Thursday, 23 February 2012

Assignment 1

I posted off my assignment to my tutor this morning. I'm so relieved that it's finished. I am three months behind in my work for this module - not a particularly good start to the year. It's my own fault. All my procrastinating with the portrait section has taken me well off target. I realise that because I am out of my comfort zone with photographing people that it will take me longer to absorb the skills required. It's not that I wasn't thinking about the projects and assignment all the time though. Perhaps I thought about them a bit too much (agonised over them in fact.) I should probably have just got on with them. Easier said than done though when there is so many good portrait photographers out on the Net to research and you're not confident about your portrait abilities. And of course, the degree is not a race to the finish. But some sense of discipline is required to complete a module in a year and not get bogged down.

Here are my five portraits. As usual with my assignments I have some images that I really like and others that I procrastinate over and think should I do another re-try? At some point though I think it is better to move on and wait for my tutor feedback. Then, if required, I can do some re-shoots or, god forbid, redo the whole assignment.

Image 1 - Gerry.

Image 2 - Clarinet Player.

Image 3 - Theatre Steps.

Image 4 - In the Dark.

Image 5 - Last Coffee Before the Train.
Tutor Feedback:

Feedback from my tutor on my first assignment has been very encouraging. Her advice to just relax is definitely something I need to take on board. I knotted myself up over the portrait assignment and my lack of skills in this area. I now realise that most people feel like this when they begin the course and my tutor has assured me that I do have the necessary technical and image making skills. I need to take this advice and move forward. My tutor really liked the final portrait in my sequence - so much so that she flagged it up to Gareth Dent at the OCA and it is currently displayed on their homepage. The image is my favourite too. As I noted in the accompanying assignment essay I am drawn more and more to narrative images and this was my attempt at making one. It is interesting to note that my other images in the set were fairly well planned in advance. This one, "The Last Coffee before Catching the Train," was purely inspirational and thought up and put into action within minutes. It does have some technical issues due to very low light and no forward planning but in my opinion, from a creative aspect, it stands head and shoulders above my other, more formal, portraits - I guess that when working on a project technical knowledge and planning can go a long way to smooth the issues but creativity will trump them most of the time.

My tutor noted that she thinks that I worry about too many aspect of photography at once (technical, compositional, pose) and that this tension can communicate to my model. It was noted that my model does not smile in any of the images. That was under instruction from me. I was so conscious that my images not look like smiley snapshots that I edited out any that had a hint of a smile. I realise now that I moved too far in the other direction and I need to address this by re-shooting or re-evaluating some of my earlier images in the session.

I was given a list of photographers to research and I'm looking forward to seeing where this direction will take me:

Annie Leibovitz
Richard Billingham
Fred Herzog
Wolfgang Tillmans
Barry Whittaker

In conclusion I am relieved and happy that the assignment was received so well. I feel very encouraged by my "pep talk" and will definitely try to relax more and try not to let my creative side become hindered by technical worries.

Revised Final Images

Here are two images from one of the earlier shoots for this assignment. I have re-looked at them in the light of my tutor's comments about the tension and non smiling in some of my images. Both of these pictures had made it to my first selection stage but been rejected - live and learn...
I will undertake another couple of shoots for this assignment to add some more varied shots to the set. Although this assignment appears to be exempt from the assessment I still want to try and improve my  portraiture skills.


  1. I'm just about to start this module myself and my portrait skills are seriously underwhelming. You've got some great images here. Nothing to worry about!

  2. Thanks, ichappers. I found portrait photography a challenge and having it as the first assignment was a steep learning curve. Good luck with your studies!