Assignment 5 Tutor feedback

Posting as is for the moment, will return with more perspective in a few days. Click link below to view.


A few days turned into a few weeks. It’s slightly frustrating that this work is so close to being there, but not quite. The feedback was positive, possibly more positive than the written report suggests as my tutor has sesnsibly focused on how to improve the work after identifying the strong points on the skype call. I am hopeful that the shortcomings are not the difference between pass/fail but between pass/better. The two main issues are the need to consolidate from the current three approaches down to one (or else find a way to present mixed methods in a “consolidated and cohesive” way as per Kurt Tong “The Queen, Chairman and I”); and to add more information on the visual context for the work. Fixing these two issues should result in work that is more refined and competent, a bit slicker.

My tutor provided some very useful recommendations. I’m confident that I can provide a suitable visual context. Consolidating the work is providing some challenge. I find myself wondering what it is about Kurt Tong’s work that makes it “consolidated and cohesive” given the wide range of presentation media. I wonder if a group of disparate approaches can be regarded as a group by virtue of their differentness. The easiest decision to make is to abandon, for the moment, the digital jpgs of the polaroid backs, showing the blue developer before it dried white. These somehow feel a bit too “technical”, a bit too “current”. So by discarding those I can think more clearly about the characteristics of the work.

The acrylic blocks provide some pause for thought too. The brief specifies a set of ten images. I think 10 images mounted in acrylic blocks would be a bit unwieldy, and I’m not sure the concept would hold strong over all ten. Yet I feel very strongly about the block with the emulsion lift of the Fox Talbot window, and the way the window can be held in the hand and looked through, that the viewer can see their world through the FT window. We talked briefly about layering the images, to make something like Noemie Gordon’s works (ADD REFERENCE), but I think this would be a bit clunky on my smaller scale.

Moira suggested that I consider what other artists would be involved at a show featuring my work. This has given me much to think about and allows me to start building a visual context for the work. So there’s a method there – refine the work, and identify the context, then the two should help each other.

Part of the issue, hinted at by Moira, is that I haven’t fully understood the work myself yet. There is still more meaning to be “unpacked” and I’m not really seeing it. It feels as if I’ve locked myself out of my own work, and I’m fumbling around the smooth outside trying to find a way in.

Exploring this further, I started out by simply deconstructing Polaroids, physically, and then manually processing the results into a book and two acrylic elements. As time goes on, I can see that I’ve moved from deconstructing Polaroids to deconstructing photography and examining some of the formats used in its history. Moira mentioned “shifts in technology – perhaps the early (or defunct early digital technology) could come into play”. This turned out to be a rich seam to mine. I started out by scanning the Polaroid backs and found that the results actually felt finished, something I hadn’t expected to feel without including the actual Polaroid itself. This got me thinking about how to present any scans, there are prints of course but I was curious about using “defunct.. technology”. I looked into digital photo frames, digital photo keyrings and am currently charging a Nokia 3310 mobile phone to see if I can download jpgs onto it and display them on its screen with the nice Polaroid aspect ratio. I am also interested in using MS Paint for processing the scans, as it too has had a recent brush (sorry) with obsolescence. I’m intrigued by the idea of “translating” my polaroids through physical and digital manipulation from the early days of Fox Talbot through scanning, basic digital processing, and the introduction of camera phones, which now take most vernacular photographs. Travelling from print to digital. Interestingly, the original Nokia 3310s predated the camera phone by some years. This re-launch does include a camera and a colour screen so I am interested to see if I can use it to present “alien” jpgs. The work has broadened from being about Polaroids to being about photography, technology, obsolescence and nostalgia.


Of course the elephant in the room is whether it’s at all realistic to present work for assessment on a device that may well need charging, even the month long standby on the Nokia may not be enough for the long wait between submission and actual assessment. However, I can’t let practicality stand in the way of creativity so let’s explore and see. I suspect that in the real world, requiring power would not be that much of a barrier to showing the work so I don’t think it’s entirely unrealistic. At the very least it can be blogged. Perhaps a video would work.  I need to explore digital keychains too, they might be a better solution in terms of power.

