Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 5

Reflecting on Part five – Viewpoint and Assignment five…

As with my previous posts, this post summarises what I have learnt from part five of the course and Assignment five, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • experiment with different approaches to see what works best for the idea/brief,
  • qualify the rationale for any decision-making so there is a clear understanding of the approach taken,
  • be consistent with the look and feel of the series so it hangs together,
  • include more critical analysis including opposing views, and
  • ensure focus is 100%.

Following tutor feedback I have included within this post a re-shoot of images 2, 7 and 10.  In addition, my tutor has suggested I provide a response to Annie Leibovitz’s ‘warts and all’ Las Vegas Showgirl and Spencer Tunick’s Capital of Culture 2017.  This will be covered under a separate blog post which you can access here.

Note: With the re-shot images I kept the ISO the same so the images would be consistent with the original series.  I did consider re-shooting the whole series again but decided against this because, a) I would have probably gone insane as it was difficult enough to do the first time round and 2) I was happy with the majority of the images so it seemed a waste of resources at this point to go back to square one. And so here are my re-shots:

Image 2 : Hands
Original Vs digital re-worked image (image re-shot) 

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-b

revised hands










I found the original image hard to re-create from a composition perspective, however, I did re-shoot this image but still felt the original image was much stronger so I decided to keep the original in the final series.  The reason I felt the original image was stronger was that; a) the lighting was more consistent with the rest of the series, b) the aesthetics of the grain was more consistent with the rest of the series, c) there was more detail apparent and I prefer that visually, and d) it has a better composition.

Image 7 : Torso Front
Original Vs digital re-worked image (image re-shot) 

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-g

revised Torso Front










It is not as obvious with the digital image but the re-shot image is much clearer and in focus compared to the original.  The lighting is consistent with the original series and so the re-shot image makes it into the revised final series (see below).  [Note to self: more exercise required as I seem to have put on some weight.]

Image 10 : Hair
Original Vs digital re-worked image (image re-shot) 

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-j











This image aptly named hair (and there is more of it this time round) was re-shot mainly due to unwanted shadows.  There were no such shadows apparent in the other shots in the series so this one stood out from that perspective.  To reduce the cast shadows I simply; a) moved further away from the background and b) introduced a bit of light in at the front to reduce the shadows on my legs cast by my hair.  As a result the shadows have been eliminated in the re-shot image and this is the image that makes it into the final series.  I also prefer the composition of form in the re-shot image.

Contact sheets for the re-shot images above:

Before I go on to the full series comparison I need to make a comment about why colour was not considered for this Assignment.  I think by looking at the two sets of contact sheets black and white provides a more consistent look to the skin.  With colour you are distracted by the nuances in skin tones and blemishes and to me this exercise was about form and black and white allow the eye to focus on this aspect more.

And now to the original versus the revised final series:

Original series:

Final revised series:

Post re-work/re-shooting I am now much happier with my final series and I feel that as a set they represent me and what I was trying to achieve with this assignment well.

A side note about key lines:  
A key line is a line which goes around the edge your image so there is a clear break between the printed area and the border (in my case, white). I have been experimenting with these both on assignment prints and on my competition entry prints with mixed results.

I have concluded to date that where the print edge is the same or similar colour to the border there is some merit in using a black or grey key line to provide a frame which keeps the eye contained within the image.

This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part five/Assignment five.



Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – Tutor feedback

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – 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.

Overall Comments

Thank you for posting me prints for your fifth and final assignment.

This set of images has shown predominately how much you have grown in confidence over the course of the assignments. Previously, your prints had occasionally felt a little too ‘studenty’ (yes, I know you are a student, studying photography!), however, I feel that you have looked upon this assignment with a great deal more thought, investigation and inquiry and that has produced some work which has the potential to develop much further in another OCA course as it has brought out your strengths.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

This is a very challenging and brave decision, to photograph yourself. As you have identified, there are a lot of technical issues which you have attempted to overcome. You have stated that you used a high ISO and briefly mentioned the purpose of this (wanting to see grain). You have identified that this may not have been flattering to you. In this respect, it would be a good idea to have experimented in the first instance with low and high ISO, and then you would have been in a stronger position to justify why you chosen the high ISO. This way, the assessors can also see that you are competent in shooting both styles and having good technical ability and the sense of experimentation. By just doing the one high ISO set of imagery, you are not really showing your skills to their best advantage.

