Context & Narrative Assessment Results July 2016

I received my result by email on 25th July which was earlier than I’d anticipated. I received the same mark (75%) as in my other two Level 1 Modules. The feedback comments on the Assessment Criteria  are the standard ones to be expected for that mark. Overall Comments and Feed Forward are:-

I was impressed by the level of research and reflection throughout this unit, well done. You show a clear engagement with the subject area and a willingness to carefully consider both the aesthetic and conceptual considerations within your images and experiments.

Assignment 2 stood out to me for its level of creativity and ambition and this engagement is also carried through to the execution of the fictitious blog. Your (or Paul’s) writing is poignant and appropriate and really gives the viewer a sense of a struggle. That said, I would have liked to see a more considered edit of images to accompany the blog but I enjoyed your attempt to contextualise your subject matter in this way.

There are some technical areas that you could improve, most notably your use of Photoshop to attempt to place a lynx in the forest image but as long as you continue with this level of engagement they are things that will easily be ironed out as you progress.

The lynx in the forest was in Assignment 1 and it does seems that, after Assignment 2, I sank back into less sustained creative work as if my energy had become dissipated somehow. It’s a very good mark so I’m not complaining in that sense,  but I have to admit to some personal disappointment in myself at not having shown improvement over time in both this Module and also the whole of Level 1.

What’s in my mind is something around the area of consistency. I know I have leaps of creativity where I get very involved in the work but it seems to me that I’m not grounded enough in my practice at present.  In fact I had a Skype feedback sessions with my tutor for my new Level 2 Module recently where I did say something similar so the Assessment feedback is confirming this for me. I was certainly aware during Context & Narrative that, although I was involved, interested and reading widely, I wasn’t finding a way to link personal themes along the Assignment pathway.

I’m hopeful that now my dawning awareness of this has crystallized I can monitor my creative process more clearly.

This is my final post on this particular blog as I will be concentrating on my new Level 2 Module Digital Image & Culture and my new blog link is here

Information for Assessors


Catherine Banks : Student No 507005

Context & Narrative

Assessment Submission


Information for Assessors

My online learning blog can be located at

The blog is in the standard blog format of descending date order but each entry can also be accessed separately in the Categories section. I have reflected on learning, research and reading throughout but reflective posts can also be accessed under the Research and Reflection category .

I also created a fictional blog as part of Assignment 2 which can be located at in chronological order. The song, film and philosophy videos that are utilised on that blog were not created by me but are publicly accessible YouTube videos. However, I confirm that the photographs on that blog are my own photographs and I wrote the poem that appears there.

I have created short videos at various points which are embedded in posts on my own blog and would particularly draw your attention to the final version (V3) of the one created for Assignment 3 which is located on my “Response to Tutor Feedback on Assignment 3” .

Postal submission

The two Assessment packages posted to OCA contain:


  • Portfolio Box, with contents index, containing
  • Prints, contact sheets and written essay submitted to Tutor
  • Printed Tutor Feedback Forms
  • Further work created in response to Tutor Feedback


  • Assignment Preparation Folder which is a paper log relating to planning and preparation of Assignments and is supplementary to my learning blog
  • General Paper Log that contains other material e.g. notes on OCA Study Visits and Talks: informal Exhibition visits and Workshops; group meetings and email correspondence.

Google Drive

Electronic copies of 5 Tutor Feedback forms have been uploaded to my assigned Google Drive, located under “Tutor Reports”. I have also uploaded the final Version of Assignment 4 which can be located under “Final Assignments”.


My final version of Assignment 4 – the Written Essay has been emailed to for plagiarism check. Receipt was confirmed on 19 May 2016.


Contents Index

Contents Index for Assessment Submission






Reviewing Context and Narrative

_MG_0168 web

I began this Module at a time when we had recently moved house and I was slowly unpacking boxes of possessions including the family ‘archive’ of photographs and letters.. This fitted very well with the Module introduction and thinking of context.  I began with an intention to work with this archive in some form but, although I did do some initial work during preparation for the final Assignment, the archive still awaits me and now accompanies me into Level 2.

