Category Archives: Coursework

Assignment 5 – Tutor Feedback

I was extremely happy with the final feedback I received from my tutor for the last assignment. Having wrestled a bit with finding a suitable idea for the photograph, I was pleased it worked out, especially when I received the following feedback:-

The final image shows real planning with attention to portraying the story – with the sourcing and including Vegemite. The image is accomplished and you have absorbed both technical and aesthetic principles from your study of Crewdson. 

My tutor also pointed out the awful perspective distortion which I had neglected to rectify. I love using my wide-angle zoom but sometimes forget the effect it causes. As part of the final submission I have corrected it using the functionality within Lightroom which was quick to do.

My tutor also advised me to write interim posts for assignments ahead of writing up the final submission. I have made a mental note for future courses to catalogue the sequence of generating ideas.  I think I achieved this best for Assignment 2, but it fell by the wayside for other assignments.

I had also added personal projects to the blog which was well received by my tutor. These have been haphazard to say the least over the duration of the last year or so, but I’m now picking up the pace again and getting more and more motivated.

I spoke with my tutor about the issue of timing and being able to squeeze in my third level 2 course before the deadline (having spent so many months on this course). I am determined to achieve this and she suggested overlapping with finalising for the assessment with starting the next module and this was good advice having also checked the deadline dates again with the OCA office. I can’t wait to start the next module now!

Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback

I was pleased overall with the feedback that I received for this assignment. My tutor had written some ideas to improve on the submission including:-

In the assignment, you describe the chosen image clearly. For the exercise in the course, you annotated a picture to help describe it. If you did this technique before writing the essay, it would be good to upload this as part of a blog post for the assignment.

Truthfully, I was NOT disciplined enough to write notes against the image, however I did look again at the image more recently and carried out the exercise in case I could spot anything else in the photograph that I had neglected to include. I have included this as a blog post.

It is clear you have undertaken some research into the photograph. Can you ensure that you reference your sources… You make a comparison to an overhead war image, again include this image (or a link) in a blog post alongside the finished essay.

As time went on in the course this and I was cramming in the final work in between NHS work and house renovation work, I’m afraid this fell by the wayside. I have now added the sources I used for the essay.  For the war image, I decided to include this in the essay itself as it seemed to complement what I was saying better to be included, rather than have it as a separate post.

I also came across an article in the Guardian which showcased some other more modern aerial perspective sports images. I added a blog describing the images from the article which specifically appealed to me, and why they did, after my assignment was submitted.

My tutor also gave me more general advice about the course assessment and suggested:-

  1. Top up the Ideas, Projects and Reading tabs (I subsequently updated these areas of the blog with a few personal photographic assignments) and some ideas for places I would like to photograph in the future;
  2. Use the blog more as a journal to document the learning aspect of the course and provide shorter but more frequent blogs. I will take this forward for the remainder of the course and certainly into future courses if I progress.

She also referred me to another website which had chronicled how the Leifer photograph was taken – within the Time 100 best photographs. I read the article with interest.

Assignment 4 – Postscript

Having enjoyed reading about the Neil Leifer aerial photograph of Muhammad Ali, I came across an article in the Guardian which showcased the best sports-related aerial photography. I thought several of the images were outstanding:-

Swimmers contest the world’s biggest ocean race, the Cole Classic, from Shelly Beach to Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia, in 2010.
Photograph Steve Christo for Getty @Images

This image is akin to an Attenborough-witnessed fish feeding frenzy as the white splashes of the swimmers surge forward through the water. It almost dimishes the humans in the image to tiny microbes which combine to form a much stronger force, pushing forward over the ocean. I think its a beautiful image and the tiny coloured dots of the swimmers caps add additional interest.

Cross country skiers during the 2012 Engadin Skimarathon near St Moritz, Switzerland. Photograph by Arnd Wiegmann for Reuters.

The apparent blizzard of snow falling on top of the skiers has rendered this photograph almost like a painting. The criss-cross of the skis as the skiers clamber their way along the course give the image a rhythm and texture. The tiny limbs put me in mind of Lowry’s famous stick-men characters.

