine cover as there is little clear space to use for text however it definitely communicates 3 things to me: Cold, winter and snow.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Putting The Subject First

As this course progresses the exercises move from being based on the technical aspects of composition, colour, lighting etc to examining and trying to understand the more challenging aspect of meaning.

The first chapter in Part 5 - Narrative and Illustration - looks at putting the subject first and asks me to compare two images. One where the subject of the image is all important and a second where the subject is secondary to the image taking qualities.

Image 1 - All about the subject
As an example of an image which puts the subject first I have selected
by Tomasz Lazar from Poland which appeared in the World Press Photo Contest 2012  - People in the News. It shows a protester being arrested during demonstrations in New York last year.

First of all I'd like to say that this is my own personal interpretation on "reading" this photograph in relation to this exercise and may bear no relation to the photographers actual intent.

If you knew nothing about this image it would make you ask questions. Where was it taken? When? What does it show? Has the photographer made a conscious decision to shoot in black and white? Why?

Personally I love the photographer's use of black and white for this image. There is a timeless quality to monochrome. In this case there are also no visual clues within the image itself to suggest when it was taken. On first sight it reminded me of protest images taken in the 1960's and 70's. Removing any distracting colour from the scene helps concentrate the viewers attention on the intensity of the protesters expression which is in contrast to the professional tolerance or perhaps indifference of the police officer.

Technically, I couldn't say the image is perfect in every sense. The most important character, the protester, is well framed, exposed, focused etc. but you could also argue there are issues with motion blur and framing. The overall impression I have is of a shot taken quickly in a fast moving environment.

What I think the photographer has done very well is capture the emotion of the scene and as this is the most important aspect of the image any technical "issues" rather than detract from the image actually add weight to it giving it more credence.

In contrast this image by Edward Weston demonstrates the technical qualities of composition, lighting, framing etc.

For me this image is all about the study of shape and form. Getting the technical aspects of taking the picture correct are much more important than the fact the subject of this image is a cabbage leaf. Lighting, style, composition are the important qualities here.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Tutors Feedback - Assignment 4

Assignment 4 - Feedback

My tutor has responded very quickly to my latest assignment despite it being the Christmas holiday period. His comments were brief but I am pleased that he has only suggested a minor adjustment to one image, image 6 - Texture - which he feels has a rather blue colour balance.

Thankfully it is not a case of re-taking the picture only reprocessing and possibly adjusting the white balance in the RAW file. As with the other 3 assignments I have completed I will defer judgement on changing any other images until I have completed the course and reviewed the feedback in preparation for formal assessment.

His closing comments were as follows:
This is an interesting series of pictures that goes beyond what could be a rather academic exercise. You have developed a good understanding of the use of light. Your approach to a subject is quite often innovative, leading to some interesting compositions and ideas. This can only be beneficial in developing your own creative style and in your progress through levels two and three.
As there was no mention of my learning log/blog I assume he either didn't have time to look at it or is satisfied with how it was progressing.

I have a very tight timescale to complete Assignment 5 now as this is due by the end of January or I may have to apply for another extension. Luckily I have been doing some of the reading leading up to this section already. I have bought an excellent book from the Basics creative photography series by AVA Academia called "Context and Narrative" by Maria Short who is a lecturer in photography at the University of Brighton. So far I've only read a few chapters but I can recommend it if you are studying TAOP and especially if your are about to embark on Part 5 of the course - Narrative and Illustration. As far as academic reads go its a very easy read and introduces the subject of narrative and context at a level that I have found very easy to understand. The text is accompanied with images which demonstrate the points raised as well as stimulating further research.

I'm looking forward to getting into a new topic of study and leaving the long hard slog of lighting behind.