Assignment 5–Personal Project– Notes and Tutor Feedback. 07/12/15

A link to the Project pdf (as submitted) is available in my Dropbox folder here:

Unfortunately Dropbox doesn’t display the pdf as a two page layout. The page below each of the photographs provides the context. I am planning to make changes to reflect my tutor’s comments.  Meanwhile, as suggested by my tutor, I am asking the Thames Valley Group to comment (either here or through the TV Group Facebook page) and I will bring the finished book to the Group meeting in January. 

My initial response to my tutor –  04/12/15 :

Hi Derek,

Just a quick update. I have now had a chance to look at your feedback with the images in front of me and I will work on the points you mention. I’ll think about substituting a couple of the weaker images if I can, and include a little more text by way of explanation where required. All of my other assignments are more or less as I would like them so I would expect to meet the deadline of 12th January.

My Tutor’s report is below:

Overall Comments

The overall concept is excellent: as the Personal project this does, to quote the Ronseal advert, exactly what it says on the tin! The format of image reflected against original extracts from the Down Outings and the contemporary narrative of your visits ties the individual elements into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In the text of your log I can see snippets that might bring the images to life a little more, e.g. the archaeological links with the area – the barrow is possibly an example. Is there something in the Down Outings journal that illustrates these connections – that you could pull quotes from perhaps – as on pages 17 & 19, or your personal reminiscences such as on page 25?

I can’t see the connection on the first page between the extract from the census (is it a census?) and the location. Malta is noted in this document, but only introduced on the next page. That page mentions James as if we’re following his life, yet he is only name-checked in the introduction – is he connected to Whitehill? Run the book past other people (the OCA group for example) to see what they make of it.

I agree that leaving some elements as mysterious, to provoke questions, is better than itemising every detail, but there needs to be a careful balance established, especially at the start. It left me confused (okay, that’s not difficult!) until I got to the 4th image and saw the integration there.

Feedback on assignment

The first three images don’t have the impact of later ones: a combination of framing, camera position, lighting and choices around inclusion or exclusion of details determine, in part, the visual style that comes across as your personal style. This is something that connects images together, just as much as the linear path and the narrative. The image of Torberry Hill uses physical distance to place it within the landscape – to show us that upturned spoon – and this context combines with the lighting to make a ‘lump’ into a subject.

The churchyard shot is also clearly carefully framed and the lighting enhances this framing. Symbolically, the empty bench speaks volumes. The first three shots don’t have this impact for me. This is of course one of the inherent problems of following a route – the order of images is fixed and, to a lesser extent, so are the locations. Normally in photographic books you’d choose the opening image as the one with the most intrigue and impact. That choice is limited here by the location of the first significant point(s).

Technical and visual skills

The majority of the images are excellent: see for my comments on light and composition/framing for images 1-3 above. The image on p 31 is quite blue: shifting towards yellow will also bring out the foliage, which is dark compared to the rest of the image. The image on page 14 seems to lack the contrast that would turn it into a natural frame (as on p20 and p24).

Quality of Outcome

The book format works very well. I can see how the integration of historical extracts (Whether Victorian or 1950s), your images with captions and the route line form an excellent mixture of your personal history, your ancestors’ history and the walk/photographs.

Demonstration of creativity

This is evident in the images, particularly on pages 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 24. The main evidence of creativity is in the concept and it’s execution, which creates several layers of history and layers of meaning to each pair of pages.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

The log is coming along very well. It is great to see that you are bouncing ideas off other students, as this will help both you (and them): not only in resolving your thoughts and ideas for your own work, but in seeing how others can resolve theirs.

Suggested reading/viewing

I recommend reading ‘Dialogue with Photography’ by Paul Hill & Thomas Cooper, Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport (2014 is latest edition, but earlier ones are equally good): interviews with photographers to see what goes on behind the camera.

I also recommend reading ‘On Being a Photographer: a Practical Guide’ by David Hurn and Bill Jay, LensWork Publishing, Portland (2007). This book is more about a photographer’s approach, attitude and their mind-set, rather than technicalities (as the title might suggest). There is a free copy (PDF) here:

Pointers for the next assignment

If you rework any assignments, post them to your blog and let me know. Likewise, when you’ve started preparations on your images and text for assessment, get in touch. Then we can talk about any updates and the submission format, structure, etc. I’ll write a report to summarise what we’ve covered in our conversation. This will constitute the 6th feedback.

Derek Trillo



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