Response to Tutor Feedback for Assignment 5

I had a helpful hangout with my tutor about the work for assignment 5.

He was happy with my research and input into the exercises.

We spent most of the time discussing assignment 5. His main comment / criticism was that I had not explained why I had made the video, what precipitated making it and how I felt about it.  He, like me, thought it was a little long but agreed that this was probably unavoidable. He suggested that I alter the beginning and the end of the video to to give a more personal connection to it, possibly including images of the piles of photos that I was faced with! I am working on this at present. I also need to think of a title.

My tutor also suggested that I should look at references to use of archives within the work up of the video. He gave me 3 helpful references which I have looked at; Michael Abrams – Welcome to SpringfieldDaniel Meadows – Digital Stories and Jim Goldberg – Gene. I have managed to find 2 other photographers that have used family archives in their work; Alexia Webster – Tracing Lives and  Catherine Panebianco .

We then discussed the assessment process and he gave advice about keeping everything concise and making a clear reflection/ artists statement.

With thanks to Chris for his helpful input over the extended time of IAP.

Michael Abrams – Welcome to Springfield

Michael Abrams book Welcome to Springfield uses collected photographs, vernacular images , to tell the story of a fictional place in America.The images look as though they come from a family album (and probably do) – just not the album of one family, black and white, colour, full bleed and small inserts. Images of wallpaper (I think). Some people look happy, others terrifying.  Pictures of rooms are followed by a woman in a red basque, looking out at us seductively. The book can be viewed on vimeo at  Colberg (Colberg, s.d.) describes it as showing ‘the good American life, where the states of undress and awkward are never that far’. Like many books it is now on my reading/viewing list!

© Michael Abrams – from Welcome to Springfield


Colberg (s.d.) Conscientious | Review: Welcome to Springfield by Michael Abrams. At: (Accessed 10/09/2020).

Daniel Meadows – Digital Stories

I have looked at Daniel Meadows work before – see Daniel Meadows – however had not come across his digital stories. Meadows has produced three short videos based on pictures from his family albums which he describes as ‘First-person scripted stories about the families I come from. Pictures and voice-over, told with feeling’ (Meadows, s.d.). In each he shows images with voice over to tell the story. They are short, funny, and engaging.

Polyfoto uses polyfotos (48 small square images in sepia) of his mother and father, to enable him to tell how his parents met, and his mother’s illness.  Scissors was made as a training video to show what could be done with pictures, transitions, and crossovers. The voiceover is accompanied by subtitles. The story leaves you wondering what happened. Young Shavers tells about his grandfather. The words of Meadows are played against a background of someone singing. The images bounce in and out.  New (or at least newer) images of Meadows as a child overlaid on images from his grandmother’s photo albums of her time in India in the Raj.

All three videos use different techniques for using archival family images to tell a short story.  I wish I had seen them before I made one. However, they will be useful for further exploration of video making and for adding in the personalising beginning and end of mine.


Meadows, D. (s.d.) Digital Stories on Vimeo. At: (Accessed 10/09/2020).

Jim Goldberg – Gene

In Gene Goldberg tells the story of an elderly man who has gone into an assisted living facility. The book includes many of Gene’s old family photos, often surrounded by handwritten comments. The pictures were selected by Gene together with Goldberg and Nolan Calish, and one of the images simply shows piles of images marked GENE’S REJECTS and JIM + NOLAN’S REJECTS.  I immediately start wondering what is in those piles, and what is not being shown. The book goes on to show Gene as he is now, at his chair in the home. The calendar that shows the events he might (or might not) attend. Pictures of Gene with headphones – listening to I music – I wonder what. Goldberg says, ‘He goes somewhere else when he listens to music – a luminal state that knows no age and is timeless’(Goldberg, 2018) . The images that I can see online are limited.  They make me want to see more – but most of all, I want to see those hidden images in the rejects pile. See the rest of the story.