I felt the most comfortable with the topic of narrative. Maybe comfortable is the wrong adjective to use but I do want to tell stories with my photography and so thinking about narrative felt like coming home. The area that seemed furthest away from me was my usual one of portraits. I enjoy looking at them but I just don’t have this concept of myself as a ‘portrait’ photographer and have no desire, at this stage, to be one. So far as self-portraits are concerned, I hadn’t felt a need to explore myself in this way – preferring to write, talk to someone else, or self-reflection to clarify how I think and feel about myself and the world. Part 3 of the Module was therefore a struggle, even though I kept telling myself that I didn’t need to actually take a photograph of myself to put myself in the picture.

I met my own challenge though and proved I could do it. Creating duplicates of myself was absorbing and interesting but I became stuck in conceiving how I could further this. Instead, I turned to exploring my place in landscape and what it was that attracted me towards those small pieces of green in urban spaces. Setting up my tripod and photographing myself in public seemed quite a risk-taking exercise for me so it was rather a shock when my tutor challenged me to go further and also thought there was a performative aspect in my photography. This didn’t fit my self-concept at all but I decided to trust his judgment and gained a lot from that.  I enjoyed creating small pieces of art in the landscape and later felt confident enough to take the risk of setting up my mini-exhibition. The connection with created art led me into joining in with the Collaborative Art Swap – something which was completely new to me.

I enjoy the idea of collaborative work and had participated in the “My View” project and also “The Nearest Faraway Place” – contributing to a world-travelling concertina book.  I wanted to extend this, though, to working with artists from different disciplines and the ideal opportunity came when the OCA Art Swap was mooted by another student. I felt both challenged and stimulated by my involvement.  Receiving those special pieces of art, created in response to my words, made me realise how much I missed the tactile aspect.  I usually print my work because to hold a print in my hand is very different from viewing on a screen, and I experiment using different types of paper but now I would like to do more than that.

Reviewing Context and Narrative I have had an epiphany moment regarding personal voice.  In my first Level 1 Module, “The Art of Photography”, my final Assignment was about looking for love. In the second Module the final Assignment explored a concept for living, yes, but it was also about bereavement. It seems to me that in different ways, as I have worked through these Modules, my personal voice has been about relationships – between people and also between myself and my environment –  and I have found different ways of portraying this.  Putting oneself in the picture isn’t only making actual self-portraits but expressing myself through my photography.

With “Photographing the Unseen” and Narrative – portraying an obsession with a relationship, something unfinished. I knew that I was stepping into a fairly stereotypical male view of an ideal relationship but the ‘feminine’ stepped into the picture. I gave myself the opportunity to explore layers of narrative with influences from a range of sources and using mixed genres of photography. I value the leaps of spontaneity, beginning to make photographs, seeing what arises, but recognise that I do need to become more focussed in my ideas and so, In the future, I intend to both extend and refine this approach. Reviewing this Module I have reminded myself that photographs can be layered in many different ways intrinsically and also visually/physically. They can form punctuation and chapters in creating a narrative.

At times I tussled with the question as to whether it is possible to tell a story in a single image and how text and image interact. The reading on analysing photography/visual art and then analysing one image for Assignment 4 made me realise that, yes, one image can tell a story and there are many ways in which this can be achieved. I think what happened during preparation for and completion of that assignment was a more integrated consolidation of learning from the earlier parts of the Module. Creating work about a relationship; becoming more confident in self-portraits and looking at the ways in which images can be constructed led me towards the staged image for Assignment 5 where I was able to tell a story in one photograph without the use of text.

Looking to the future

 I have now begun the new Level 2 Module Digital Image and Culture which I know will give me the opportunity and stronger incentive to get to work with my personal archive and also other photographs I have collected. There was a lot of encouragement during Context and Narrative to play around with ideas and I know that the same is true of Digital Image and Culture. I’m looking forward to it.





Revisiting Assignment 3

Revisiting Assignment 3 : Putting myself in the Picture

The idea of putting myself in the picture was daunting even though I knew I didn’t actually have to create self-portraits as such. However, I decided to meet the challenge.  I played around with ideas including composites of myself as two sisters, including some wearing a wig here   This was interesting and I enjoyed the experiments but I had the sense of not knowing what kind of dialogue I would have and so I turned to my relationship with landscape in the form of the nearby Copse where I walk almost every day.