I’m still unsure about what I’ll actually be submitting. I need to try out more approaches and see what works. My gut feeling is that the Window acrylic block will still be there, so perhaps two complementary formats rather than the current mix of three.

Notes for Skype call

I liked the scans. I like the idea of using old technology.

I thought I might do a blurb book with prints of the scans and the polaroids stuck in with glue or Velcro. But that feels a bit normal. The scans somehow feel finished.

Then I thought of putting scans on a digital keyring (mini electronic photo frame) but they seem to be massively unreliable. One reviewer of a digital keyring said that buyers would be better off just putting their photos onto their phone, and that made me think of old phones, especially the Nokia 3310 that’s been relaunched onto a 2.5G network that’s nearing obsolescence. I bought a phone and worked out how to get scanned polaroids onto it. I love that it shows the arc from print and chemicals to digital in one picture on one screen, that it shows obsolete polaroids and chemicals on an obsolete digital phone.

I inverted the colours to explore the idea of the negative (Sietsema). There is still more to do – consistently scan the images to the same size, investigate jpg quality options. Somehow the negatives feel more FT ish and I like how the layers show on the altered/cleaned ones. Interested in using MS Paint on some of the backs. I like the idea of having them on a phone, either submitting the phone or a video of the photos being viewed.

Visual contextualisation – Justine Vargas (conveying information without using a traditional portrait. Paul Sietsema (inversions, negatives). Noemie Goudal (acrylic blocks, layered images). Joseph Kosuth (different ways of looking at chairs). Floris Neususs at Lacock Abbey. Adam Fuss (less information = more meaning). Idris Khan but need to look more. Stephanie D’huppert’s series on backs. Mat Collishaw FT VR exhibition.

In terms of consolidation – not there yet. I’m definitely taking out the jpgs of the backs of the images. I think I will take out the non-window acrylic block. So I wonder about submitting the window block, the video of the phone, and the original book of the polaroids.

I need to continue to reduce the number of circles that I’m going around in. What images do I want to use? Negatives of fronts and backs, positive backs, processed backs? Just fronts, just backs or both? I only need 10 in total. Do I actually need to include the original “book”? If I don’t, I’ll need to sort prints.

These are not the final versions of the scans, they are rough crops. Samples rather than a final selection. The different resolutions need to be addressed, the final images will all be the same size.



A5 – post Skype and pre written feedback initial thoughts

I need to do more on this work, neither me nor my tutor is exactly sure what that “more” is.

I think the content is ok, I don’t think I need to shoot more Polaroids.

My tutor suggested the following:

  • several practitioners to research (this was very helpful in freeing up my creativity once again)
  • looking at “time” as an aspect of the work and investigating making lower-res digital copies of the polaroids (backs I think) using either a scanner or an early digital camera. She observed that this would develop the idea of photographing Fox Talbot’s home with a camera that’s out of modern production. Thinking about it, I have the macro jpgs to represent the current technology.
  • thinking about a “perfect bound” book rather than my current loosely associated pages
  • She said that the fronts of the polaroids (ie the normal side) were rather less important to her on viewing than the altered backs. This allows me to explore other forms of presentation where the front is harder to access.
  • She liked the acrylic blocks and the way that one of them allowed the objects inside to move slightly. One option is to explore making use of more blocks.
  • More contextualisation. Her suggestions will help here, particularly the VR artist Mat Collishaw’s installation of a FT exhibition.
  • She kindly offered more feedback in the summer before I start putting everything together for assessment.

So where next? I have updated my post on the OCA forum. I will do a test scan and see if I can source a very basic digital camera. I need to decide how important the actual physical polaroid is to me in the presentation of this work. Am I happy to dispense with them and present for example scans, using the two acrylic objects to show the physical traces, in their almost museum context of being preserved in “glass”? I am wondering about a photobook, on thick paper, with one side printed with an image and the opposite side holding a polaroid that’s secured to the paper in some way (either removably or not). There’s the potential to match polaroids with the macro shot of the same back.

I need to pull the work together a bit more. I don’t necessarily want it to feel “resolved” but I do want it to feel unified.

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.

A3 The Decisive Moment tutor feedback

Click kate_aston_513940_assignment_3_feedback-doc to open the feedback document (opens in a new tab). As I complete the work outlined here I will update this post to provide a record of action.