Thailand’s Nina Lamsam Ligon, on Butts Leon, rides past spectators as she competes in the evening competition at the 2012 London Olympics in Greenwich Park. Photograph by Adrian Dennis, for Getty Images.

The shadows provide all the story in this photograph as you can only actually see a small part of the human’s and horse’s head and torsos. I like the rhythm of the standing spectators, some poised and ready with their cameras, and the feeling of speed generated by the horse’s flared tail as it gallops along the course. The curl of the horse’s legs capture is timing perfection.

Serena Williams winning the 2010 Australian Open. Photograph from Back Page Images/Rex/Shutterstock.

This is a photograph I remember seeing at the time it was taken. It has a very strange perspective and almost looks as if Serena Williams is velcro’d to a wall together with her tennis racquet which seems suspended in mid air (given the shadow). The white lines are forming compartments in the image for the subjects to be ‘thown’ into. The colours are striking and its an altogether joyful victorious image.

With the ever-increasing use of drone technology these types of images are going to become common place for sport photography and it will be interesting to see if the fine art leaning of some the images also becomes equally as widespread.


Bloor, S. (2018) Hitting the Heights : Sports Photography from above : In pictures. At (accessed 22 January 2018)

Singular Images: Sophie Howarth

The task was to read and reflect on the chapter on Diane Arbus in ‘Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs‘ by Sophie Howarth (2005, London : Tate Publishing.

I felt the essay was quite condescending about the subjects in the image. It is smattered with comments like ‘When you look at this young Brooklyn family about to set out on a Sunday outing, you can’t help wondering what will become of them’, or ‘For all their apparent willingness to look at the camera, the family looked benighted’… In my estimation the family don’t look downtrodden or suffering, despite clearly having a child with disabilities. The father does look tentative and maybe doesn’t enjoy having his photograph taken and yes, the woman clearly is injecting some ‘attitude’ into the image, but I don’t agree that she is wearing the baby like a shield, as suggested in the essay.

I find it interesting how far you can go with personal assumptions when reading a photograph. It’s almost as if the author of the essay categorically believes her assumptions are unequivocally correct, without any shadow of doubt. The reputation that seems to stick to Arbus as her single overriding compulsion in that she enjoys photographing ‘freaks’ or those on the edge of society, has almost given ‘carte blanche’ to the author to exaggerate the intention of Arbus to make them out to be people who we need to feel sorry for but I don’t think this is necessarily the case:-

Arbus’ caption for the image ‘They were undeniably close, in a painful sort of way’ leads the author to immediately jump to the conclusion of a ‘marriage in trouble’ rather than a young couple struggling with the rigours of bringing up two young children, when they themselves are only just into adulthood. I think my response to the image might well be tempered by another image that Arbus took of the couple at their house. This clearly implies that the photographer had a real interest in the family and that some rapport had developed between them. Again the author focuses on the furniture held up by boxes rather than suggesting that this alternative image showed a warmer side to the couple’s relationship – sitting close together on their settee with their kids playing. I do think it seems somewhat unnatural that the children are interacting freely but the adults are not engaging with them, however we do not know what Arbus’ photographic direction was with her subjects. It could have been, ‘Look directly at me, don’t smile’…

A young brooklyn family at home

Clearly Arbus liked images which showed some ‘edge’ or ‘grit’ to them but I also think that she was interested in the human spirit also. She loved diversity of characters and I think she wanted to stage manage them as her own subjects (which is why so many of her other portraits are strangely stilted).

I think one of the most telling paragraphs in the essay is a quote from Arbus herself, who almost seems to rue the tactics she has to employ to get the best out of her subjects:-

‘We know from accounts given by her friends that Arbus was a very persuasive person, who spoke, as she wrote, quirkily and with great charm. She accused herself of being ‘kind of two-faced’, when photographing people. ‘I’m very ingratiating. It really kind of annoys me. I’m just a little too nice’. 