The Context & Research is outlined here   describing my readings on Psychogeography and Sense of Place; memories of childhood and photographic influences. My description of the process is here  where I also include a link to an experimental video. The chosen images and version 2 of the video are here

My tutor’s response was positive, encouraging and challenging. I had felt brave in taking the risk of setting-up self-portraits in woodland, on my own but my tutor suggested I go back onto the Copse and do something even more different and performative.  My response to this was a revised video with ambient sound together with  2 photographs of 3×3 grids (landscape format and square crop) of the landscape, myself in there creating pieces of art, and the final artwork. This is here .

I decided that the grid of square format images is the best for Assessment submission and this will be added to my portfolio box. The other grid will be included in my Assessment Preparation folder.

Subsequently I continued to develop this with a further project where I set up a mini exhibition in the Copse (write-up under Personal Project category here ) and I will be including a photograph of this in my Assessment portfolio box. Another result of this post was an invitation to join the blog the Elephant’s Journey a collaboration of urban artists who take photographs in the environment and then place these back within the environment. I now have two posts on that blog and the latest one is here .

Working on Assignment 3 gave me both much more confidence in self-portraits and a surer sense of my relationship with landscape – something I will continue to develop in my next Module. I owe thanks to my tutor as well for encouraging and challenged me to step even further outside my boundaries.

Revisiting Assignment 2

Revisiting Assignment 2 : Photographing the Unseen

In my post “Preparation and Planning” here I described  beginning thoughts on themes to explore. However,  a photograph taken at the Brighton Festival in November 2014 – at night and blurred – had stayed in my mind. I decided to create a project around the theme “I thought I saw you the other day”. My idea was to write about the ending of a relationship, with the young man involved not ready to accept this was so. I named him “Paul Dumont” devised a biography for him so that I could enter more into how he was thinking and created a fictional blog that incorporated photographs ‘taken’ by him (but by me) , videos he enjoyed watching where he could record his thoughts and a poem “Laura” had written for him (written by me). He also has an email account.  The blog was private at first whilst I explored how it would develop but I then asked for feedback from two fellow students who encouraged me to continue. I named his ex-girlfriend “Laura McKinley” .

When I emailed my tutor about this concept he responded that this sounded very interesting but was concerned such a piece of work might take time to develop fully and merited dealing with at a more advanced level. However, as I was so caught by the concept, we agreed that I would explore it at this stage. After sharing my idea at an OCA Thames Valley Group meeting, where I was again encouraged to continue. I made the blog public, although without a comments box because, despite knowing other artists, such as Sophie Calle,  had created fictional lives, I was wary as a student of ‘fooling’ other people by entering into a fictitious dialogue with them. Fellow students have commented on my own blog though to give me feedback on how realistic (or not) it is.

My post on “Context, Influences and Research” for the assignment is here  – describing the family name connection, film/video, music, novels, and photographer influences, including still-life/created images. Amongst reference material my physical Assignment Preparation folder contains:-

  • The original photograph providing the inspiration
  • The biography
  • Diary pages I kept to keep notes of ideas etc
  • A letter from “Laura”
  • Printed email from “Paul” to “Laura”
  • Two postcards from “Paul’s” boss, a Professor
  • The poem How does he feel? written by me
  • Printed lyrics to Frank Sinatra and Ed Sheeran songs referred to in “Paul’s blog.
  • 2 prints of the two sets of images in square format (see below)

I found I was getting drawn into “Paul’s” story, even becoming quite melancholic and so I devised a supportive strategy where I played different types of music according to whether I was being “Paul”, or a follower of his blog and this worked. My intention was that, apart from photographs taken for “Paul’s” blog, I would create further images as a response to that blog – as its reader. Those photographs were intended to portray his continuing obsession with, and searching for, “Laura”.  As I began this I realised that a second process was occurring because I was wanting to evoke images of “Laura” as an ‘object’ –  fragile, beautiful, offering her ‘letter’ of goodbye but in a delicate non-assertive way.  I realised that I was, in a sense, going back to Assignment 1 and two sides of a story. I was conceptualising thoughts about relationships and how the search for an ideal relationship can miss the reality of the actual person who becomes the object of adoration, so that relationships and communication become skewed and a soft “No” is heard as “Yes, maybe …”.

The Assignment write-up itself is here and the link to “Paul’s” blog is here  in the default WordPress format or here  in chronological format.

