3. Feedback

Received 22 May 2020

Overall Comments
Again, an engaging submission with lots experimentation and practical work. Some recommendations below on how better to present your work and ideas.

Feedback on assignment

There lots of evidence of experimentation throughout this submission you have being very ambitious in the scope of this assignment choosing to restage a series of archived portraits of famous photographers taken of they themselves as they look in the mirror. You’ve chosen a number of different approaches in doing this from traditional studio-based portraits to environmental shots produced on location.

The most successful of these images is the one where I think you have most carefully thought about lighting composition and grain and that is to Bill Brandt re-staged portrait, which works well. I do really like the way you present these as ‘Boxes’ and I think the presentation of what you’ve done as a sequence of images works better than when you present them alone. There is after all a strong performative aspect to this work and of course the sequence is a well-used strategy by many others who use performance (see earlies Sherman experiments in sequence here:

I am going to recommend know that you further develop this interesting submission into a more resolved form – perhaps by producing it in a zine or PDF form before final submission.
(see ad discussed the Newspaper Club: https://www.newspaperclub.com/ )

I think your descriptions of your project – especially in terms of the technical you faced in producing them is good. You’ve also provided clear and comprehensive contact sheets throughout the process. I do think the visual aspect of your submission is a little bit messy as it stands currently. What do I mean by this? Well – the good news is that you’ve produced and shot good material for this assignment however this is not showcased to the best of its ability as is. For example, it seems to me that your final image (your ‘re-enactment) is important that is sits by your title for each piece – alluding as it does to the original subject. You may also want to reproduce a small thumbnail of the original photograph itself near to your final image (or sequence of images). Currently, all of these elements are there but they’re quite disjointed – what I’m going to suggest is that you think about the importance of bringing these together and perhaps consider how you could make you perhaps a magazine on this project which uses design in a much more effective way to get your ideas and themes across. We’ll talk about this a little at our one-to-one.
What I do is think is missing from the submission is a deeper expiration of exactly WHY you’ve chosen to do this and/or adopt this particular approach – why for example have you chosen existing portraits of very well-known photographers (all men)? I think that you have to further unpack and explore that perhaps touching on gender and identity and masculinity etcetera. You do talk fleetingly about authorship in the construction of the self-portrait (‘Let’s take a moment away from the practicalities of taking these photographs and consider the act of self-portraiture and in particular the issue of authorship’) but this could be expanded – perhaps with a more extended discussion of Emin’s self-portraiture and possible with that of Sarah Lucas?

Perhaps you can use the retrospective diary you’re planning to touch on your own motivations here?

You also mention ‘It is particularly mirror portraits (which, by depicting the tools of their trade, emphasise their roles) that I wished to emulate. In the context of Part 3 of the course, my approach to this assignment is as masquerade which I describe in my course notes as ‘assuming other personas for a variety of purposes ranging from self-aggrandisement to social comment’ (Blackburn, 2020b): my treatment is towards the aggrandising wing of the genre.’
You need to expand on what you mean here?READING: Tate’s Performing for the Camera catalogue, as described here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/feb/15/performing-for-the-camera-review-tate-modern-exhibition

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Learning Log
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It is a good idea to show the original images with my copies and will do so on my rework page. On the larger question of website design, I will not over-dignify it by calling it a personal aesthetic, but I choose to present a reluctant web site that takes time to navigate and with images that do not swipe. While it is no doubt true that if a site does not engage a visitor in a few seconds they will scoot off elsewhere, that’s fine with me. I would rather gradually infiltrate the web with content that lurks in the search engines and attracts occasional visitors serendipitously at various entry points.

Given that the virus has forced OCA to go digital for assignments and final assessments, I might have to create another, more easily navigable, smaller and simpler site purely for assessment purposes: I might even have to do it on WordPress. If that is the case, so be it, but I intend to continue building a single labyrinthine site covering the whole of my degree.

Regarding the brevity of the submission text ( “missing … a deeper expiration of exactly WHY”, “You need to expand on what you mean here“) this is simply because there is a limit of 300 words. I like the idea of creating a magazine on self-portraiture but cannot promise not to keep the production in-house. (The workers should, in my view, control the means of production.) However, I will engage with the Newspaper Club to take advantage of their software.