Assignment 2: The Art of Photography – Elements of Design.

Below posts contain the assignment submission.  The tutor feedback for each individual image is placed each image further down the page.

The overall tutor comment:

“This is very good submission.  The theme works very well indeed, unites the set, but hasn’t in any way compromised your work exploring the individual elements of the assignment.

 You have taken risks this time and pushed for a more creative and inventive approach to your work and that’s a good thing. It’s hard to find a balance sometimes and we have to be wary of too much contrivance.

 You worked in monochrome throughout, as suggested in the course notes, it’s an opportunity to define and enhance the elements of design, and this works well for this set, with well exposed and balanced images full of tone and texture.

 You have made every effort to relate your theory and research to the shots, and this comes across clearly in your notes.

 In my last feedback I suggested that your .. ‘Filing and reference system is complex and I found myself going back and forth to see which image relates to which element…’ you still haven’t addressed this and the reference/name for images you submit in the folder should match those in the Blog. Please could you do this for the next assignment.”

 My overall response:

I am highly relieved.  The issue around referencing of images had been addressed for this assignment and the previous one. However I had misunderstood the tutors comments about going back through the learning log to simplify the referencing of my images but this has been addressed now.


Introduction, Self Assessment and Bibliography

So, this module has been about elements of design.  What a challenge this was.  I feel like my brother must have done after being presented with a full ‘Snap on’ tool kit when he started out as a mechanic having only had a couple of spanners to work with up until that point.  I have so much more to play with now as my understanding of composition is growing.  Now it is a case of applying that knowledge.

  In my last assignment I wasn’t in a position to undertake much research but this time my learning log will demonstrate that I have used every opportunity to compare course project learning against images from ‘The Greats’ of photography.  

 As for the images, this is a high-risk set of images for me to submit.  I have broken away from all that I feel safe with in my first attempt to move into a different sphere of photography. My tutor asked to see more creativity and here it is!  However, at the back of my mind, there is the fact that my tutor didn’t ‘get’ the metaphor in the only conceptual image I put into the first assignment but, then again, it was out of context. Even with the context explicit in this assignment, it feels a high-risk strategy.  I went to the John Burgin exhibition at the University of Westminster after finishing the body of this assignment.  I didn’t ‘get’ much of his work wither but will strive to as I think this is a sphere I’d like to fully appreciate and apply in my work.

 Through the course I was really struggling to translate some of the point and pattern concepts but the perseverance has paid off.  The same with Gestalt. I will go into more detail of my studies within the self-assessment and links to my learning log will be found further on.

 I am not sure I intended to take risks so early on in the course until I had found my feet and my confidence.  However, the work I had produced over several outings started showing a theme that was running in my subconscious.  Perhaps some photojournalism images viewed during my Magnum research alongside Armistice Day had triggered a response in me.  I had intended to submit under the heading of ‘Street Detail’ but the images are not street detail as, perhaps, others might have interpreted it.   It took a while for me to identify why I was drawn to some of the subject matter.   When the penny dropped I realised it was a conceptual story telling I was yearning to tell. In part, my motivation for undertaking the whole degree programme is to find a way to express a raft of emotion stemming from a heap of life experiences that have left their mark.  It has often been suggested that I write a book. I may not do that but I do want to develop the ability to confront people with challenging images that aren’t always explicit in interpretation but at the same time not so elitist that is it lost on a large percentage of the population.

Every image has been carefully considered and the dark circles under my eyes are testament to that.  It would have been more desirable to have more time to research a little on the genre of conceptual photography but the theme evolved intuitively and late on in the module.  However I have had my work cut out contemplating elements of design!

 In addition to the basic aim of ‘elements of design’, a theme running through the images attempts to take you on a journey through the eyes of a probationer constable observing and responding to the issues surrounding military service, ultimate sacrifice and consequences of having survived wars – just to find a life long personal battle emerging.  It is a fitting November project and coincidently, a theme that is to be found in one of this month’s ‘Big Issue’ magazines.

 My knowledge base that qualifies me to undertake this theme is my own battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that was triggered while still serving as a very young Police Officer in London. Prior to my injury it became abundantly clear that part of my probationer work was looking out for drunken veterans who were forgotten by society and had gone from pride and patriotism to finding themselves in psychological despair that was often self-medicated via addictions. The veterans often died very lonely deaths, in poverty and in housing that was barely fitting of the description of ‘home’.  In the worst cases their passing went unnoticed for weeks/ months…..  and it was a very sorry scene to deal with. 

