Response to tutor feedback on Assignment 2 of Context & Narrative

I was pleased that feedback arrived so quickly, but have taken time to absorb it before writing up my response for this blog post. The feedback is very positive overall

As per our email correspondences this project has come across with depth and
strength with an emotive underscore. This type of dual constructed narrative has
been pieced together effectively, yet more time would have yielded a tighter
resolve. There are elements that could do with minor adjustments, but overall it is
a very competent and successful piece.

 In a way, this project has touched on both the ‘Photographing the Unseen’ and
‘Using Props’ headlines in quite a unique approach, in that it touches on the
periphery of vernacular and constructed visual narratives. An excellent learning
log supports this project, where the strength of your exploration lies. The images
are technically proficient with a couple that would benefit from stronger
compositions and/or cropping and a few that could afford to be edited out of
the final set.

 I have already been in email contact with my tutor concerning the feedback. He has agreed to my including the whole of it here

CatherineBanks Feedback for ASs 2

and so I will only make reference to particular comments and/or suggestions under specific headings.

 Technical and Visual Skills


  1. “Paul’s” Blog

Wednesday, 1st April – Subtle edit suggested to straighten the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain image and crop slightly on the right hand side to remove the red façade element on the building.

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Sunday, 5th April – “Although they are integral to the text the soft-edged image of tulips doesn’t fit well with the other two landscapes”

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Thursday, 9th April – “The image of the postman although integral to ‘Paul’ story comes across a little too engineered and reads as a secondary component. The mist and the notion of moving home, has more scope for some abstract interpretations.

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I have to admit that, to begin with, I felt some resistance to making alterations until I realised that I was reacting as if “Paul” was a real person and I was interfering with his blog! I then thought again in terms of being a writer and how many edits there must be, just as there are in my own work. All suggestions have been followed now . Edit made to Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain image; garden tulips removed and another image taken before the postman arrived has replaced the postman himself (who didn’t know he was being photographed by the way).

  1. Still-life images (two sets of four) submitted

The still-life images shot on the white backdrop would benefit from some cropping or reshooting with a different angle/composition. The foreground of the table edge in image No. 2 breaks up the flow with an unwanted line. Also the position of the negative space through using a portrait format adds to an unbalanced design in them all. Perhaps shoot these again, this time overexpose by about 1-2 stops to allow for a much brighter scene. Also compositionally, explore Letinsky’s work further, in particular her placement and somewhat destructive approach.

I had thought of re-shooting image nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8 (on the backdrop), maybe with a wide angle lens as it looks to me as if this is what Letinsky uses, probably on a larger format camera. Also, her images are landscape format which is the dilemma I had. I wanted the backdrop images to be in spatial opposition to image nos. 1, 3, 5, and 7 (which are landscape) which is why I thought of portrait aspect. I queried wide-angle lens with my tutor and his response was that he thought she probably used a standard 50mm, with a much larger backdrop and scene to work with and to get the distance. He also suggested “How about as opposed to a landscape/portrait balance crop them all as square”.

See further thoughts below.

Quality of Outcome

My reading of the first part of the feedback here was that my tutor was seeking further clarification on how those still-life images fit into the narrative, including images, that is contained on “Paul’s” blog. He further referred back to Letinsky’s work suggesting I produce another set of eight images,

[….] this would be a highly effective and almost evocative stylistic approach, this time just using the white table top scene and forego using the laptop, clothing books etc. Look on the lines of a ripped photograph, tulip bulbs, autumnal colours; this is where the series could take on a much stronger resolve.

I emailed my tutor thus:

I think I need to add clarity to my explanation regarding images in the blog and the still-life images. I was using the blog as a vehicle to put myself into the character of someone experiencing a relationship breakdown, albeit at an early stage. “Paul” is not good at expressing his feelings and so the photographs ‘he’ posts serve as illustration for him. Creating all this aroused certain responses in me and so I had the idea of ‘responding’ to the blog by creating another set of images that portrayed my responses.

What was coming through to me was the obsessive nature of Paul’s yearning and search for “Laura” – re-reading her letter; emailing her; thoughts consumed by her and trying to work it all out. Alongside all this, I was also feeling a fragility and something else, harder to describe but, being fanciful, would be the spirit/essence of “Laura”. Feminine, delicate, trying to be sensitive in writing the letter, and this is where the other images came in as a counterpoint.

I want to keep those two sets of images because, for me, they bounce-off each other. The images containing the letter, email, stills from the film ‘Laura’ act as text for the still-lifes on the white background. However, I do want to experiment with images referencing Letinsky’s work and so I will improve the current still-life objects on the background and also do a separate set, referencing Letinsky, thinking about other subjects.

In the meantime I have adjusted image 2 so that the table edge is less obvious

From this



to this

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Demonstration of Creativity

A question asked by my tutor was:-

Going by your research into Calle and Michals, how would you describe the relationship between the main elements of your work? Does the text support the images or does it guide them; is it ‘text and photography’ or ‘photography and text’. They both work harmoniously yet the process employed could be read a number of ways.

In “Paul’s” blog the images support the text and add more emotionality whilst the text provides coherence to the images as the latter couldn’t stand on their own without the text.

“Paul’s” blog contains the backstory. I think that the still life images, in their two different aspects, can stand on their own without the blog because those with the books, clothing, laptop etc contain text within themselves.

I forgot to mention the work of Johanna Ward in my write-up. Her backstory is in her artist’s statement and there are few words within the books. Her images are varied and dissimilar and yet, somehow, even without knowing the backstory, I made a connection with sadness and nostalgia. I also forgot to refer again to the day Seminar I went to (and wrote about on my blog) on Photography and Narrative. One of the speakers there talked about multiple layers in narrative and I think that my own work in the Assignment is aiming to make a small beginning with this.

Learning Log & Contextualisation

Although they are few, I would recommend not to use Wikipedia references; they are OK for quick referrals and to get some clarification on data, but they are not ideal for academia; more so when writing essays.

Point taken. I normally do try to keep this to a minimum anyway and certainly wouldn’t use it in an academic essay.

Suggested reading/viewing & Pointers for the next assignment

Suggestions were to start by looking at the self-portraits of Vivian Maier and I might be interested in the work of Cindy Sherman whose work is about identity and representation. Also to perhaps explore my line in Assignment 2, “I’ve also wondered what I would be like if I were born a male”, and document the process.

Regarding Assignment 2, my tutor asked if I had explored the work of Joachim Schmid (found and vernacular images) and Erik Kessels (found and constructed falsehoods). I had looked at their work and written about this in other posts but hadn’t made such a connection with the work I was creating for Assignment 2.

An afterthought from my tutor was to continue investigating reciprocal projects and even to:

(…) take characters from popular culture/literature, create variations on their backstory and purpose; then you step into their shoes to become another persona creating the stimulus for you to then work upon once you are Catherine.

I’ll admit, reading that back, it does sound too much for the photography assignments, but not too far-fetched or ridiculous as a method for representing different alternatives of the self.

That all sounds so tempting, and I immediately thought of Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother! However, I do need to hold myself back and have decided that I will work through the exercises etc in Part Three before leaping into something straightaway.


Not conclusions exactly as my tutor has given me so much more food for thought and I was delighted that he was generally so positive about the Assignment and generous with his ideas/suggestions for further work. I’ve done the immediate work of amending images etc and clarified my intentions for Assignment 2, although I think there’s more work to be done there. In the medium term I will also discuss the Assignment and feedback etc at the next meeting of OCA Thames Valley group which is on the 16th May.


12th May 2015