I am happy with this feedback and the clear steers provided for developing and improving the work. Feedback was in the form of a Skype tutorial followed by written notes. This format works well for me. Thank you Moira.

I never tend to dwell much on the positive feedback. I am happy that I delivered “a solid response to the brief” and was “creative and thought about the decisive moment in a broad and engaged way.” I was happy that my tutor recognised the difficulty in seeking out people who were prepared to let me share some of their most private, personal and precious possessions with a far wider audience, and that my accompanying text was “well-written” and highlit the layers of meaning in the work.

Some of the images work better than others. Some suffered from the angle that I worked at, others had distracting shadows. The original work has not come back yet, however the most successful ones are shown below. In addition some suffered from distracting sensor marks, which I had not entirely fixed in post. So my actions from this are to look into copy stands and lighting before reshooting where needed, to get my sensor cleaned (this is happening at the moment) and to reshoot with better lighting and positioning. I don’t have a tripod with a horizontal arm, and I think this would help quite a lot. The digital test needs to be framed such that the text doesn’t show. I need to go in close. Moira suggested that I reshoot extensively to get enough images of high enough quality. If I can find another person to share their tests with me that would give me a set of 9 tests, making a grid. A less attractive alternative is to reduce the number of tests to 6 or 7 (the brief calls for 6-8 images but I understand this is a guide rather than an absolute stipulation).

Copy stands consist of a base, a stand for the camera and two lights which can be LED or tungsten on the ones I have looked at. I think an alternative could be to find suitable bulbs for my two Anglepoises and get a tripod with a horizontal arm. This is an example copy stand from .


A very obvious thing that I missed from my writing was indexicality and how it applies to my work. Looking at Bull (2010, p14-15), I see that indexicality is the idea of a photograph as showing reality; looking at Hall (2014, p13) I learn that an indexical sign has a direct physical relationship to its subject. So we have the photographs, which are indexically linked to the tests that they show, and the tests themselves that are how they are because of how they reacted to a pregnant woman’s urine. It makes me think again of that scene in the film Juno, when Juno says that the first test looked more like a divide sign rather than a plus. Pregnancy tests are all about symbols and signs and I am still kicking myself for missing something quite so obvious.

My tutor also talked about a comment by Stefan on the blog post, where he talked about sensing the “aura of the subject matter”. Moira told me about Walter Benjamin’s work on the aura, which I have learnt a little more about. Benjamin regarded pieces of art as having an “aura” – it’s what I would consider the essence of a piece, for him it was related to the authenticity of the art. His view was that once a piece of art is reproduced, the proliferation of copies reduces the aura, and hence the power and authenticity of the work. It was interesting that Stefan could still feel the authenticity of the work, despite viewing a universally available digital copy of the original tests.

I will add more of my workings out to my blog to ensure that it can better speak for me at assessment.

It was very helpful to discuss my ideas for A4 and A5 and Moira has provided useful references for each idea. Looking through these I think I will actually go with a different idea for A4. I will however write about these references separately under the respective assignments.

Update 5/9. I chose to rephotograph two of the tests that had been highlighted as needing attention. I also edited my selection down slightly to make a more consistent edit. I took out the digital test image and another that was off in colour tone. I went in search of further tests to photograph and secured another three which I photographed. I also wanted to think hard about how to present this work for assessment. In my head, some of the images would work very well at a large scale, but I wanted to explore a more tactile presentation. I was curious about presenting the tests in a pregnancy test box. Long story short, the test boxes are not a good size to match standard print sizes, so I played around with the best crop and print size to enable me to guillotine the prints down to a suitable size, and that’s how I decided to present. I removed the text as per my tutor’s suggestion, also I didn’t think it added to the smaller presentation format.  If I had time to do more work I would learn about setting canvas sizes on Photoshop so that I could make bordered prints of the correct size, that would look better. Next time… 


Bull, S., 2010. Photography. Abingdon: Routledge.

Hall, S., 2014. This means this this means that. London: Laurence King.

Elliott, P. and Schnabel, J. (2008) Tracey Emin: 20 years. Edited by Patrick Elliot. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland.

