Course: Expressing Your Vision
Assignment two – ‘Collecting’ – Tutor Feedback
Please find below my tutor feedback which has been provided in full as instructed by my tutor.
My responses to the points raised will be in square brackets to differentiate between the two.
It was interesting to see your submission of a collection of heads, given some reading and research I have recently been doing in respect of a French photographer called JR (more on him later).
I have laid all six ‘heads’ out on a table in order to look at them holistically and I recommend doing this whenever you have taken a series of shots. I then advise walking around the table so that all the heads are viewed upside down. This enables you to see if anything stands out, especially regarding colour and tone. Your images stand up well to this, although I can immediately identify that in image 2 of 6, Lynne has some harsh lighting on several areas of her face which is inconsistent with the lighting on all the other people’s faces.
Overall, I like your choice of composition for the heads and the fact that you have chosen to have a shallow depth of field, which is more difficult to achieve, however I would have liked a little more context around the border, as the heads appear a little crammed in to the space without an opportunity to breathe. Some of the images do not appear to have the eyes in focus and I will comment on this in more detail below.
I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.
Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Image 1 – Gordon
You have captured a good expression on this man’s face as it makes him appear thoughtful and inquisitive. I am pleased to see you are looking at colour theory in all your photographs, although because you have photographed him up close and personal, there is very little room to fully explore the other items in the image, other than his face. I do not feel that you have got this image pin sharp. I would expect his eyes to be sharp. Are you using automatic focus? This can often be the problem and it is important to use manual focus on the eyes in this instance, as you will find that the camera can focus on the end of the nose or the eyebrows instead. Focusing is a fundamental skill in portrait photography therefore it is important to get this right, or the image should be edited out of the set. You may be able to see more clearly what you have done and where the camera has focused if you enlarge your image on the screen at 100%. It also helps if you use a monitor, rather than a small laptop screen as these issues can be missed. I have identified this is a problem on some of your other images so I will briefly comment on that when I come to each photograph in the portfolio.
The photograph overall is not particularly flattering to the gentleman. This is not a criticism! It may have been your intention that we see his broken veins in his cheeks, his nose hair, his dry skin and dandruff on his shirt. Of course, if this was not your intention, you need to inform your sitters what is required of them before the photo shoot, in order for them to look their best.
[I agree with all my tutor’s comments above and will rework to cover off the focus and cropping points raised.
I did use automatic focus and after some experimentation across my lenses I have found inconsistencies in the quality of the focus points. Now that I am aware of this issue it is something I consider each time I work with a particular lens to ensure I get the best results from it.
It was my intention to produce an ‘honest’ record of the subjects in a more documentary recording style. Since this assignment I have gone deeper into portraiture and can appreciate even more the comments made. I will post links to a couple of my recent portrait sessions at the end of this post for reference.]
Image 2 – Lynne
Again, I am not convinced the eyes are pin sharp in this image. The focus appears to be on her hair and fringe. I like the colour combination of her top and the flowers in the background, complimenting the colour of her eyes, as you have suggested. Her mascara has smudged a little, particularly underneath her right eye, which is not very flattering and attention to detail is important. The sitter has a pleasant expression and creases in an older person’s face work well (although again, this is not very flattering particularly for a woman!).
[This comment highlighted to me that, unless it is your intention to produce a ‘warts and all’ image, that you should be particular about your output. Some people, ref. Henri Cartier-Bresson, find their pleasure in the immediacy of the capture; however, if you are taking photographs for the purpose of producing the images especially in print format, you do have to be fastidious with the whole process.]
Image 3 – Poppy
I can see why this is your favourite image. The girl looks very natural in her pose and the eyes are pin sharp. There are some light areas in the image, in the bottom right hand corner (her light-coloured top) and also a white stripe on the left hand side a third of the way down the picture. If you were to cover up these parts with your thumb, you can see that overall it makes for a stronger image as we are drawn to look at her face rather than the white areas surrounding it. Her hair looks particularly greasy in this image which lets it down.
Image 4 – Fiona
The sitter’s hair and teeth are sharp in this image, but the eyes are not. You have some well-considered natural lighting on her face. The smiling expression fits her personality but does it fit with your overall theme and intention?
[I think the subject’s smile captures her nature so I think it is representative of a ‘record’ image. Other comments noted.]
Image 5 – Craig
The impressive beard is sharp and the hair, however, the eyes are not. I am questioning if he is related to Fiona due to the similarity in the teeth and the freckles! This can be a controversial area to research in portrait photography for clients – what to clone out? This has caused several areas for debate on the Internet and would be worthy of some extra research.
