This is the final assignment for The Art of Photography and I am quite sad about that. It has been an amazing journey that I started out on with trepidation but now I have relaxed into an amazing learning curve.
The full size photographs will be found on my learning log on the links below. I have also compiled a Blurb book so that the full experience of narrative and illustration could be explored and presented. This will be sent to my tutor and be available at formal assessment.
My choice of narrative and illustration is based on one well-respected potter Douglas Fitch and also making an appearance is his partner Hannah McAndrew who is also another respected potter. My self-imposed brief was three-fold. Firstly I wanted to achieve a dawn to dusk / ground to finished piece of work in one day. That was a very tall order and I have never attempted anything like it before. I also wanted to appeal to the customers and followers of this charming couple at the start of what is an exciting new relationship. Last of all I wanted this to perhaps have potential to be used as an education tool within some adult education environments. A cursory look around the Internet only served to confirm a suspicion that adults with reading difficulties have to use children’s’ books. This is, perhaps, something for me to revisit further along in my studies.
My self-assessment further on and the learning log blog will explain the thought processes that went into this assignment.
Exhibitions and lectures:
I have thoroughly enjoyed this last module of The Art of Photography that has introduced us to the concepts of narrative and illustration. I found a couple of the exercises challenging as I don’t respond well to creating photographs for tight briefs. Although I do realise that the exercises that challenge me are the ones that I stand to gain the most from
I am identifying my strengths and weaknesses; and my strengths seem to be within responding to something that is happening rather than creating an image to a tight brief. Some people might take issue with that as they might think that it lacks creativity, planning and execution. Personally I just think it is a case of ‘horses for courses’. Being a documentary photographer or providing supporting images for narrative often requires the ability to work intuitively and also to adapt quickly to change by bringing together technical and compositional skills. Also a documentary photographer has to be mindful of the dynamics of any given situation and their own safety. There is no time for lengthy conscious thought in many cases. Documentary/ Photojournalistic photography can also mean working in some less than ideal circumstance. Some might argue that by responding so quickly, one is merely snapping and I guess some people do but sweeping generalisations should be put aside and considered from case to case. I refer to my research into Rahul Talukder to demonstrate this. (See learning log.)
I considered how to present my work carefully and in the end decided that presenting my work in a magazine format would be a time a consuming activity that probably wouldn’t do my work any justice anyway and also require strength in journalistic writing. Finally, I’d need to engage in appropriate software training that would take time away from the actual photography. I found the Blurb format far more intuitive and I can envisage using this in the future with similar documentary work. (I am very disappointed with myself that there are two errors in the text but this would obviously be put right in before ‘putting out’ . In this world it has cost £30 and also took 10 days to arrive here after ordering. I will just have to live with it for assessment. Lesson well learnt though.)
The mix of black and white conversions alongside colour images is used as a tool to enhance what I am trying to convey in each image. The conversions are about intensity and atmosphere and the colour images are about the textures, colours and movement. In the book the images sit with a conversion on page and colour on the opposite page.
I have tried to bring in lots of different skills that we have covered in the course. There is evidence of controlled lighting, shutter speeds, juxtaposition, thought to graphic design and a little colour theory. Exploring colour theory in this context wasn’t the primary aim though.
Unknown. (2011). Pyramids by Manuel Alvaraz Diestro. Available: http://www.dezeen.com/2011/10/26/pyramids-by-manuel-alvarez-diestro/. Last accessed 02/04/2014.
Unknown. (2014). Juxtaposition. Available: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/juxtaposition. Last accessed 01/04/2014.
Dunlop,J. (2014). How to use Juxtaposition effectively in photo’s. Available: http://www.expertphotography.com/advanced-composition-techniques-juxtaposition/. Last accessed 01/04/2014.
White, T. (Unknown). How To Get Started With Adobe InDesign – 10 Things People Want to Know.. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzE6nZofaI0. Last accessed 01/04/2014.
Maloof Collection. (2014). Vivian Maier (Street 1). Available: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/street-1/#slide-18. Last accessed 02/04/2014.
Campbell,D. (2010). Visual storytelling: creative practice and criticism.Available: http://www.david-campbell.org/2010/11/18/photography-and-narrative/. Last accessed 06/04/2014.
Boswell, B. (Unknown). Michael Cardew. Available: http://www.benboswell.co.uk/photography.php. Last accessed 16th April 2014.
Unknown. (Unknown). An interview with Anotnio Almos. Available: http://www.documentaryphotoreview.com/podcasts/podcast-an-interview-with-antonio-olmos/. Last accessed 20th April 2014.
Albos, A. (2012). The Landscape of Murder. Available: http://thelandscapeofmurder.wordpress.com. Last accessed 20th April 2014.
Journals / books:
Ismay,W.A. (1983). Kindred Pots. Crafts. 63 (July/ August), 40 – 41.
Seabourne, M & Sparham, A (2011). London Street Photography. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing/ Museum of London. 24,86,87,95,103-111.
This image isn’t an assignment image but a metering snap taken that I thought would be useful to communicate the conditions of the pottery studio.
Congratulations and very well done for completing the course. You have gone from strength to strength, and there is a clear voice emerging in your work. You have worked exceptionally hard, demonstrated a high level of proactivity in every area, research, creative application and technical knowledge, and the level of documentation and reflection in each assignment has been of a consistently high standard. For each assignment you have chosen a challenging subject to ensure a continual process of learning and personal progress and for this final piece of work in Narrative and Illustration, ‘Elements of a Pot’, you produce a beautifully presented study of the work of a potter through the creation of a single pot.
