Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 1 – A Square Mile

Assignment 1 -REWORKED

Assignment 1 – reworked

Having received my tutor’s feedback, I read Barthes (2000) book Camera Lucida in order to get an understanding of punctum and studium.  I wrote this up on my blog:

I have made Photoshop adjustments to the images as suggested although was unclear on how to do the soft masking suggested by Clive.

I re-took the photo of the barnacles and believe this second attempt is sharper – I used the camera on Manual mode which gave more control than the original shot on auto.

I went to try his idea of getting some punctum near the Secret Garden door.  I discovered that the path is currently blocked off as they are rebuilding the seawall.  There is a big roadworks bulldozer in front of that area – does that count as punctum?  I have included a photo in the new set but was unable to get people on the path due to it being fenced off.

In terms of the tram photo I have not managed to have the time to try and follow up the idea as I am no longer living in that area – however in Assignment 5 there is a photo of a similar tram and I believe the little boy looking out of the window gives some punctum to the shot.

I have lightened the photos for printing and added a white border.

And why I was unable to re-take this photo:




Assignment 1 Feedback and Reflections

This is my tutor feedback on Assignment 1 with my reflections following it:

Overall Comments

A very good start that exhibits the beginnings of all the important things we’ll be working on developing.

Assessment potential

Assignment 1

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

You’re probably already committed to the degree, the above doesn’t mean that the OCA is unaware of it; we’re required to include it as part of the report template.

Feedback on assignment

You’ve approached your response to the assignment in a very well structured way, beginning with a quote that had resonance for you and resonance is an important concept in the making and reading of imagery.

What we are going to be focussing on in this course is meaning in the imagery; technique and the formal qualities, the compositional structure, the colour palette, are the tools to helps us communicate ideas/emotions through visual imagery.

Rather like poetry it depends on metaphor, visual metaphor. An image, by definition, is not the thing itself but a token that stands for it. Superficial the photographic image describes what the camera sees but the real power of the photographic image is in what it makes one think and feel. You’ve understood that with this assignment. With the series you’ve created a loose narrative of your experiences

Images communicate in an open ended indistinct manner and this is one of their strengths, the creator has no control on how they will be read once released into the world, the viewer supplies the meaning which they construct out of their own experience. The creator’s experience births the image as a catalyst to the viewer’s experience; research Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author and Camera Lucida.

In order for it to work the creator doesn’t have to have a complete understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it for the communication to function. In fact one can argue that it’s almost more effective if the creator doesn’t fully understand the work they are making otherwise it can easily become stilted and didactic.

That doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t have a sophisticated awareness of how images function.

This function is considerably aided by having an element in the image that appears ambiguous, challenging the viewer to explain its inclusion to themselves. See Barthes’ conceptualisation of it as punctum.

He then goes on to provide helpful suggestions/comments regarding each photo.

I felt really pleased with the feedback both positive and constructive received for this assignment. It was nice that it started with telling me it was good enough to be put in for assessment and that I had grasped the ideas around the concept and context.
Generally speaking it seemed to be in the post production where most issues arose which made me realise I need to brush up/refresh my Photoshop skills – I had relied on fixing exposure in Adobe Camera Raw but had neglected to check the Levels. I liked that my tutor gave me ideas for giving a bit more life to the pictures also through using punctum – as I understand the concept so far this is perhaps providing a bit more punch by utilising people in the photos – he gave me some research to follow up to understand this more fully.
I found it surprising that one of the photos that he seemed to like best was not in fact choreographed but taken rather hastily before the family moved on – this was the one of the Mum and children on the edge of the shadows.
I have played with the electric tram photo in terms of the suggestions made and got it closer to the colouring shown in the tutor’s example. There are only a few weeks left of the tram running before the winter so not sure that I’ll get the other suggestion done of a day of tram watching with the idea of getting some punctum in the photo.

I’ve always liked black and white photography and it was two of these that also seemed to engender positive comments and some likening to Ansel Adams who is a famous American landscape photographer (I remember reading about him when I did my GCSE in photography some years ago). I particularly liked the idea of adding a slight colour cast to the shipwreck. The other suggestion for the moonlight photo was to selectively use the brightness contrast – this is where I will need to revisit how to use masks. My tutor did suggest that it wasn’t usual to swap from colour to black and white in the same theme unless you wanted to show some discord – I think in this instance for these two pictures it could be justified in that they were showing more negative emotions in terms of the life cycle. Having said this one of the fossilized shells perhaps should have stayed in colour. I will need to remember this advice for future assignments.
I absolutely agree that the portrait was spoiled by the horizon and would’ve been better taken from a lower angle – the fact that I didn’t think to do this was in part due to my lack of comfort around asking total strangers to pose along with the pulled leg muscle which made movement difficult! The horizon does end up looking like it is squashing the lady on the head.
However, as a first assignment I felt pleased with the feedback and that the comments gave some useful things to follow up.

