Category Archives: Identity & Place

Course 3 of the OCA BA in Photography

goodbye to all that

Assessment results were out on Friday. I passed with a mark of sixty eight percent (breaking down as 27/40; 13/20; 14/20; 14/20). The commentary was – as ever – brief but still nice to read:

This is a tightly conceived and competently executed submission and the exhibition layout notes added to the appreciation of the work. The clear highlight for the assessors was Assignment 4 which was felt to succeed its strategy of bringing together image and text over separate images while also being highly affective. Assignment 3 could perhaps benefit from a tighter edit but overall this is a very good end to Level 1 and the assessors look forward to seeing your future development at Level 2.

– 512973 S Chirgwin PH4IAP Marksheet, 14/12/18

My sixty eight was up a gnats’ from the sixty seven I got for Context and Narrative and a bit worse than the seventy I got for The Art of Photography, but that’s photography, Brian, and not too bad considering how badly my first go at Assignments 1 and 2 went down with my tutor…

Anyway, onwards and upwards to digital image and culture. Thanks for reading all this and taking time to comment on it all. Level one has been fun; let’s see how level two goes…

Simon Chirgwin (512973) Identity and Place – Notes for Assessors

Hello Assessors!

Nested below the link to Identity and Place  (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:




There is also an extra category for the introductory exercises


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 to be normal. Or maybe, given the content of this course, ‘normal’.


The physical submission for this Module includes a full index with titles. The online files to accompany the assignments follow a simple naming convention:

The common prefix: PH1IAP-512973-Assessment; the assignment number: 1-5; and the individual file number for that assignment. So, PH1IAP-512973-Assessment-3.01 is file number one for assignment 3 and PH1IAP-512973-Assessment-2.02 is the second file for assignment two. And so on.

Thank you for your time, reading all this.

assignment 5 – notes for the assessors

The tutor’s report for the assignment is Here.

All Related Posts for the assignment can be found either Here or by using the link nested beneath the heading Identity and Place in the blog’s top navigation.

File versions of the twelve A4 prints contained in the physical submission can be found on the assessment G: Drive.


There has been too little time between the tutorial and the deadline for assessment submission for any real revision to be carried out, but I have tweaked the statement that accompanies the pictures.

As I did not send prints to Robert for this assignment, I have gone over the finished picture files and struck proofs before sending them off for printing along with the other assignments’ pictures.

I have also tried to make sure that the intended text will always be associated with the pictures as the seeming absence of titles was one of the areas of discussion at the tutorial.



assignment 4: words and pictures – notes for the assessors

The tutor’s report for the assignment is Here.

All Related Posts for the assignment can be found either Here or by using the link nested beneath the heading Identity and Place in the blog’s top navigation.

File versions of the thirteen prints contained in the physical submission can be found on the assessment G: Drive.


The tutorial for this assignment was so positive that there was very little that needed to change before submission. I have made a final pass to correct the finish of the pictures and had them reprinted and slightly rewritten the accompanying statement.  Other than that, my assessment submission is identical to what was submitted to my tutor.



assignment 3: mirrors and windows – notes for the assessors

The tutor’s report for the assignment is Here.

All Related Posts for the assignment can be found either Here or by using the link nested beneath the heading Identity and Place in the blog’s top navigation.

File versions of the fifteen A4 prints contained in the physical submission can be found on the assessment G: Drive.



The two main criticisms of this assignment during its tutorial were that it had not been edited vigorously enough and that there were significant technical shortcomings of some of the pictures that had been included.  So, when revising this assignment for assessment, I have concentrated on making a more rigorous edit and preparing the picture files with more care both for printing as part of the physical submission and for online display, as shown here:

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I have reduced the original twenty five photographs to a more manageable fifteen. In doing so, I have moved completely away from my original idea of providing an insider’s guide to changing lines at Oxford Circus station, removing the book-end images (the Victoria Line shots as we entered the station and the thinning throng on the west-bound Central Line platform) and also the weaker (or most technically compromised) pictures taken on the platform itself; the subjective picture looking out from the central line train as it left the station also has been removed to maintain the unity of point-of-view shown by other remaining pictures.

