Expressing your vision – Final comments

Throughout this course, I tried to challenge myself to do things slightly differently from my photographic routine. In some cases, the results were not what I expected, but I must say that I enjoyed the journey. To try something different is not always equal to achieve something magical, but at least we are in the right path of discovery. What was particularly new to me in this course was the amount of visual research that I had to do. At first I felt it was a bit overwhelming, giving the amount of materials I had to look at, but when the ideas start to flow and combine with other ideas I already had in my mind, the possibilities that opened up were quite interesting.

Along the way commentary from my tutor and peers were particularly helpful. One thing that took me a while to understand but that now is starting to sink is this recurring commentary from my tutor to have a rationale for everything I choose to present. The comment was made at first about my choice of image orientation / cropping and why in some assignments I was mixing them, and then in connection with how pictures were paired or captioned. I not always agreed with his comments, but in any case, I came to understand the point that one needs to know why every choice is made, and be able to at least rationalise it with oneself, before there is any hope that somebody else may understand one’s work. This comment was also pertinent to the number of images I was taking at first, which was quite large (as also noted by my tutor), and would go down as I progressed down the course and tried to be more discerning when triggering the shutter.

I have submitted for assessment my entire work for this course, including both draft versions of the assignments (as submitted to my tutor) and final versions in printed form, as well as all the exercises and reflection / notes I took along the way. While I feel al the coursework and assignments are important in the context of showing my progression thought the course, I was particularly pleased with the photographs taken for parts 4 and 5. Part 4 was very interesting for me because I do not use flash and other studio light sources very often, and this provided an opportunity to experiment that was quite enjoyable. The last assignment for the course, in part 5, was also very satisfying to me because I managed to capture a familiar subject (the Barbican estate, which I have been photographing for many years) in a different light through a group of photographs, created via multiple exposures, that I find both pleasing and cohesive.

Overall, doing Expressing my Vision has transformed the way I look at photography, from purely aesthetic considerations when I started, to a more conceptualised / contextualised approach towards the end. I am not there yet in expressing my vision, but I feel it was a good start.

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Assignment 5 – feedback and reworking

Tutor feedback on assignment 5 can be found here. Based on the comments received I undertook a limited review of this assignment.

  • My tutor suggested that I had a re-think about my strategy for captioning the images. I decided to stick to my original idea of providing the number of multiple exposures combined with a single word to describe each image, but changed some of the words used to reinforce my original idea of ambiguity:
    • The caption for the 10 exposures picture was changed from “Window” to “Opening”. The original word alluded to the opening in the corridor wall through which I took the pictures, but looking at the resulting image, I can see multiple windows from the side of St Giles Cripplegate. Since I did not want the caption to be confused with this, I decided to change it to “Opening”, which is also a more accurate descriptor of the structural feature through which I took the images.
    • The caption for the 2 exposures picture was changed from “Enclave” to “Oasis”. My tutor suggested in his comments that the shapes created by the inverted exposures used in this picture alluded to an enclave. I did not want the caption to make direct references to what was visible in the frame and consequently (and for the same reason as before) I decided to change the word to Oasis, which is still attuned to my original commentary on this image.
  • I revised the cropping of some of the images to improve composition or exclude certain extraneous elements that were too distracting. I also adjusted the lighting and contrast in some of the images to improve how they look when printing.

The original and reworked set of images are shown below. For the original notes accompanying each picture, please follow this link.

Original Submission Revised Submission Final Caption (notes)
IMGP4204 IMGP4204 10 Opening

(caption changed)

IMGP4162 IMGP4162 9 Lunch

(cropped to reduce negative space on the right)

IMGP4215 IMGP4218 8 Middle

(cropped to reduce highlight on bottom)

IMGP4219 IMGP4219 7 Privilege
IMGP4286 IMGP4286 6 Strip
IMGP4227 IMGP4227 5 Parts
IMGP4347 IMGP4347 4 Off
IMGP4351 IMGP4351 3 Communal
IMGP4343 IMGP4343 2 Oasis

(caption changed)

IMGP4249 IMGP4249 1 Obstructed

As in the original submission, I envisage the pictures to be presented in decreasing order of exposure, in a booklet with the back cover swapped with the front. The idea is to give an indication of what is my preferred order for the images (ie to be seen from back to front) without being overtly prescriptive about this. The revised booklet can be found here

Assignment 4 – Feedback and reworking

Tutor feedback on assignment 4 can be found here. Based on the comments received I changed some aspects of this assignment.