My response to my tutor’s feedback is here . I adjusted two photographs on “Paul’s Blog” and still-life image 2 as suggested. I had commented on the problem of putting the two sets of images together – one being in landscape and the other in portrait format and with differing subject matter.  My tutor suggested I make them all square and I have experimented with this. However, square format doesn’t fit either of the sets as they both look very compressed. I have therefore not included them in my Assessment portfolio box, but they are in my physical Assignment Preparation folder.

It occurred to me that having two sets of images that are so separate is actually mirroring the incompatible relationship between “Paul” and “Laura”. I talked about this at the meeting of the OCA Thames Valley Group on 21st May and how I remember that my mother sometimes had a habit of cutting-up photographs to exclude people she no longer wished to see. To me the tearing of a photograph Is more tactile than using scissors. It still signifies the ending of a relationship but is somehow less brutal than cutting.  In his feedback my tutor had suggested I create another set of still life photographs, including perhaps a ripped photograph. Instead, I have represented this in a more physical way and the result will be included in my Assessment portfolio box.

Some fellow students have asked why I haven’t continued writing Paul’s blog because they enjoyed reading it.  I had decided that I wouldn’t continue because I thought I would lose the spontaneity of ‘being’ him and become more measured, maybe narrate  his continuing search for love. Having decided that, though, I’m aware that the relationship theme followed me through into Assignment 5 so I’m wondering if reflections on relationships might continue in my photography.

Rework of Assignment 4 : Final Version

Rework of Assignment 4 following tutor feedback

Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to visit Oxford as referred to in my response to tutor feedback here . However, I have now reworked the Assignment in line with my tutor’s suggestions and it can be read below. A printed version will be included in my Assessment package and a copy will be uploaded to my Google Drive.

Catherine Banks 507005 Context and Narrative Assignment 4 final version

Spring on the Copse 2016

I’ve completed this Module now, apart from the preparation for Assessment, but think it appropriate to update my explorations in Landscape to show how I am continuing the theme introduced in Assignment 3.

There has been so much rain in recent months that even the days of sunshine have failed to dry out the ground. The path through the Copse has been almost a sea of slippery mud. Bluebells are beginning to raise their heads but even they look bedraggled at the moment and the strong winds have removed some of the weak branches which have gathered in drifting piles. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether people might have dumped them there over their garden fence.

Two trees were blown down across the path in the recent gales, one of them completely blocking it so that the dogs and I have had to scrabble through some prickly undergrowth to get round it. I had this debate with myself; joggers, dog walkers and families with children do pass through the Copse and the fallen trees are large obstacles. Should nature be allowed to take over or should I phone the Council, who are responsible for the maintenance of this local amenity. I thought about it for a day or so and then decided I would phone as the Copse seemed to be falling in on itself. There was also something in my mind about wanting to prove that people do make use of this small piece of nature, so that there wouldn’t be an attempt to de-label it as green space and make it vulnerable to building development – which has been mooted. I was surprised when the trees were cleared within a week especially as I had agreed with the young man in the parks department that this wasn’t an urgent job. When I say ‘cleared’ I don’t mean completely cleared away but chopped so that there’s a way through.

The other day I was talking with one of the people from a nearby house and we discussed mud, gales, fallen trees and litter on the Copse. The lady said that for quite a while she had cleared the litter but stopped doing that when the Council only started to collect fortnightly and her dustbin got too full. She told me that some young folk have re-built a den again in part of the copse and even installed an old bench. They collect there in the evenings sometimes, lighting fires and making noise. This must have been since a ‘ring’ of branches was laid-out in the area during the Autumn. I wondered about contributing something – maybe I might introduce the bark mask as a decoration. I’ve had some email contact with members of The Elephant’s Journey   (TEJ) and when I mentioned this John recalled Stig of the Dump . I’d forgotten Stig but it does fit. I have to acknowledge that I’ve felt a bit of a fraud somehow in relation to TEJ because they do their work in urban areas, highlighting adverse developments through their art, whereas I’m out of that loop, working in small green spaces in the suburbs, interacting with what I see. However, John was very encouraging around the idea of a discourse with the den builders.