The result is a straightforward and – I think – successful narrative, which repeats itself every couple of minutes during rush-hour. It is structured around a series of ‘looks’: a woman looks up at a specific point on the station wall; another woman looks left and then right; the crowd becomes more crowded and a man looks off to the left attracted by the sound of… a train bursting into the station; the train races past a succession of people looking back along its direction of travel; the people on the platform stand back to let passengers get off, and then board the train themselves; the doors shut as people on the platform stream past; and the train departs the station.



assignment 2: vice versa – notes for the assessors

The tutor’s report for the assignment is Here.

All Related Posts for the assignment can be found either Here or by using the link nested beneath the heading Identity and Place in the blog’s top navigation.

File versions of the five A4 prints contained in the physical submission can be found on the assessment G: Drive as can a revised artist’s statement.


Assignment 2 – Revised for Assessment

In its original form, this assignment was not well received by my tutor, who described it as just a selection of my holiday pictures. Which in a way it was.

What I had been trying to do was to take posed, photographs in uncontrolled places (beaches, on the windy upper deck of the ferry north) at times when the lighting seemed suitable, and to take unposed observational pictures in more controllable conditions indoors. As Robert pointed out, I was probably over-thinking things.

fig.1 – looking for america (alice on skaill beach)

However, the phrase ‘holiday photos’ started me thinking about the differences between vernacular uses of photography and the more rarefied designation of some photographs as ‘art’. Rather than submitting a set of varied portraits of James for assessment – a suggestion made during the online tutorial – I have instead taken Grayson Perry’s definition of art being anything that an artist says it is from Playing to the Gallery and run with it!

The physical submission for this assignment consists of two observational photographs from the original submission for the assignment, one portrait of my son taken after visiting the Ruff retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery and two constructed ‘installation views’ featuring my pictures, elevated to art status on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery (replacing two of the Ruffs) and – at the top of this post – the Photographer’s Gallery (in the frames for three of Wim Wenders’ polaroids).

In the end, I think this assignment examines my twin identities as a parent with a camera and (vice versa!) as a photographer (an artist, even?) who is also a parent…



assignment 1: the non-familiar – notes for the assessors

The tutor’s report for the assignment is Here.

All Related Posts for the assignment can be found either Here or by using the link nested beneath the heading Identity and Place in the blog’s top navigation.

File versions of the six A4 prints contained in the physical submission can be found on the assessment G: Drive.


Assignment 1  –  Revised  for Assessment

The original set of photographs consisted of pictures taken at a training centre in east London of the people attending a re-certification course for the programme management methodology, MSP. I was also there for the course and it seemed a good moment to get pictures of people I had just met outside of their normal environment. They would not be wearing their professional armour and might let their guard down a bit.

When I arrived at the venue, I realised that there were marvelously vacuous, motivational statements printed in big letters on the walls. I used some of them as backgrounds for this initial set of pictures and hoped that the whole thing would hang together nicely while commenting on the whole professional certification racket. My tutor’s response seemed to indicate that this hadn’t really come across and that rather than ‘unguarded’ most of the pictures’ subjects came across simply as uncomfortable being photographed. Some were also smiling; it would appear that this is not generally viewed as a good thing if one wishes to be serious about portraiture.

Then, a few months later, I attended another professional certification course which took place at another training centre about a hundred yards away from the first. Again I took pictures of my course-mates during breaks.

In the time between the two courses, I think I had reached a better understanding of how to settle people and take good, non-awkward pictures of them. Four of the pictures in this revised set were taken at that second course. The two from earlier have been re-edited to make them all fit together as a coherent set; the one included in my original set – fig.4 –  has been cropped to remove the text on the wall with a corresponding increase in the impact of the subject.


exercise 5.3 – a journey

Note the journeys you go on regularly and reflect upon them.