Bright, S. (2011) Art photography now. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson.

Calle, S. and Auster, P. (2007) Sophie Calle: Double game. London: Violette Editions.


Assignment 2 – feedback (updated)

Click on the link below to open the feedback pdf. I am very happy with it, and with the clear steers that I have for developing the work. I found my first Skype feedback to be something of a revelation with far more immediacy and possibility of interaction than is possible by a completely written communication cycle, and the PDF file provides a welcome summary and clarification of improvements that I can make. Updated 13/12, see italicised text below. Updated 12/1 see blue italicised text below. Updated 5/9 bold italicised text below.


I am thrilled with the feedback that I received and the clear pointers for developing the concept further and improving the assignment for assessment. I feel as if I’m getting to grips with the need to research firmly and broadly, to consider the presentation of the work from an early stage, and to have a clear idea of where I want to take the work next. I am happy that my feedback identified all of these as successful, as well as the actual work itself.

Points that I will take away for development:

  • Trying out edits of only children or only adults (they are different, it will be interesting to see how). 5/9 I did this and decided on a child only edit for assessment. The adult edit was also strong, but different, and I have put it aside for future exploration in C&N.
  • Trying to find a way of including more images of other peoples work on my blog without feeling in breach of copyright. I normally link to other work, with the link set to open in the background, but there remains a risk of the reader being diverted away from my blog. update – 13 /12 – still struggling with this. I am setting all my links so they open in a separate window, in the background, so they don’t disrupt the reading experience. I’m also trying out putting all the links at the end of the blogpost.

27/3 – I’ve found a way to embed my Pinterest boards into blog posts so that you can see thumbnails.

  • Moving on to explore the theme physically, ie working with layered images, die-cut images and images cut into different shapes such as ovals (like miniatures). 13/12 – scheduled a session with an artist friend to kick this off. I have started this work but have moved it to other types of image for the moment – ie cheaper 4×6 High St prints and some £2 photobooth portraits. You can see some of the work with cutting and embossing under the Riffs & Impro menu tab on my blog. I think the way to work on this one with photobooth images is to find some more suitable die shapes, many of mine are too busy for the simplicity of a passport photo. 5/9 this was actually the foundation of A5 which is tampered Polaroids.
  • Continue taking risks in my work. Yes, I am working on a personal photobooth project (so personal and sensitive that it’s not yet online). I feel as if I am pushing at the edges of what is socially acceptable/tasteful, but equally it’s documenting a universal experience, and one that I hope the universality of the photobooth format will help to render accessible.

Changes that I will make for the reworked version

  • Removing the details cards from the album (I am happy to do this on my tutor’s advice)
  • Not including any handwriting in the rework
  • Using the title “Smile, it might never happen” for the album (this may involve sourcing a new album as the one I used didn’t allow enough characters for a longer title). – note, if I get a larger Paperchase album I can use a longer title and also try out a different incremental way of showing the prints.
  • I could also try larger prints – the photobooth style portrait that only gives a single large image. The downside of this is that it looks more like a normal print and loses the point of the photobooth image. I think the action here is to take my daughter and the smile back to the photobooth and take some test images in different formats to see how they work.
  • Possibly presented a child-only edit (see above). – yes, I have tested layouts and this is possible, though I will need extra sets for some of the children
  • I think I may reshoot for the rework, but over a period of time.
  • I posted a question on the OCA Discussion board about whether I should remake this from scratch with new prints and a new album, or whether I can cannibalise the first submission for parts. An interesting discussion ensued (click here, accessible to OCA only, opens in new tab). I think to change the album title I will need to order a new album, but I would quite like to re-use some of the original photobooth prints. As it’s not a digital submission I don’t have the option of reprinting from file.


