Tutor Feedback - Assignment 5 - Narrative

The original feedback from my tutor can be found here.

I was quite pleased with this assignment submission particularly as it got me out of my comfort zone a little and yet, in terms of the photographs I took, I managed to achieve what I was aiming for. 

One of the things Keith was critical of in this assignment was the layout of the submission, which was meant to be in the form of a magazine with written text alongside the images. I was aware of this at the start and I created the original assignment using InDesign with the plan to submit it in a magazine format. In the end though I submitted it as a pdf which meant it lost it's magazine-style layout. The text/captions were added as 'comments' which I realise now wasn't the idea - I'm not actually sure why I did it that way to be honest! Similarly my learning log doesn't show it in a magazine format either so I may need to make some changes before I submit the assignment for assessment.

Another thing Keith mentioned which I need to bear in mind is that my reviews tend to be too descriptive and that I don't take enough of a critical stance. Thinking about it, this is a very valid criticism and probably stems from me still feeling like I'm learning and perhaps not experienced enough to be critical. I need to work on this - starting with my most recent study visit I think!

Other than that, Keith was very positive. It's now on to preparing for assessment!

Reflections on Assignment 5

Demonstration of Technical & Visual Skills

For this assignment I really forced myself to get out there technically and do some proper portraits. The models, some of my colleagues from work, were quite relaxed about it but nevertheless it was still difficult to guide them as to how I wanted them to sit/stand/pose and so on. It was quite an unusual position to find myself in. I had spent a fair bit of time setting up my 'studio' in a corner of the warehouse at work and had tried doing a few self portraits to get the lighting right, propping up diffusers, moving the remote flash around and adjusting exposure. In the end I was really pleased with the portraits which were nicely balanced between light from a north facing window and a radio triggered flash. Visually, I think I have definitely progressed, particularly when I look back at my first pieces of work. Now I have an idea in my head prior to setting up the shot, which wasn't always the case.

Quality of Outcome

I would like to have spent a little bit more time on the magazine layout aspect of the work as the images lost a little of their context without text (an interesting thing to note actually) Although I have added comments, it doesn't work the same as having proper descriptive text, so it looked a bit strange. That said, this aspect of it was really secondary to the images. In terms of producing a coherent narrative I think I did quite well. My submission to Keith was as a pdf file when it perhaps would have worked better if I'd actually printed it out as a magazine. I'd created it using Adobe's InDesign but I was unsure as to whether someone without that program would have been able to open it as it was so I changed the format to pdf before sending it through.

Demonstration of Creativity

I was quite pleased with the images overall but if anything I felt slightly limited with the number of images I was able to use.  I think I could have been more creative if I'd been allowed to incorporate more images. I had to remove a few which I thought were interesting simply to keep the numbers within the brief. Looking back I might have gone a bit heavy on the portraits and shots of the components and maybe should have restricted these to allow for a couple of more creative shots, such as the two below.

Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative.

For this final assignment in The Art of Photography, I am to imagine I am illustrating a story for a magazine. Although there is no requirement for text in the article, I have added captions to the images to link the images together.

For this assignment, I have chosen to use the story of 'a commodity', tracing the process of the manufacture of a table light, manufactured by the company I work for. I have mocked up a front cover of a fictional magazine using Adobe's InDesign and it is my intention to use the program to create the document for electronic submission as well as for printing out in the form of a magazine. Whether I am able to acheive this or not is another matter!

It was important for me to try and balance the form with the content in the images so although most of the images are clearly staged, I have tried to keep a relaxed and impromptu feel, to mirror the way the process actually works. There were a number of images which I felt were quite strong but which didn't quite fit into the flow and so I had to exclude these in order to meet the brief. This was actually quite difficult to do but was an important lesson in editing.

The TG0062.BK.ES is unique - literally. There is only one in the world and it is currently in a box by my desk ready to be flown to Turkey. Over the past 2 years we have been in a constant dialogue with one of the world's leading interior designers regarding placing over 50 of these in a 5-Star hotel, part of one of the world's leading hotel chains. At the moment the project is still very hush-hush. Unfortunately making one of these hasn't been easy and it has taken a great deal of trial and error not to mention the to-ing and fro-ing of samples between London, Paris and Instanbul.

The TG0062, French Table Lamp, is normally made with brass fittings and with cranberry coloured glass. Our client however wished to have nickel fittings and black glass. This involved getting the brass components nickel plated and sent to Paris for approval. We also had to source a black glass sample after initially showing the client a random image from the internet as a starting point. Finally we managed to get a black glass sample that the client liked. We then asked our glass manufacturer to match it. The black glass parts finally arrived on my desk a few weeks later.

The nickel components, having been approved by the designer in Paris, were sent back to me to be used to build the black sample.

The black glass base

The black glass stem.

The nickel base, capital and lampholder.