Now photograph them. Remember to aim for consistency in your pictures […] This will help keep your project honed to the subject matter rather than you, the photographer.

IaP Coursebook, p.112

1: Some everyday journeys:

From the bedroom, down to the kitchen to make tea (and while my mug is brewing on to the downstairs bathroom to empty my bladder) and then up to my study in the attic to write up posts.

From the house to school with Alice – three options: on her seat at the back of my bike (although she’s almost too big for this); on her bike; on her scooter. The route for the days when Alice has her own transport is: down to Boundary Road, up St Barnabas Road, turning left half-way up and going straight on into Thomas Gamuel Park, round the corner by the play park and the exercise gear and straight on up the back of Reina’s and into the school play ground at the top. This journey is done in the morning with the light coming from the east.

This is of course totally different from (but with the same endpoint as) the journey with Alice to school from the old house.

The journey home again in the evening, either from Reina’s (Monday and Tuesday) or the school itself (Wednesday and Thursday). There may be a stop off at the playpark if the weather is right. Evening light – from the west. Mostly, I pick up on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when Fiona is on shift, but every four weeks, I do Thursday and Friday. On Friday Alice has a dance class in the village, so we head there instead, rather than home.

And after dropping Alice off at school, the trudge (route 1) or cycle (route2) to the station.

Saturdays to Sainsbury’s and George Monoux (pronounced Monucks, in the same way locals call the town Worfamstow) Academy for Alice’s gym class.

To Stansted. To Heathrow. Sometimes to Luton. On to Glasgow. Or Elsewhere (I did quite a bit of work on this set of journeys as background for part three of Context and Narrative)

The journey to work (cf assignment 3) or indeed assignment 5

The journey in to my workplace – through the barriers, up in the lift, go to the place I regularly hotdesk (fig. 3.3, here) plug in my laptop and then – while it’s booting – off to make coffee and to eat the samosa I bought at the station newsagents as I left the tube from this man:

When the coffee (‘real’ not instant, in a cafetiere cup) has brewed and the samosa has been eaten, I’ll go back to my desk, log on and begin my day.

From the station to home. Via the pub. Via Sainsbury’s. Via the Post Office to pick up a parcel.

If I were to pick one journey to tackle for this exercise from the list above, it would be the new journey to school with Alice. However, as mentioned above, I have already done a number of journeys in a number of treatments for various parts of my OCA courses to date, so I’ll revisit one of them and try to do something that ties in to the work on Still Life from earlier in this section of the course,


A flight into Russia

It’s not ground-breaking to take pictures of airline food; it probably was not ground breaking ten years ago. However, a large part of my time travelling by plane is taken up with eating and drinking. The last time I flew to Moscow, I flew with Aeroflot to Sheremetyevo airport to the north of the city. For my dinner, I had the meat option, not the fish; this sequence –  made in a style I have used many times before – shows my progress from receiving my meal tray through eating my main to being replete. I at the chewy bar on the airport express that took me into the city.

On the way home, i probably had the lamb again (I know not to have the fish) but this time, I slipped the paper cup that my glass of wine came in into my cabin bag. Back home – and months later –  i subjected it to the same treatment as I did to some of the objects on my mantelpiece.




Removing an object from its context, interests me at the moment; I have a second airline cup – Loganair; Kirkwall to Glasgow in August 2018 – sat next to me as I type. Once I have got the workroom in my new house set up, I’ll take a matching picture of it. I will gather more detritus from journeys as time goes on and photograph them once I have returned home. This will give me another way to picture my travels and present them to others…

exercise 5.2 – exhausting a place

I thought the premise of this exercise was so interesting – ‘Choose a viewpoint, perhaps looking out of your window or from a café in the central square, and write down everything you can see. No matter how boring it seems or how detailed, just write it down. Spend at least an hour on this exercise’ – that I never quite got round to doing it, as I was so interested in working out where  – the threatened open space beside Walthamstow Central? staring out of the window of The Chequers as the market packs up for the evening? somewhere in Orkney? somewhere in Glasgow? somewhere in Salford? – however, I did manage to publish my jotted notes from a train journey.

