assignment 1: the non-familiar – reflection + tutorial feedback

nearing the end of the edit for my typology

1: Demonstration of technical and visual skills

During the video tutorial for this assignment, neither Robert, my tutor, nor I were able to dredge up much enthusiasm for the pictures I had submitted of other people who had attended the same MSP re-registration course as I had back in March. While they showed a “professional approach”and there was “an attempt at visual consistency” (my emphasis) where I had “balanced the figures with the background well,” I think both our responses were better summed up by my jotted note, “Meh!”

I had thought (or maybe just hoped) that the pictures caught people in a place – between the expiry of a certificate and the exam that would reinstate it, in a strange building, dressing down and easily out of their comfort zone – where they would not be able to put on “their business face” (as Robert described it in his written notes). I wasn’t expecting them to be as exposed as Renike Dijkstra’s pictures of teenage bathers emerging from the sea, but I did hope something of their (my) position would come across as more than just being “a bit uncomfortable about having a picture taken”, Robert’s reading of at least three out the the five portraits.


2: Quality of outcome

While I still think there is more to the pictures than came across to Robert, they obviously failed to communicate as I hoped they would. There were positive things  to take from the technical aspects of the pictures – we were able to talk amount the difficulties of balancing artificial and natural light, and of how the pictures hung together as a set through the background and overall feel – but there was little beyond that surface impression of competence.
I suspect that I needed to do something  beyond simply picking up my camera and standing my subjects in front of some writing. I need to change myself from being a ‘peer’ and into being a ‘photographer,’ somehow. It is possible that my sense of the strangeness of out position, caught between something, infected the pictures. Or maybe I was just snatching a few shots during short breaks in our course. We went on to talk about the need to take my time and not talk too much.
So, not a great assignment, but then I hadn’t been that keen on the rather bald brief for it (five pictures of people you don’t know). There wasn’t much to connect it back into the rather interesting projects that made up part one of Identity and Place, really…


3: Demonstration of creativity

We had also talked a bit about smiling in photographs in a way that suggests that Grayson Perry’s “if they’re not smiling, it’s probably art” is still not a bad rule of thumb, even if there are so plenty of smiles and other non-neutral expressions in my typology of smokers.

This was – along with the smaller typology of “places where people had been smoking” that grew out of it – received far more favourably. “Really good work. Worth continuing it.” I will continue adding to them as I go along. I might use it to feed back into the final assignment for this course; certainly, it will be highlighted when I send all this off for assessment.
If I have a real disappointment with this part of the course, it’s that I have so far been unable to apply the more conceptual and self-referential ways of working that I had been moving towards over the course of Context and Narrative into this module. In terms of developing a personal voice, it all seems a bit retrogressive so far.



4: Context:

I am much more enthused by the way I have been able to keep my blog moving, though. I think my response to the projects and the exercises is generally good, and they are definitely getting me to think about the nature of portraiture in photography. It is to be hoped that I can start feeding it back into the significant parts of the course!

There is already, of course, a list of short pieces waiting to be written to give context to my actual exercise posts: a quick summary of the chapter on the portrait in Bate’s Photography, – the Key Concepts, something on the Bechers, a review of the Hockney exhibition at the RA from October last year  – a marvellous painted typology – something about John Berger, the first of a series of short blogs examining “my” identity and now, linking from this, something on Renike Dijkstra, and so on.
But I am at least writing and hitting the wordpress publish button. Onwards and upwards!


4 thoughts on “assignment 1: the non-familiar – reflection + tutorial feedback

  1. Catherine

    Are you going to re-do this Assignment or just draw a line under it given that it’s the first one? Good for you for keeping up with the WordPress output.

    1. Simon Chirgwin Post author

      Draw a line. It didn’t really link into the stuff leading up to it in the module, it didn’t make me do anything I haven’t done elsewhere better and it’s not the sort of thing that interests me particularly anyway…


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