A4 Tutor feedback

I had a Skype call yesterday and written notes arrived today. Feedback is attached Kate_Aston_513940_Assignment_4_Feedback

I need to say first that the system of Skype call + written notes works very well for me. It is good to have the chance to ask questions or request clarification face to face.

I am thrilled with this feedback. I did take some risks on this work, from researching after starting shooting rather than before, to working with a subject that I couldn’t move, rearrange or change in any way and taking a completely different approach whilst still hoping to render the work recognisable and to stimulate memories and discussion. It started out as an exercise that gained critique feedback from the cautiously positive to the downright interesting. Thanks to further helpful feedback it evolved into work of which I am genuinely proud, even though sometimes I still can’t believe that I made it.

As it is now time for a G&T on a very sunny Friday afternoon I shall wrap this here and return to it over the weekend to add in details. I will then revisit it over time with updates. I feel the need to mention that no re-work is needed on this one, although there is a pathway for me to explore should I wish to do so. Many thanks to everyone who was a part of this work – from suggesting boxes, offering encouragement, offering critique and sending me mobile images of boxes that they saw.

A few days on…

I remain thrilled about this feedback, not just because it’s reassuring and complimentary but also because of the doors that it opens to other avenues of exploration and the opportunities that it gives me, through rework of other assignments, to close the loops between starting the course and finishing the course.

Genuinely thrilled with comments such as “strong and cohesive series of images” and “the edit is held together through its tonality and inside-out exploration”. It is great to realise that the ambitions I had for this work translated into reality via all those dark wet evenings photographing phone boxes.

Thinking about rework, Action I am going to get all the images printed and decide at that point which, if any, need to edited or reshot. Moira made some interesting suggestions about ways I could develop the work further. These are around returning the prints to their source to see how they are changed by their environment. This idea reminded me of Stephen Gill’s work Hackney Marshes, and Moira told me about Catherine Yass, who returned her work to the canal and let the water alter it. I had wondered about making prints or postcards of the work and leaving them in the phone boxes. I know this would be interesting but I had two main reservations. The first was whether I would be taking a work that is fine in its current form and turning it to something more creative but less accomplished and the second the rather more prosaic fact that I would be moving away from the darkness and into daylight, and hence away from the brief. There are also practical concerns, ranging from would the photos simply disappear to the probably more likely scenario that they would just sit in the box untouched. I do wonder though, about printing them as postcards, adding a PO box and stamp, and leaving them in the boxes… Action: learn more about Catherine Yass’ work and write a blog post. Action: look into PO Box set up and costs.

It was interesting to read Moira’s notes “Barthes notion of the Punctum is relevant here, and Proust’s Involuntary Memory.” I had been reading about Punctum in a thread on the OCA discussion board about whether a photographer could wilfully manipulate a viewer into seeing a particular punctum. One point made was that you can’t do this, since by definition the punctum is specific to each viewer and their reading of the image. I have done some quick research around Proust’s Involuntary Memory, which I hadn’t encountered before. It seems to be about how a memory can arise unbidden, often triggered by a taste, a smell, a word, for example. I liked this because I think that phone boxes are part of memory for so many of us, even if we don’t consciously realise it. Action: read and blog about Proust’s Involuntary Memory.

Research: action Set up a trip to London to see Wolfgagng Tillman and Deutsche Borse.

Learning log. I was very happy that my two decisions to work slightly differently both paid off. I felt slightly exposed with both choices – firstly because I had far less research upfront before starting and secondly because I opened the work to peer review right from the start. I will follow these approaches. I think that less research upfront meant more creative license for me.

Suggested reading/viewing – Catherine Yass (see above) and action watch Peter Greenaway’s Dear Phone. I haven’t found it yet but hope it will be on Amazon as a rental.

Pointers for next assignment – this was so exciting! I had two ideas for A5 and my tutor has been positive about them both. I’ve decided to work with altered instant prints. Action – write blog post on my choices. I was very inspired by Moira’s ide of using the physical prints themselves as pages in a photo book action read up on the Manchester Metropolitan University special collections. Action – revisit Walter Benjamin’s idea of the Aura, first encountered in my A3 tutor feedback. Action – learn about the Mobius strip, including Elizabeth Grosz Volatile Bodies . Moira mentioned this in relation to my Polaroid plans, but as soon as she said it I thought of A2 heads and my feminist reading of pressure on children to smile in photos. I don’t know if the concept will port successfully from a feminist/sexuality reading to photobooth strips of children’s photos… but there’s a way to find out. It might work better with women rather than children, however the inside/outside nature of the Mobius strip fits perfectly with my work.

Reflection against assessment criteria

A4 self-review

Once again I feel as if it’s my technical skills holding me back.  Composition and focus are two I need to pay more mind too. I’m happy with how I realised the work, it did what I wanted and didn’t look like a generic set of phone boxes in villages. It felt like a set and I’m happy with that, the colours and the light were consistent.

I am happy with the way my creative skills are developing, I’m learning to explore ideas with test shoots and just to keep on exploring until I find an area that works for me.

For context I took a slightly different approach on research, based on the feeling that I already had enough, and the curiousity as to how my work would turn out when it was informed by curiousity rather than scrabbling down the back of the internet. In a way this feels slightly as if I didn’t do enough… but I don’t know… what else would I have added?

A4 Contact sheets of all images

These may take a few moments to download. Click to open full size. Contacts were made from Lightroom then annotated on my tablet and saved as jpgs. I tried a variety of approaches when shooting – boxes in the wider landscape, interference with boxes, intentional camera movement and documenting the phone itself.


A4 draft for peer review

I put these images on the OCA Critiques for review. Link is here for OCA students and staff. The thread covers from initial attempts onwards. As it is a closed forum I am not reproducing replies here.

