Tutor feedback Assignment 2

Well done for reaching assignment 2 Nick.

This is a difficult subject choice, which you approached positively and professionally (contacting the museum for permission and arranging your shoot). Overall, your weaker area is your learning log at the moment, as it isn’t documenting the extent of your efforts or coursework and skips over important stages of your creative decision-making.

I know you have been busy recently with setting up your studio and photographic business, which is fantastic and will benefit your practice long-term. However, if the large gaps in the learning log are not addressed, your work risks appearing rushed and incomplete at assessment, which I fear might jeopardize you achieving your potential. It might also mean you won’t get the most out of a tutor during CAN, as time will be taken up back-tracking or repeating feedback. When I speak to you, all your decisions and research are there – you just need to get it written down and on your log! So just keep pushing!

Assessment potential

I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration

of Creativity

• Strength: Prints are presented in a professional manner and it’s great to see labels on the reverse on this submission – they are sleeved and arrived in good condition. Treatment of prints is consistent too with even borders. This allows for an accessible and focussed viewing experience.

• Tip: Take time to really study technical qualities of the final images, especially in printed form as this emphasises any potential flaws. From looking at your prints I observed some blurring/possible camera shake on Images 2, 3, and 5… did you take a tripod with you? Were you able to use a tripod in the conditions you had? How did you deal with this challenge? Are the shooting techniques you used telling us more about the subject, do they help to create a certain atmosphere or message above and beyond the literal objects/scenes within the frame?

• In shooting you had taken a few images of the same object/corridor/area… what made you choose one over the other? Summarise your editing decisions in another Assignment planning post which explains your decisions from the contact sheet to final edit stage.

• Tip: Experiment with giving your project a title and image titles or captions. To help inform your ideas, think about the contexts where you see images like yours – When do they appear without any captions or titles or credits? Perhaps advertising could be one example, where the text is actually slogans or calls to action, but are your images advertising images? Think about (and document) the appropriate context for your images. How would they function in the ‘real world’ – what is their main agenda or indeed your mission? (Try to apply these questions to future projects too).

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

• Upload your coursework for Part 1 and Part 2 – this includes any reflection and notes in response to each exercise, research point and project. If you have written the WordPress posts, make sure they are visible to external viewers and not set to private,test your website with others or on other computers to check things are displaying correctly.

• Make sure you write-up your notes as separate posts on your online learning log, which are clearly labeled as Exercise 1.2, Research Point 3 (for example).

• If you are struggling for time, read ahead to each assignment brief and use the exercises to trial ideas, techniques or subject matter you are considering. I can’t stress enough how important it is to show evidence that you have responded to the coursework, if it is not there, you risk failing the unit.

Research Context –  reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

• Great to see the photographs of books you have read on Auschwitz – however, you need to evidence your reading in more detail. Assessors are looking for you to reflect on the material you are consuming and show how it influences your decisions – ie; summarising key points made in the texts, any questions they raise for you, what aspects of the reading or viewing stay with you or relate to your own ideas and intentions for your work.

• Your learning log doesn’t document any photographic research for A2. This is very important.

Learning Log – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

• In A1 feedback, I encouraged you to upload all of your previous coursework and assignment planning, reflection and research before submitting A2. I can’t find this. Try to do this asap whilst the work is fresh in your mind and so it doesn’t become an overwhelming task at the very end of the unit.

• Review A1 and A2 feedback – write up some reflection on tutor pointers from each feedback report on your learning log and make your changes and reworks. Document your process on your online learning log.

• I also suggested making some changes to the wordpress navigation of your log – it would be fantastic to see you refine the site to optimize accessibility and ease of the assessor’s viewing journey – they don’t have long to review your work, make things as synced up and simple as possible.

Suggested reading/viewing – Context

https://www.saatchigallery.com/selfie/ ‘From Selfie to Self Expression’, a Saatchi Gallery exhibition OCA tutor Dawn Woolley won the ‘Saatchi Selfie’ competition which ran alongside the show, with her work ‘The Substitute’. Dawn’s work primarily uses her own image and would be great to explore further during your research for this next section of CAN. http://www.dawnwoolley.com/

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/performing-camera This exhibition from last year (there’s still some content and interviews you can discover from it online) features works where the photographer or artist has expressed themselves or their position on subject matter through self portraiture and performance. Personally, I never tire of looking through Vivian Maier’s self portraits, they have so much variety and the square format allows for balanced framing of geometric forms http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/self-portraits/

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

• Try to get into the habit of emailing your tutor a notification with links to your learning log on or before the assignment deadline, alongside your postal submission. Exactly like you did for A1. This formalizes your submission, acts a prompt incase your prints haven’t arrived and provides the direct links to your work.

