People & Place
Response to tutor feedback on Assignment 3
My tutor responded very quickly to this assignment and I’ve taken quite a long time pondering over the feedback.
Overall comments were that this was another good assignment. There were a few, small technical issues largely stemming from the use of a few different cameras (which I was aware of at the time when post-processing and noted in my write-up) so advice was to select just one for the next assignment – the 60D. No particular problem re print quality except for some small sensor/high ISO noise problems in a few images (again due to using smaller cameras sometimes).
1. The images
The Glasshouse, RHS Wisley
Although he thought that there are situations it might be appropriate (eg. if only indication of this being a managed habitat) My tutor found the metal barrier (bottom left) distracting and suggested I find a way of reframing this. He also referred to prominent noise and artefacts – probably from using the G12 and a high ISO
I particularly liked this viewpoint as it showed the lushness of the greenery; the sweep of the path, with people walking along, it plus the height of the glasshouse and the edge of the waterfall. I was leaning over the rail already and it wouldn’t be possible to lean any further out. I could actually see on my monitor that it looked over-sharp and yet the print itself seemed okay. There were some other images, taken on the second visit with the Canon 60D which had been possibles.
I was further along the balcony so the sweep of rail was avoided but there’s less greenery and no people.
That apart, my tutor commented, “I should also note quickly that I like how you have been thinking out of the box and photographed through the flowing water – this adds a good visual twist and variety to the overall selection from this space”
Lindley Library, RHS Wisley
Issues noted here included the small space where I had attempted to reveal more by including a detail shot of the toys. My tutor’s suggestion here was that I could have chosen one of the wider shots, “.. and then perhaps have made some more photos of details that seemed unique to this space”. He would have preferred me to wait for the people in the window to move in the second photo
Interestingly, I’d actually waited until they moved in front of the window because I was thinking to link mothers and children with the children’s facilities in the library itself.
My tutor thought that the increase in saturation in the toys photos had left it not fitting in well in terms of colour with the other two, “the idea that the toys are present is enough to point towards this being a space for children without having to increase saturation to ram the point home”
There was a helpful suggestion regarding white balance – to take one photograph with a colour neutral grey card in the frame, such as one by Michael Tapes http://michaeltapesdesign.com/whibal.html. This is where I feel doubly foolish because I actually do have one but I didn‘t have it with me at the time!.
One good point was that my tutor also wrote that he thought the compromise I made works.
The ones from St. Nicholas were thought to be the more successful – “These little pieces of the puzzle allow the viewer to piece together the space and in some respects are reminiscent of the work of Peter Fraser” http://www.peterfraser.net (see below). Reminder to be a little more careful with my technique on images like the roof image as it is not sharp.
He would have liked to see a slightly wider and clear shot of the drawings on the wall
I had ummed and aahed about this one as, again, I’d wanted to show it in context. There were tighter shots
Unfortunately the sconce does get in the way. The other aspect is that, to me, the wall paintings look much more interesting appearing in the context of the whole building as , somehow, because they are fairly crude, they provide a contrast to the beauty of the wood in the building.
My tutor didn’t like the different aspect ratio of the crop of the altar cloth detail (square) pointing out that he felt I should, “ either crop everything the same or have a very good reason for cropping one photo from a series to a different aspect ratio”
My reasoning had been that I wanted to show a top to bottom view of the altar cloth (which I think is a lovely piece of needlework). I had problems there because light was flooding through a window at the side onto the wooden rail so in order to cut out as much of that as possible and still show the altar cloth top to bottom, I had to crop as I did. I realise I should have explained that but, even if I had, I guess my tutor would still have made the same comment regarding one different crop in the series.
There is a tighter shot. I originally excluded this because it shows a much smaller part of the cloth but it is in the same aspect ratio.
On a more positive note, my tutor did think, “the detail in one of the wider shots showing the font serving double duty as a brochure stand is particularly insightful into the modern church as well” . I was also pleased that, whilst he didn’t think the church images are a success yet he thought they were a very good first go at a longer project.
I think I was damned by faint praise here because, whilst he thought they were technically probably the most accomplished (although there were some slightly unpleasant shadows), fine in a catalogue for the club for instance but not as interesting as other buildings visited. I agree.
Excellent blog; acknowledgement that I’d avoided use of ultra-wide lens; and some recommended looking/reading. My tutor also remarked that most of the work I’d linked to on my blog was made on medium or large format cameras. I’ve increasingly come to realise that much of the photography I appreciate has been created on larger format cameras and I have also noted more use of these in Exhibitions. A recent visit to the Landscape Exhibition at Somerset House has inspired me to make more of an effort to practise with the medium format film camera I have acquired.