I am including the same set of draft images here and would value comments. Thank you. I have chosen the brief “The beauty of artificial light”.


Following Simon’s comment below, here is the unedited version of the ceiling shot to show the colours as the camera captured them. I desaturated the yellow and orange channels and made small adjustments to the tone curve to return the colours to closer to how I saw them inside the phone box.

testset2alt ceiling-6232



A4 development notes

This post will be updated as I work through A4. It is based on exercise 4.3 for which I photographed a red telephone box in Calne.

I used an OS map to identify phone boxes and then did daylight recces to check that the box was still there and the light working. Actual shots were fitted in with normal commitments where possible or otherwise I would just pop out at night with my tripod and remote release. I kept notes as I went and uploaded photographs to lightroom as I went.

Here’s a cut and paste from my box log on Evernote.

15/2 Bigbury bay, overgrown. mobile & camera
17/2 Calne precinct, double boxes, one unlit, mobile & camera. Panned shot. There is another box just off the main road, on the right, by the pub.
17/2 Facebook post
18/2 Avebury Trusloe, at the end of a drive, phone, lit
18/2 Avebury – by the Henge Shop, phone, lit, machine behind
18/2 Rushall (parking at village hall), information booth, not checked
18/2 – garage at the roundabout on the way to Pewsey, not checked Turning off the side road.
18/2 – on right as you go into Pewsey, information booth, lit, no obstructions.
18/2 -note from Holly – Wroughton, opposite pub, phone box also food bank
18/2 Lacock – past post office – phone booth but out of order, broken receiver. Ironic given conservation status of village.
19/2 Layby on the road from Chippenham near the garage, just before the turning to Bowood/Rowde Lit vandalised but well located.
21/2 Marlborough bottom end of High Street, different light but good condition and not too obstructed. By PO has no light. On A4 has no light. Photos taken of High St one.
22/2 journey to Corsham and back. One just past the Harp & Moon pub, in a layby. One in a layby near Corsham? One at the end of a garden near Corsham Court. There might be more in Corsham itself, check on Tuesday evening.
23/2 Bath (daytime recce). Most boxes are replicas with no phone and no light. No point in photographing them for this set.
23/2 One by Coconut restaurant not lit. One by the caravan turning/pub well lit and good location
24/2 Chippenham station, well lit, good location, see separate note with image
28/2 Photographed the Corsham phone box near Corsham Court. Others had failed lights. Good shots of top panels and trippy motion.
1/3 Photographed the Bishop Cannings box. It’s pending removal. Pouring rain, full darkness needed hi-vis in dark layby. Unsuccessful photo showing rain, but insect shot was good.
2/3 there is a national telehone kiosk collection at Bromsgrove. Need to email and ask for light details.
3/3  White Hart Calne – good. smeared glass reflected light better. Reshoot moss and Follow On Call button?
6/3 Bowood layby – images not good, road too busy, layby too busy, box overgrown, couldn’t open the box door.
6/3 One by the caravan/pub turning – got there to shoot but realised there was no phone in there even though the light was working (it’s normally the other way round…)
11/3 – conversation with Andrew Hurley of the National Telephone Kiosk Collection about phone lighting. urls are http://www.avoncroft.org.uk/


Options are to take straight shots of box in landscape, to consider the differing uses of phoneboxes eg phone, tourist information, defibrillator, mini library (appealing but a bit Sunday supplement) or to abstract/macro slightly and concentrate on the light and the box itself. This latter is the one appeals, but I will take landscape type shots as well.

Need to get all the shots before the clocks change. Need to get lots of shots (see A3 feedback), need to remember hi-vis and sturdy shoes for layby shots.

Start looking at research. There was less research for this one, compared to what I’ve done for earlier assignments. Most people know what a phone box is, especially those who grew up with them. Also, the Nick Turpin work on night buses gave me a very clear idea on what feel I wanted the final images to have, and I honestly didn’t feel as if I needed much else, or if adding more research would improve the final work.

I decided to concentrate on functional red boxes that contained both a working phone and a working light. I photographed details, not landscapes. I wanted to emphasise the light, the red. It became apparent that there’s an ecosystem supported by many boxes – insects, snails, mosses, weeds, brambles, strange green things growing through the paint on the inside of the ceiling. One evening shoot was a complete write-off – the first, beautifully lit box had no phone inside and therefore didn’t meet my criteria, and the second, in a layby/bus-stop on a busy road was over-lit from the traffic. The door had jammed shut and the photos just didn’t work.

About 3/4 of the way through photographing boxes I put a draft set of images up on both my blog and the OCA critique board. I took the comments on board, reshot some images, and decided in some cases to keep the original or at least not change it much. I removed one image that a tutor said reminded him of amateur work. After reviewing my newer work I returned to contact sheets of early shoots and found some images that I thought would work better. Reshooting is actually quite hard – there are different kinds of dark, and the red paint can turn orange or purple at the wrong time. Plus it never seemed to be raining when I needed it too. I’m trying to resist the temptation to over-do this work, it is so delicate and fragile and the set is easily unbalanced with too heavy a touch.

George Tice – link provided on OCA board – mono image of an isolated illuminated box in New Jersey. So beautiful but hard to reproduce here – so much clutter and street lighting around boxes. Layby box could work but would have to be late as the road is so busy there.

I emailed the Avoncroft museum who house the National Telephone Kiosk Collection and asked if they could put me in touch with anyone who could answer some questions on the lighting in boxes. They were very helpful and put me in touch with Andrew Hurley of the Collection who was kind enough to answer my questions over the phone. I was keen to get a bit of background information about the light and the boxes.

My selection process is still something I need to work on. I tend to work in lightroom, flagging the images I want to consider, then using a combination of star ratings and tags to narrow the selection down.