• Try to think laterally about your ideas and images in this next section, research will be really important in exposing you to the different approaches photographers can take to documenting themselves or their world. Try to challenge yourself and conduct as much brainstorming and research as possible. One useful way to approach it might be to explore three initial ideas through test shoots and see which one starts to resonate. Then refine that idea further with more shoots to allow you plenty of images to choose from in the edit.

• Try to put in place at least two or three developments outlined above for when researching, planning and producing Assignment 3. Try to conduct any re-work and uploading of additional planning notes from A1 and A2 as soon as possible.

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Vivian Maier, Street Photographer.

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Image photographed from the book

This is a beautiful book that presents solely black and white images. To me it has an Elliott Erwitt feel to it in some regards as there are many humorous images in there and some where the main subject are dogs.

It is apparent from this book that Maier was able to build up a good rapport with most people and was unafraid to photograph strangers. I imagine this to be very difficult given it was a man’s world she was living in. To me Maier is a pioneer for women photographers.

The title of the book gives the subjects away, but what is not clear is the natural ability she has for making what could be a boring image, become interesting. She clearly had a raw talent and one that understood basic photographic principles, without any formal training. How clever she was. There are a multitude of different photographic techniques in the book, which draw the viewer in, making you feel you are there, with the subject. Images portray humour, but also the hard nature of the life people around her had.

What I also like is that she does not stick to the white race. There are a number of photographers of the black population, at a time when the vile scurge of racism was still accepted as the norm in America. It is great to see her challenge the pure white photography issue. Very brave.

My favourite image from the book is included below.

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Image taken from :- Maloof, J (2011) Vivian Maier, Street Photographer, USA: powerhouse books.

There are  number of reasons why I like this image. I will list them below.

  • symmetry within the frame
  • being in the right place at the right time
  • the cleaner’s shop being in the background, with the two large men cleaning up
  • there are two burly men, dealing with someone who appears to be smaller in stature
  • the faces of those watching in the background
  • the photographer is a lady in a man’s world
  • this is night time flash photography, which is somewhat unusual
  • the cigarette held in one of the men’s mouths
  • I have a number of questions around this about the man?
    • What had he done?
    • Was he drunk?
    • Had he been fighting?
    • Was he being treated fairly?
    • Was he picked on due to his size?
    • What was he wairing a suit?
    • What was his name?
    • What was his job?
    • Where did he live?
    • Did Maier know anyone in the image?
    • How did she know where the action would be?
    • Was she safe on her own in the dark back streets?
    • How did she feel?

I could go on with the questions, as the image raises more questions than answers.

I feel the book is well worth a look and a handy addition to my collection. Maier was new to me, and I have enjoyed her work and will return to it time and again.

Assignment two’s images and write up

Auschwitz – Birkenau. Unseen and un-photograpahble?

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This context for this assignment is unseen and un-photographable. Every image also contains reference to numbers. The numbers of people who were unseen, literally and figuratively, for many years during and after the second world war in the extermination camps at Auschwitz. I feel the narrative is self-explanatory and I feel that the images do not need a caption or a title. A picture paints a thousand words for me with this set.

Image 1 represents a place that was one seen and for thousands, never experienced again. This is the place of selection, of Life or Death. Photography was banned here in the second world war, although there are a number of images that have survived.

Image 2 shows a suitcase left behind, after selection. The name of the victim, their date of birth and their status as an orphan are clearly written in white. This was one of many such cases that were packed when the Jews were deported. It would be contain Heinz’s possessions which would be stolen after selection and his death. Judging by his age, he would have been murdered almost on arrival.

Image 3 illustrates 9 bunk beds. Each bunk held up to seven inmates. There was no heating and the temperature swing experienced at Auschwitz, was from -30 degrees Celsius to +40 degrees Celsius. Note the brick work floor. These bunks are where hundreds of thousands of people lived and died and the majority of photographs taken of this area of the camp are mainly after the camp was liberated.

Image 4 places some further context into the human loss that occurred there. Over 800,000 pairs of spectacles were discovered after liberation. The Nazis exported many more back to the Third Reich, for use by the German population and army. This image shows only my selection, of what is an unimaginably huge pile of glasses, which survived, in spite of the Nazi efforts to destroy what was left prior to the camp liberation.

Image 5 continues the narrative of the human element, with hundreds of thousands of shoes which were stolen from the inmates. I was drawn by the colour of the two main shoes in the image, although the other shoes tell their own story, by the drabness

Image 6 is of some portable gallows that was not visible with the naked eye at the time I took the shot. I was drawn by the light of widow and the leading lines in the image. It was only afterwards when viewing this image on my laptop that I noticed the gallows. Maybe death was light at the end of the tunnel for some of the inmates who were tortured so much.