  • One of the key comments from my tutor was that it was not clear from my notes what was my intention with this assignment. Looking at what I wrote initially both in my blog and assignment notes, and mindful of the process that took me to the final images, I decided to change the notes to explain better why I did what I did. As stated in my original notes, I was compelled to try this type of photography after looking at the work of Arnatt and Godwin, but this was perhaps a preliminary, aesthetic motivation. The objects I have depicted have a transient dimension to them, either because they are not meant to last (leaves and shrubs, all of which do not exists anymore) or because they are to be discarded, recycled or upgraded soon (previous tenant’s football, plastic bag, old shed door). They are in principle unimportant, worthless objects. I am aware of their existence, but choose to largely ignore them in my daily routine. They do not necessarily bring me joy, and sometimes may be useless. However, I have wondered recently if the relative value of these objects could change, if they can somehow be seen or used differently, if I could enjoy them. Their transient nature made this experimenting more imperative. Once these objects leave my life, I will not be able to know if I would miss them unless I tried to appreciate them under a different light. This assignment was primarily technical in its execution, but the choice of subjects and why I wanted to see them transformed by light was mainly motivated by this desired to experience a different relationship with them.
  • On a technical level, my tutor remarked that some of the images were cropped using different aspect ratios and that I needed to have a rationale for this. I feel that for some of the images a vertical orientation was clearly necessary due to the shape of the subjects, but that the series worked more harmoniously if I maintained the same aspect ratio on all images. I then decided to re-crop the images to 3:2 for the final assessment submission.
  • Another comment from my tutor was that some of the images may have lacked sharpness. I looked at the images again in full size and indeed one of the images from the original series was slightly blurry. I decided to exclude this image from final submission.

The revised assignment notes, which also includes small-size versions of the revised submission images, can be found here.

Assignment 3 – Feedback and reworking

Tutor feedback on assignment 3 can be found here. Based on the comments received I changed some aspects of this assignment.

  • When I started the shooting for this assignment, I was looking for something which is the opposite of what we normally expect to see in “decisive moment” images. Henri Cartier-Bresson primarily captured organic forms in motion within a geometric frame. It was the relevance of the captured moment (of that action) that made his pictures particularly endearing. But while the behaviour of the subjects was key, the backdrop and its shapes was also an important ingredient used to not only to provide context but also to lead the eye. My intention with this series was to concentrate on the backdrop and to capture it at the right moment (hopefully decisive) when it can lead to questions in the viewer mind. Questions about what is happening in frame where not much is going on.
  • I understand my interpretation of the brief was perhaps a bit too adventurous and this is reflected in the feedback I got, but I still wanted to try something different from the traditional realm of “street” photography, which closely follows the decisive moment style, and which is too close to what I normally photograph, so I decided that I for the formal assessment I would continue with my original concept and try to reinforce the set by re-selecting and reshooting some of the images:
    • The three landscape-oriented pictures in the original set were all replaced by either re-selected shots from the original sessions or by new images taken specifically for the re-work. Looking at the original set, these images do not fit entirely well with the rest from an aesthetical point of view, but I still included them because either they had some relation to the ideas I wanted to convey (evidence of human presence or activity, such as the tennis court image) or because they were related to the mechanical process of waiting for the “decisive” moment to fire the shutter, such as the image of the canal. This latter picture, together with the park shot in the Barbican, only offer limited evidence of human activity or intervention, and look more like landscape shots.
    • The four portrait-oriented images from the original submission were all images with an urban theme. I wanted the substitute images to have a similar look to create a more cohesive set. The first two replacing images show empty offices and playing grounds respectively. The final picture was taken in one of London’s canals, just like in the original submission but on this occasion, I combined the canal with an empty side street running alongside the canal, which on the day I took the picture did not have any parked vehicles, adding to the sense of desolation that I wanted to imprint in the series. This image also includes an abandoned white kitchen top, which drew my attention to this in the first place. The visual effect of this on the image is quite subtle, as it only visible from the side, but it combines well with the other images in the set that include transitory elements, such as the remaining Barbican picture (an empty plate left on one of the tables), the Cheapside junction image (a sweeper cart) or the Moorgreen House image (an empty cardboard box). Incorporating more transitory elements in the images was another recommendation made by my tutor as part of the assignment feedback process.