I’ve also just started to read a lovely book Common Ground (R. Cowen,2015) which is an account of Rob Cowen’s explorations in a nearby edge-land after moving from London to a new home in Yorkshire. He writes, ‘Enmeshed in every urban edge is also the continuous narrative of the subsistence of nature, pragmatic and prosaic, the million things that survive and even thrive in the fringes. This little patch of common ground was precisely that: common. And all the richer for it’ (2015:9) Looking at the illustrated map at the front of the book  Cowen’s  piece of edge-land is much much larger than mine but I can still notice changes over time and see how nature and people impose their presence.  A little further on Cowen writes of entering Chauvet Cave  in the Ardeche Gorges and seeing the representations painted and scratched on its walls over between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago and how they show  the engagement between animal, land and human. He concludes, ‘What I didn’t realise until later is that in seeking to unlock, discover and make sense of a place, I was invariably doing the same to myself. The portrait was also of me’ (2015:11).


Cowen, R. (2016) Common ground. United Kingdom: Windmill Books.
King, C. and Ardizzone, E. (1963) Stig of the dump. United Kingdom: Puffin Books, Middlesex.

Talk by Chloe Dewe Matthews at UCA Farnham on 18th February 2016

I first heard Chloe Dewe Matthews talk at the Brighton Photo Festival in November 2014 and wrote about it near to the end of this post here. This new talk was arranged by John Umney, Level 3 student, organised by the OCA and then, through collaboration with UCA, Farnham, held in one of their lecture theatres . UCA students were also invited and three of the UCA Photography Department staff were in attendance.  The advertisement for the talk on weAreOCA included a link to this excellent video on the Vice site .

In fact, her talk very much covered the same ground being about her evolution as an artist using the medium of photography from being a Fine art Student studying conceptual sculpture at Ruskin College, Oxford. She recalled asking herself, after three years’ study, “What do I want to say about the world?”. After then working in the  Film industry for four years she left because she didn’t feel she was doing anything creative  Matthews became an assistant to some photographers  and it seems that not having a photography education somehow left her freer to take photographs and trust her own instincts rather than worrying if she was doing things the right way. She discovered there was a group of Hasidic Jews who spent holidays in Aberystwyth, Wales and her fascination with this, and how different people lead their lives, led to her creating a series Hasidic Holiday (2009). From there she created another series Banger Boys of Britain, being attracted by the sculptural aspects of the cars, and set up an exhibition in a car spraying workshop to create a ‘finishing point’. There ensued a period where she was trying to find a photographic language, teaching herself along the way and photographing things that caught her interest. She continued taking photographs during a long journey in 2010 hitchhiking with her boyfriend  from China to London – in China’s Wild West Xinjiang,  attempting to portray the lives of its minority population of Uighur Muslims  who were constantly ‘watching their backs’;  Kazakhstan workers constructing mausoleums for the rich class and holidaymakers along the Caspian Sea visiting Sanitoriums to have oil treatments.

As she became better known there were Commissions and a residency in St John’s College, Oxford to produce the work Shot at Dawn around the story of the British, German, French and Belgian soldiers shot for desertion during World War I. There was a lot of research involved in uncovering these hidden sites and histories as there are no monuments and families were shunned. The archives on German sites have been lost. In fact she said the series was actually 90% research. Matthews visited sites where this happened producing ‘late’ photography and creating a visual archive, as form of restitution, that evokes the tragedy of what happened. She achieved this through photographing this hidden history in dawn’s early light, in cool pale tones. Different outcomes were planned including a book and dedicated website and the series was included in the Exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography, shown in Edinburgh and Tate Modern, London.  Matthews explained that she was unable to speak to families so could only talk about the people by the places and  captions were essential

In addition to a long term project along the Thames Estuary (with an Exhibition due later this year) Matthews has been back to the Caspian region to do further work (with a book  due later this year) and most recently has undertaken a commission for Tate Modern responding to the Southwark area which she has discovered has the highest density of African Christianity. She talked of how the visual and audio landscape changes on Sunday. There are eleven churches on an industrial estate and she has kept going back to one particular church. The work produced includes video screens installed in a gallery in an ex-church, showing layers of church happenings (2015).


