Tutor Report Form
Student name: Edward Lerpiniere
Student number: 506079
Course/Module title: Photography 2: Gesture & Meaning
Assignment number: 1: Documentary Values
I think you have made a good start to the module. It is readily apparent that you have given a lot of thought and consideration to the work in this assignment that builds effectively on the work and experience that you have done for previous modules.
You have chosen to tackle quite a challenging topic – loneliness – that stretches you and have approached it thoughtfully. The result is a sensitive exploration of the topic that demonstrates not only your technical competence but more importantly your growing individual voice and approach to using photography.
You will be aware that tutors are obliged to include a set text at certain points in their comments. Please excuse the rather impersonal text below that you will have already seen before and doesn’t take account of the discussions that we have already had. The essence of support is still appropriate and well-meant.
You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.”
Feedback on assignment
As intimated above I think you have done well with this assignment – taking on a challenging topic and are to be congratulated for avoiding the more straightforward and stereotypical treatment.
It is interesting to see your decision to use “set up” situations. In one sense this is a pragmatic response to the difficulty you found in covering ‘real, live’ situations given the time frame you had to operate in. It did then present you with an interesting set of opportunities and issues.
It did allow you to control and choreograph the participants and scenes. This gives you the opportunity to control components of the scene to include in the frame, facial expressions body language and other factors to convey aspects of loneliness. You make good use of these opportunities.
It also opens up the issue of documentary/photojournalism and its relationship to so-called real life. Some may argue that using ‘actors’ in a set scene you are interpreting the topic you seek to explore and thereby diminish the effectiveness of the images. (I don’t subscribe to this point of view but you might want to reflect on this aspect in your log)
I’ve added a section on this in the rework of the assignment.
In terms of technical and visual skills, I have one or two specific points but generally I think you are fine and demonstrate a good competency.
Because you are staging the scenes you have the opportunity to be very careful about what you include in the frame, focus etc; In the first image of ‘moved home’, you have cropped off the feet of the ‘parents’ and yet kept in the whole of the door frame and pictures on the wall. The figures are occupying mostly the bottom half of the frame and seem perhaps a little unbalanced. Perhaps a slightly lower camera position, or tilting the camera down? Having said that, the placement of the figures, the body language of the adults and baby excluding the young lad and the inclusion of the child gate as an inference of barrier between the adults and the child all contribute well to loneliness.
When I made these images the intention I tried to convey, in an obvious way, was that they were ‘au naturale’ and it wasn’t until I got the images on the screen that I realised a minor item that I didn’t think appropriate to include; that my son’s sock was hanging off the end of his foot and it, to me, had a comic appearance quite out of character with the image I was attempting to make. This makes me realise just how painstaking one has to be when setting up a shoot.
Another point, the difference in colour balance between the next two images in the set (‘fictitious friends’ and ‘I hate it down here…’) the young lad is wearing the same clothes and yet his shirt in one is much cooler than in the other. Of itself a change in colour wouldn’t be too much to worry about but the inconsistency between the colour and the same clothes may distract from the message of loneliness. There is another colour balance difference between the first and second image of the Dear John set. The same argument applies.
I’ve looked at these four images and, of course have to agree with you, technically they’re not right. In my defence they have either been made in different lighting conditions or in different locations, BUT I do need to pay attention to those sort of details as I progress and expect to improve.
The last image in the set with the lad making eye contact with the camera and eating sweets, the focus point seems to be the sweets and the sock and not the face. Given the lad is making eye contact with the viewer I feel that the focus point should be on the eyes.
I was attempting to get a softer image here as to me the facial expression was one of a child just after tears and being consoled with sweets. I probably used an incorrect technique.
Concerning Quality of outcome I feel that you have been particularly successful in illustrating the three different areas of loneliness that are less well appreciated and thought of by people un-connected with issues
Your consideration of three areas as depicted by the different sections in the book, the use of captions to augment the imagery all benefit from the amount of research you have carried out into the topic for which you are to be congratulated.
I do feel that some images are more successful than others – in some I feel that you are trying too hard to make the point. For example in the second Dear John image you are concentrating on the involvement/contribution of alcohol – an important aspect of the topic. You have combined drink with computer technology to illustrate effectively and well the notion of escapism as an element of loneliness but are perhaps over doing it by having the whisky bottle, the cans on the window sill and the one on the bedside table as well as the glass in hand. Given that you are staging the scene you have control over these aspects. Another one – facial expression. You show the man with a half-smile. I’m not sure if this is deliberate – in which case it’s an interesting aspect of loneliness – or if it is happenstance. If the latter, is this an emotion you want, if so why?
