Assignment 2: Tutor Feedback and Response

Tutor Feedback

The compositions here are very good. Your control of light is, as last time, exquisite. I would like to see a greater selection, I want more of this journey. Did you photograph all the spaces in your Google Street View search?

Whilst you have referenced the New Topographics movement I would like to see your reflections on their motivations; why the work looked like it did, how it moved photography along. There is more to be gained than an interest in the same subject matter. Have another look and try to glean more insight into their aims as well as methods. As your work is at night I can’t stress enough that you should be engaging with work by Dan Holdsworth, Edgar Martins and Rut Blees Luxembourg. As its a roadtrip, Paul Graham’s A1 Great North Road and Robert Frank’s The Americans should be looked at. There are many other photographers particularly in the USA worth pursuing after these. I mentioned Lee Friedlander last week, also look at Garry Winogrand, Bill Owens and Chauncey Hare.

We really need to see contact sheets so that we can gain an understanding of your edit.

Well done for reflecting on our discussion about starbursts, however, as a student you need to be finding references, seeking out research that backs up what amounts to decisions based on taste. Its not the case that something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or that volume is an indicator of something being less than desirable, what happens is as students of photography we look at the images and read them. Look at the books Photography by David Bate or Stephen Bull for connotation and denotation. These images denote a starburst, they connote an affiliation with other images that employ this effect, the images that employ this effect most are those that we see in amateur photography magazines, competitions, camera clubs etc., we cannot help but associate the effect with where we have previously seen it (and in volume). Similarly this is also where we see light trails. A couple of the images have trails that have enough disruptive information to slow the immediate connotation of the amateur, such as perhaps, 1 and 6. In images 5 and 7 the trails are relatively subtle but it would be interesting to see the locations without any distraction. Image 8 is subtlest and is the most interesting.

Your idea of using the trails to connect the images, and thus the journey, works aesthetically using the thin red line of 3, 5 and 7, an edit of the whole journey like this would be interesting to see. This could perhaps work, there’s a Paul Seawright image taken in Wales that does possibly employs a tail light to good effect. Seawright was on a journey to Merthyr Tydfl.

In your images one of your aims was to reveal detail, can you reflect on whether/how you achieved this?

If the series is chronological, the sky is vital to show the timespan. The sequence looks like a fair progression, though 6 and 7 look like they are in reverse order just from the shading.

You mention anxiety in your writing. I think perhaps that if it is a factor in the planning and making of the work you could start to use photography to try to express your feelings. This is a very hard thing to do but it seems to make sense that if the condition is intrinsic to the work, the work should speak of it.

I think that your last assignment hinted towards this. This series seems almost an avoiding tactic with its reliance on technology. There could be something in this ‘distancing’, but it needs to move past the obvious. A journey also implies something more metaphorical, or psychologically some sort of investigation; something is posited, looked at in a different light (night, inhuman long exposure) and something new is revealed. Again, I fend the vestiges of amateur photography rein me back from trying to see this in your work. I want to get lost in the leaves of the trees and the dark of the forecourts but I am continually distracted by the mundanity of the light trails. Look at the work of Liza Dracup and Susan Derges. Further back look at Samuel Palmer’s paintings of cornfields under moonlight.

Have a look at all of the work you shot and produce an edit without trails, an edit with the single red tail light, and one that is guided by ‘new discoveries’ – something unexpected in each shot.

Take confidence from this journey but remember you need to set yourself challenges that potentially you might fail at, mistakes mean you learn something new. There are again, a number of good points that you can build on here.


My Response

My tutor begins by summing up this assignment with the comment that it, “partially fulfilled [my] brief”. The original brief asks students to “produce a series … made on, or [exploring] the idea of, a journey.” I went on explore if I could “step away from myself and my journey, [and] show the hidden detail of the places I was passing”. I believe I achieved this- I ended up -not only with a sense of movement and cohesion within my set- coming away with still ‘moments’ from my journey, showing the detail that zips past me in the dark.

What concerns me is how the light trails have come across to my tutor. The trail is really the connective tissue through the set, and visually is as strong a sense of movement I could come up with. I’m loathe to take another set without the trails as then they are unconnected, still scenes. There’s no journey, no movement. I also have trouble with the idea of capturing the exact same light trail in each shot. The nature of the roads and scenes required differing angles which instantly changes the trail. I found that the differing trails were less important than the line itself passing through every shot.

Conversely, I could not be more pleased when reading, “Your control of light is, as last time, exquisite.” Perhaps it’s an artistic failing, but I strive to be seen as technically competent far more than artistically-valuable.

Perhaps negatively I was very succinct in my ideas. I managed to shoot at all of the stops I had planned and captured all of my ideas. Maybe I plan too well? Or in future maybe I should leave more to chance. That doesn’t come naturally to me though. It’s also the reason that I didn’t include a contact sheet- it would have been a screenshot of the final shots and only those. I’ll make sure to include one in my future assignments.

I plan on exploring the New Topographics movement in some detail in my fourth assignment. My reflections and their motivations will be major parts of the 2,000 word essay.
Also, I will be talking a lot more personally about my personal ‘issues’ (particularly depression) in the next assignment.

In trying to pair down my word count by a few hundred, I had to forego discussing how well I thought I had captured the missing ‘detail’ on my journeys. Overall, yes, I think I managed it relatively well. I tried to stick to ISO 100 in order to not lose any detail, which helped the clarity.

I have made some further thoughts and additions in Assignment 2: Additions.

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