It was an interesting essay to read and provides a lot of ideas about all the different angles you can use when reading photographs.

Assignment 3 – Tutor Feedback

My tutor’s first comments within her feedback for my Assignment 3 were:-

‘You have put a lot of work into this assignment and I think your evaluation comments are very accurate. I agree where you say that the series does not seem to be very coherent. However, what is coherent is the diary. This I think is the main piece of the assignment with the photographs as illustrations and not the other way around.’

As a result of the feedback I changed the way I presented the assignment when I added it for final submission as part of this blog. 

I submitted Assignment 2 on 29 November and submitted Assignment 3 on 31 May 2017 and in the meantime I had several months’ break from OCA study after my mum passed away. The delay was also partly due to me struggling with this particular assignment.

Other than the suggestion regarding the placement of the photographs, the tutor did not give me any other specific advice on the  content so I felt limited in understanding what I would need to change to improve it in time for submission, and therefore did not attempt to redo this assignment.

As part of the feedback for Assignment 3 however, my tutor did advise on Assignments 4 and 5 in terms of timing (as I was concerned that I would be too late to start the third level one course if I left things too much longer).  She critiqued my exercises and commented on exhibitions I had attended and added to the blog.

My tutor also suggested that I look at an article entitled ‘Comfort Zones’ by Russell Squires.  One of the key lessons I’ve learnt from reading the article is that failure is almost a necessary part of development as a photographer – there is an emphasis on experimentation and reflection being almost a cyclical exercise from which you can gradually improve. The quote from the article to retain and reflect upon is probably:-

 ‘When you undertake a new project, try not to create and define your comfort zone, look upon the unfamiliar as experience not yet gained, challenge yourself and your work will lead to exciting and new directions’. 

Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback

‘I have enjoyed reading your posts and the assignment.  Your writing style is fluent and a pleasure to read.  There is a sense of ‘you’ coming across as a personal voice in the posts so do continue to write in this way.’

I received possibly my best feedback from both of my OCA courses to date for this assignment and this has given me a huge amount of confidence to continue with the course. The requirement to ‘develop a personal voice and style’ seems to be relayed repeatedly through the level one courses in order to prepare you for future work – I was pleased to be at least showing some promise on this front !

My tutor suggested that I lay out the prints from this assignment so that I can show how I selected the final ones to include for the assignment. I have since amended my assignment to include evidence of this thought process and I will continue to do this in future for other projects.

She also questioned my use of the plain background to the images. I was limited to a certain extent by the venue and was quite busy having a reasonably large number of strong women to corral into a small area and photograph them relatively quickly so I wouldn’t disrupt their social event more than was necessary.

I thoroughly agreed with my tutor when she said ‘To push the work further would probably involve getting more comments from the women themselves to show their involvement in the project’. However, I suppose I felt that there was a limit to the amount of charity I could expect – after all these were essentially strangers I had elicited to help with produce a photographic assignment. I suppose this was a lesson to me in how I may need to push my comfort zones that bit further, in order to maximise the outcome of a project. This is something I will need to work on if I’m to progress further.

My tutor also suggested I read her article ‘Plan + Research + Reshoot’

One of the salient points of the article is below and I’ve taken this on board.

‘You may take lots of images of the same thing at the same time, from varying angles and experimenting with different exposures or lenses. But this is not the same thing as revisiting and doing a new shot with the sole premise of improving on images from a previous shoot’.

Further, she suggests that it is probably wise to ‘choose subjects that can be revisited’, or ‘work close to home, use areas that are easily accessible and can be visited at different times of the day’.

I also got feedback about my images for exercise 3 and it was a useful learning point to understand that photographs of small details are often better if taken straight on. I hadn’t realised the importance of this so the advice was helpful.

My tutor also kindly pointed me to some non-photographic reading material following my particular subject matter for this assignment, specifically the writings of Helen Walmsey-Johnson, who wrote ‘The Invisible Woman – Taking on the Vintage Years’. I am grateful for the reference as it could be something I return to as a photographic project again in the future.