[I note the comments made about low and high ISO and that it is important when putting together an assignment to qualify any statements made by showing or explaining the other point of view.]

Also, still with regards to ISO, it would be advantageous to state why your initial intention was to have a grainy image. You are currently contradicting yourself by saying it is not flattering, so why have it in the first place? If you say that your theme is surrounding the ‘naked’ you, then was the aesthetics a factor in this? If so, how much of a factor? Why just show the body and not the face? These are all questions which can be asked of yourself more deeply, which will in turn justify the reasons for a more grainier image. It needs to be explained in more depth.

[My reason for wanting to use grain (as briefly explained in my assignment submission, which is restrictive in the amount of text which can be submitted) was to give my images the same look and feel as the images produced by Bill Brandt in his book Nudes, one of timeless capture.  Although the grain in Brandt’s images was probably due to the development process of black and white images at the time they were produced, it gives an authenticity which I wanted to draw upon.

The fact that an image is not flattering is not a reason NOT to do it, it pushes boundaries and in this case my comfort zone with regards my body so from that perspective it was even more reason to provide a ‘warts and all’ image.  

The reason Brandt showed body parts on the beach (no faces or very few) was to blend the human body with nature into new forms, and in some of his images you cannot tell which is which.  For me it was about using the body as sculpture; to present the body (my body) as sculptured body parts, so none of the images taken were ‘straight’ images they were positioned and arranged.

By including a face in the images would take you away from the idea of sculptured body parts and form as faces bring emotion to an image and I did not want the images to convey my emotion purely my form.]

Your decision to print in black and white as opposed to colour, could also do with more clarification. Similar to above, I would like to have seen some images (samples or contact sheets) printed out in colour, with reflective and critical analysis for why you chose to print in black and white.

[In my re-work /reflection blog post I will provide colour comparisons and discuss the merits of each, together with relating this back to what I wanted to achieve with my series.]

One of your images (of your midriff) does not appear to be pin sharp compared to others, so please ensure you revisit your set of final images and only print out the sharp ones as the ones which are slightly blurred will show up as being technically poor at assessment. You may also want to check the focus on the print of your hands. Enlarge images to 100% on Photoshop to do this and make sure the focus is on the main point of direction.

[This was particularly difficult to execute and not all the images were focusing as they should have due to a hard to capture reference point.  To rectify the during any re-shoot I need to 1) be aware of the depth of field being used and be able to locate the exact area where I need to be positioned to achieve more accurate focus and 2) try not to more once in position until the capture has completed.

I will check the focus on the images suggested and provide re-work on my reflection blog post following this one.]

The image where your hands are behind your head shows some lovely natural lighting on your hands, hair and shoulders which is not really evident in your other images and could show a lack of consistency. Did you shoot at different times of the day, or move your position away from the window? Equally, the shot of you with your long hair and your head down has shadows forming on the back wall which are not evident in other images so this also needs to be revisited.

[This assignment was shot over a couple of sessions, so there is a difference to the lighting.  Also in some of the shots I was standing nearer to the background causing more shadows than in others.  This will be revisited as part of my reflection blog post following this one.]

Coursework – Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

The shoot you have done with the professional model (which had been inspired by a visit to an exhibition whereby man Ray’s cracked image was displayed), shows that you are competent technically and that you have control over lighting and composition, however this is not reflected as strongly in your final set of images (although, again, I appreciate the difficulty in photographing yourself as opposed to a professional model).

[Comments noted and I will attempt to improve and create more considered images in my re-working/re-shooting.]

Research – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis 

It is clear you have done a lot of reading on the thoughts of Terry Barrett and his essay has inspired you to look at the deconstruction of an image, with a practical shoot to back up your research. You are in the early stages of this and would benefit from more critical analysis of key speakers’ research. You may be interested in looking at the work of Roland Barthes and his theory into the many layers of meaning behind an image (particularly within an advertising context).