Chloe Dewe Matthews is a very interesting and engaging speaker and her enthusiasm for photography shines through. She made her development and recognition as a professional photographer sound an easy process but I think this probably belies a great deal of hard work, networking and communication of her ideas. It was interesting for me to see the difference in her images as well from the exuberance of Hasidic Holiday , Banger Boys and Sunday Church in Southwark to the quiet solemnity of the sites in Shot at Dawn. Here website is here  and her talk to us was also videoed and can be accessed here by OCA students



OCA Collaborative Art Swap


I came to this collaboration through a post by Ange Mullins on the OCA students site in September last year here (for those who can access). Each of us had to think of five words (separate or forming a sentence) which we then emailed to the other 5 collaborators who each created a small piece of art in response to post to the author of the words by an agreed date.

My five collaborators were:-

Ange Mullins who is studying Level 1 Printmaking, although she includes many other aspects in her art practice.

Alison Saunders currently taking Printing I but also works in oils, watercolours, inks and wax Facebook Art page is

Mark Butler Completed level 1 – drawing, printmaking and sculpture and due to start on Sculpture 2 which is his passion. His blog is here .  He is also a landscape photographer

Bee Skelton had been studying Drawing but is now back to painting

Ingrid Booz Morejohn Studying Creative Arts, specializing in Printmaking and Art History and currently studying Printmaking 1

I felt excited about the idea of collaborating with people who were studying different art disciplines but also a little apprehensive as I still can’t see myself as an ‘artist’.  Even so, I was keen to meet the challenge.

The Process

Ange suggested that as soon as we received the words we might consider some of the following questions:-

What was your emotional  & physical response when you first read them?
Did you even have an emotional or physical response?
Did a full or part image jump straight to mind & you were immediately inspired?
Did your heart sink or jump with a negative reaction?
How did you feel a few hours or days later once you’d had time to mull it over?
Has your response changed with time?


Whispering halfpenny water runs aimlessly

I thought straightaway of a fountain with coins on the bottom of the pool. In the absence of that I kept my eyes out for water in all its guises as I walked with dogs and even managed to find a small pool which had a run-off pipe to a tiny stream.  Thinking of running water with maybe coppery autumn leaves layered into it; wondering if it would be possible to do this within a video. I wanted the sound of water.  Nothing seemed quite right – then I remembered I had just got back from a few days in France where I had taken several short sequences of video in a lovely area which had been turned over to different kinds of running water. It even had a statue of a man crouched under a copper coloured umbrella with water dripping off it. The photograph is a still from the video so not as good a quality as I would have liked.


Waterman web



Fly away on gossamer wings

There were many images that came to mind. Floating skeleton leaves; a dragonfly; a Chinese kite; a fairy; a child wearing tissue paper wings; tissue paper origami, and an image that could be a composite/layered, showing what was beneath. One idea I had was to dangle feathers from a tree and also to buy some butterfly confetti which I could throw over the feathers and video. I collected feathers when I saw them and bought some confetti, which I still have.

Instead, I had a different idea.  I wanted to make something and so I decided to make a small dream-catcher that I could then give to Alison together with a photograph of it. I enjoyed making the dream-catcher, thinking of its purpose as I was winding the strips around the ring and then creating the cobwebs.

I wanted to make a record of it before I gave it to Alison and enjoyed that she came by my house so I could give it to her personally.







I photographed it on a white board to create the printed photograph

Dreamcatcher_MG_0923 web



Iron ore vein, dark, dangerous

Mark lives in the North and I immediately thought of miners toiling underground. The darkness’ hardness of stone, flickering lights from helmets, Thor’s hammer. I live in Surrey and so there are no mines nearby or even those granite cliffs. I kept thinking about toil, hard work and then remembered the marker stone (sarsen) that rests alongside one of the paths on Horsell Common.   I wanted to use words to go with the image and to use Mark’s own words.  My first thought was to have five sentences, each beginning with one of the words but I couldn’t get it to flow right.  Instead I utilized the words. I thought that it being a ‘marker stone’  fitted with Mark’s Christian name and also the fact that he is a sculptor.

Iron sparks as we strain to clamber ever upwards past veins of ore gleaming wetly
From this dark and dangerous place.

 It was the sarsen stone that marked the spot
Where we should dig


Glimmer, rustle, fluttering, dart, quiet

My first thought was butterflies.  I love to see them and have been several times to butterfly farms, including the special displays at nearby Wisley Gardens.  Then I thought of fish and the flashes of light as they gleam through the water. We have aquariums of tropical and marine fish and so I decided it would be interesting to create a short video of the fish. I sent the link to Bee and also posted a printed still photograph to her.



