Category Archives: Context & Narrative

My Learning Log for the Open College of the Arts’ course, Photography 1 – Context and Narrative

Context and Narrative – The Last Post

Assessment results out today: I passed with a mark of sixty seven percent (breaking down as 26/40; 14/20; 13/20; 14/20).

This was marginally down from the seventy I got for The Art of Photography (29/40; 13/20; 13/20; 15/20), but that reflects quite well the fact that – in playing with ideas and trying to move what I was doing on, conceptually – the technical finish of a lot of my images was a bit more slapdash while not all the ideas I was playing with managed to quite pay off.

As expected, Assignment 3 was the high point.

As ever for a level one course, there was not much detailed commentary, but what there was was both kind and encouraging:

“An ambitious, inventive, thoughtful and eloquent submission, Simon. The research you’ve undertaken is focused and impressive, always meaningfully chiming with and feeding into your own work. Assignment two didn’t quite come together as convincingly as it might, and I think that it’d have made more sense to focus exclusively on the medical packaging, which would have given the concept a greater consistency (and, potentially, more of an emotional resonance).

Assignment three explores an extremely interesting and ‘serious’ idea with wonderfully humorous effect- lovely stuff. Your essay is solid, thoughtful and observant, providing further evidence of an engaged and motivated student with much potential. Keep it up!”

– 512973 S Chirgwin PH4CAN Marksheet, 24/7/17

I can cope with that! Now, watch this space!

Simon Chirgwin (512973) Context and Narrative – Notes for Assessors

Hello Assessors!

Nested below the link to Context and Narrative  (at the top of the page, under the title bar; it will take you back here, if you click it) there are 3 sub-category menus, each with further nested links to allow you to view specific categories of posts. I have replicated this tree of links here:



Research and Reflection

Each of the Assignment categories is headed with a brief introductory post, containing links to the Tutor’s Report and details of both files included in the physical submission and stored on the OCA g:drive folder that has been shared with me for this purpose.

I have not been able to reverse the most-recent-to-oldest sorting of the posts within any of the sections, or indeed in the blog as a whole, but assume this is normal.


The physical submission for this Module includes a full index. The online files to accompany the assignments follow a simple naming convention:
The common prefix: PH1CAN-512973-Assessment; the assignment number: 1-5; and the individual file number for that assignment.
So, PH1CAN-512973-Assessment-3.01 is file number one for assignment 3 and PH1CAN-512973-Assessment-2.02 is the second file for assigment two.

And thank you for your time, reading all this.

Assignment 5; Making It Up – Notes For The Assessors

I have included a print of the original picture for this assignment in the physical submission for this assessment. There is also a high resolution picture file in the assessment event G-Drive folder called PH1CAN-512973-Assessment-5.1.jpg

During the online tutorial for assignment 5, Garry and I discussed remaking the still life that forms the heart of the single picture I produced. This remake would have a different background and the lighting would be further refined to improve the definition of the left side of the objects contained in the shopping bag.

Because of the difficulty of getting hold of some of the ingredients in the picture – the cheese in particular – I have not yet been able to do this, but will definitely give it a go after my holiday “back home” in Orkney later in the summer.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 5

All related posts can be found either here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of this page.

Assignment 4; A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Notes For The Assessors

Following the tutorial for this, I rewrote  my essay to include more of a context for the way that Cartier-Bresson’s reputation has developed and changed since the 1950s. I then spent a lot more time getting it back down to under 1000 words + 10%!

This is version uploaded to the assessment g:drive (and also available here as part of my online log). In the g:drive copy, I have bold-ed the two paragraphs containing significant changes from the original.

On the g:drive, the file is called 512973-PH1CAN-assignment4-revised

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 4

All related posts can be found either here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of this page.

Assignment 3; Putting Yourself in the Picture – Notes for the Assessors

The main thing discussed during the tutorial that has lead to a revision of this assignment was that my organisation of the files, folders and instructions for my “generate my self-portrait” game was difficult to follow. I have therefore produced the revised flowchart – intended to show the way you can generate a self portrait for me using either a 6 sided die or a random dice-throw generator –  here:

fig.1: Life During Wartime Instructions – available on the g:drive as PH1CAN-512973-Assessment-3.09.jpg

I used the new instructions to generate a self-portrait and the resulting collage is included  – along with three of the original crowd source composites – in the physical submission for the assessment where it is titled PH1CAN-512973-assessment-05: 634242.