Image 7 shows a number of the Zyclon B gas canisters. This poison was the tried and proven main method of killing in Auschwitz. There are thousands of these stacked up. I was drawn to this image due to the light, colour and the skull and cross and bone symbol. The word GIFT drew my attention in an ironic sort of way.

Image 8 is a small crematorium (comparatively to Auschwitz II) that was used to dispose of the bodies of the inmates. The place had an unforgettable heavy and odious atmosphere and I remember tears rolling down my face whilst photographing this.

Image 9 shows the effects of the Nazi cruelty and how this affected whole swathes of families. I came across this image in a Jewish cemetery. No more words needed.

Image 10 is one that I believe shines some light and some hope on such a tragedy. The image is of a memorial to the victims of Auschwitz and the Ghetto in Krakow. The light illuminated one of the figures really well for me and I feel this image is balanced by the photographs of inmates in the background and the apparent face on the right-hand side of the images. Is there hope that man will never do this again?

These 10 images are but a small fraction of the ones I have taken in Auschwitz and I believe they show the narrative of photographing the unseen/un-photographable. The project was set up over a long period of time and I am grateful to the curator (Wanda) of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum for allowing me to photograph the un-photographable. I am going back in the next year, to complete further work.

The images have been taken with a variety of settings and cameras, with ISO cranked up to 3200 at some times and as low as 100 and having to shoot through glass, barbed wire, prison bars, and a barrage of tears.

I have never had such a project before. This was amazing and I cannot remember having felt under such stress when photographing. It was the most emotional day of my life.

I am sure you will agree the narrative is strong within the context of the Nazi’s final solution.

I dedicate these images to the gentleman who accompanied me and my wife on this journey. He was a prisoner in Auschwitz when he was four years of age. His mother was there too. They were in separate barracks! It is amazing that we found the hut where is mother was incarcerated. Hut 17C. This gentleman was an Austrian-Jew. It is incredible that he survived, as over 90% of children were murdered within two hours of arriving in Auschwitz.

“MAY THEIR SOULS BE ETERNALLY BLESSED”

This quote was taken from image 8 above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment Two Planning part 3

Here are some iPhone shots of a number of books I have bought and read prior to my visit. There are also a couple of tickets to museums that formed part of my research. Please note this is an ongoing project and I will return and learn more.

Page 4 of the book which is immediately below states “photographing in Auschwitz-Birkenau museums is strictly forbidden”.

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Below are a number of online resources used in my research and all appear in my references list.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (2017) Auschwitz-Birkenau, Available at: http://auschwitz.org(Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).

Below, L (2017) Auschwitz The Holocaust Photos, Available at: http://www.deathcamps.info/Auschwitz/ (Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).

Sawicki, P (2017) Auschwitz The Holocaust Photos, Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/1.763453 (Accessed: 01/04/2017).

Pitogo, H (2014) Auschwitz The Holocaust Photos, Available at: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/nazis-auschwitz-man-named-wilhelm-brasse.html (Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).

 

Assignment Two Planning part 2

What kinds of subjects can be classed as unseen?

  • drug addicts/alcoholics/drop-outs
  • socially deprived people
  • food banks
  • the poor
  • the sick
  • the disabled
  • police brutality
  • minorities
  • abuse
  • mental health
  • Christianity
  • the truth
  • unbiased photographs
  • concentration camps e.g where some of this is off-limits to the public
  • faith
  • the past
  • my mother

How do you go about photographing the unseen.

  • research the subject
  • see how it has been done before, it is has and think how you will do it in your style
  • apply for permission, be honest, be open and be prepared to accept rejection
  • believe in what you want to do, so others will have your conviction
  • pursue your dream with vigour
  • highlight the benefit of your project to the owner/person responsible
  • be confident in what you want
  • have an understandable goal that others can see and understand

Assignment Two Planning part 1

This is a project I have had on the go for many months and now is the time to use this for my degree. I feel this also fits in with Peter Mansell’s views regarding his own studies.

There were 2 choices for this part

  1. photographing the unseen
  2. using props

The choice was easy for me. Photographing the unseen was the way forward.

Below are some crib sheets used prior to writing up the assignment. All shot on the hoof with my iPhone.

Below is my letter of authority from the Curator of the Auschwitz museum, granting me permission to photograph the un-photographable. Oswiecim is the Polish name for Auschwitz. The name Auschwitz was given to it by the Nazis as Oswiecim was too hard to pronounce!

Letter from Curator
Permission to photograph the un-photographable.