This does not mean it won’t be something I try to do in the future and I may even try and insert it into a suitable place in a later course. The subtitle of Christian Licoppe’s 2015 paper on exhausting an augmented place – Georges Perec, observer-writer of urban life, as a mobile locative media user – could fit with Digital Image and Culture; using the exercise as a starting point for an examination of space could be applied to any number of landscape, documentary or ‘self and other’ situations. Indeed a quote jumped out at me this morning from an article found by fellow student Nuala Mahon and linked on the OCA Photography facebook group page:

“Whenever Frank went into a new town,” Greenough said, “he tried to find one or two objects or scenes that for him symbolized that place.” That doesn’t mean he was cozying up to the diner counter and getting to know the locals. “You don’t get the sense that he’s really talking with people,” Greenough added—but rather drifting in the background, shooting in hotel lobbies and bars, at funerals and political rallies and outside auto factories”

– Scott Indrisek: Why Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ Matters Today

As for photographic treatments of places that might complement Perec’s short book, I found myself pondering three different approaches:

1 – Stephen Shore: In Uncommon Places (known to me from the expanded version published by Thames and Hudson in 2014) Stephen Shore collects pictures taken with a large format camera on a series of road trips he made across America in the 1970s. They are very different to the photographs he took on an earlier series of trips out of New York that are collected as American Surfaces. These pictures are much more carefully composed and framed; obviously they took much more time to envisage and set up. The idea of taking a ‘screenshot’ of what was in front of him (as Shore describes himself doing in the introduction to American Surfaces) is gone; these pictures are not spontaneous snapshots; something vernacular has been superseded by something more coolly calculated.

While you certainly feel as if you are able to get to know his viewpoint and subject, there is little sense of Shore’s exhausting a location in  Perec’s sense. They are static scenes, isolated in time. This doesn’t mean that I dislike them (or that I will not try to emulate them) but that they do not really fit the brief here.

2 – Chris Dorley-Brown: I used to live about ten minutes up the Dalston High Street from the Rio Cinema, so when I saw its unmistakable facade taking up most of a double spread in the Observer, I was naturally going to read the whole article and then to buy the book it came from. Unlike Shore’s single, large format pictures, Dorley-Brown’s are composites, designed to resemble LF photography, but made up from many individual photographs: ‘a simultaneous snapshot of events that happened over an hour’ (Bromwich).  The pictures are assembled seamlessly, in the manner of Andreas Gursky’s massive panoramas. The effect is strange – a number of people cross the farm in each picture, but none of them seems to be aware of the others (obviously – they were not occupying the same point in the space-time continuum when they were photographed) while the perspective has the same strangely precise linearity that estate agents’ perspective corrected cramped interiors have. There is something up with them, but – without having the trick explained to you, you might not quite be able to put your finger on it, 

3 – David Hockney: At the huge retrospective of Hockney’s work at Tate Britain last year, one of his photographic collages  – Pearblossom Hwy. 11–18th April 1986, #1 (1986) offered a model for a picture which would not try to ape a single photograph. Where Dorley-Brown’s pictures are taken from a single point of view, Hockney moved in and out of the scene before him. He describes the process of making the 850 exposures thus:  ‘[each] was taken close to the surface of every element. I was up a ladder photographing the road sign or the cactus. We always took a big ladder, because I knew I needed the ladder – otherwise you have a standard, lens perspective of the object. The markings on the road were done from a ladder, you had to be up above them looking straight down. How do you look at it otherwise?’ (Tate) The effect is an obviously authored view of a space and would be a tremendously complicated (and expensive – 850 prints, even if struck from files made with a digital camera, would cost in the region of 250 pounds) thing to do; you could try it in photoshop for much less money, but I suspect it would drive you mad! A nice thing to try though, if possibly on a smaller scale and budget.



