Assignment Three: Tutor Feedback Report

Tutor Report Form

Student name: Edward Lerpiniere

Student number: 506079

Course/Module title: Photography 2: Gesture & Meaning

Assignment number: 3: Similar But Different

Overall Comments

Many thanks for sending in your assignment – it’s good to see you getting back into the swing of the work after your enforced time away from the course.

I think that you have done well with making this assignment your own in terms of adapting the brief. Also it’s good to see the benefits of the quality printer.

What has gone well with the assignment is your creativity in characterising each person through their different poses and also using the group photographs to illustrate their relationship to each other. This later element is particularly good and shows you can adapt the brief to suit your own intentions.

You are getting to grips with using artificial lighting and have used it well to give a general even, understated result. Some of your images do show what I feel are some un-intentional results from the lighting/location setup. I’ll go into more detail later on. As you acknowledge you still have some learning to do in this area.

There are some technical issues – the lack of sharpness in some of the images that you acknowledge. Also having chosen a semi studio set up – i.e. you have chosen not to set the subject within an environment that adds significantly to the interpretation of their character – there are some distracting elements in the background which detract from some of the images.

On the sharpness issue it is a question of taking care over the focus point and deciding what you want in and out of focus. On the later issue it’s a question of eliminating distracting elements if they aren’t there for a purpose. If this can’t be done on location then consider postproduction methods.

Feedback on assignment

Technical and Visual skills

The sharpness issue – Christopher 1; his eyes are out of focus and the chest pocket is sharp. As you are looking upwards his face is further away and has drifted out of focus. As you point out this could be remedied by stopping down more but this would necessitate an increase in the flash output. You would need to decide if you want a shallow field of focus as given by a wide aperture or a greater field of focus given by stopping down to a narrow aperture. I suggest you want the eyes sharp as it concentrates attention on the eyes and his expression. You have chosen a good low camera angle to accentuate the notion of his domineering character.

This image was made handheld and without flash and is more likely out of focus on the eyes as a result of that than any other reason.  I performed further post-processing and substituted the original entry with a new one.

The same issue of sharpness is in James 1 – His eyes aren’t sharp. James 2 also looks a little suspect. It may be a focus point issue or it could be that his head moved slightly and you were using a shutter speed that wasn’t fast enough to freeze the motion.

I’ve reworked the first image of this pair, but my opinion of the second is there is nothing wrong with it and I’ve chosen to leave it as it is.

With the close up head shot of Anthony 1 he is not making eye contact with the camera/viewer and this works well to depict thoughtfulness. You’ve got everything sharp the table edge in front to his top at the back of his head. An alternative would be to concentrate on the eyes – getting them sharp and by using a wide aperture let the arms and ears drift out of focus.  You could argue that this would emphasise Anthony’s detachment and thoughtfulness.

A post-crop vignette might also provide some of the atmosphere you’re suggesting?  I’ll try different things before entering for assessment, but as of now I’m comfortable with the outcome. Following this reply I tried a couple of ideas and found that the results didn’t come out nearly as well as I’d hoped and so I left the work as it was.

Some of your prints look a little soft, for example, Anthony 1 print looks soft in comparison to the image on screen. Are you sharpening before your print?

In tIhe past I found I’d been over-sharpening my images and thus introducing a digital look.  Perhaps I’ve now compensated too far the other way and I’m doing too little.  I’ll experiment with some prints and see what happens.  Hopefully that will reduce the problem you raise in the next paragraph too.

The impact of your set of images and the interesting interpretation of the characters is diminished by this sharpness issue.

As mentioned you have done well with posing your sitters – particularly the body language of the group images to bring out what you have identified as their characters and their inter-relationship.

The background – as you have mentioned – could be improved – the dark bar running horizontally behind the sitter in some of the images I find distracting and doesn’t add anything. Also there are some dark spots on the background wall. You might want to think about removing these in post-production or reshoot. Similarly with the screen or light fitting (labelled Sapphire) and the inclusion of the ceiling tiles.

Reshooting isn’t really an option at the moment because the logistic of getting the boys together at the same time have been difficult enough for this first shoot, although that possibility will have to be kept in mind.  I’ve removed some of the marks you discussed, but attempting to clone out large areas of the image is an option I don’t want to follow as I find that if you look closely afterwards you’ll always be able to find artefacts.  Cloning is probably best left to small areas.  Cropping doesn’t alleviate the problem enough to make the awkward sizes they crop to be worthwhile.  Having said all that, I also think that the background did achieve what I intended of appearing less than studio, but a bit more than industrial.

Quality of outcome

You have definitely done well in realising your concept of bringing out your assessment of the characters and their personalities. This is the strong point of the work. You clearly set out your assessment of the individuals’ character and have used this to direct the poses. The brief talks of getting the sitters views on their character and their choice of image as a way of introducing the notion of difference in perspective and how this can be incorporated in portraiture. It isn’t clear if this aspect of the sitter’s viewpoint was considered and addressed as part of the shoot. Often portraiture is a result of the sitter being done to by the photographer in terms of how he or she is represented. While this has its place I think it would be worth considering alternatives: a collaboration with or giving control to the sitter.

In this respect, have a look at Anthony Luvera’s work with the homeless using assisted self-portraits where he acts as an assistant and gives control to the sitter. http://www.luvera.com and http://www.luvera.com/old/

Also Peter Dibden’s work Southsiders where his portraiture is very much a collaboration with the sitter – http://www.edinburghsouthsiders.co.uk

Creativity

The work as indicated shows evidence of creativity and risk taking through your interpretation of the brief to make it your own. Your use of pose is a strong point and shows your creativity, careful research, thought and approach. However, I think that you could have shown more experimentation and imagination in your choice of lighting, location/background. You have the sitters in a semi studio set up and this is fairly standard and needs further development to bring out your own voice as a way of interpreting character.

I appreciate your comments here about the background/location and will attempt to improve that.  I’m conscious this was my first real attempt at any images of this type that I’d put up for assessment and didn’t want to experiment too far, better something worthwhile in the can that nothing worthwhile at all..

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Your log and notes as before 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. I do think that more detailed analysis of lighting, lighting balance and the placement of different tones in relation to each other would pay dividends.

Suggested reading/viewing

I’ve mentioned Luvera and Dibden and you have spent a lot of time researching other photographers work so this gives you plenty of opportunity to work on developing your own approach to portraiture.

You might also find Tim Hetherington’s Infidel – particularly the portraiture in it

– worth a look as I think it provides you with another approach to encapsulating a different aspect of people in a particular situation. It’s not better or worse – it’s just different and I mention it to show different approaches to representing emotions and character. Also some of his work in Liberia – the portraiture using natural light

Pointers for the next assignment

I suggest you use your skills in research and concept development to identify an appropriate and doable project. I would concentrate on taking the opportunity to develop not only your style, but also an area that will develop your own style and voice.

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