Sunday, 1 July 2012

…coming to an end ( I hope)

As things stand, and assuming I pass this particular course, this is going to be the last post on this blog. If anyone is interested in my continuing studies they can find my future musings over on my Landscape blog.

All my assignments, and the working associated with them, can be found via the links on the right. The assessors have received my documents on CD, but for anyone else who is interested the links to the final assignment submission documents are here:

This is going to be quite a long post, but I want to cover three main areas: My thoughts on the course itself, my personal assessment of my achievements against the learning objectives, and the impact of the course on my personal photography. So first up – the course – and I’ll stick with the same general headings I used at the end of DPP.

What did I want/expect from the course?

Having completed DPP I had a much clearer idea of what to expect from the course material so what I wanted was a course that would effectively force me into my ‘discomfort’ zone – people photography. I think that I was a little worried that it would immediately force me into social commentary – but was prepared to give that a go if it was what was needed. Beyond that there’s not much to say under this heading.

Did it deliver?

Unequivocally yes! The early stages of ‘people aware’ allowed me the escape route of self-portraiture – although that has it’s own set of issues to resolve – but the ‘people unaware’ stage pushed me well and truly into photographic places I’d not tried before. I also found the approach to place quite challenging – it’s easy to snap a place, rather more difficult to photograph it. I think it’s at this point that it finally dawned on me that I was doing a degree course, and that my previous certainties and overconfidence wouldn’t cut the mustard.

I struggled with some of the middle phases – not because of the course material, but because it was so unfamiliar to me as an idea. I also think that my perception (right or wrong) of the UK as a very hostile environment for street photography caused me some problems, because I found the same thing considerably easier in Switzerland during my holiday. In some sense this holiday came at a fortunate time, because I was becoming bogged down on the people exercises and it restored some momentum for me

For reasons explained elsewhere in this blog, Assignment 3 was a bit of a wake-up call. I found the somewhat open nature of the final two assignments quite tricky as well – photograph more or less what you please, but be prepared to explain why you did it and how the photos support that. The first part is easy – that’s what us amateurs do – the second part was new territory for me. It’s a measure of the course’s success however that by this stage I had the nerve to wander the streets of the local town in the dark with a camera – even if I wasn’t quite ready for walking up to people to photograph them in that circumstance.

I think another part of the courses success for me was the way it has developed my understanding of the ability of a photo or series of photos to tell a story or convey an idea or feeling, again the last two assignments feel like good examples of that.

I still found the reading requirements a little vague. I revisited some of the photo theory texts I read during DPP, and this convinced me that I needed a better understanding of the artistic context in which photography has developed, so I’ve tried to work on that as well. Alongside this I’ve tried to look at more photography. The nearest decent gallery is nearly 2 hours away so I’ve tended to rely on the web, and on books, but hopefully these efforts are reflected in the reading list I’ve developed and various posts in my blog over the duration.

How do I think I fared against the learning objectives?

  • Use technical and interpersonal skills effectively to capture images which reflect your ideas – I feel that my last 3 assignments in particular show that I have the technical skills. On the interpersonal skills side, I still have some way to go before I could take a close portrait of a complete stranger uninvited, but otherwise I think I have demonstrated that I can take photos of people with a reasonable degree of success, and use people in shots to emphasise the points I am making, or to add emphasis or interest to a shot.
  • Demonstrate the importance of note-taking, research, ideas and concepts to the process of developing a story – this was a big step forward for me on this course, perhaps most effectively demonstrated by the difference in my approaches to Assignment 2, which was quite spur-of-the-moment, and Assignment 5, which was planned as thoroughly as I could make it.
  • Demonstrate a good level of ability in the effective selection and editing of images to achieve objectives – difficult to make a neutral comment on this, as I would not willingly submit a set of images which I thought did not achieve the objective I had in mind.
  • Show that you can reflect perceptively on your learning experience – again difficult to give a neutral answer, but I believe my response to tutor feedback on Assignment 3 demonstrates that I can react positively to feedback, and take on board lessons learned along the way. I think this is most effectively demonstrated by the way some of my personal projects are developing.

Which leads very neatly to:

What impact has the course had on my photography?

Overall my photography has developed a thoughtful, or experimental, strand that was missing previously. Rather than individual photos I am beginning to think in series or groups, with an attempt at an idea behind them. Clear examples include my reflective self-portraits, my night-time shots and the series on roads that I have just started to develop. Both of the latter I hope to be able to develop further during the Landscape course.

Another major change has been my adoption of black and white photography. My first real experience with monochrome was during DPP, but I have found that it works very well with night time shooting to support the atmosphere I am trying to create, and I expect it to continue featuring in my photography going forward.


I found this a difficult course to engage with in the early stages, because it pushed me so far from my comfort zone, but I’m glad I persisted. Whatever the outcome of this assessment I’m sure my photography is better for it. A key challenge for the next few months is not to lose the momentum on people photography simply because I am engaged in a Landscape course. Whether I’ll be able do this by weaving people into the Landscape module, or by developing some more personal projects remains to be seen, but I’ve gained too much to drop it now.