Steve's OCA Blog

Photography Learning Log



Assignment 1 Feedback

I was pleased with the feedback on my first assignment. Much of the feedback was positive, but there was lots of constructive criticism that I can work on in future.  Key learning points seem to be that I need to ensure that the approach needs to be clear before starting an assignment, stretch myself and try different subjects and techniques, worry less about the technical aspects, and be braver in the editing of images. Tutor notes are available here.


My Assignment 1 submission is at – Assignment 1

I will revisit the assignment further into the course, however rather than focus on reworking this first assignment, I’m looking to move on with part 2 of the course and the second assignment.


Assignment 1 – Square Mile – Childhood Revisited

After a week of catching up on my OCA course, I spent some time reviewing and executing assignment 1 for the course and submitted today.

There are 8 images attached to this assignment, which I’ve called ‘Square Mile – Childhood Revisited’. These images are:



What was your initial response to the brief and what ideas did you have for how to complete it?

Initially, I struggled to conceptualise how I might create images around a theme and following some further reading, I liked the thought of revisiting a familiar place some years later. I spent my childhood in a small village and returned to the village to visit some of the places with meaning to me.

I decided that I needed to have something more to shape the narrative and so had some themes that aided the creation of the narrative, Firstly, it was important that it had a summer feel, that the images had a slightly aged feel to them and that it had to be shot at child height.

Part way through I became distracted by the influence of the river through the area and it connection to my childhood, but after exploring this for a while returned to the original theme. I also found that there weren’t any children in these places on the days I visited, probably a reflection of current childhood experiences.

What have you learned from the two photographers you looked at, plus any other photographers you sought inspiration from? How did they influence your work on this assignment?

From Dan Holdsworth, I learned not to worry about over or underexposure and that night can be an interesting time to take images, however having tried some night images they didn’t really work for this assignment.  From Tom Hunter I learned not to be afraid of creating ordinary, but to be clear about the narrative.

I also viewed a few learning logs from formers and OCA current students.

Joao :

Phil Clarke:

Kate Aston:

The different approaches to the assignment were very clear, one seeking a style and common subject theme, whilst the others sought to highlight particular features in the square mile.

Joao references work by Paul Gaffney which has a similar theme, but it was the title of the sequence that helped connect the images and visualise the environment and narrative to the piece.

What was your technical approach to the assignment? And what techniques did you use to make it?

As this is to be seen through child’s eye I wanted to ensure small aperture and wide depth of field, which also added to the softness of the image and the relaxed nature of summer. I also used different shutter speeds to create under and over exposed images that could be adjusted in post production.

What’s your opinion on how you did? Are you satisfied? Are there any areas you’d like to improve?

I’m happy with the set of images, however I’m worried that this is just a set of images, it means something to me, but without a good narrative perhaps not to others. I realise that I need to do more planning and visualise the end product before setting off anywhere with a camera. I’d also like to investigate and learn more about working at night.

Review Tom Hunter & Dan Holdsworth

As part of Assignment 1 students are asked to view and comment on the images of Dan Holdsworth and Tom Hunter. The following are my thoughts.

Dan Holdsworth

Why do you think he often works at night? Is it because there’s less people and traffic about to clutter the view? Is it because of the effect of light in a long exposure and the sense of artificiality or ‘strangeness’ that brings to the image?

These factors are probably why this artist predominantly works at night. They allow him to create long exposures that generate some unusual effects, without big distractions, which are central to his images. I really enjoyed the bold and unusual elements to his images, they made me stop and think about each image, rather than left through the images quickly.

What happens to your interpretation when the views are distant, wide and the main emphasis is on the forms of the man-made landscape?

It’s clearly intentional and these mechanisms help support a need for greater interpretation, leaving the viewer to create their own narrative.

Is there a sense that these images are both objective (because you are looking out at the world) and subjective (because they seem to deliberately conjure up a mood)?

Yes, deliberately so. The unreal from the real world allows a wide variety of different subjective interpretations from the same image. The point of the images is to ensure you define the narrative more than he does.

Tom Hunter (Life and Death in Hackney and Unheralded Stories)

Do you notice the connection between the people and their surroundings? How does Hunter achieve this?

The body of subjects often has a strong physical connection (arms laying on or whole body lying down) with elements of the foreground part of the image.

What kinds of places are these photographs set in? Are they exotic, special or ordinary, everyday places?

They are very ordinary, but often unpleasant (or made to look so).

There’s something ‘mythical’ and yet also ‘everyday’ about Hunter’s pictures. Look carefully at one or two images and try to pick out the features that suggest these two different qualities.

The image with the body in the water is set in a very ordinary context, but unusual in that the body is floating the pool. Many of the images have this juxtaposition.

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