You submitted a range of work for the assignment including a Photobook, and individual files of your reflection, learning log, and research.
The subject for this assignment is a good choice, allowing you to have a degree of control in the environment, an opportunity to communicate closely throughout the process with the craftsman, and the challenge of working in a confined space where the opportunity for a wide variation of images is not easy to produce.
There are over thirty images, producing a comprehensive and detailed documentation of the process and this is excellent work. You also mix colour with black and white, and I’m while not convinced that this is a good approach when working with a single subject in a narrative form, it’s good that you explore and demonstrate your ability with that technique here. Also I note that in the book they are on opposite pages and complement each other very well.
Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Narrative and Illustration
This is quite a conventional interpretation of narrative, the ‘dawn to dusk’ approach works very well, and holds the dual timeframe – temporal and practical – together. While the image quality is excellent, and the process of the making of this pot covered in great detail, the character of the craftsman is less evident. I thought you might have explored this further after including the two images of Fitch with his partner Hannah, in the opening pages. In your notes you reveal that there were several aims, ambitious, but I would be wary of trying to do too much.
I’m not going to comment on all the shots here, as some are ‘procedural’ and similar in composition.
You set up the context nicely with the dawn exterior of the workshop, capturing the ambience of the new day and the creative process ahead.
Looking at both the print in the book and the digital original online, I think the colour is a touch too saturated and the contrast a little high.
You take us closer to the pottery, a glimpse of his work inside, and a foreground detail of the special spade that he’ll use for digging clay – a little contrived, maybe, but it does the job.
You capture a sense of intimacy in the following shot (even though it’s from the back…) and again in the next, although this doesn’t really add to the story, I feel. There’s a good detail image of the material and you capture the texture and mass nicely. And the shot of them carrying the clay back to the pottery continues the narrative well – watch out for the ‘symbolism’ stuff…
Now the story of the pot really begins with Fitch preparing the clay and then at the wheel. You cover this well and get a feel for the, material and the process, not easy because this is a very tactile process and there is a lot of motion involved. The images are well composed given the limitations of space; the colour and textural details are very good indeed. The natural available light works better than the artificial, but including the practical lamp helps define the temperature and source.
Now you faced a challenge in getting a sequence that documents clearly the throwing process, and this works well, you have to sacrifice composition in situations like this, unless you have the opportunity to return and follow the process again, but it’s the documentation that is important here. The lighting on these shots is a bot mixed, and it’s further ‘confused’ by the mixture of colour and monochrome; the latter offers much more in the way of definition, contrast and atmosphere.
The blue gas flame is nicely captured in contrast to the cool setting and the following image with the pot ‘steaming’ is quite unusual.
You follow a similar process until he takes a short break from his work and offer a portrait. I think here, I would go back to my opening comment about capturing more of his character, and I would try to find a more relaxed situation that offers more of his personality away from the wheel.
I too, like the shot of the pot with Fitch’s hand on the lid and the wisp of steam to the top left. It has a sense of mystery, an artifact shaped from clay, something from nothing..
The exterior shot of applying glaze works really well because it offers more of an opportunity to see the potter in his working gear and the little eccentricities, feather and sandals. Again you capture the materials (slip glaze) very well making good use of light, and the application of design and a further coat of glaze comes across well in this sequence of shots.
The form and shape of the pre-fired vessel is good, using your knowledge of lighting to get the right angle for the lamp. It’s interesting that you include the stand as well, a nice touch I think, showing the working tools of the craftsman.
The kiln interior is a difficult shot to get right, but this does the job.
The following shot is full of atmosphere, and here you have a choice of focal plane; this one works, and I think a deeper one, in the kiln, would work too.
The final ‘one I made earlier’ shot works very well, with the glaze and design well rendered here. The natural light, and carefully selected setting works very well for this vessel with its delicate design and subtle colours.
You don’t include any notes about the final shot – the back cover image – but it closes the set very well, with a strong evening ambience.
As a final note, this is a very good set of images and you produce a strong visual documentation of the process of a pot being made.
While you introduce an element of background relationship at the beginning, you don’t follow this through, and the set would benefit from a couple of shots that reveal more of Fitch’s character and perhaps his other work.
You final reflective notes are detailed and informative, and you articulate your ideas about the documentary photographer very well. I agree with your comments.
Your log throughout the course has been excellent, going way beyond the exercises and including a good deal of detail about independent research and a high level of commitment. You document your research once more very well here.
I am thrilled that the feedback is as positive as it is.
There were a few points made:
‘Over saturation in one of the images.’
Yes, on reflection, it certainly is slightly over saturated and the point is taken.
‘Mixed light sources ‘confusing’ the images’
This is a constant problem for every photographer that has ever worked in the pottery. Day light, fluorescent and tungsten are all there to battle with. I am satisfied that I have overcome the problems as well as they can be and my results are comparable to others that have walked before me.
‘character of the potter’
I’m not sure that I agree but perhaps in the next module ‘People and Place’ I will explore standard portraiture more and come to another conclusion. I am not confident in ‘normal’ portraiture so this is something for the future.
The local college are interested in the concept of illustrative education and have praised the book. They suggested that taking out all text would be better for their use.
Douglas Fitch is thrilled with the book and, now the assignment is finished, we will now work together to adjust it ready for availability to customers and I am thrilled that he has asked for the work to become available.