I am still working my way through a collection of essays suggested in my A1 feedback which is proving very inspiring. I will also work through and document this list of suggestions from A2 feedback:

  • Wiebke Leister – her continued interest in non-likeness and representations if faciality 13/12 See here – I like the scale here, the faces are shown so large that we can’t see all of them, so large that we can’t identify the people. I need to find more about her and her work, I haven’t found a personal website yet.
  • “Dawn Woolley – your use of the 2d ‘smile prop’ made me think of Dawn’s use of the 2d.” This is inspiring work and more than a little strange. composite two dimensional work, you can see the edges; in a 3D context. It reminded me a bit of what I did in Exercise 3.8 Rephotographing on the Foundations course with combining a Barbie, photos of a Barbie, Barbie’s clothes and photos of Barbie’s clothes. There is also a video by Dawn at the OCA Photography Matters symposium  which I have some notes on here .
  • Model releases – AOP and Seeing the Light – yes I have found a model release form on the RPS website and have followed my tutor’s advice to simplify and customise it for each shoot.
  • Angela McRobbie’s The Aftermath of Feminism – her discussion of fashion photography and the models poses will be of particular interest to you. – found and ordered. Now reading – it is compelling reading, and although not a photography book it is definitely informing my perspective which will feed through to my work. I haven’t found many women of my age who agree with the popular (mis)conception that feminism is no longer needed, wanted or welcome.
  • Anne Burns The Carceral Net blog – selfie hating memes.  I keep getting lost in this blog and forgetting to write about it. It’s a fascinating view on selfies and how they are viewed that keeps making me think. Anne Burns also has a thesis online 
    Online Discussion of Women’s Photographic Practices as
    a Gendered Form of Social Discipline”. Her writing has really made me reconsider selfies, especially as I read further into Angela McRobbie. It’s interesting that self-portraits as a genre seem to be more widely respected than self-portraits that are #tagged #selfie I was also intrigued by the emergence of the #girlfie hashtag on Instagram – these images, viewed as a whole, have a different feel to them to the equivalent #selfie images.

Continue reading

A1 followup – photographers to research for A2

My A1 feedback suggested that I research the following photographers for Assignment 2:

  • Philip Lorca di Corcia (Heads)
  • Joel Meyerowitz
  • Gary Winogrand
  • Peter Funch
  • Andreas Gursky
  • Massimo Vitali

It did take me a while to get down to this research, I suppose partly because I already had a fairly clear idea of the research that I wanted to do for A2 and it didn’t overlap with this list very much/at all. I had also previously done some reading around di Corcia and Gursky for the Foundation course. I found it interesting that the list comprises only male photographers. I found it fascinating to see the links between these photographers, their work had more in common than I expected and I have tried to detail the links below.

I am struggling with my tutor’s comment that I should include more thumbnail images of research images and the fact that I keep reading about Getty Images invoicing individual blog holders and website owners for the use of images. I have not yet decided what, if anything, to do, so I have linked here to images on my Pinterest board or on the Photographer’s own website where possible. Getty have an agreement with Pinterest whereby money from Pinterest is used to compensate photographers whose work is Pinned there.

Philip Lorca di Corcia series “Heads” is a selection of 17 images from over 3000 photographs taken. He used scaffolding to support a remote controlled flash in Times Square New York and took the photographs from about 20 feet away with a telephoto lens. There was no setting up of the shots, no engaging with the subject. His work is cinematic, and shows the city through its inhabitants. He was sued by one of the subjects, who complained about his image being used for profit and publicity without his consent. The judge found in favour of di Corcia, saying that the art could not have been constructed had the subjects been aware. I do like this set, there’s a real theatricality to it and they do look to me like actors’ head shots, as if these ordinary citizens are literally playing their roles in the city. My favourite is the lady in the rainhat, I like the texture of the fabric, the way the light falls on it and the way you can tell what the weather is, even in the dark.

Joel Meyerowitz and Gary Winogrand were the two photographers that I found it hardest to engage with, and I’m not entirely sure why. They are both iconic practitioners of street photography, they often walked the city streets together and both demonstrated their skill over decades. I can’t dispute their technical or creative excellence yet I struggled to see a relevance in many of the images. I suspect this means that at some point in the future I will love both, but at the moment I am struggling with my largely ambivalent response. I have however just looked at some of Meyerowitz’s “Cape Light” images and I do like those – the colour and delicacy that runs through the set, the way he actually has captured the light. I took my problem to the OCA L1 Facebook group and had a variety of helpful responses, including a link to a series of interviews with American photographers including both Meyerowitz and Winogrand. So I now feel slightly better informed about them both as individuals, whilst feeling slightly less ambivalent about the work that I have seen. I hope that learning something about them as people and photographers might ease open a door into appreciating their work. Interviews with both of them can be found here at

