TAOP 5 – Tutor Feedback

Open College of the Arts
Tutor report

Student name     Stephen Barney Student number     
Course/Module     AOP Assignment number      5

Overall Comments

First of all well done for completing AOP! It is great to see how much you have progressed over this course. Looking back on assignment 1 I can see how you have taken advice and feedback very seriously and pushed yourself out of your comfort zones. You have thrown yourself into this course with full gusto and have learnt an awful lot as a result. I am sure you will continue to develop your work if you continue this commitment and your eager and humble approach to learning.

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, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.

Feedback on assignment

This is a good assignment. The prints are strong and the black and white format really works for this theme, they are consistently printed with borders and hold together very well as a set. The matt paper also works here – I think it somehow seems more solemn and therefore appropriate. At the same time there is something beautiful about the cracked windows and peeling paint. Your composition stands out as particularly successful throughout this project. The newsagents is great because you have (almost!) got a direct front angle. (I think you should look at the Bechers and the New Topographics and write that up before assessment.)

In our discussion about paper on Saturday I meant to say – there is no paper for every occasion. Trial and error is required for each purpose and what works for a particular project will not work for another. This is something that occurs with most things in art!

What about other photographers who have worked in this style? Who influences you in this? Who are you relating to as a practitioner? It is important that you are always looking at other photographers who have done similar things so you can position yourself.

Creatively speaking I think you have done quite a good job. I would normally veer away from empty shop buildings when speaking of the recession because it is such a newspaper approach! It is also a very literal approach to something deep and complicated and to some extent I do think that what you described in the blog about the recession being something personal to you does not come through in these pictures. In fact quite the opposite – they are observational, distant photos of the changing structure of our streets. However the way you have dealt with the image (framed the shops in context rather than close ups of shut doors / black and white with delicate printing and attention to detail) makes the work say more than a snap of an abandoned shop. So in this sense you have done well to avoid the standard response. I also think the distancing works well – an almost clinical and impotent recording of our times.

I know it is a narrative / magazine brief and I think you made a good decision not to put it in a brochure style layout. However I really don’t like the front cover as I think it belittles what you have done – it seems trite. I would take it away altogether and frame your series as a narrative in its own right.

Some images that stand out to me from this series are the closed down garage and the street corner with the fence and dilapidated building hidden behind the winter trees. I think this is because of the context you give us – these places are part of somewhere larger, where people matter and live in and from these places. The fact that they appear empty strengthens this – where have all the people gone? (Actually this could make a good title?!). You should also look at Sarah Pickering’s series Public Order.

Learning Logs or Blogs

Ok you may not want to hear this but I wonder if your blog has TOO many categories now! When I’m assessing I just want to click on Assignment 5 (for example) and be taken straight to the work and write-ups instantly. I wouldn’t worry about changing it now but would bear it in mind for future blogs.

Also there is so much more going on for you than I can see on this blog – what about your slides? Medium format camera? What quality are you seeing from these that makes them better than digital? (like you said on Saturday!) Your technique has vastly improved and you are making some beautiful imagery.

What about all your OCATV trips? What are you learning there?

Your book updates are behind and so are your photographers… I am sure you will correct this before assessment but please don’t allow this to slip behind as it is very important. As you will be submitting for July keep it as a priority and in future I would recommend adding your blogs as you go rather than having to go back to them.

Suggested reading/viewing (Context)

Continue to reflect and critique the books you are reading and the photographers you are looking at.

Do you have Liz Wells Photography Reader? I think it would be good to get to grips with some photo theory at this point.

Basic Critical Theory for photographers by Ashley Le Grange and David Bate’s Key concepts are good ones to start with.

Sarah Pickering:




Conclusions / Pointers for assessment

Make sure your blog is up to date – not good if the last post is in Feb!

The presentation box is professional and appropriate for assessment. Don’t forget to label everything and look back at the requirements for assessment in the handbook obviously.

Ensure you clearly mark any reworks.

I wish you all the best for DPP and your future studies – I’m sure I will see you soon at a TV event. J

Tutor name: Sharon Boothroyd
Date 3.5.2014
Next assignment due n/a

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