  • Perec, G (1975) An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris
  • Indrisek, S (Sept 2018)  Why Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ Matters Today Published Online by Artsy.Net (accessed 16/9/18)
  • Licoppe, C (2015) An Attempt at Exhausting an Augmented Place in Paris; Department of Social Science, Telecom Paristech, Paris. (accessed online – 15/9/18)
  • Shore, S (2014) Uncommon Places; Thames and Hudson, London
  • Dorley-Brown, C (2018) The Corners; Hoxton Mini Press, London
  • Bromwich, K (20/05/18)  The Big Picture – Chris Dorley-Brown’s surreal street corner photography (The Observer, accessed online, – 30/09/18)
  • Gayford, M. (2017) Hockney’s World of Pictures in Tate Etc. issue 39: Spring 2017 – accessed 30/9/18)

assignment 5 – tutorial and formative feedback

We had a short and quite relaxed online, voice-only tutorial which divided pretty evenly between the assignment itself and my plans for level two.

I had received Robert’s initial notes the day before and had time to think about them before the tutorial itself. This way of working – we did the same for Assignment 4 in April – seems to work well as the tutorial is not spent establishing what your tutor thinks about the work in general, while you deal with your reaction to the criticism regardless of whether it is good or bad. Here it was mostly good: Robert was glad I had returned to a typology which hung ‘together well, especially in the grid format’ with ‘no room for confusion about the subject, as [I had] singled it out and repeated it so consistently.’

The rest of the notes concerned a lack of a discernible motive behind the making of the pictures or tools to extract further meaning from them, beyond simple pictures of feet. This was a bit disconcerting but I was able to argue my case – that it is as hard to tell who someone is from their footwear alone as it is from their unadorned face –  during the tutorial, as well as discussing various things about meaning – of feet, of hands, of tattoos, of shoes –  and appearance.

Gradually, it became apparent that I had only captioned the pictures (ie ‘woman, 20’s; relaxed after being cramped by people standing in aisle’) on the post that ran through them as a slideshow on my blog, and Robert – apart from viewing the layout image on the main blog post with the artist’s statement – had been looking at them as the full-size files that I had made available on my g:drive which had only identifying file names (ie metrosynecdoche-06.jpg).

So, the main thing I take from this assignment is that I should never assume that anyone will look at all the versions that I make available of an assignment; greater consistency in the surrounding, meta-photographic information (particularly if it is something like a title that is intended to act in the manner a relay) is something to aim for when submitting the pictures for assessment. That said, it is a fairly light piece of work (particularly when juxtaposed with my assignment 4) and does as such not bear too much analysis.

We then – as this is the last assignment for the module – went on to talk about my progress over the course of this module which Robert felt had been gathering momentum from assignment 3 onwards after a very uncertain start, leading to consistent, self-confident and self-assured work – and to look forward to level two.

I intend to move onto Digital Image and Culture next – we talked about the need for me to carry on taking the sort of pictures I have been producing during IaP alongside the more theory-focussed work of DIaC. I shall do – it’s become a habit to have a camera with me and to photograph things that catch my eye – but also want to examine further the ‘still life with context removed’ pictures that I have started experimenting with during this section of Identity and Place.

As my second level two course, Robert has strongly recommended that I try Self and Other as this strikes him to be a logical continuation of the work I have been doing here and the slightly detached point of view I have been working from. This is an interesting idea as up until now, I have always intended to do the landscape course as part of level two and have come to a point where I’d like to try and apply the learnings of DIaC to the depiction of place, rather than identity (inasmuch as the two can be separated).

I have eighteen months or so to make up my mind as to which way to go. A lot can change in that time so we shall see…