_MG_0895 10x7 web copy



It’s weighing on my mind

This was the most difficult for me, bringing up images of heaviness, depression, pondering; Atlas with the world on his shoulders. I thought of a page with lots of writing covering it, a paperweight, a pair of old-fashioned scales weighing a miniature skull.  I’d pushed the whole project to one side a little in the knowledge that I needed to concentrate first on completing the OCA module. I was on a deadline to finish it all and anxious as to whether I’d succeed.

Christmas had approached as the weeks went by, three weeks after my birthday – another marker of time passing by. My anxieties and ruminations linked together with Ingrid’s words and actually led to the creation of the necessary Assignment for my module and other photographs more to do with my thinking about some mislaid letters.  The letters were important to because they were from my father to me when I was small and he was far away in the Army. I had put them in a safe place when we moved house – too safe!  I created two photographs – one (quite literal) of a pile of books connected with my Module – waiting to be ironed out and decisions made. The other was more contemplative I think, a slightly calmer mood. I’ve posted both to Ingrid.




_MG_0744 cas6x5 for EpsonPSG web



My words

Summer’s dying lines Autumn’s cloak

Autumn is my favourite season as I love the colour of the leaves. I’ve taken many photographs of autumn trees so, this time, I decided to experiment

I have received four responses to my work so far and it’s been exciting waiting for the postman. They all so differently and creatively evoke the theme. As soon as the final one arrives I’ll post photographs of all of them here.


This was such a worthwhile project to be involved in and it certainly took me out of my comfort zone. I appreciated the opportunity to work with other artists in different disciplines and hope that we can get together for another one some time in the future.

I now have all five responses and a here they are


As a final word, Ange Mullin has now written a blog post about the collaboration as a whole. It includes collages of all the responses and can be seen here 













Response to Tutor Feedback on Assignment 5

My tutor’s response is detailed, comprehensive and generally very positive. I also had the benefit of a follow-up telephone conversation which enabled further clarification of his comments.


The feedback PDF is attached, but I thought it useful to revisit aspects that I think are particularly important – especially when I reach the point of preparing for formal Assessment.The sentences in italics are quoted from my tutor’s written feedback and provide a positive foundation for me in considering some of his queries and suggestions that also appear at the head of each section below.

Overall Comments

Your final assignment for Context & Narrative is very good, your aims and objectives have been visualised to a good degree.  The final image works and contains some intriguing signs and connotations; one of which is about who took the photo! Your selective ‘setting-up’ contact sheets are quite interesting, which could possibly be developed into a triptych for the final submission.

The research is strong, with some excellent observations, coupled with your other visual investigations, which have great potential for further development. Overall, your tableau is interesting and pulls the viewer into your domestic setting, allowing them to read the subtle signs and start to piece together possible discourses.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Technically, your image is very successful, it evidences your strong technical investigations coupled with being an interesting and engaging shot.

 Would the effect of the subtle signs have been stronger if done in a very overt and conspicuous way?

a.The subtle signs were created through my intention to leave the photograph as open as possible to a viewer’s interpretation and so I think that more conspicuous ones would have been more directive and closed.

What was the balance and collaborative nature of the image?

a. This relates to my husband’s involvement. I had thought I made it clear in the assignment write-up here  that I was the one who researched and devised the concept, created the tableau, and made the decision on camera and lights settings after experimentation and placement of the lights. At the point of pressing the shutter release I was on the wrong side of the camera for the wireless remote to work properly and so I asked my husband to press it for me. I could have moved seats but had been determined as to where each of us should sit. I could have cloned out the shutter release switch but chose not to do so.

Quality of Outcome

Your ideas and intentions have been communicated very effectively, your single image does provide some interesting avenues of thought. You have applied yourself very effectively, drawing together ideas and notions from previous projects that feed into this one, which evidences a sustained and responsive approach to learning.

Is the uncanny evident or does it lie on the periphery of a banality?

a. I do think I achieved an image that was more ‘uncanny’ than ‘banal’. The overall lighting and placement gave an impression of a scene that appeared realistic yet slightly odd – almost too perfect, like a wax tableau.