The revised set of images are shown below, with updated comments as needed. The original set with comments can be found here. The first four images in the revised set, all in portrait orientation, are the same that were included in the original submission. The last three images, all in landscape orientation, are newly selected pictures (either from the originally taken images or newly shot).

DSCF2543

Cecil Court, City of Westminster – This was taken early on a Sunday when the shops in the court were mostly closed, which helped to have a clear foreground, but the thoroughfare at the far end is Charing Cross road, which is one of the busiest roads in central London, even on a Sunday. I did have to wait a while for people chatting on the pavement there to move along, as well as for the road to be cleared of buses and other traffic.

DSCF2443

The Barbican estate, City of London – This was also taken on a Sunday, around 10 am. The sitting area in the foreground is usually quite busy during weekdays, but relatively quiet during weekends. The main challenge in this occasion was people constantly entering the church at the back, as this was taken just before the start of Sunday’s service.

DSCF2463

Cheapside, City of London – Again taken on a Sunday, when crowds tend to be more subdued. In this one, I had to wait for people on the shop to the right to move out of the way (there was a smoker who removed himself by hiding behind one of the columns, although you can still see the smoke from his cigarettes if you look carefully). Surprisingly, the owner of the sweeper cart in the foreground did not enter the frame during the 5 minutes or so that I had to wait to take the picture. For this picture and the previous two, the shooting strategy primarily focused on selecting the right time of the day / week when places that would normally be full of people were less busy.

DSCF2602

Moorgreen house, Islington – This was taken during a working day, but I did not have to wait particularly long to take this picture because this road actually leads to the back of the estate and consequently not as busy as the main entrance. For this picture, and the next one, the shooting strategy centered around finding locations that were urban and played into the expectation of being busy, but that in reality are never too busy, thus facilitating the shooting process.

DSCF1639

King Square Estate, Islington – This picture was taken mid-morning on a saturday and I was expecting to find people working out or playing in the estate recreational facilities, but it was relatively quiet, so it was possible to take the shot relativelly quickly. This picture was newly taken for the re-working of the assignment.

DSCF2321

Moor lane, City of London – This picture, re-selected from the original assignment shooting sessions, was taken on a weekday around noon. Although one would expect most office workers to be out for lunch around this time, there is always people having lunch at their desks or working through their break hour. On this particular day I was lucky to find the office desks relatively empty, for which I did not have to wait too long to take the picture.

DSCF1039

Dunston road and Regent’s canal, Haggerston – This picture was taken specifically for the re-work with a 21mm wide-angle equivalent, around noon on a weekday. This section of the canal is relatively busy during this time of the day with people running during their lunch break, and I had to wait a few minutes for the path to clear. I was particularly taken by the emptiness of the road here, with no vehicles parked even though there is a bay for residents on the right hand side. I was also attracted to the abandoned kitchen top left against the canal railings, which subtly drags the eye towards the lower third of the frame. 

—————————————— oooo ——————————————

As in the case of the original submission, I framed the re-worked prints using a conservation board mat. While in the original prints the mats were backed by another piece of board, for the re-worked submission I used watercolour paper as a backing, achieving both a reduction in thickness and weight for each framed picture, without compromising on the presentation of the images. The series is intended to be shown hanged for exhibition, arranged as a cluster. My original idea about this is presented here, with the layout updated to include the new picture selection.

Assignment 2 – Feedback and reworking

Tutor feedback on assignment 2 can be found here. Based on the comments received I changed various aspects of this assignment.