You may also want to look at an image by Annie Leibovitz where she has photographed a Las Vegas showgirl, but she has purposefully left in the edge of the backdrop, so you may want to analyse this ‘warts and all’ aspect of her work.

[Going forwards I will include more critical analysis of key speakers’s research (such as Barthes) and take a look at Annie Leibovitz’s Las Vegas Showgirl and comment on this in my reflection blog post following this one.] 

Learning Log – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Your section on books seems a little thin. It may be a better idea to remove this tag, but to incorporate some quotes within the body of other assignments you have carried out, so that it is embedded more within your critical research and thinking, rather than separating and compartmentalizing it into an area which does not appear to be working out for you.

[I have removed the Books section from this blog for this course as it is clear I have not done enough to merit its own section and re-assigned the blog posts I have done to research instead.  As the course progresses I may bring this section back in as required.]

Suggested reading/viewing – Context

Think outside the box and research a photographer such as Spencer Tunick who asks members of the public to strip naked and stand in the street so that he can construct an image. His latest one was in Hull (Capital of Culture 2017). This could be an area to annotate and reflect upon in light of your own theme.

[I will add some text on Spencer Tunick in my reflection blog post which follows this one.]

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment 

  • Check point of focus is 100%
  • Develop more critical analysis within the body of your research, backed up by quotations from books / academic papers

[Comments noted.  Overall I am happy with and can understand the critique which has been provided.  I have felt constrained by the word count for the assignments at times, sometimes they do not give you enough room to explain your theory and provide the back up analysis.  From the forums this has been debated and believe that the word count is a little flexible, although you shouldn’t go under word count you could use another 5% on top if required.]

Follow this link to my reflection blog post, which follows up on the comments provided above and any re-working / re-shooting of images.

Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The End

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The End (following on from Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Middle)

Please note: My tutor requests that my final Assignment image submissions are provided as A4 prints so the jpegs below are only of web quality.

So here are my final selected images for my ‘Photography is simple’ assignment, together with their technical specs (the text beside each image accompanied my A4 prints):

Image Summaries:
5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-a


Technical Details: ISO 2000 1/50 sec. f/3.5
I like the texture on the soles of my feet in this image.  I considered whether the image would have worked better if all my feet were in focus but it was difficult to hold in this position, so I didn’t get to try that.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-b


Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/7.1
I like the way the ‘head’ lines on my palms line up.  The positioning of my hands in the frame means the eye is drawn up the fingers into the palms.  Definitely shows all the creases and contours of the hands.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-c


Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/7.1
This shows the side of the feet off well. We are now at the ankles.  A slightly unusual point of view/composition.  Holding the feet up to take this photograph was not easy.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-d


Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/7.1
Using symmetry and fitting the wrists around the knees.  I like the composition; how the tendons show up and you can see the veins stretching up the arm drawing your eye up through the image.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-e


Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/7.1
moving up from the feet.  At this point I am alternately between the hands and feet routes up to the main body.  Again I like the composition, the knees pointing upwards in a less obvious way.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-f

Torso Back

Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/4.5
I managed to get an elbow and the back of an arm in this frame as a leading line.  Also the top hand is framing a scar on my back; maybe this is a bit too subtle a detail.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-g

Torso Front

Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/4.5
Composition wise the arm leads you up the body.  I think the shapes and shadows work well together.  There is also a glimpse of my tattoo (and knicker marks!).

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-h


Technical Details: ISO 4000 1/100 sec. f/4
I never thought my back could even do this!  One place that you never really see for yourself, maybe in a mirror but this was definitely enlightening.  Bra marks visible but these add to the authenticity of the image.  Not entirely symmetrical but balanced.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-i


Technical Details: ISO 4000 1/100 sec. f/4.5
I included this in homage to a Man Ray image ‘Anatomies 1930’ which I saw in The Radical Eye exhibition at the Tate Modern.  I loved the abstract nature of the viewpoint.  The shadows accentuate the contours of the body.



Technical Details: ISO 5000 1/80 sec. f/6.3
My hair is one of my main defining features and it would be remiss if this was not included.  A nude image ‘with a difference’.  Again symmetry and form had a part to play in this image.