The “kit” of parts to generate more portraits is all there in the g:drive folder (PH1CAN-512973-Assessment-3.01 – PH1CAN-512973-Assessment-3.08) along with a further 3 of the crowd-sourced composites.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 5

All related posts can be found either here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of this page.

Assignment 2: Photographing the Invisible – Notes for the Assessors

Units of Time – A Revised Set

The main problem with these was that I probably got the labeling wrong: the writing (in pen, on prints) gave the time period  rather than what was depicted in the picture; the result was that  -in Barthesian terms –  I had anchored the pictures rather than providing a relay. In response to this criticism, I’ve reversed the labeling/titling so that the title states the time unit and the label provides the information about what the picture shows. For the three sets of pill packaging where i still have the boxes, i have used scans of the prescription labels/dosage information which works well, I think.

I have also replaced three of the pictures in the set – the two featuring bottles of beer, and the one that used a guardian obituary to represent a lifetime – with other examinations of the way prescription dosage can be used to measure periods of time. This lends a good continuity of approach to the set and also – focuses in on the way that – according to David Bate in the chapter on still life in Photography – The Key Concepts – the neutral background of the advertisment photograph stands for death and the void, with the picture’s subject standing between you and the inevitability of your decease; the idea of medicine helping you ward off death seems rather apt here, and refers neatly back to the musings of Eliot’s Prufock, where this assignment started…

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 2

Four of the pictures are contained in the physical submission: Fig.1, Fig.2, Fig.4 and Fig.6; high quality jpegs of the other four are available in the assessment g:drive folder.

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.

Assignment 1; Two Sides of the Story – Notes for the Assessors

It’s a long time since I put Assignment 1 to one side in January 2016, intending to come back to it and do extensive re-shoots after a suitable pause. I reckoned that this would be sometime in the autumn of 2016 when the shops’ lights would be on as the sun set, reducing the contrast between inside and out.

But of course, by the time that autumn 2016 came round the context of this piece of work – predicated upon the idea that it would be ridiculous to think that  anyone could see Eastern European shops offering anything other than an enhancement to any high street – had changed somewhat!

After the Brexit vote, it seemed a bit pointless to try to simply improve the technical quality of the images a bit and to let the implicit ‘message’ that no one was being ‘swamped’ speak for itself.

I had also never been quite certain whether the original online presentation (a typography-style layout of square photographs arranged  to show “trad” English shops replaced by ones serving an eastern european market row by row contrasted with a second assembly, showing the heterogenous makeup of the actual high street) worked obviously enough. So, when it came to preparing my work for this assessment event, I have made a start on reshaping this assignment into something completely different. This is not a completed process and I will try and make the time to make a finished piece of work off to one side of my work on Identity and Place.

One of the things that was bubbling around in head when I started work on the original assignment was Edward Ruscha’s 1966 work Every Building on the Sunset Strip. This did exactly what it says in the title and showed both sides of LA’s Sunset Strip in a series of  photographs taken from the back of a pickup truck (like a section of early google streetview, I suppose). The two sides of the street were printed with a white gutter down the middle of a long, concertina-ed piece of paper. If you turned the book over so the top became the bottom, the other side of the street (inverted on the paper) became the right way up. This seemed like a good way to demonstrate a contrast, as well as being a fitting return to the assignment that the direction my work has taken towards construction and conceptualism over the course  the module.

So, I have made a long, thin composited image showing two sides of a street (one is more trad; the other peppered with Polish, Latvian and Romanian shops); both sides contain shops To Let – the economic climate is not good for anybody it would seem.

fig.1 : one side of the high street

Depending on which way up you have the image, you can read one of two captions/titles. On the trad side – which includes a sprinkling of West Indian and South Asian shops –  you can read: “The vibrant character of east london has been built up over the years by wave upon wave of immigrants” (the original caption for the second series of pictures). On the other side the caption is taken from an interview with a brexit-voting member of the public aired on Radio 4’s Today: “The high street is no longer English; and the foreign people do not shop in English shops so the English shops will slowly die down as the Eastern European supermarkets expand”

fig 2 : the other side of the high street

This reworking is included here and much larger, high-resolution files (both ways up) are included in the g:drive space for this assessment event. They are called ph1can-512973-assessment-1.1.jpg ph1can-512973-assessment-1.2.jpg.

The original assignment version is available as part of my log.

This is still a work in progress.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 1

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.