Category Archives: Assignment 1

Assignment 1–Reflection on Tutor Feedback

I have now had a chance to reflect on the tutor report for assignment 1. I am pleased that my efforts in editing the final selection produced a coherent and understandable essay. I have bullet-pointed the main topics which require future action or additional reflection :

  • It is my preference to submit prints for assignment where specified. I shall in future include written notes so that the assignment can be viewed solely “off-line”.
  • The use of a single focal length lens was a challenge and I was always conscious of the speed at which I had to work, hence the sometimes cluttered backgrounds where I had seen a shot a grabbed it while I could. My normal zoom lens has a range 18-200mm but I am trying to use the “standard” (i.e. 35mm) fixed focal length more often. I also like it for its speed (f1.8).
  • Lighting was  another difficult choice. I decided against direct flash because of the effect of gluing the characters to the background with harsh shadows. The stage lighting was of course tungsten and the technical crew were using yellow gels. Perhaps I over-compensated the daylight/bounce flash images while attempting to achieve an over-all consistency. I’ll  watch this in the future.
  • I have been very fortunate that now I have this group of friends who are quite willing to help me with projects. One criticism I had early in my studies was that my images lacked people. I joined the Players group to be able to enrol their help with acting for  my DFP course. I will, at some point in the future, undertake a project backstage where I do not have a role and can concentrate solely on photography. I may even join another group (there are several locally) to vary the faces and locations.

Assignment 1 – Ethos, Rationale and Reflection

The Phoenix Players are an amateur group who produce three shows each year at the Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre in Bordon. My role in the group is backstage and I recorded preparations for a production of “Up Pompeii” during April and May this year. I tried to cover all aspects of the group working together and on the advice of my tutor, I concentrated on the personalities and interactions between them. I have selected three main areas which map the transition of their characters from the rehearsals through make-up and costume to the stage. I have tried to record the family atmosphere that existed backstage and some of the  humour which resulted not only from the script but the general light-hearted attitude that playing comedy brings. I hope I have succeeded.

Reflection: I have listed the assessment criteria below and recorded my assessment of how well I have met them.

  • Demonstration of Technical and visual skills  The particular requirements of this assignment (one camera and one fixed focal length lens) were challenging. I may not a have always been close enough to my subjects but I resisted the temptation  to crop my images. Lighting was always a challenge, I tried to avoid flash although bounce flash in the rehearsal room was not a problem. Overall, I am pleased with my technical and visual skills.
  • Quality of Outcome  I am still struggling with finding and bringing out ideas in my work. Luckily, working with a study group is helping me to improve in this regard. I  am reading more now and find this useful.
  • Demonstration of Creativity  My peers in the study group have helped me to identify the good and bad  prints I showed them. I hope the subsequent edit has produced a worthwhile essay.
  • Context  I am happy that learning log will show that I am now fully engaged in my studies and I spend as much time as I can looking and reading around the subject.

Assignment 1– selection of images

I put together an initial essay based on my original ideas and showed it at the Thames Valley Group Study day on 31st May. Here is what said in my write up:

I put out my images and explained about the brief for Local Communities. The group identified that it was a very disparate set. I explained that this was probably because I was involved with the group as a ‘participant observer’ as encouraged by the brief. I had still some more editing to do and I was looking to the group to find out what worked and which direction I should take the edit. Sharon said that there is often something very interesting going on in my work and I need to be able to see it and follow it  through.  She mentioned Eve Arnold’s film stills, not looking to document the whole thing, just the interesting moments and identified the transformation from person to character as an idea to work on.  Looking at future projects, go with a single purpose (no distractions) and concentrate on one theme. Below is the set that I showed:


I will discuss this further in the ‘Assignment 1’ section of my learning log as I make my final selection based on the advice and feedback from the group.

As the TV group session has identified a ‘transformation’ theme in my selection, I decided to go back to my files and see if I could expend this idea. I made a close study of all of my photographs, identified some relevant images and printed them. My original idea to document the whole production process in my essay just wasn’t practical, i.e. it would take more than 10 prints. I chose three prints of the rehearsal room showing the interaction between players, four prints which involved the transformation of the players into their characters and three prints from the actors on stage. Here is my final selection:


I have posted the prints to my tutor on 3 July 2014

Assignment 1 – Introductory ideas and research

The initial idea that I put to my tutor for assignment 1 is a photo essay about  the amateur players group at my local Arts Centre. I will produce a series of photographs showing the narrative of my involvement with the production of a stage version of the popular TV comedy “Up Pompeii”. My main job is to assist with the construction and painting of the set.

My first task was to search the net for technical tips and to look for visual ideas of what I could achieve. I failed to find any essays of the type I was proposing but did find technical help and plenty of commercial examples of theatre and stage photographs.


I want to include the following ideas and events in my essay:

  • The Phoenix Theatre and Arts centre as part of the community
  • Personalities involved in the various aspects of the production
  • Work on set construction and painting
  • Rehearsals and direction
  • Technical rehearsal
  • Dress rehearsal
  • Performance and the audience

I shall be using my Nikon DSLR with a prime 35mm f1.8 lens.

As the short run of this show ends on 24th May and my assignment deadline is 6th July I have started immediately to gather material that I can edit down into a 10 image narrative. I can foresee a lot of technical problems photographing the rehearsals as the stage lighting is not being used and the black painted stage area is lit only by fluorescent light. I am experimenting with camera settings for low light, my initial reaction was that using flash is too harsh and produces deep shadows.

As I progress with the project and work through my editing, I will make further posts at regular intervals.

Reading for Assignment 1

Context and Narrative, Short, M. 2011 pp. 20-26 The photographic brief

I re-read this short section to remind myself of the main points. The quote from photographer George Roger I thought was particularly relevant for the student brief:

You must feel an affinity for what you are photographing. You must be part of it and yet remain sufficiently detached  to see it objectively. Like watching from the audience a play you already know by heart.”

In general there are three types of brief; the student brief, the self directed brief and the professional brief. In this instance we are looking at the student brief which introduces different aspects according to how specific or flexible it has been set.

The section introduces the responses, the differing requirements and approaches to each type of brief and the importance of planning and time management in their fulfilment.