5 Assignment five Photography is Simple-j

Although the process was difficult and at times frustrating, once I saw the results I was pleased that I had persevered.

This completes my Assignment five submission from a course requirement perspective and I now await tutor feedback.

Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Middle

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Middle (following on from Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Beginning)

Technical Approach and Techniques:

I used a Canon 5D Mk III with a 70-300mm zoom lens on a tripod.  I used a high ISO.  The ISO data unfortunately did not print out successfully on the contact sheets.  This is a good lesson in quality checking your submission well in advance of the deadline!  Also the original contact sheets I printed at home on photographic paper came off the paper.  I think was due to 1) how badly the photographic paper had been stored and 2) using reconditioned cartridges so the ink in them is probably inferior.  This issue meant I had to re-print the contact sheets on normal paper instead.  For the Assessment proper contact sheets will be provided.

Personal Reflection:

Overall this was a difficult idea to execute.  If I was going to do this type of shoot again I would try to set up a remote screen so I could see when the framing was perfect but as it was each time I moved position the focus point/framing changed. This meant I had to have several goes at getting certain shots.  

As a result of the difficulty I had in taking the images they were taken in a couple of different sittings and so consistency of look and feel was impacted somewhat.

Here are the contact sheets of the images taken for this assignment ahead of seeing the final selects on the following blog post:

To see my final selects please follow this link for the next section – Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The End.


Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Beginning

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Beginning

There are two fundamentals in all picture taking – where to stand and when to release the shutter … so photography is very simple.
(Jay & Hurn, 2001, p.37)

“So photography is simply viewpoint and moment… but what about subject?”

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence. 

Format of my Blog response:
As with previous Assignments, where text from my official response to my tutor has been included I will highlight this to enable you (the reader) to distinguish between what is just ‘chat’ i.e. my ‘thoughts’, and what has been ‘submitted’.  This will help contextualise my tutor’s response/critique and any rework that is/has been requested.

Initial Thoughts:
When you are presented with an open brief such as this your mind goes into a whirl about what you could do, what is possible, what is not possible, what would work, what wouldn’t… and before you know it you have a number of ideas and the task of having to select just one (hoping you choose the right one that your tutor feels has stretched you enough).

The brief for this assignment is to take 10 photographs of a subject each unique and providing different and new information to the one before it.

I decided to use myself as the subject for a number of reasons (and I will elaborate on the relevance of each as I go through this introduction) but in no particular order;

  • it’s cliche,
  • I was available,
  • It felt it was the right subject given my personal situation the last couple of months,
  • Recent photographic influences, and
  • it takes me ‘full circle’.

When I first started Expressing Your Vision (‘EYV’) my aspiration was to complete a course module each year heading towards the degree completion in 6/7 years (in addition to continuing to work full-time in London, supporting/inspiring my two great kids and looking after a slightly needy Labrador dog, oh and trying to keep a husband happy t’boot). This aspiration still holds but so far it has not been without its challenges.

A year on, coming to the end of EYV and life for me both in an emotional and personal growth sense is different to where it was when I started the course.  I think this is because of a number of factors but certainly this course, for one, has had a major impact on my perception, perspective and reality (both physically and emotionally) of today’s modern living and this has influenced the direction my life has taken and will possibly take me in the future….

I look back at the ‘me’ a year ago and I see someone who was looking for a creative outlet.  To take up some interest / hobby which would allow self-expression in a safe environment, but also to escape from the complexities of life which had not all been a bed of roses (some high points and some low points but that’s life, right?!).

Venturing out with my camera and losing myself for a couple of hours in the process of taking photographs was, and still is, very therapeutic for me.  Looking at things in a different way, and from a different perspective, gives us the opportunity to learn and grow as people by observing our surroundings and I do not think this is something that should be taken lightly and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to do this.

The challenge, however, with looking at things and yourself differently is that you can never return to the same ‘you’ you were before; you are a revised you, a more experienced you, a more knowledgeable you, a changed you.   These changes are linear – only moving in one direction – forwards in time.  And can include a change to your views of both yourself and others but can also change people’s perceptions of you, which can be positive but can also be negative.