 When viewing the images some might be more obvious to ‘read’ then others. i.e. CB/19.   Diagonals: you might not see an immediate relevance but then realise this might be the night ‘dwelling’ for a homeless veteran or you might read it as a nightmare being suffered. Many nightmares involve long dark tunnels with voices. The ominous murals in this tunnel represent these voices.  In fact the image might well be read as both.  

In any case what should be clear is the downward spiral of events through the images.

 I will hold my breath now and let you consider the images accepting that my intentions and the reality of success may be miles apart.

 Because our ability to interpret an image is a somewhat complex issue and partly dependant on our own life experiences, values and culture (Clarke,G:1997:27,31) I have composed a poem to help guide a viewer through the images.

My dear Veteran

1996: I look down in despair 

and ask, “Why are you sleeping in the underpass down there?”

Not long ago you were on parade

if a little war weary behind the façade.

So when did your nightmares get too much? 

Is that bottle now your eternal crutch?

A lottery? With your last few coins gambled in vain?

Addictions will only numb your pain.

I ‘took you in’ against your will,

a warm cell and food really was better still.

Now a long time prisoner to your demons?

You pushed away those you could lean on?

Yesterday you considered taking your life.

You came down after you told of service strife.

The downward spiral will continue anon,

however much you to keep try to keep ‘a grip’ on.

…And soon

Your home will be musty and bare.

And when I have to break in…” DAMN. Did nobody care?”

For you will have not been missed,

My senses reveal you have been lying here for months like this.

Knelt next to you there is nothing but a single tear 

but comforted by the fact you now have nothing left to fear.


 All past and present that suffered, I’ve not forgotten.

Remembrance day 2013. – Rest in peace my dear veteran.


Self Assessment

I think it is fair to say that I made this module far harder for myself then it needed to have been but I so enjoyed the journey. The turmoil in deciding to include an overlapping theme was simply because the constraints of the assignment brief was going to make this much more difficult to achieve.  Within that turmoil I decided that taking risks was a positive thing though and also staying true to needing to demonstrate a clear understanding of the design concepts. I don’t work well with abstract and, to be honest, there are very few abstract images that I do enjoy. I simply need a human element.  However, I may explore abstract more in the next assignment. It may be now with this new understanding that I can go into the next module with confidence to try abstract ideas.

The aims of ‘ Elements of Design’ was to explore the design elements that need to be considered when we tackle a composition and as the exercises progressed I became more comfortable with all the concepts. Who knew there was so much more beyond the ‘rule of thirds’?


The Art of Photography overall aims are:

1) Introduce principles of composition.

2) Develop understanding of light and colour (n/a for elements of design).

3) Develop knowledge of the principle of graphic design.

4) Develop reflective skills.

I am happy that all my images demonstrate understanding of the necessary design elements and the explanations are evidence of this.  The sketches will be available to assessors in a hard version.  I am content the above relevant aims have been achieved and this is further evidenced in my learning log.  I struggled with some aspects of the coursework but the perseverance paid off

My Learning log research and reflection have expanded considerably since the first assignment but there is still room for improvement with my research. There was a delay in a book I ordered (Prakel) and although I am now reading about psychology of photography I am not ready to reference it just yet.   I have visited the John Burgin at The University of Westminster this last weekend and was hoping to write something about his approach but I would not be doing myself any justice to tackle this subject until I have had more time to reflect. 

Now I have the necessary specialist software training under my belt, I will be able to expand even further in my next assignment and take on some heavier reading rather then depending on analysis of images alone.

From my first assignment feedback I have taken on several points made.  I have simplified the image references, made sure my images are of publishable standards technically and, as I mentioned above, expanded my further research.  These were issues that I had identified myself anyway.  I was advised to start looking at other learning logs but up until this point I found that idea a little overwhelming.  Now I am settling, finding my feet and identifying areas in my learning log that need strengthening I will spend a little time looking at how others approach their studies.



Byrne, D.  Images of Far East – Parasols. Available: Last accessed 20th November 2013. 


