Assignment Three Submission and Feedback

Posted on July 28, 2014


A little while ago I submitted my material for Assignment Three to Sharon my tutor. I have now had feedback from her and this posts documents both my submission and the feedback.

The submission comprised of four elements. Two projects which are a prescribed part of the coursework for YOP. I decided to carry out both of these projects by making new work for my landscape photographer project which I am now calling Portraits in Context. I also submitted an updated artists statement for the portraiture work and a status report for Lifting the Curtain.

The first project (Project Five per the YOP course notes) requires the student to document a subject in as objective a manner as possible without skewing the presentation to a particular point of view. As stated above I have explored this question in relation to my ongoing project Portraits in Context. In this way I hoped to examine the issues raised by the project and at the same time undertake a valuable critique of an ongoing project. My aim throughout this portrait series has been to represent my subjects as they are, using a fairly deadpan objective style. In other words in an objective manner.

The full text of the project submission is given in the pdf below. My conclusion from this exercise was that whilst my aim was to be objective in the way in which my subjects are portrayed in reality interpretation of the work is unlikely to be so. Subjectivity is introduced by me the photographer through the choice of location (background); the editing process for selecting the final images for presentation; the expression, posture and clothing of the subjects in the selected images; and the decision to present the work as a series. In any event irrespective of my intent to produce an object impartial view, each viewer will bring their own subjectivity to bear when interpreting the images.

Project five an impartial view

Landscape in Mind ©Keith Greenough 2014

Portraits in Context
©Keith Greenough 2014

Sharon’s feedback on this project was pretty positive. She felt that I had covered the ground well. Her main concern was about how the photographer’s ‘special connection to the land’ comes through, mainly because a photograph alone ‘denies a lot to the viewer’. She wondered if I could use some text from each subject about their relationship to the place or perhaps even some spoken words. This is something which I have yet to bottom out for the project. I had originally considered showing the work alongside some photographs and text. How and when I take this forward is an open issue. For the moment I need to concentrate on the East End work as my main project, but I will re-engage with this project later in the year.

The second project (Project Nine per the YOP course notes) requires the student to shoot a sequence of images without changing viewpoint, lens etc and to observe the changes in the scene. The idea is to explore different aspects of a subject over a short series of photographs. I had decided to make a series of portraits of one of my subjects as part of my Portraits in Context series to carry out this project. The idea was to explore the range of gestures and facial expressions of the subject (in this case Catherine). My submission is shown in the pdf below:

Project nine Change

Sharon was very happy with this analysis and did not make any specific recommendations for improving the work.

With regards to the revised statement and images for Portraits in Context in addition to the above comments (included in her review of the projects five and nine) she expressed the view that she was not sure about the title. I got the impression she felt it was a bit simplistic. She felt that I need to work into my title/into/text something a bit more specific about the meaningfulness of the context. More food for thought here.

The final element of my submission was my update on Lifting the Curtain. Here I submitted a status report on where I am and the latest (at time of submission) set of image/text panels. See pdf and image below:

Lifting the Curtain – Update on Progress 11th July 2014


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First the good news – Sharon was enthusiastic about the idea of trying to link an exhibition to charitable fund raising and saw no conflict between this approach  and the artistic integrity of the work. She was also very complementary about the pictures themselves which she variously described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘still, pensive grounds of potential’. Both terms are exactly how I would like the images to be perceived.

But the less good news is that she was quite uncertain about the image/text pairings, finding them to be on the whole too dry and in some cases the link between image and text too arbitrary making it ‘difficult for me to want to make a connection’. She also felt that I need to be clearer about how I wish the viewer to participate in the completion of the work (as an Open Work per Umberto Eco – to present the work in this way is my stated aim).

We had an extended discussion on this and I can see what she means. Looking back on the work now I can see that I have departed somewhat from my early aim of the work and how the text should encourage the viewer to project an historic narrative scene into the modern day urban landscape. In my earlier post I made the following statement, which I feel is exactly how I want the viewer to engage with the image and text to complete the work….

‘What I am really want for is for viewers to be psychological and emotionally engaged by the text/image combinations. I want them to imagine what it would have been like to be there at the time, to imagine how as an immigrant they would have felt and to think about the social issues that flow from this.’

Whilst my thinking has moved on from the link just to immigration the goal remains the same.

Sharon gave me a number of very useful pointers which I plan to use to revisit the image text combinations:

  1. If the text contains a narrative element, especially something which would help the viewer to visualise the scene. This would engage the viewer’s imagination and encourage them to project the historic scene into the modern one. The more specific the narrative the better. People can connect better with the specific and move on from that to consider the universal issues involved.
  2. It would help greatly if there is some resonance between the text and image to provide a segue from one to the other. Too much of a disjuncture may block the viewer/reader’s path and cause him or her to give up.
  3. Clarify exactly how I want the viewer/reader to engage with the work and how his or her participation is needed to complete it. It would be helpful here to deconstruct each of the image/text pairings to understand how the viewer is involved in creating meaning.

I have taken Sharon’s remarks on board and plan to look again at the texts from this revised perspective. I will also need to revisit my statement. In simple terms what I am looking for is for the text to capture the viewer/reader’s imagination, for the image to have some resonance with the textual narrative, for the image to present an empty stage into which the viewer projects the historic narrative and finally for the viewer/reader to consider the social, cultural, religious and economic issues involved and what relevance they have to modern day East London.

Lots of work to be done……

Here is Sharon’s feedback in full….

Keith Greenough YOP3