  • My original submission was prepared on 3:2 landscape crops. I originally choose this format because I believe crowds naturally fit into a horizontal orientation. My tutor suggested that I try the square format, which allows the framing to be tighter and the attention of the viewer to be more focused. I tried to re-crop some of the images in the square format and while it worked well in some (in particular for images 2, 7 and 10 of the original submission (see below)), I was not convinced it was adequate for all the images, which would still benefit from some extra space on the sides. I then decided to re-crop the series on a 6:7 aspect ratio, which I think achieves the best compromise in terms of focusing the attention of the viewer while still providing that horizontal orientation that I originally wanted for the series.
  • In addition to re-cropping, the lightening and contrast of some pictures was adjusted for optimal results when printing.
  • In the feedback, my tutor makes the comment that some of the images are weak and that they may be there just to fit the brief, rather than on the basis of their strength. A related point in the creativity section my tutor suggested that I needed to distil what I wanted to say and then look for stand-out images that concentrate on that. I had a long think about both the spirit of the brief and what I wanted to say with this series and decided to re-shot part of it to better fit both:
    • The brief was about “collections”. In the physical world, a collection is a group of items that may have the same function or are aesthetically similar but not exactly the same. They are usually different items, each one of them perhaps unique. Looking back at my initial submission, I now realised that I repeated several elements in the original images (for example, there are two pictures featuring a red bus, two pictures of tourists taking pictures) and did not properly explore other ways of connecting the pictures other than by common visual elements. I tried to address that by re-shooting new images as well as revising my original pictures selection.
    • My idea for this assignment was to show a diversity of crowd activities and the social behaviour of people within those crowds. Looking back at some of the images included in my original submission, I have realised that there was perhaps a lack of action in some of the shots, where it was hard to discern what was going on in particular or what actually made the shot. I tried to address that in the re-shooting session by scouting my potential subjects (commuters, tourists, people relaxing at coffee shops, etc) and observing for a while to understand what is going on before deciding on the correct moment to capture. This process fed a trial and error process, whereby some preliminary images were taken and then I decided to re-shot them with different elements changed or added (like the angle of view, distance to the subjects, etc).

The original submission, alongside the re-worked assignment is shown in the table below in the sequential order in which they should be viewed:

Image number

Original submission

Revised submission

1

Assignment 2 - Picture-1 IMGP2562

2

Assignment 2 - Picture-2 DSCF1459

3

Assignment 2 - Picture-3 IMGP2320

4

Assignment 2 - Picture-4 IMGP2514

5

Assignment 2 - Picture-5 IMGP2652

6

Assignment 2 - Picture-6 DSCF1418

7

Assignment 2 - Picture-7 DSCF1402

8

Assignment 2 - Picture-8 DSCF1624

9

Assignment 2 - Picture-9 IMGP2495

10

Assignment 2 - Picture-10 DSCF1441

My original submission included a booklet showing how I intended the pictures to be viewed. There were two standalone pictures – 1 and 10 – and 4 pair of pictures in the middle. I have maintained the same format in the reworked assignment. In the feedback I received from my tutor, one of the comments was that in the PDF of the booklet included in my original submission some of the pictures were out of sync. I have corrected this in the revised booklet, which can be found here. The original booklet, for reference, can be seen here.

As part of the re-working, I took some additional pictures. The revised annotated contact sheet can be found here.

Assignment 1 – Feedback and reworking

Formal feedback from my tutor on assignment 1 can be found here.

In response to the feedback received from my tutor, I decided to implement certain changes to the series in assignment 1 before submitting it as part of the formal assessment process:

  • I decided to crop the pictures to the same size (3:2) and present them in the same orientation (landscape). The idea behind it is to have a more visually coherent series.
  • The feedback provided by my tutor indicated that some of the images seemed to give contradictory messages and that the series may lack a clear and consistent purpose. In retrospect, I felt that this may be case with the way in which some of the images were put together, when the idea suggested by some of the pairs not being in harmony with the whole message. The point I wanted to convey, as stated in the original notes accompanying my submission, was that in spite of the socioeconomic and other intangible barriers that may exist between communities, we have more things in common that we may be willing to admit. As a result of thus, I decided to separate images 5 and 6 from the original sequence and pair them with newly selected images from the original shoot-out, thus giving a more coherent message in line with my stated objective.
  • My tutor originally suggested that picture 1 in the original sequence could be cropped from the left to match the aspect ratio of image 2; but in retrospect I consider image 2 to be slightly less interesting than image 1, which I would prefer not to crop. Since I could not find a suitable replacement for 2 and since none of these two pictures really worked as well when re-cropped as landscapes, I decided to drop them. I also decided to drop the last two images, 11 and 12, which could not be re-cropped to landscape format to my satisfaction. This allows the set to end with the image of the lonely traveller moving towards the end of the tunnel, which is, in my opinion, a more interesting picture and also serves as a metaphor of my new arrival at the neighborhood.
  • My tutor suggested to reconsider the use of one of the pictures I discarded from the original shoot-out: the picture of a fly tipped loo. I looked at other pictures in the set and considering my idea of the word-picture pairing, I decided it was best to replace image 7 from the original sequence with the image of the fly tipped loo.
  • The final booklet accompanying the sequence, which shows how I wanted the pictures to appear and the corresponding captions, has been reconfigured to give more prominence to the images, harmonize the negative / blank spaces and introduce a small synopsis of what the series is about. The re-worked final booklet can be found here, while the original is here.