Meyerowitz resigned his advertising job after accompanying Robert Frank on a shoot. He often talks about motion; about the flow of the street and Frank’s motion needed to get a snapshot of stillness. He also has a frequent metaphor of water through his speech, from his stream of life to the St Louis Arch by the river, to his comments about how the then Director of MOMA John Scharkowski (that is almost certainly spelled incorrectly, but I have not been able to find the correct spelling) would monitor the stream of creatives, putting the “little fish” back in to grow a bit more. He initially worked in colour, then switched to black and white, eventually moving back to colour when he considered the printing technology to be good enough to produce large colour prints. His move to a large format 8×10 was also a considered conscious decision (as opposed to Massimo Vitali who was forced to make the switch when all of his lighter cameras were stolen from his car and only the heavy 8×10 left behind). I think that I prefer his colour work, it speaks to me more than the black and whites. I like the emptiness of the Cape Light work and the way the light softens the colours. In his black and white work the one that keeps coming to mind is the one of the immaculately dressed and coiffed cashier at the cinema whose mouth and much of her face is obscured by the speaker grille (New York City 1963). This reminds me of the Doctor Who episode “Idiot’s Lantern” set in 1950s Britain where tv viewers have their faces and souls extracted through televisions bought for the Coronation.

Watching the equivalent interview for Garry Winogrand didn’t leave me in much of a more informed position, although I did have more questions. His work is about transforming a collection of facts by “putting four edges around them”. He looks for the transformation, the change of the banal, and often this is achieved simply by the act of skilful framing. He came across as quite commercially minded, aware of the value of his work and why it was bought. I found some of his quotes interesting, especially given my difficulties in engaging with the work. He was asked what his intent was with a particular photograph.

“I don’t have any intent. My intention is to make interesting photographs, that’s it”.

That word “interesting” came up again when discussing his book “Women are Beautiful”. He said:

“Is it an interesting picture, or is it the woman?….I generally deal with something happening.”

He died early, at 56, leaving quarter of a million undeveloped images in addition to his already huge body of work. I think the sheer scale of this work is another factor in my difficulty to engage – there is just so much of it. Yet as I look at more and more information on the internet and in books bits of his work do start speaking to me – the joy of the couple at the beach, the caught smiles, the small child on the huge driveway.

The issue is undoubtedly with me. I’m not sure that street photography inspires me in the way that conceptual work or constructed does. He didn’t actually like being referred to as a Street Photographer.  I’m not a huge fan of tilted frames (possibly because I often struggle to get a straight horizon myself).  I like my photographs to be loaded with intent. Perhaps I just find different things interesting. I will continue to look at his work and learn more, however, as I will do with Meyerowitz too.

Peter Funch was something of a revelation to me. I was initially drawn in by the “Vertical flowers on the table” series on his website. I liked the very domestic subject and setting paired with the painterly colours and light. Reading further, I thought there was a similarity between an image in his “Danish Diary” series and di Corcia’s “Heads” – both in the subject matter and the artificial cinematic lighting. Though Danish Diaries shows many heads, and I wonder if it might be a composite like Babel Tales (see next). I then moved onto “Babel Tales – Studies of human relations in a metropole”. For this series Funch constructed composites of the same street but at different moments. Everyone in the frame is engaged in a similar action – perhaps yawning, pointing, having their eyes closed…. it reminded me very much of Hans Eijkelboom but with typologies of gestures rather than clothes, and all the different instances confined to one frame rather than presented as a sequence. The result is real people in a real place but in a composite moment that never actually happened as it is shown.

Andreas Gursky. I always find something in his work, whether it’s the vastness of huge indoor spaces documented in the tiniest detail, or the architectural precision given to a row of shoes. His compositions seem to give order where there is none, such as the chaos of people on trading floors, or to reinforce architectural patterns such as the rows of Prada shoes that he photographed for Vogue magazine The photograph that I have linked to here made me think of Massimo Vitali’s beach work too – the large scale with the relatively huge expanses of water and the crowds of tiny people.