Because of this ‘journey’ I have been on and noting where I am at this moment in my life, essentially this assignment is about me, the ‘external’ naked me as my chosen subject.  

A subject I should be well versed in by now; although I am still learning about my abilities, reassessing who I am and making decisions about where my life is going both physically and emotionally.

The decision to use myself as the subject was;

  1. One of practicality i.e. I can always be readily available to myself.  
  2. I was in total control of the ‘what, when and how’ the images were shot and produced.  
  3. It brings me full circle.  My images for this assignment are influenced by the book Bill Brandt’s Nudes, the first photography book I purchased, as a precursor to taking this course (see initial research blog post – I will put a link here).  

Each image shows a different view/part of my body from an angle that ‘the man on the street’ wouldn’t normally see them from.  This process was far more difficult to execute than I had initially anticipated but I persevered and glad that I did.

The images have been taken with a higher ISO than I would normally use but I wanted to see grain and texture in the images and, although I’m not sure this was a flattering choice, it certainly gives a lot more character to the images which come across gritty and raw as a result.

I have never really been a black and white image fan but since being on this course and attending the many photography exhibitions, I am becoming increasingly more embracing of the black and white aesthetic and felt that this subject/assignment was suited to stripping the image bare of colour and going back to ‘naked’ black and white (like the subject).  I think this approach has worked out well.

Even though I probably won’t completely admit it, I am starting to see the merits that black and white can bring to an image.  Colours can be distracting at times especially if there are a lot of competing colours especially when you are concentrating more on form.

I am, therefore, laying myself bare in this assignment, literally, to explore the external me [both the original context and the internal context according to Terry Barrett’s essay titled ‘Photographs and Context’] with 10 different images which record me externally as a person in a physical sense.  The internal me is captured by the words on the page, my other blog posts, and the many interactions I have with others everyday.  Barthes in Camera Lucida questions whether you can get the sense of a person purely from a photograph, this is open to debate… and no doubt one that will invite further analysis later in my degree studies.

So these are my initial thoughts please follow this link for the next section: Assignment five – ‘Photography is simple’ – The Middle.


Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

Terry Barrett Photographs and Context, Available at:  (Accessed: February 2017).


Part five – Project 1 – Exercise 5.2

Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.”


The image I used for this exercise is a photograph I recently saw as part of The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection at the Tate Modern , Man Ray’s photograph of Max Ernst taken in 1938.

(Note: You can find my review of The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection exhibition under the Exhibitions section of this blog or by following this LINK)

It is a straight forward portrait which looks as though it has been in a glass picture frame and subsequently smashed to pieces; the shards of glass represented by pieces of the photograph which look shattered and separated.  The photograph is almost reconstructed but not fully, however, your brain reconstructs it for you so that in your mind’s eye you can see what the original image looked like.  

This image was included in the exhibition section covering Experiments and it is this element of the photo that I am responding to.

After writing my interpretation above I found out that the original Man Ray glass-plate negative was intentionally broken by Max Ernst, who then stuck together the glass splinters with tape.

Early photography had been used mainly to record and document, however, artists and photographers in the early twentieth century started to experiment with abstract intervention to distort visual perceptions and create new realities in their images. Photo-montage was a large part of this experimentation as well as tinting and transfer.

I do not have access to a glass-plate negative so I used what I thought was the next best option for distortion, a digital manipulation tool.  

So my initial response to this exercise, using Man Ray’s image of Max Ernst as my influence, was to use Photoshop to deconstruct a portrait image.  I selected slices/pieces/segments of the image, from the middle out, using the marquee selection tool and then pulled the pieces apart to get a more abstract look to the image but not pulled apart enough that the mind’s eye couldn’t reconstruct the image, see figure 1.  


Figure 1

On carrying out a comparison of the original image and my image, my image seemed too clinical/clean and I didn’t like the way the face had disjointed and made the subject look unreal.  I then realised the reason for this was that I hadn’t kept the integrity of the frame.
So I had another go…


Figure 2

This time, again in Photoshop, I used the free-form pen tool to draw the separation lines by hand which gave less of a clean bit more of a haphazard ‘by chance’ look and feel to the pieces separated, see figure 2.