A Square Mile


“The landscape of youth is laden with memories, my photography draws on the overlapping cycles as young people discover and grow through the background to their lives, how they react to it and what they do within this space can have a profound effect on how we view ourselves in relation to the surrounding world.  Our place of youth, our ‘home’ and the memories created during this period, for better or worse can create an embedded sense of place and can go someway in self-defining our later life attitudes” (Barnard, G. accessed on 11/09/2016)

When I read this quote it  resonated with me and what I had been trying to achieve over a first week of photography on the beach near where I am currently living.

As I had pulled a muscle the previous weekend I had chosen the beach area to start my Square Mile assignment due to finding it easier to walk on the soft sand.

I took a number of pictures and had been mulling over how to present this series of photos as a cohesive set. I did a mind map with all the thoughts encapsulated in the above quote and my own thoughts and  ended up with some overarching themes.



The word ‘nostalgia’ was at the forefront after looking at Dearden’s work and particularly her Somerset Stories – Fivepenny dreams ( accessed on 11/09/2016).

I have spent most of my life living near the sea – much of my childhood years were spent in Fiji where we had our own ‘Treasure Island’ while my teenage years were spent living about a 10 minute walk from a surf beach called St Clair in Dunedin.  Like other teenagers I had my turbulent moments but a walk down there and a look at the stormy waves for an hour or two usually calmed me.  I am now living on the other side of the world on a small island – the Isle of Man.  I’m  living in Ramsey (or Rhumsaa in Old Norse) in the north of the island and have been back here since mid-July.  I had always been fascinated by the old Queens Pier on the beach.


I wanted to explore history of Ramsey a little as well as it seemed to be what I perceive to be a quintessential English seaside town replicated here on the island as shown in the photo at the top of the page and the rattly old tram making its way into town.


As I began to build up my photos I was reminded of the many moods and emotions that the sea can invoke and wanted to try and capture these.


This photo was taken on the walk down to the beach – the closed gate takes me back to my childhood and reading the book The Secret Garden (Burnett, F.H. (1911).  Having gone back to my childhood I felt the next photo showed the excitement of childhood at being on the beach and the feeling of the sand through bare feet


Sticking with the childhood theme I took two  photos that demonstrated the exploration and detail that young children will do when on the beach – the first is somewhat abstract and allows for the creativity of childhood before one is expected to conform to the rules of adult society.


But at the same time children can be more precise and look for something specific like the fossils in this rock


Carrying on through the life cycle and the turbulent teenage years I came across the remains of this old ship wreck on the beach and felt it represented the storms that can occur during this period


On becoming more independent one may have dreams that lead them to sail away (on the island often for further education)


The parents may suffer from ’empty nest syndrome’ and feelings of loneliness as I felt the next photo showed


A beach invites lots of dog walkers and I did get into conversation with one lady who agreed to pose for me.  Doing this was out of my ‘comfort zone’ as I generally find it hard to take photos of people – I have put this one in as representing the retired period of the life cycle where you have the time to do things like walking the dog but also the friendliness of the beach environment where you can start talking to a complete stranger.img_0707v2

At the end of life  one needs to come to terms with dying and one always hopes for tranquility at this stage.  Finally there is always the next generation and a new awakening (this takes me back to my New Zealand and Social Work roots – there was a report written some years ago called Pauo-te-ata-tu – or day break which heralded a new way of working with families) and the hope for the future so I felt this picture taken at sunrise represented these things:



The equipment I used for these photos was a Canon 6D camera.  Most of the photos were taken with my 24-105 standard lens with the two close ups being done with a Sigma 100 macro lens.  For the photos where the water is blurred I used a tripod with an ISO of 100, a slow shutter speed and narrow aperture and the self-timer.  I learnt through trial and error – one of my biggest mistakes was forgetting to change settings when I moved to a different area on the beach.  I was using the Live View to compose and also often forgot I needed to switch this off to take a photo with the self-timer.  I turned some into black and white either because I felt the colour was distracting and it was more atmospheric or to show detail as in the fossil photo.  I felt pleased with my final selection and that I could demonstrate some of the themes that had interested me particularly through the use of the Life Cycle.



Barnard, Gawain: accessed on 11/09/2016)

Burnett, F.H.  (First published 1911).  The Secret Garden.

Dearden, Venetia: accessed on 11/09/2016).

The following websites give a bit more history about Ramsey and some of the things in the photos:,_Isle_of_Man (accessed 17/09/2016) (accessed 17/09/2016) (accessed 17/09/2016)– gives a little more information about the shipwreck and a number of photos with more detail (accessed 17/09/2016)