The final sequence of images, compared with the original is shown in the tables below. As a result of the addition of new images, I have re-calculated the captions accompanying the photographs, based on current average prices (going back 10 to 20 years) for the areas where the pictures were taken (1), which are also shown in the table below:

 Original sequence (in pairs, with original captions)
 1st pair

01£ 212,500

02£ 384,693

 2nd pair

03£ 375,000

04£ 153,658

 3rd pair

05£ 755,667

06£ 116,010

 4th pair

07£ 195,444

08£ 514,914

 5th pair

09£ 89,667

10£ 235,965

 6th pair

11£ 85,955

 12£ 236,760

 Re-worked sequence (in pairs, with updated captions)
1st pair

IMGP1364£ 116,010

IMGP0435£ 655,000

2nd pair

DSC_0028£ 257,753

Untitled_Panorama1-Edit£ 809,375

3rd pair

IMGP0426£ 755,000

IMGP0959£ 238,000

4th pair

IMGP1002£ 235,082

IMGP0972£ 697,437

5th pair

IMGP1286£ 99,500

IMGP0378£ 315,212

_________________________________

(1) Updated captions were taken from the Zoopla website: House prices in Bromley, London. Property values – Zoopla. 2017. House prices in Bromley, London. Property values – Zoopla. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.zoopla.co.uk/house-prices/london/bromley/. [Accessed 17 September 2017].

Assignment 5 – self assesment

Looking at the end result of my fifth and final assignment submission, I summarise in the following table some personal notes in relation with the course’s assessment criteria:

Assessment criteria Personal views
Demonstration of technical and visual skills In general I believe the final selection of photographs continue to demonstrate reasonable levels of competency in terms of framing and composition. This assignment was a bit of a challenge technically as I was not too familiar with multiple exposure in camera and I did not knew what I was going to get out until the end, but I believe I have managed to ensure that the final pictures were sharp when needed and have the correct clarity and exposure.
Quality of outcome I feel generally satisfied with the connection between the various photographs in terms of their theme, and I believe it shows what I wanted to convey about the subject. The main challenge I faced here was to try to show something different on each picture while still maintaining the overall theme. I believe I have reasonably succedded at that, although there are pictures that come quite close in terms of similarity of information (eg pictures 4 and 8 both show greenery, although from different parts of the estate and on different perspectives)
Demostration of creativity The experimentation in this assignment came from the use of multiple exposure. I tried different approaches to this, combining different incongruent parts together (as in pictures 4 and 7), puting together elements that were next to each other (as in pictures 1, 3, 6 and 8) or simply moving the camera around the same scene (as in pictures 2, 5 and 9). I tried these approaches with several pictures and also experimented with the number of exposures for several scenes until I found the look that I wanted. It was refreshing to see something new and completelly different come out of familiar, sometimes uninspiring scenes.
Context The main source of research for the assignment was observations made in the subject of context by Terry Barrett, as I wanted to explore how the amount and fragmentation of information could affect our perception of meaning. I tried to achieve that by scrambling the internal context (ie what appears in the picture) and provide limited, deliveratelly confusing information about the original context via the title of each picture. I did not undertake any significant reseach on the Barbican itself because it was a subject I was familiar with, and I wanted that familiarity to guide me through the process in the interest of time. I did not do any research on the technique of multiple exposure either, other than reading my camera manual on it (2 pages), because I wanted the outcome to be experimental and unbound from any external aesthetic influences. Had I researcher more about the subject or the technique employed, the results would no doubt have been different, perhaps more elaborated, and undoubtly achieved on a more economical scale in terms of the number of pictures taken.