[I have seen a few articles, including one particular one on LinkedIn, where the girl had all her freckles removed in Photoshop. The person who posted it, who honestly thought he had done a good job came in for some very harsh criticism from both men and women. I was surprised but also pleased at the amount of feedback he got.
We seem to have moved away from a time when a photograph provided an honest and true record of somewhere / something / someone i.e. the camera never lies, to one where photographs are often manipulated in some way that people in the main do not trust them. Probably a subject for a whole separate blog post!]
Image 6 – James
Again, an interesting expression which makes me wonder what he is thinking and this is far more thought-provoking than a portrait of someone smiling – or perhaps you may want to prove me wrong! There is a lot of research that can be done at the moment looking at people smiling and ‘selfies’ and the element of narcissism that this brings with it. The photograph of this sitter has very similar aspects to the comments given for Image 1. Overall, your print quality is good for this set of images, however, you may want to experiment with different papers to see which you prefer.
[On the first study visit I attended there was discussion amongst the students about posing for the camera and whether it was possible to take a photograph of someone without them performing or ‘presenting’ themselves in a certain way. Since children we all get in front of a camera and are told to ‘smile’ and this is what we are conditioned to do from there on in. I agree this is definitely a subject for another blog post and further research.]
Coursework – Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
It is good to see how the exercises have informed this assignment with regards to the technical aspects; however, some of your research does not seem to ‘flow’ enough into your final project. I am seeing; a shed, a snail and reference to Guy Bourdin but none of these really link to your series of portraits. Consider exploring your subject more fully (rather like having a ‘sketchbook’ of relevant photographs which, in this case, would be photographs of people), rather than having a vision of what your final work will look like and jumping to this. You may well find that this will bring you more exploratory results, long-term.
[This is an area that I think will improve as I research other photographers; continue with the further reading around the subject and attend exhibitions. I am also trying to incorporate more references (direct or otherwise) in to my writing which can only happen through doing more research and understand the connects or disconnects. I also need to develop my opinion / voice rather than just dealing with facts.]
Research – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
You have clearly done a lot of research on different photographers, along with primary evidence visiting galleries. Although this is well written and well reflected upon, some of it does not go into enough depth and does not sign post how the photographer’s work may have influenced your own. You have mentioned several photographers who you have looked at in your research, but then come up with your own vision and I would like to have seen more analysis into why you have this set of criteria and who has informed this and why.
[Comments noted, see above. I can be pretty ambivalent about art at times. I know what I definitely don’t like and then everything else is just accepted. If I’m honest I get more pleasure out of creating my own work than I do from looking at others. Not sure what that says about me, something bad I’m sure.]
Learning Log – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
I would have expected more written analysis on your intentions with regards to photographing this particular set of people. You seem to have concentrated a lot on the technical aspects of the work (which is great!), however, this needs to be balanced with the meaning behind what you have photographed and why. I would like to have known the intentions behind photographing the people i.e. are they friends/family? Why are most of them of a certain age and one is a young girl, why are some smiling for the camera and some quite serious? Were you conscious about photographing them ‘warts and all’?
[Comments noted and are fair. I need to look at my work from a strangers perspective, what questions would they ask that are a given to me. I cannot expect someone else to know what’s going on in my head, although I can become very absorbed in my own thoughts at times.]
Suggested reading/viewing – Context
As per my comments above, you may want to look at the work of French photographer JR. He has travelled around the world, working with people in the community, taking close-ups of their faces and printing the images on poster-size sheets of paper, then pasting them onto the homes, trains or walls in the city. The images are very striking. They may also be controversial, in that some of the people are ‘at war’ with their neighbours, so he makes a point of pasting these people side by side and asking people to identify their nationality. You can view his work here: www.insideoutproject.net There are also documentaries viewable on YouTube.
[The inside out project looks interesting and I presume it is an ongoing project without any deadline. I have also taken a look at JRs work and will be doing a separate blog post on his work as part of my follow-up work.]
Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
- Focus on the eyes
- Ensure you have a theoretical meaning behind your work, rather than just considering the technical aspects
[Comments noted and I will consider these on my follow-up work and future assignments.
Overall I am pleased with my feedback and note that I have some areas to improve on and consider if I wish to improve.]
Links to Portrait Sessions as promised above under feedback from Image 1:
Pinup Doll Alice Oxley