I have to say this is a faithful recreation of an actual scene from a true story that I know of personally and whilst to someone outside the ‘circle’ it may seem OTT, the fact is that there comes a time when this kind of drinking pattern becomes habitual, and whilst personal hygiene may still not be too worrisome, hygiene within their immediate surroundings does become a grave concern and alcohol containers of many types accumulate everywhere. The facial expression was to try to convey an air of tipsiness.
Another example of facial expression is the single parent set – ‘Shared son’. The man’s smile can be viewed as an expression of pride/happiness at having his son with him. However, as we know the scene is set up it could also be interpreted as a smile of self-consciousness on the actor’s part. Again, as you have staged the set, all of these aspects are called into question and will be seen in the guise of your interpretation of the topic and what you want to communicate.
I clearly failed with this image from your interpretation. I had hoped that the five images that make this story would be viewed as a complete narrative one to another to another etc. In that case my intention had been to set a normal scene of loving father and son, moving on to a more difficult scene with his mother, then showing the father again, but without the son, and in a lonely situation. The final two images then depict the problem the son has with regard to his relationships with his parents and his peers.
Another observation is that given your intention to concentrate on the loneliness felt by children, your single parent set seems to concentrate on the loneliness and or emotions of the adults rather than the child. The fact that one can’t bear to be parted and the other loves him but can’t live with him.
You might have wanted to use different body language for the ‘child’ – perhaps in the second image where he is embracing his mother arms at his side while his mother hugs him – his loneliness leading to rejection of one or other or both parents leaving him isolated and therefore lonely by his parents break up. Maybe I’ve missed the point.
I think I need to point you to the previous explanation and to say that the difficulty this boy has is with his mother and her ongoing problematical relationship with his father, her new husband and him, and the boy’s relationship with her, the real story is very convoluted I’m afraid.
Your creativity is good and amply demonstrated in this assignment. You may not have got everything right – as you point out your self – but that does not undermine the fact that you have avoided the stereotypical approach of single figures hunched with head in hands depicted in a cold blue palette. You have chosen to experiment with the notion of staged scenes with figures posed on the basis of solid research with related NGOs and an expression of your own voice; you are to be congratulated for that.
I’m really very grateful that you’ve taken the time and effort to view all my images minutely and have been able to point out technical problems that I’ve been very lax in correcting. I think this is something that’s probably led to loss of marks at previous assessments.
I’m also very concerned that in previous assessments I’ve been marked down on demonstrating creativity and context. I’m not sure that the creativity I’ve shown in this assignment is all that good, although I think the context is probably spot-on. Creativity is something that doesn’t come naturally to me as I’ve been an engineering type all my working life where I was expected to fix what was already created, now having to think new ideas for myself is very difficult and any help you can give here would be appreciated.
Think back to your consideration of Lange’s images of Migrant Mother and your notes about what is actually included in the images and what is implied. The different body languages of the protagonists, exactly what is included in the frame and how this influences connotation. You can apply the same principles/learning to your loneliness images – you have the ultimate control over the situation as you are using actors and a staged scene.
Your book – makes effective use of the images. It makes for powerful reading resulting both from the images but also the text that introduces the topic and the poem that adds another dimension.
I do find the change in image size – the change between landscape and portrait orientations as well as the double page spread image of moved home a little off-putting in its changeability. I’m no graphic designer but feel a design that affords a more cohesive design – size and positioning of images may be better. You might consider seeking advice from a designer for future reference.
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Your logs and notes are well-kept – giving lots of detail about thoughts, references to others work, and issues to consider. They demonstrate a high level of engagement with the course and more particularly your own photographic development.
You have plenty of photographic material to consider and your self-directed learning will stand you in good stead.
One point I would mention and that relates to how a succession of imagery ostensibly about a topic can lead up to an unconscious realisation in the minds of the viewer. Alan Clarke’s film called Elephant – a reference to ‘the elephant in the room’ – concerning the troubles in Belfast and sectarian killings. It’s a bit brutal but one inevitably comes to a conclusion.
You can view it on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cFhqHvnt1s
I can see a read across to your staged imagery and leading the viewer in the same way to an inevitable conclusion about loneliness.
Pointers for the next assignment
You’ve already been exploring topics close to your heart and so this assignment can be an extension of your existing path. Alternatively you may want to take the opportunity to explore something quite separate and different. Enjoy the exploration that initially has no fixed end point. Start off with an idea, explore and investigate and see where it leads.