I could have stopped there but then I thought, the original photograph was a photograph of the post image distortion so I decided to print a photograph use a blade to cut the original and then make an image of that, see figure 3.


Figure 3

This third attempt actually looks and feels more honest.  You can see the white edges of the photo paper which gives more authenticity to the image as a physically altered image.  So it is this the third and final photograph that is my final response to the brief.

The second part of the brief asks what information in Terry Barrett’s essay titled ‘Photographs and Context’ provides context to this exercise.

On reading the excerpt of Terry Barrett’s essay titled ‘Photographs and Context’ (linked to as part of the course reading material) he talks about ‘how an image is interpreted’ and that this is dependent upon; 1) what is within the image – the ‘internal context’; 2) where the image is being viewed – the ‘external context’ and 3) what the photographer had originally envisaged the image’s use to be – the ‘original context’.  

So to analyse these 3 contexts above in relation to the original and indeed my response image, I believe:

1) the internal context is the image of a portrait of a man (woman) which has been deconstructed and then reconstructed.

2) the external context is the image was part of a collection being exhibited.  Hundreds maybe thousands of people will see it and by being in an exhibition suggests it is of value. (my image is displayed on the internet as part of my degree coursework and will be seen by my tutor and maybe a hand full of other people than happen to read my blog).

3) the original context is that Max Ernst intentionally broke the Man Ray glass-plate for the purpose of presenting it as a reconstruction (my image was produced solely in response to Max Ernst’s reconstruction).

To take this experimentation one step further:

“In a further act of appropriation, Ernst wrote on the tape with India ink and exposed the plate so that the light-colored tape came out black and the writing white. The new plate, now a self-portrait photomontage of sorts, was used by Max Ernst as the invitation to his 1935 Paris exhibition, Exposition Max Ernst, dernières oeuvres.”

but the response to this is for another day…..

(Note: you can see the original images that I took of Alice on my other blog HERE).


Collectif,, Mavlin Shoair (2016) Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collec, : Tate Publishing, Limited.

Research Trail: Pre-Course Assignment


Research a well-known 20th century subject or person…

As you’re involved in an arts programme with an emphasis on contemporary practice, select a topic which relates to the twentieth century or later. Your topic should be something you’re particularly interested in and are keen to spend some time looking into. Avoid picking an obscure topic, or a topic/person who has come to prominence only recently. These topics will have very little research material available which will make your task significantly harder. Select a subject or person that is well-known, so that there’s sufficient information available across a wide range of forms such as magazines and books, exhibitions, media broadcasts, etc.

Research Guidance:

In line with the suggested researching criteria as part of the “An Introduction to Studying in HE” document on the OCA Student website.

The course criteria recommends that for best practice different sources are used for research purposes (taking care to authenticate the source) and should be from the following:

  • at least two books
  • at least two journals or magazines
  • no more than one reputable website
  • a set of notes that have been made at a gallery or exhibition

Topic Selection:

I searched online for 20th Century Photographers.  Being new to this medium, a specific topic or person did not immediately spring to mind – so I googled it.  Many results came up, so I went to the images section and decided to search through those to see which ones caught my eye and which I could envisage as inspiration for a future photographic experiment.  I looked at the works of Eugene Atget, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray,  and others.

I was drawn to the work of Bill Brandt and in particular his more art style nudes and his eye photographs.  I myself use an eye motif for my social media accounts and have a general affinity with them, as they say they are the windows to the soul.

I am not necessarily interested in black and white photography but I felt this treatment worked well with Brandt’s subjects and style of his photography.

Therefore, for this particular pre-course Research Trail assignment I decided to choose Bill Brandt as my topic to further research.

Gathering Sources:

To organise my thoughts on this initial research assignment I use an App called iBrainstorm which allows you to use virtual ‘post-its’ to gather your thoughts in one place.  This can then be changed and added to as new information is gathered or where project plans change but I thought I would share this with you as I have found it to be a useful tool for bigger projects.