2. Some suggested photographers/reading
John Gossage –Berlin in the time of the wall – http://www.stephendaitergallery.com/dynamic/exhibit_display.asp?ExhibitID=65
Marc Wilson- http://marcwilson.co.uk/the-last-stand/
Simon Standing- http://www.simonstanding.co.uk/Portfolio/Portfolio.html (PhD will be most relevant but everything should be of interest)
Peter Marlow- The English Cathedral http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K1HRGTOBSJ
Simon Norfolk- http://www.simonnorfolk.com/pop.html (Specifically look at For Most of it I have no words: Genocide, Landscape, Memory)
Joel Sternfeld- http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/joel-sternfeld/?tag=On%20this%20Site
John Kippin- http://johnkippin.com/archive/nostalagia-for-the-future.php
John Riddy – http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/john-riddy-11957
Steffi Klenz – http://www.steffiklenz.co.uk/
Peter Fraser – http://www.peterfraser.net/
I looked at all of them but these are the ones that had particular impact for me:
John Gossage: this b&w series began when Gossage, an American, went on a trip to Berlin to exhibit photographs and run a workshop. He ended up making further trips into the early 90s, and created a survey of The Wall that was both historical and contemporary. It struck me how images of small details and absence of people can still evoke such a sense of place and, as the description on the web site comments, tell a story, “in images that are as much metaphorical and emotive as they are politically accurate and historically mindful”.
Marc Wilson: Beautifully captured colour images of remains of military defence installations that, to me, have a dignified loneliness about them.
Simon Norfolk: Places of genocides. The b&w images adding to that sense of gravity, damage and loss.
Simon Standing: Here, as suggested, I looked at Dr Standing’s PhD project. It concerned “The Architectural Expression of Anglican Rituals as Disseminated Through a Photographic Enquiry of Six Devon Churches” . I found this very interesting in terms of how he built his composite images and used polaroid and film tests. These were wider viewpoints but I also looked at some of his other work on churches where he used detail images to, again, evoke that historical sense of people and place.
Peter Marlow: I looked at Peter Marlow earlier in the Module in terms of environmental portraiture but, this time, I was looking at his work on English cathedrals. It certainly put my attempts at Wisley and St Nicholas into perspective (although I did note some near- clipped highlights)! The photographs looked so imposing that I bought the book. The book is beautifully large with superb colour prints and includes some of Marlow’s notes on how he went about the project. It was easy to imagine him up a step-ladder with his large camera, just as the sun came up to cast the right light within the interior of each cathedral – not to mention the cleaners who were determined to start their work at the right time and so switched on the lights! There are also details in an appendix outlining the histories of all the cathedrals. I just hadn’t realised that they weren’t all built from scratch, as I’d thought, but some of them developed into cathedrals from previous Parish Churches.
I found the book so inspiring, as did my husband, that we both went off to Winchester to photograph the cathedral there and I’ll write more about that when I record work towards Assignment 4. Suffice it to say that, as a result of this first visit, my husband decided he must have a TSE lens and, following this and further discussions, he also obtained a Sinar camera. I’m not going near the Sinar (apart from to admire it and pose for it) until I’ve practised with the TSE lens and that’s to come.
Peter Fraser: He took up an artist’s residency at Oxford University in 2006 and, in reading about the lead up to this, I was interested in the way he wrote about a time when he was in hospital recovering from Hepatitis and Dysentery ,walked to a courtyard and was dazzled by the Saharan sunshine falling upon some Bougainvillaea trees.,
“Standing in that doorway, each flower appeared as a crucible in which a perpetual struggle was taking place, between the impossible beauty of the world and its irrefutable fact…….Additionally over the passing years, it has become clear that by photographing a stationary subject in a particularly intense way ….. there is potential for the photograph to allude not only to time at the moment of exposure, but to time before and even time to come”
I wish I had known about Peter Fraser before I started Assignment 3 because he has so clearly detailed what I was aiming for. I’ve only just started on that path and the struggle for me is not only to get to grips with technical aspects but how to nurture that inner vision that can focus upon the mood and viewpoint I need to convey.
Areas for further work
I need to more scrupulous at checking noise on my images and to avoid high ISOs on smaller cameras. For the next assignment I intend to just use my 60D. I also intend to show more commitment to practising using my medium format film camera – I must admit here that it’s the fact of not being able to see results quickly that’s held me back.
15th April 2013
Marlow, P (2012) The English Cathedral, Merrell, UK