Danny has been a Bench Wirer at Vaughan for nearly 20 years. It will be his role to build, wire and test the sample.

At the wiring stage, it is important that the client's specification is closely adhered to. In this case the client specified the flex colour, length and switch position as well as the plug type and lampholder. Knowing the country in which the luminaire will be used helps us ensure that the correct wiring configuration is used.

High voltage is used to test the wiring integrity as well as the robustness of the build.

Laurence - Quality Assurance

Prior to the TG0062.BK.ES progressing to Despatch it is thoroughly checked for obvious and not so obvious faults.

Geoff- Despatch

To ensure that the TG0062.BK.ES arrives in one piece after its journey of several thousand miles requires high quality packaging and many years of experience.


Before the luminaire (to use the correct terminology) was packed, there was time for one final shot. Once the sample is approved, which should hopefully now be a formality, we would then await the purchase order coming through from the purchasing company before starting manufacture for the roll-out.

Sense of discipline

I often read about photographers who use medium and large format cameras, or indeed film cameras in general, who refer to the additional contemplation and discipline required when they arrange their shot. Although I don't have this type of camera I intend to make it more of a routine to really consider my shots before just firing away.  

Julian Germain, Wolfgang Mueller, Stephen King and Richard Billingham. Suggested works..

In my last formative feedback Keith suggested I have a look at a selection of written and photographic projects which are relevant to my studies, so I have recorded my thoughts on these below.

Julian Germain's "For Every Minute You Are Angry You Lose Sixty Seconds Of Happiness" is a series of photographs taken over an eight year period, documenting the life of a man named Charles Snelling. Snelling was an elderly man who lived alone in a terraced house in Portsmouth and although his life wasn't particularly out of the ordinary, Germain was intrigued by the way that Charles Snelling made the most of his life exactly the way it was. Germain says that Snelling "showed me that the most important things in life cost nothing at all." and that Snelling became his "antidote for modern living". The images in the series are a mixture of portraits of Charles, in his home, garden or car, and also out and about - there is one on the beach where he is eating an ice cream cone whilst being watched by a couple of dogs. This image really encapsulates the idea of the 'little things in life' being so important. I get the impression Charles would have this as part of his routine; to sit on the beach and have an ice cream. There are also a number of images showing Charles's own photographs, many of which show his wife (presumably - who I also presume has died, but it isn't made clear). Some more of Charles going about his business in the house, making tea, cooking dinner and so on. It really is a charming and indeed enlightening set of photographs; I really like them. (I even downloaded some Nat King Cole after seeing the images - my Dad was also a fan!)

Germain, J. (2011). For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. London: Mack.

Wolfgang Mueller's Karat - Sky Over St. Petersburg was a real come-down after the optimistic high of Charles Snelling's life. Mueller's work tells the story of a group of young people and children, (possibly orphans or runaways - although this isn't clear), who inhabit the upper floors and rooftops of St Petersburg, and where drug taking and prostitution appears to be the norm. One image shows a girl of maybe five or six years old, smoking a cigarette. Incidentally, 'Karat' is a brand name of shoe polish that the children inhale to get a cheap but dangerous high. Rather incongruously, there are images which show the tenderness and love between these young people, and how they clearly look out for one another. It is rather akin to how I would picture a modern version of Oliver Twist and is not something you expect to see in a country supposedly so advanced as Russia.

Müller, W. (2003). Karat - Sky Over St. Petersburg. Portland. OR. U.S.: Nazraeli Press.

Stephen King's 'Lewis's Fifth Floor - A Department Story' is different again from the previous two pieces of work. The story behind this project is about the fifth floor of famous Lewis's Department Store in Liverpool which was closed in the 1950s and left virtually untouched (the remainder of the store remained open) for around 30 years before the department store as a whole finally closed in the 1980s. The fifth floor housed three restaurants and a hair salon and appears to also have become a depository for all sorts of paraphernalia from the 1950s onwards. King captures the feel of the times with several shots of the decor and a number of abstracts showing fixtures and fittings. Later in the book, King had managed to photograph ex-employees of Lewis's back in their old workplace. I can imagine this being quite moving for some of these people. Some look sullen and nostalgic while others seem to be more good humoured about it. All the participants seem to have made an effort to dress up for the occasion which maybe tells us something about how they approached their jobs back then. This is an interesting and enjoyable work to view as the fifth floor is like a time capsule and there is real nostalgia alongside a history lesson in 50s interior design.

King, S. (2009). Lewis's fifth floor. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press/Neutral Spoon.