So here is my initial brainstorming map for my research trail into Bill Brandt:

Research assignment

The map above also includes some general comments of things I was not aware of, for example; I didn’t know you could go and view collections at both the V&A and British Library in their reading rooms.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (‘V&A’) ( also has a lot of information held online about him.  The V&A has a system whereby you can request to view works that they own but which are not currently on exhibit, in one of their study rooms (by appointment only).

I also noted that there were a number of books which could be sourced, either by purchasing them or via The British Library which has reading rooms where you can arrange to see more of the photographers work.

Getting started:

Using the suggested routes to research I started on the internet, I searched for Brandt and found that he has his own website (  Well, it’s more of an archive of his work set up by Bill Brandt Archive Ltd to sell his work.  It has a simple layout and easy to navigate.

The first thing I note from a quote on the website is that Brandt seems to be a photography rule breaker or at least he does not concern himself with the rules of photography:

“I’m not interested in rules or conventions.  Photography is not a sport.”

– Bill Brandt

I found this interesting because no doubt the course will be teaching me the rules to follow, but I guess it’s only once you’ve learned the rules that you can decide to break them.

It has a lot of Brandt images which I found aesthetically pleasing.

I decided that my next research source would be a book so I decided to buy Brandt Nudes: A New Perspective, because it has a lot of the images which were catching my eye online so I wanted a physical book to thumb through and get a better look at the images.Also on the website there was a review by Joanna Pitman from The Sunday Times wrote:


“On a pebbly beach in East Sussex in 1953, Bill Brandt persuaded a model to lie down naked on the wet shingle and stretch out her body in the wind with her head and shoulders just inches from the incoming spume of the waves. Brandt then lay down and placed his camera inches from her pillowy bottom.”

– Joanna Pitman for The Sunday Times, 2004

This captured my imagination and I thought it would be great to be able to take images which invoked this response.

Before heading in to the book here are some facts about Bill Brandt:

  • born in 1904, died in London aged 79 (1983),
  • Father was British, mother was German,
  • one of the most respected British photographers of the 20th century,
  • his career spanned 50 years,
  • he worked in a range of genres,
  • regularly contributed to magazines such as Lilliput, Picture Post, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Brandt Nudes: A New Perspective:

The book is great and I would thoroughly recommend it. A number of images stood out for me such as:

  • Nude, St. Cyprien France 1957, October – page 90
    Abstract of legs and a foot on a sandy beach
  • Nude. Baie des Anges, France c. 1959 – page 97
    Hand and pebbles on a pebbled beach with the sea in the background
  • Nude, East Sussex Coast 1959 – page 106
    Two knees and an elbow, with the beach and sea in the distance
  • Nude, East Sussex Coast 1958, January 10 – page 111
    Bent elbow with beach and sea in the background
  • Nude. Baie des Anges, France 1959 – page 112
    Entwined legs on a pebbled beach
  • Nude, East Sussex Coast c. 1959 – page 115
    Chest and arm with beach in the background
  • Nude, Taxo d’Aval, France 1957 – page 117
    Back of the head and shoulder with hand on hair, beach and sea in background

But my favourite is Nude, East Sussex Coast 1977, July – page 167
This is a shot of a nude’s back showing spine definition at the top of the spine but with no head or limbs in shot.  They are sitting on a rock, with cliffs to the left and the beach and sea in the background.  I love the form, contrast and shadows in this photo. I note to buy a 20 x 16 inch print of this image would cost £2,000.

Final Summary:

To round off this Blog post, unfortunately I have not managed to get to see any of Brandt’s work up close and personal yet, but I do want to visit some exhibitions and access as many resources as possible throughout the course so hopefully one day I will get to see some of Brandt’s work in real life.  So although this section is titled Final Summary this is only the beginning of my research trail and hope to be able to re-visit Brandt’s work later in the course.


The Photography of Bill Brandt (2015) Bill Brandt Archive Ltd, Available at: (Accessed: February 2016).

Joanne Pitman, The Sunday Times 2004 (2015) Flesh, form and a flash, Available at: (Accessed: February 2016).

Wikipedia, Bill Brandt, Available at: (Accessed: February 2016).

Bill Brandt, Lawrence Durrell, Mark Haworth-Booth (2012) Brandt Nudes: A New Perspective, : Thames & Hudson.