Massimo Vitali was completely new to me. He photographs beaches and nightclubs in Northern Italy, all crowded with people. Photographs are taken with an 8×10 camera mounted on an aluminium scaffold, to fix the camera’s limited depth of field. Although the colours are beautiful and the places remarkable, the images are really about the people who are enjoying themselves. Somehow they are shown differently to the crowds in say WeeGee’s Coney Island though, the individuals are a little less distinct, a little more lost in the crowds. A slightly different perspective shows refugees on a beach, the same kind of beach but a different population, one where the beach is hopefully a gateway to a new life rather than a holiday escape from daily life. These newcomers are marshalled and corralled though, rather than spread out on towels or loungers.

Assignment 1 Tutor Feedback

Here is the tutor feedback for Assignment 1 (click link to open Word file)  kate_aston_513940_assignment_1_feedback. I will return to this post and add my responses when I am back from holiday. In brief I am very happy with it and especially with the solid pointers provided on how I can improve it.

Returning to this, I am happy with the feedback and excited about the creative possibilities going forward with this work. It’s impossible to do everything suggested right now so this post will be a first marker that I can refer back to as I work through the feedback over time. I have gone through each section of the feedback below. Actions for me are highlighted in blue. Update 12/1 in italicised blue text.

Overall Comments

I am encouraged by the positivity of the feedback and the level of detail that has been applied to the feedback. I have followed the link about what to do with tutor feedback. I have had experience in following up feedback following the Foundations work but there were still some new pointers in the OCA How to use your tutor reports link provided.

Assessment potential

Yes, I will be submitting my work for assessment.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Yes, once I got over my initial reluctance about doing the same assignment twice it was interesting to do the same assignment again, but in a different way. This might be worth a blog post in its own right, as I believe the Square Mile concept occurs in later points during the course as well as in FiP and EYV.

I’m happy that I have a solid starting point in this collaboration. I agree with Moira’s comments on the edit – I often feel as if the edit is far harder than making the images. Interesting point about bringing myself into the work. I think the way that I am happiest with (and undeniably the more convenient way) is to view my daughter’s square mile as an extension of mine; whenever she is somewhere it is generally the case that it is me who took her there (with the exception of a martial arts class and cinema when I am out for the day). However, I am also interested in meshing her childhood square mile with mine (from the FiP rework), however this would massively change the shape, feel and physical texture of the work and is something I need to test out.

I agree with the Alice parallel to the point where I can’t quite see how I missed it. I had looked briefly at Anna Gaskell’s work and decided that it was a far darker dimension and direction than I wished to take. I did however like the  way the shots were styled and will return to  her work in more detail especially in light of Moira’s comments about needing to review outfit/colour palette choices in some shots. I am very happy that my work contrasts so explicitly to Anna’s. I am happy with “ambiguity, subtlety and gesture”.

The scooter image was a favourite for me too, something about it was so very Blythe.

The climbing photograph should be reworkable, with an outfit change as suggested. I like the idea of using the scooter shot colours for inspiration. I will also revisit Anna Gaskell’s work. I am intrigued by researching Alice, and have bought a second hand copy of the version illustrated by Mervyn Peake. There was also a British Library exhibition on Alice earlier this year which I will research too. There will be another blog post about Alice research.

Ball shot – I like the idea of reworking the tonal range. I was also stopped short by the idea of “..what does the image look like if it doesn’t feature grass?” I am tempted to reshoot this one on the school playground, to provide a plainer space.

Boots photograph – I think I can reshoot this one too, I just need to borrow some different coloured boots and ask B to wear some different coloured trousers of leggings.

“There are some interesting photographs in your contact sheets…”

This was another eye-opener for me. I need to think so much more widely when making selections for coursework, especially as I think versions of these photographs made various versions of the cut before losing their place. _mg_3180 was actually on my final shortlist, it shows B at the Leisure Centre after swimming. I think I will look at putting some of these into the series, although they may need reshooting as B has had a substantial haircut since these photographs were taken. For reference I include these seven images below.