Richard Billingham's 'Ray's A Laugh' took me by surprise a bit. As I was looking through the images, the question I was asking myself was, 'Who took them?' as they seemed strangely close to the action. As it turns out, Richard Billingham is the son of alcoholic Ray and obese chain-smoker Liz, as well the brother of drug-misuser Jason, the 3 main characters who appear in Billingham's work, alongside various higher mammals such as cats, dogs and some rodent or other. It seems like Billingham had a pretty bleak upbringing and lived in an extremely dysfunctional household and he's done well to make a success of his life so far. That said, it's certainly entertaining for the viewer - when it's not making you feel saddened and a little sympathetic. The photographs are very much 'subject first and worry about composition later' as getting Ray to pose would probably be like trying to her cats. That said there are a few portraits of Ray although it's hard to tell what his state of mind is. One can't help but wonder what was going through Billingham's mind as he took these photos, and certainly opening up his chaotic family for worldwide scrutiny is not something many of us would even consider.  It's certainly an interesting body of work but not one I intend to copy! 

Billingham, R. (1996). Ray's a laugh. Zurich: Scalo.

Exercise: Rain

The intention in this exercise is to produce one strong attractive image which signified rain. The viewer should be in no doubt what the image is representing.  

I considered several options for this and took a number of pictures, some slightly abstract and some which contained indexical signs for rain. I chose this one because I felt it encapsulated what the exercise was asking for: there is no doubt that the subject of the photograph is rain; I believe it is an interesting image, in that the focus point is the water running from the awning even though the apparent subject is the umbrella, which is out of focus. The slow shutter speed meant that the falling rain leaves clear lines as it falls in various directions.


Salkeld, R. (2014). Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury.


Exercise: Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition means to position two things side by side usually for the act of comparison or contrast. In photography this can have many uses and is a technique which often adds an element of humour to a shot or can be used to imply a connection which the viewer may or may not see.

The course text suggested two options for me to demonstrate juxtaposing, neither of which I have used! The two suggested methods - a still life shot of linked objects to be used for a book cover or a shot of a person with or holding something they are connected with in some way - were interesting concepts and I may well come back to this later. However, a technique also suggested in the text was to use the apparent compressing effect of a long focal length lens to group two objects together when they may not ordinarily be seen this way. This is the technique I have used.

I noticed that a handrail in my local park was a similar shape to the goal posts in the distance. However, they were quite some distance apart and normal human vision didn't really make the connection between the two. However, from previous experience I was aware that a long focal length lens can make distant objects appear to loom larger in the shot. So with this in mind I took the photograph below at an efl of around 200mm. This has seemingly brought the goalposts much closer to the handrail and made the juxtaposition much clearer.

35mm equivalent focal length of 200mm

The image below, taken the following day, shows the shot taken at 35mm (efl of 55mm) and with me standing much closer to the subject. The juxtaposing effect, although still there, is certainly lessened by the smaller and apparently more distant goalposts.

35mm equivalent focal length of 55mm

Exercise: Symbols

Symbols are often used in photography to illustrate a concept or idea, sometimes an idea which is difficult or impossible to photograph directly. For example, you can't directly photograph a smell but you can use signs to suggest a bad (or good) smell; this is often used by the cosmetics industry to sell their perfumes and aftershaves. The area of study which covers how we read these signs is called semiotics and it is is used by all of us everyday, whether we are aware of it or not. In this exercise I have been given a list of five words for which I am to suggest symbols which could be photographed to represent the word or concept.

Growth: A young fern uncurling; a building under construction; a line on a graph gradually going upwards.

Excess: Too much food on a plate; obesity; a huge house. A 4x4 off-road SUV on a small residential side street.

Crime: Police on the beat; a broken window; a group of hoodie wearing youths.

Silence: Someone with tape across their mouth; a blank foggy landscape; a graveyard

Poverty; a starving, undernourished child , someone begging on the streets; a run down tower block.

As I wrote these I realised that there are several clichés. The picture of the police, or police related paraphernalia to illustrate crime is one which is used on a daily basis. You only have to look at the BBC News website to find one.


Salkeld, R. (2014). Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury.

Exercise: Evidence of Action

For this exercise I am to produce one image which shows 'evidence of action' that is where something has happened but which is only shown in the image by way of signs. The course text suggests an image where something has been broken or emptied. In the example below I came across a spilled can of paint. I almost ignored it, but having taught myself not to miss opportunities I back-tracked and took a few shots. William Egglestone would only have taken one shot and now I understand why! It took a while to decide on the best photograph. In the image it seems clear that someone has dropped a can of paint and then someone, maybe a passer-by, has righted it, allowing the paint to run down the side of the can. The lid is in amongst the spilled paint which has trapped blown leaves. There is nothing to explain why it happened but the are a couple of DIY shops close by so it's possible a shopper dropped it. Outside the shot, there are footprints left by someone who got paint on their shoes. these are indexical signs to the paint spillage. The position and arrangement of the spillage suggests an accident - there is nothing to suggest it was deliberately poured onto the pavement. Although the image denotes spilled paint, one might also read frustration in the image - this would be a connotation.  

Spilled paint.


Salkeld, R. (2014). Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury.