The Brief –
For our first assignment, we need to make five portraits of five different people of our local area who were previously unknown to us.
The aim of this assignment is to move out of our comfort zone and try to photograph people we don’t know. The advice if possible is to spend time with our subject and to get to know them before even showing them the camera.
As I have mentioned in my planning (Assignment 1- Planning) for this assignment I decided to photograph the people of Pano-Lefkara. My idea for the assignment was to show the people of Lefkara and what the village was about.
The Assignment –
The village of Lefkara –
The people of Lefkara
Image 1 –
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
The equipment that I used for this assignment was my Nikon D5200 and 18-140mm lens I then decided to challenge my self when I returned to the village and used my 35mm f/1.8 prime lens instead as this would give me the blurry backgrounds. My primary focus was the subject’s eyes. I also wanted the subject to be comfortable in front of the camera so as the brief suggested I talked to the subjects first. Choosing my background was rather a task as most of the people I photographed was in the small shops around the village. The image was shot in RAW format and for my final editing, I used photoshop.
Quality of outcome
I’m happy with the outcome of the assignment I must admit at first I was not sure how I was going to approach the assignment and when my first idea did not work I really started to get stressed but I am now really happy that it did not work because it pushed me to do something completely different that I have never done before going out on the street and talking to random people was a real big challenge for me as I am really a shy person so this assignment did push me out of my comfort zone. Technically I do think the images could have been better but I was so nervous maybe this is something I need to work on in the future.
Demonstration of creativity
My work is influenced by the work of August Sanders. I challenged myself with the assignment because as I said before I did step out of my comfort zone when my first idea did not work so I am really proud that I did challenge myself. I noticed when uploading my photographs that most of my images are headshots it is not a bad thing but maybe I could have tried to pose my subjects more maybe some full-length shots would have been good too and that maybe would have made the assignment more creative. My aim of the assignment was to show the people of Lefkara image 1 and 2 for me does just this and I think those two images work really well.
Demonstration of reflection. Research and critical thinking
In preparation for assignment 1, I have completed reading Tracing echoes Nicky Bird, August Sander Object Romantic, Clark Graham the portrait in photography. I have also been looking at the work of Diane Arbus, James Tye, Eric Lafforgue and Paul Matzner.
Assignment 1 – Reflection
Overall comments –
Well done on producing this first assignment. For most students, Stepping outside of their comfort zone and working with complete strangers is very challenging, but you have done very well and taken a good set of portraits.
Feedback on assignment –
Demonstration of technical and visual skills, Quality of outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Tutors comment – ‘The challenging aspect of this project is managing or knowing what the difference is likely to be between what the sitters are expecting and hoping to see in their portrait, and what it is that you are trying to explore and capture according to your own creative or conceptual agenda.’
Tutors comment – ‘I’m not sure if you can speak the language of the people who you photographed so it’s not clear how or if you managed to approach to get to know them a little before starting to with your camera’
Answering my tutor’s question, no I do not speak greek the only word I really know is Kalimera which means good morning. The people I approached for the assignment could speak a little English. How approached the people I showed interest in their work what they were making and even purchased some lace from them.
Tutors comment – ‘This set feels like they might belong in the world of journalism and tourism in the style of saying National geographic or similar. They might even loosely connect to the use of photography within ethnography. It might, therefore, be worth you starting to think about how your work reaches an audience.’
Tutors comment – ‘In some the light is very beautiful – for instance in the first and the last of the set – and in others, your choice of where to position the sitter could have been more considered’
Tutors comment – ‘Overall, I applaud you for coming out of your comfort zone and for producing a good set of images of the people you asked. If I were to be a little more critical however I would encourage you to re-shoot again with a view to making the set more coherent and focused around your own creative and conceptual agenda.’
Tutors comment – ‘I prefer the strength of the people when they look straight into the lens’
Following my tutor’s feedback I wanted to return to Lefkara, unfortunately, we got posted and had to return to the UK and I did not have the opportunity to do this.
I did have the opportunity to visit another village in the Troodos mountains, Omodos. I thought I would attempt to rework the assignment following my tutor’s feedback, unfortunately, this did not go as well as when I went to Lefkara as only one person was happy for me to photograph them after purchasing some nuts.
Reworking assignment –
To improve my series of images following my tutor’s feedback, I’m going to return to the contact sheets and see how I can make my series more coherent. My tutor comments about how my final images show the sitters looking straight at the lens and subsequently, in a way, they return the stare of the viewer. In other portraits, you capture the sitter at work and show their immediate environment. My tutor prefers the strength of the people looking straight into the lens as they project confidence and character.
My tutor’s feedback suggests for me to think about what I’m trying to say with my series of images. Tutors comment – consider in more critical detail what your portraits were exploring. You can’t really say that the work was exploring the people of Lefkara as this is far too broad for a small number of images and avoid any real personal agenda
As mentioned in the assignment the village of Pano Lefkara is a stone village and is one of the oldest villages of Cyprus. It is situated at the foot of the Troodos mountains in the Southern Eastern Region. The village is well-known for its handmade lace and silver. The woman of the village makes the lace, the men make the silver jewellery. They then sell it in their small shops around the village. For me this assignment was about the people living in this beautiful old village, the work for me is an exploration of their cultural background and way of life, the work they do to make a living.
After thinking about what my work was about I decided to return to the images I submitted for the assignment.
*I created an artboard to see which images in the series I submitted to my tutor was telling this story. for me, image 1, 2 and 5 did just this but image 3 and 4 not so much. I then decided to return to my contact sheet and following my tutor’s feedback see which images would work better. My tutor mentions in his feedback that he prefers the images that the sitters are looking directly at the camera I will keep this in mind.
Reworking my images following my tutors feedback –
Thinking about what my tutor said I reworked my images. Image 1 I thought works well with this series, I agree with my tutor about the lighting and I feel that the person in the photograph looks comfortable with me taking her picture. Image 2 this is one of my favourites I like the way the images shows the man at work he has stopped what he is doing to look at the camera. At the corner of the image, there are two silver pots he has created. I feel this is a strong image as it shows the story I’m trying to tell. Image 3 I swapped over, this woman was so lovely. The image I submitted of her at first is one where I placed her in front of a window, looking back at the image I don’t think it worked very well. One of my tutor’s comments was about how I placed my subject. I decide to change the image to this one, still, she is looking directly at the camera and in the background, you can see the lace she is selling in her shop. Image 4 at first I had an image of an old man standing in front of a door, again I’m not sure if it worked well with the series as it was not showing what I wanted, the work life of these people. I decided to swap the image with one I took on my first trip. I’m still a little unsure if this one works as I feel now image 1 and 4 is slightly the same just different people, but on the other hand they are holding up their lace which they made and each piece of lace is different. So I feel that it does show how each woman crafts their lace differently. The final image I’m having a little bit of a dilemma with. As mentioned in my tutor’s feedback he feels the lighting is good in the first and last of the image set but he also comments about how he feels that he prefers it when the people are looking directly at the camera. I really like the image I submitted because it shows the woman busy making the lace. Do I submit the one I did for my assignment or do I use the other one where she is directly looking at the camera? I’m not sure about this one and think It needs a little bit more thought before submitting for assessment. I feel that the hardest part about putting together the final piece of work is the editing and choosing the right images that work together as a series. I find when I choose my work I’m subjective. When creating images you find yourself getting attached to certain photographs but sometimes these photographs are not also the right choice.
Demonstration of technical and Visual skills, Demonstration of Creativity.
*The weaker parts were the sections Research and Reflection and Photographers. I’m Really not sure of the value of someone like Feijen to this new body of work and research.
The reason I researched the work of Feijen (post here) was for the square mile exercise I wanted to go visit some abandoned villages for this exercise and I thought it would be a good artist for inspiration but my tutor is right It had no relevance to the assignment and I should have made it clear why I was looking at this artist in the first place.
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
*Look at broader survey publications that might introduce contemporary portrait photographers to you.
*considered in more critical detail what your portraits were exploring. You can’t really say that the work was exploring the people of Lefkara as this is far too broad for a small number of images and avoids and real personal agenda. *notes have been above about the series of images following my tutor’s feedback.
Learning Log –
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
*I would like to see much more analysis of how the work generated in one step of a project was used as a foundation to inform any subsequent steps that you too.
*Analyse the qualities and characteristics of the images as items of impact or interpretation, for example in terms of visual or composition, cultural or psychology.
Suggested reading/viewing –
*Autofocus the self-portrait in contemporary photography, Susan Bright, Thames and Hudson – reviewed during context and narrative unit (here)
*Face: The New Photographic Portrait, William A Ewing, Thames and Hudson (here)
*The photography Reader, Liz Wells (ed), Routledge – can’t find this book on Amazon.
*The photograph: A visual and Cultural History. Graham Clarke, Oxford History of Art – reviewed during The art of photography – (here)
Pointers for the next assignment/assessment
*Much more engagement in your own critical analysis is needed throughout
*Show your creative journey paying close attention to the images and their step by step improvement
*Immerse yourself in broader reading on contemporary portraiture
*For part 2 of the course I have started to work harder on my critical analysis and have been including more in-depth research thinking more about the artist I need to study to help me with my assignments for example I studied the work of David Samuel Stern (here) to help me with my portrait work of my daughter creating a shattered face as the end result – (Assignment 2 – here) Critical analysis is my weakness and I know I need to improve but I feel that since the beginning of the course till now I have improved.
*I have started to think more about my planning when doing my assignments and I have tried more in-depth planning for assignment 2 showing how I created the images and why I have decided to create these images.
*Since my tutors feedback I have completed reading Face: THe new photographic portrait, Tracing echoes as well as the Portrait in photography – Graham Clarke I have also returned to two of the books mentioned above Auto Focus the Self Portrait by Susan Bright as well as The photograph Graham Clarke. I have written book reviews in the two previous units and have added the links. Unfortunately I am not able to find one of the suggested reading The photograph Reader, Liz Wells I will need to return to this on a later date and hopefully, Amazon will have it available.
The final selection of images for assessment –
My tutor encouraged me to get out and re-shoot to see what I come up with the second time around, I could not return to Lefkara as we were in the process of moving back to the UK. Following the advice of my tutor, I returned to my contact sheet and decided to have a look at what images I had taken on my adventures before. My tutor’s feedback suggested that the strongest images were the ones where the people were looking directly at me. So for my final body of work I have chosen the images where my sisters are looking directly at the camera. Reflecting on the printed images I agree with the tutor’s comment about the sitters looking at the camera. Looking at the work I feel that it would be stronger if I had another male sitter. I have also change the image 5 (image 5 was image 3 before) I feel that this image is stronger than the one with her sitting at the window, the lighting is better and her face feels more relaxed to me, looking at the previous image I think that the window at the background is a bit of distraction as well. Image 4 (which was image 5 before) I had a choice between her looking down at her work or straight at the camera, I decided to go with her looking straight at the camera instead, I prefer the other one but I think this one works better with the series as all the sitters is looking at the camera and I felt if I used the other it may have not worked with the rest of the images as well.