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

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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.