2129, I like the strength in this one.
2170, yes I liked this one too, but it had blown highlights and you can see her grinning
2169, see 2170
2176, bubbles. One of these could replace the ball shot, which I could reshoot at school
2175 see 2176
2174 – the focus is a bit off apart from on the wall
I really liked this one, but the shoes are cropped. It was taken after her weekly swim class.


“You should take comfort from your solid start”. Yes, thanks to the Foundations course I was not too nervous about starting FiP EYV.

“Now you can analyse what you’ve done and develop the work before assessment. Do keep in mind that project development is an iterative process of practice, theory and analysis. Each iteration should lead you to the next until you reach a point where the project feels finalised.” I need to seek more guidance on what is meant by “practice, theory and analysis.” (done, it’s researching, reworking and reviewing the work until I feel it’s ready for submission).

Now it’s January and I’m starting to think hard about how I want to rework this work, to prepare it for assessment later this year. I think the Alice theme is a good one, and I have picked up a couple of dolls house props that I can use within the square mile context. I still need to pick up some striped leggings for her. I used some of the images from this assignment in a blurb photobook, and am currently experimenting with a second softback copy, with the aim of die-cutting some of the pages. I think it might be interesting to present A1 as a book, given the literary Alice influence, I’m not sure if die-cutting would feature or not.


I will continue as at present.


I’m happy that I’m on the right tracks with my research. I will take the following points for action:

  1. keep research up to date, add to blog posts to shoe how I have focussed post-feedback
  2. add thumbnails of all the artists discussed (I will use thumbnails of their work where possible, thumbnails of them if not)
  3. when uploading research “have a go at relating what you are looking at/analysing to your own work” – yes, this makes a lot of sense

Learning log

Again, happy to be on the right track. Action points:

  1. in research section add more images supporting your analysis
  2. add my working process – ideas for assignments, edits, thumbnails, experiments, research et
  3. add my assignments and reworkings (yes, I will keep the menu structure up to date to allow easy access)

Suggested reading/viewing

Susan Bright’s Art Photography Now – yes, I have this one and would not be without it. I did use it as a research source but I don’t think I referenced it clearly. You can see my notes on the book on my Foundations blog here.

Stephen Bull Photography and ed Grant & Waxman  Girls! Girls! Girls!thank you, I have ordered both books and will put notes on my blog once I’ve read them. They both look interesting and relevant. Updating this. Stephen Bull I read, took extensive notes on, I think it may have influenced how I write, not so much how I photograph. It was very interesting but I think I’m struggling slightly to connect it with my other learnings, although I do recall that the chapter on advertising was particularly interesting. I think this will improve though as I do more theoretical reading and build a context, it may even be more meaningful if I returned to it now. I need to return to my notes and get them onto my blog. Girls! Girls! Girls! I have found to be very engaging, I am only an essay or two off finishing, and it has provided me with some strong work and photographers to research, some compelling ideas and enthusiasm for doing more work in this area myself.

Photomonitor and Lens Culture – thank you, both followed online, plenty of interest there.

Source, Photoworks –thank you, subscribed and joined respectively.

Pointers for the next assignment/assessment

  1. Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Heads – yes! Have done some reading around this and really like the theatricality of it, theatrical head-shots for normal people. One of my favourites is the woman in the yellow souwester, where you have light, wet, texture and portrait all in one.
  2. Joel Meyerowitz
  3. Gary Winogrand
  4. Peter Funch
  5. Andreas Gursky (yes, I really like his images that again give a sense of theatre to many people in massive spaces, you can see the people interacting with the place)
  6. Massimo Vitali

This research can be seen on my blog here – A1 followup – photographers to research for A2

“Are you interested in developing a feminist photographic practice?”

Another question that stopped me in my tracks. I can’t imagine viewing the world, or raising my daughter, without a firm belief in the ongoing need for feminism. I had never considered making it a “destination” in its own right rather than part of my intrinsic belief system. That said, I feel there is an imbalance in how we portray girls and young women and I am very interested in (and committed to) finding different, stronger and more respectful ways of doing so. At the moment, I don’t know exactly which direction my practice will take. I would however like to use this module to explore photography of girls and women and to build my knowledge of practitioners in this area.

Thank you for such helpful and stimulating feedback.