Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Assignment One Tutor Feedback

It is three months since I submitted assignment one and quite frankly I'm anxious to move on...

The main thrust of the report was focussed on ways to improve my methodology and process.  There was some general advice on how I should be working at level two, reiterating the assessment criteria and the importance of contextualising my work at this level. There was advice as to how to reference other work on my blog and a suggestion that there was a lack of documented research, exploration and analysis of other photographers and influences on there.  And that there was too much emphasis on technical aspects of my own photography. Fair enough. Easily remedied. Although sadly this doesn't reflect the reality, in which probably the reverse is true, at least in hours spent if not documented.

He strongly advises that as I have decided to embark on a 'self-directed' project and have diverged from the brief, I need to prepare carefully in advance and state my intentions formally, by writing a project proposal. I am not totally convinced that my concept is diverging dramatically from the brief, however, I can see the value in this and have put together a detailed proposal for him to peruse and comment on.

He says that on the face of it there is the beginnings of a well grounded project but there appears to be 'fundamental issues' which may inhibit its progress. He also writes that I may be struggling to find 'form in my work' or a 'way forward for it'. Yes true. He suggests the proposal will help me clarify my intentions. And this is where I feel like I'm missing something. I accept I'm struggling to 'find form in my work' so how will writing a project proposal alter this when it's me who's writing it? Articulating can help clarify ideas and help others understand it, but I know what I want to achieve from the Domestic Sublime concept...articulating it isn't my's how to execute it to my satisfaction. As has been documented on here, I keep trying different approaches and I am currently exploring yet another for the purposes of assignments two and three. Sadly, the feedback hasn't edged me forward on this, perhaps I was expecting too much...I tend to!!  

With regards demonstrating creativity, he warns it is veering off in to the path of being 'heavy-handed', hackneyed and bombastic...ouch! Perhaps my work needs to be much more subtle? Replace the trolley for a till receipt, the kids in the woods for random items of clothes, the hide for a doormat? He suggests that, again, a well-written project proposal, with a developed conceptual framework, will avoid this outcome. 

He points out, quite rightly, that the use of the large format camera is causing delays and suggests I work on smaller projects with shorter timescales and use cameras with more immediate feedback to explore my ideas. The 'Barbed' project was all taken on a digital camera, over a short period of time following this advice. And all large format images will be duplicated on the digital. 

He recommends I look at the work by Jeff Wall with regards 'surreal narratives, manipulations and more', and Kurt Caviezel by way of an example of a 'simple disposable concept that can build in to a significant piece of work' and the book Place edited by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Dellar to showcase a variety of different approaches to landscape'. So I bought this, this and this. Fortunately I could pick up a used copy of Jeff Wall's The Complete Edition. I am not unfamiliar with the work of Jeff Wall by any means but am enjoying dipping in and out of this huge 280 page monster of a book. It is full as much by interviews and essays as it is with pictures, which I am very pleased with. It will take some time to work my way through this and I am sure I can learn huge amounts from his work processes and indeed theories that support his work.  'Place' I have now been through once cover to cover. It includes, within it, succinct chapters, with fresh and interesting examples of work that I hadn't come across before.  Great. Kurt Caviezel's book I found to be a perplexing choice and one I want to sell as quickly as it has arrived. I'll have to revisit this one in due course.

With regards tutor feedback in general, very rarely have I read blogposts on fellow student sites that criticise tutor feedback. To do so you run the risk of coming across as defensive or obstructive.  Equally there is the danger of inadvertently misrepresenting tutor views or taking words out of context. Given that feedback is offered in goodwill, why would you? However, is it really always the case that students endorse all the views of their tutor?  I have actioned my tutor's recommendations as best I can, tried to respond positively and raised any issues directly with my tutor. So I'm not being duplicitous here, but to say I'm entirely satisfied with the feedback would be an untruth. 

I have hesitated for a number of weeks from publishing this post, have edited, re-edited, aware I leave myself exposed to criticism now and indeed in future. I appreciate the importance of a project proposal but I'm just not convinced that a 'retrospective' project proposal will be a 'cure-all' to all my Domestic Sublime woes. It feels like it's scratching the wrong itch. 

...but it's fair to say this is all my own doing and my own vision so if I feel no further on in terms of how to develop the concept, refine it or indeed whether the implied advice is to 'can' it, that is my own problem. I've certainly lost momentum and desire for it...but I suppose I've imagined this 'quagmire' for myself. So it's up to me to keep researching, looking for ideas, trying different approaches until I know how to visualise my way out of tutor feedback can resolve that for me!!


  1. Hi,

    Highly interesting. I have been lately following your blog as a directed recommendation from my tutor. And I liked in particular the barbed images.

    May I ask you what does your tutor mean by a 'project proposal' exactly? Is this like the sadly famous 'artist statement' (which I particularly despise and dismiss) ?