Demonstration of Creativity

It is good that the shoot happened quite ephemerally but could it have been developed through conducting some tester shoots and responding to those?

a. The shoot did happen ephemerally in one sense but two ideas and earlier experiments came together in the impulse to create the shot at that particular moment. As referred to in my earlier write-ups on the assignment, I had experimented with posed self-portraits and a visual dialogue with my alter ego in the lead-up to Assignment 3. I now wanted to create a three-way communication between the subjects in my image and a viewer. I knew I wanted the image to include the Christmas Tree. In fact I had delayed any photographing until the tree was set up. Once the tree was there and I was looking at it with all those thoughts in my mind I knew that this was the right time to start taking photographs.

The ‘random element’ of the dog adds depth and introduces a chaotic element but could I have made any other additions or subtractions that may have suggested more challenging discourses – such as direction of gaze/s, facing away from the camera, all the tree decorations fallen on the floor?

a. I wanted our faces to be in view. We could have been looking at each other but I think it would have been more difficult for us not to react to each other – for us to smile, our faces soften, to become ‘real’ and show our natural feelings towards each other. If that had happened then I would not have created my version of ‘uncanny’.

A totally random image, which popped into my head, was seeing all of the decorations fallen on the floor under the tree. Perhaps something a little more obscure and out of place may have worked, something that does not belong?

a. Decorations fallen under the tree could certainly fit with an earlier query regarding the effect of ‘signs’ if done in a very overt and conspicuous way. That might be too obvious though – could suggest a relationship falling apart, arrangements broken etc. What could be more obscure? There are no presents under the tree, maybe if there was just one present. I’m not sure.

A main recommendation to experiment using two of the test shots to form a triptych with an example of one that puts the dog in command of the scene. Additionally two further artists to explore.

a. Certainly I created a triptych layout previously on my tutor’s recommendation as a follow-up to Assignment 3 and it worked very well. The suggestion of a ‘dog’ layout is a clever idea but would this move the mood away from ‘uncanny’ towards the ‘banal’, turn the concept into a joke somehow. Put together with the main image would it then take away from mood I set out to create? I have time to think more on this before submitting for formal Assessment.


The research component of this submission has been excellent, your have indeed developed your personal voice. The overall project evidences a high level of self-awareness, the prose and language is very articulate and engaging.

The post, titled ‘Approaching the assignment’ was very good and your side project into archives was excellent. This is indeed a project to develop; it has depth and research potential to perhaps even carry forward into your final level (HE6) studies.

Re using a different approach to writing the reflection for this assignment by waiting for the blog comments. Does this provide more, did I manage to extrapolate any other points or readings about the work that I was not already aware of?

a. I chose a different approach this time because I wanted to test how my intention to create an ‘open’ narrative had worked and to include that in the reflection. I liked the idea of fitting my reflection to my concept whilst still then using the criteria headings. There were different types of comments, some of which also recognised that even a title would have directed a viewer. I certainly did extrapolate other points/readings or, rather, feedback highlighted aspects of my life/relationship that are usually in the background. For instance, the push/pull of seeking companionship yet fighting for independence, how a long relationship can lead to confluence (dressing similarly sometimes) and how having a pet can be so important in providing both a purpose in life and a sharing of time together.

Learning Logs or blogs

Your learning log is an extensive resource and provides the viewer with much information into your research, direction and progress through your studies. Reading about the Thames Valley Group meetings is great; this is an incredible and supportive group that truly embodies the nature of peer support and strengthens the practice of distance learners, hopefully your group is becoming an inspiration to other distance learners.

aThames Valley group has certainly played an important part in my development, providing peer feedback, support and inspiration. I do feel fortunate in having such a network available to me on both a group and individual basis. They have spurred me on at times when I have thought I might not continue.

Interim Thoughts

I  feel pleased and relieved that the feedback has been generally positive. It is comprehensive and has given me much to think on further during the period up to submission for formal Assessment.


Revisiting Assignment 5 : 23rd May 2016

I have continued to ponder my tutor’s suggestion regarding creating the triptych and have put one together.  However, I still think that, although it adds humour it still moves towards the banal which is not the intention behind my creation of the image. Due to the Module completion deadline my submission to my tutor was digital/via this blog.  I intend to submit one print of the chosen image for assessment whilst the diptych will be included in my Assignment Preparation folder.