William.V (2012), What Makes Great Photography 80 Masterpieces Explained, London: Applepress.

Freeman.M(2007),The Photographer’s Eye, Lewes:Ilex.

Lardinois. B (2012). Magnum. London: Thames & Hudson

Seabourne,M & Sparham, A (2012). London Street Photography. 2nd ed. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.

 Clarke, G (1997). The Photograph. New York: Oxford University Press Inc


Gettleman, J. (2013). The Price of Precious. National Geographic. 125th anniversary edition (0), 51 53.   Photographs by: Marcus Bleasdale

 George Steinmetz. (2013). Celebrate. National Geographic. 125th anniversary edition (1), 119. Photograph by: Simon Norfolk. Uxmal, Mexico.



CB/18 – Rhythm





D700, 50mm, f/9, ISO600, 1/125

My Notes:

There is so much going on in this image but the overriding feel is that of rhythm.  Sketching over the image to assist in unpicking the design elements helped me to tease out the design elements.  I took this image having just read up on ‘Rodchenko’ and hence I felt the need to be more creative with use of lines and to increase dynamic tensions.  Rhythm is seen through the foreground pavement, the marching troops and the windows in the building line (on camera right.) 

As we look at the image, the foreground pavement draws our eye in 2 dynamic diagonal directions. One diagonal takes the eye deep into the image, past the troops and to the background. The other diagonal takes us to the feet to the troops and beyond. The mace and cape of the Drum Major gives us implied lines that link the pavement and building line. There is an implied triangle also forming from the rod and the cape where the 3 corners links ground, troops and building.  The two black umbrellas at each side of the frame add some closure and balance.  The building is at an angle and provides an added element of movement and dynamic tension.

Tutor Notes:

This is an interesting shot. The ‘Dutch tilt’, as it’s know in cinematography, was used as a visual device to create a sense of physical imbalance, discomfort and detachment from reality – heighten suspense. Something favoured by Rodchenko and the Constructivists, in design work as well as his photographs. I’m not sure about it here with this subject matter.


There is, as you say ‘ much going on in this photograph’, and while there is conceptually a sense of rhythm, the business does work against the visual concept.  A tighter crop, removing the crowd at the left and tightening the composition around the marching band would bring the viewer’s attention to the lines and beats in the figures.  It’s worth focusing on the one element rather than bringing others into play (implied triangle).

 My response

I have had a look at the crop in edit and taken out the spectators. I’m ot sure it works for me or strengthens the image in any way.


CB/19 – Diagonals.




My notes:

As we know, diagonals help to provide perspective and give movement by drawing the eye in.  Diagonals are free from frame alignment and we can achieve more dynamic tension when using them as a strong design element in a composition.  Having said that, here we see some level of stability is achieved via the structure of the tunnel that provides horizontal and verticals.  The image has deliberately been taken a tad off centre to provide an air of being situated in the shadows. The motion blur was a deliberate choice to give a greater sense of vulnerability and disorientation in an oppressive situation.  I took several images at different speeds and the motion blur of the distant person lends itself to greater atmosphere and engagement with the image. Gestalt law of continuation and closure can be seen here.

Tutor notes:

There is a good use of diagonals to create a sense of depth and perspective in this shot of the subway. You have a real sense of the place, a strong ambience, potential urban menace in an image full of detail. It is very well produced with a whole spectrum of tone, and some great detail in the extremes – particularly the shadow areas – the viewer is drawn to the dark spaces. The motion blur works, but the figure is quite small in the frame and the impact is lessened.

My response:

Content that I have conveyed the ‘menace’.  My creative decision about the size of the subject was based on wanting her to be overwhelmed by the environment.  The sacrifice was the impact of the shutter speed work but I still think this is the best outcome.


CB/20 – Distinct, If Irregular Shapes.




D700, f/5.6,ISO400, 200mm, 1/60

My Notes:

Shapes: Bottle, leaves, dry and damp triangles and bottle tops.Giving a reason for a position in a frame is key here but as much for metaphorical reasons as to straight design.  The empty bottle is placed in the ‘depression/alone zone’ of the frame and reinforces the cause of the bottle being here in the first place. The empty bottle is stood in the ‘light’ but precariously close to and facing the ‘dark’ area of the ground.  You can see implied triangles dividing the ground area and linking the bottle with plastic lids. 