    I have strongly disagreed in my previous course TAOP with my tutor and I stated it in my blog. Nothing disrespectful or nasty indeed, but non personal, disagreement and misunderstanding.

    I would also use the opportunity to ask you, what kind of large format camera you use, if this can be asked.

    And...please...don't take this as a compliment or a void statement....but I really understand, quite deeply some of your concerns.



  2. Hi Leo, thank you for taking the time to comment and I'm pleased you like the barbed images.

    The Project Proposal is a different document to the artist statement and is in effect a strategic document about your concept/project. It lays out, prior to starting the project, about your intention, concept, ideas, approaches, research, suggested outcomes, proposed timetable etc. that you intend to carry out. Whilst it is prescriptive it is not meant to be set in stone. I imagine it is a requirement at level three when embarking on the more longer-term projects. It is the first time I have been asked to complete one at level two.

    With regards the large format camera I have an Ebony 5x4 field camera. It is a large format but this model is surprisingly small and light-weight making it fairly easy to 'lug' around. It is a beautiful object. See links below:

    Many thanks Leo for popping by.


  3. Hi Penny

    Interesting to read, as ever...

    In my experience, tutor feedback can be varied. In one module I was so upbeat from the tutor feedback I was dismayed when my assessment grade came back, in another the feedback was thin on the ground but it utterly changed the way I worked, and in another, the feedback pushed me to change my tutor!

    Anyway, yes, at L3 you do write your own proposals - one for YOP and 6 for Advanced. However, these are not set in stone (as you rightly say) and I've been encouraged to actually make up a different narrative to my original intention - to "have a conversation" with the images and see where that takes me.

    It would be worth putting your ideas down in the proposal, taking lots of photographs (ouch - LF! - do they ALL need to be LF?) and seeing where it takes you - your route may wander from the proposal, so just tweak it along the way.

    Good Luck....

  4. Hey Penny

    First things first! If I lived near you, I'd be over there with a Jeroboam of Rioja; and we'd and drink that, and put the world to rights!

    Have been concerned that you have not posted for a while—since you got your feedback—your silence was deafening because there was nothing.

    So, let's look at what happened…
    The response was not as positive as you hoped; and you have been given instructions about proposals because you deviated from the brief. You've done the formal proposal—which should help sort that out—both for yourself and the tutor.

    Research not documented. Well that's a real pain. You know you have done it; but sometimes documenting it to the extent that the 'other person' understands where you have been and where you are going, can be a right pain in the *****. It takes you away from getting on with it—but they want it, so it has to be done.

    'heavy-handed…'—feel your pain here—but take it on the chin. I would disagree, but then I am only a beginner—so can't speak from any position of strength here. But, I do think that maybe as we begin we are too heavy-handed because we feel the need to get the message across. Is that better or worse than being so subtle that people look at the artwork, scratch their head and walk away none the wise?

    I'm not going to pick on every point you mentioned—but, I am going to say that you have the strength, determination and creativity to work your way through this. I'd just think that even if the feedback was heavy-handed (LOL) and has put you on the back foot, it is because your work is good and solid; you challenge yourself and show strong potential—and they are pushing you forward. Don't let it get you down—just get back in there and show them…!

    The fact that your blog and work is being recommended by tutors for other students to look at just shows that they have belief in your ability.

    And have a good swig of rioja too!


  5. I can see why you've waited a while before beginning a response to the feedback. It's certainly a double-edged sword when on the one hand you might want your tutor's approval but, on the other hand you don't entirely agree or feel at odds with it. Is there any way you can meet up with him? Sometimes an hour face-to-face is worth more than reams of written feedback/

  6. Thanks Rob. I'll pm you if I may. With regards the proposal, I can see the value in compiling them and await comments on the one I have put together on Domestic Sublime. And no, not all images have to be on the large format camera - I'm currently doing practice ones on the digital and if I like them, going back with the large format camera...this is how I'll work for assignments two and three and see how it goes.

    Nice one Vicki...Rioja is always a favourite!! It's funny but I had no expectation of a positive report at all. The Roger Ballen masterclass certainly put pay to that. I think I genuinely hoped for guidance as to how I could progress with the concept. Using adjectives like hackneyed and bombastic is certainly honest, but equally a few signposts or breadcrumbs would have been welcome. And regardless of the merits of a project proposal, imo it is only as good as the one who writes isn't a penicillin that will miraculously diminish all ills, no matter how well it is written. Thank you for the supportive comments.

    Catherine I think you're right...that was my dilemma. With regards face-to-face, I think practically this is probably not feasible...

  7. Hello Penny, I will join the chorus to say that I find your work both inspirational and of a very high standard. Have you tried a Margaret River? No such thing as a bad Margaret River and no need to worry about Rioja's quirky grading system...

  8. Thanks John, too kind. And I shall be looking out for Margaret River too.

  9. What about Skype for the face to face? I used it with José... not sure if all will use it though.

  10. Yes, he is a regular user. We had a failed attempt at this early doors, the failure came from my end!