Tutor notes:

One of the dangers of this assignment is choosing a subject/composition or putting one together that doesn’t entirely ring true. This may well be a genuine find or you may have arranged it, but it feels false. The shape of the bottle and the bottle caps is regular, and their composition, too. I think for this element, the brief is looking for something that is genuinely irregular in shape – for your theme, a partly demolished building say, or uncollected rubbish piled in the street.

 I have to be honest; I haven’t come across the ‘depression/alone zone’ 

My response:

There are triangles, squares, leaf, bottle and lids. It fitted with the theme.  The ‘depression zone’ was something I read a long time ago.  I am unable to find the text (try as I might). It was a psychology experiment where  people were given a black sheet of paper and asked to put a mark where they would consider ‘depression’ and ‘alone’ to be represented. I just can’t find it for looking now.  However, this knowledge was in my mind when I took the image. Again, it is a found composition.



CB/21- Two Points.






My notes:


I love the irony of this image.  Vain hope – cornered and left in the gutter.  For me, the image reminded me of Diane Airbus ‘ Identical Twins’. The longer one looks at the image, the more appears to be read and not just viewed (Clarke,G.1997:29).  Our perceptions and experience of the World will help us to unpick the significance of an image. Today’s hopeful lottery tickets, now left in the gutter and cornered, clinging to each other before their fate is met.

From a literal design point of view, the implied triangle of the wall contains the image and the triangle is repeated in the front meeting point of the tickets.  The implied lines of the tickets and vicinity to each other almost gives an air of clinging on to each other.   We can see evidence of Gestalt in the law of segregation and law of common fate, law of similarity and, finally law of simplicity. I am still debating if this could be considered as a law of closure too.  Although placing the tickets central in the frame could be interpreted as boring (Freeman,M.2007: 24),  there wasn’t any justification in placing them elsewhere and the overall balance of the image works as it is.

Tutor notes:

This is an interesting concept – the lottery tickets cast aside – but it looks set up. Maybe if they were crumpled or placed with other debris it would ring true.

Freeman is quite right when he talks about centrally composed subject matter. Here, you might have explored the context better if the tickets were further apart or framed to include more of the background.


While ‘Our perceptions and experience of the World will help us to unpick the significance of an image.’  It can also push us to look for meaning that isn’t there, and we have to be wary of this.  ‘We can see evidence of Gestalt in the law of segregation and law of common fate, law of similarity and, finally law of simplicity. It’s a bit over the top – does the course programme notes refer to Gestalt Theory?

My response:

This image is certainly not set up and the crispness of the tickets was the draw to the image. Subjectively you take what you want from an image but leaving the tickets as if they were clinging to each other before the process of being trampled into the mud was a very conscious decision based on the symbolism. The course notes perhaps do not use the name/ word ‘Gestalt’ but the Gestalt theory is where the course content is drawn from and alludes to it across the pages. In Michael Freeman’s ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ (which i believe the course is taken from?) there is a chapter on the subject on Page 38.  As psychology of images is an area of interest for me, I wanted to include it.

CB/22 – Several Points in a Deliberate Shape.




Sony a55.  Tokina 11- 17mm f/2.8.

My Notes

This image would also work well for diagonals but I had tackled this composition with ‘several points in a deliberate’ shape in mind.  The boards are deliberate in their placement to capture the eyes of people passing by and implied lines between shapes demonstrate relationship.  Creatively though, I could also see the poetic composition emerging of the two men.  All that stands between the cold and dark for one man and the warmth and light for the other one is money to pay for the things advertised in between them.  The crooks of their arms give an implied line between each other.  From the Gestalt point of view we can see law of similarity, simplicity and continuation.

Tutors notes:

This shot works well for the element Several Points. The homeless man, the row of signs and the distant figure on the phone all serve to advise the viewer’s interpretation of the scene and theme, and guide the eye around the frame.  It’s a bit of a tight composition with little room at the bottom and right of frame, and it’s always worth considering this when you’re shooting – if in doubt and it’s possible, shoot a little wide.

My response:

Yes, it’s tight but shot at 16mm which is  wide although I thought I was set at 11mm.  It was a fleeting moment and although I saw the composition potential before it happened I had all but a few seconds to execute this image.