© Jim Goldberg – from Gene


Goldberg (2018) Jim Goldberg’s New Book is a Tender Portrait of Old Age • Magnum Photos. At: (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Catherine Panebianco

Courtesy of the artist – from the series No Memory is Ever Alone – © Catherine Panebianco

Catherine Panebianco is a visual artist who uses her images to show memories and dreams. Connecting the present and the past. Looking at memory and grief. Searching for herself.

Catherine Panebianco’s latest series No Memory Is Ever Alone consists of reusing a series of slides taken by her father and putting them against her current environment to ‘create …not only a connection between his life and mine, but a trail of memories’ (Panebianco, s.d.). She did this by carefully exploring her own environment, her own place, and finding locations that matched her father’s slides. She says, ‘I placed my dad’s slides in my current environment (my house, yard, city). I wanted the past memory placed inside a current memory. So no, I did not go back to the original place. I looked for backgrounds that would seamless blend as much as possible in my current environment with the slide’ (Panebianco, 2020) (personal communication). The present images show her hand, holding the old slide against a new background. The matches are subtle, accurate to the point I cross checked with her to see if she had returned to the original setting.  The images are vibrant, the colours match those of the old Kodachrome slides, everything is hyper real. Her previous work Benny was a Good Boy tells of her memories of her dog and her sorrow in losing him. These images are shown as diptychs, an image of her (or a shadow of her) against one of Benny.  She says ‘I found that you never really lose something, you always have the memories’. In this series the black and white images are hazy, full of grain, echoing loss, grief, and memory.  Other work – The Whole Body of Things explores her search for a sense of belonging, an emotional home.

Courtesy of the artist – from the series Benny was a Good Dog – © Catherine Panebianco


Panebianco, C. (2020) No Memory is ever alone. [30/08/2020].

Panebianco, C. (s.d.) catherine panebianco. At: (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Alexia Webster – Tracing Lives

Alexia Webster is a South African photographer who usually specialises in documentary images, telling the stories of communities and families through portraits of the people. During lockdown she found herself, not at her own home in New York but in Johannesburg, her childhood home. She talks about this time in a fascinating article for the Guardian saying, ‘Suddenly I was forced to sit still. I felt a familiar unsettledness, similar to the anxious uncertainty of my early childhood growing up during apartheid’ (Webster, 2020). So she spent the time interviewing her parents about their early lives and searching though ‘giant, chaotic, dusty piles of family photos’. Out of that she has made a work Tracing Lives which she describes as ‘an incomplete portrait of my parents…. a small glimpse into the quiet violences and small triumphs of life’. This series includes early images from portrait studios of her parents and grandparents, her story of her parents’ early lives, and images where she has overlaid old images to give a ghost like effect. It ends with a looped video of two people, I presume her parents, dancing, fading in and out – just as their memories do.

The article and the images are fascinating, both as a different way of using old family images and for the story she tells. It tells about apartheid. About family traumas.  About moments of joy. It is well worth reading.


Webster, A. (2020) ‘Tracing lives: a visual response to coronavirus’ In: The Guardian 26/06/2020 At: (Accessed 30/08/2020).

Further Reflection on Assignment 5 with Added Book – My Mother’s Story

Following completion of my first run through of assignment 5 I put it up for comments in the IAP group. Most were positive however there were some suggestions:

  • “I found myself rather confused in the middle. This doesn’t reflect anyway on the presentation which I found very moving so maybe this isn’t the right place. However, what was lacking for me were dates…. Do the facts matter for it as a piece of art? They mattered to me because I felt the confusion distracted me away from the flow.”
    • Added dates (where I know them) to the images.  Sometimes these were inevitably my best estimate – partly because she gave different years for the same event on different retellings.
      • Comment back – “Completely different! For me, a hundred times better as it’s completely clear”
    • “I don’t know how you’re fixed for time, inclination etc but adding a book (as has been suggested) would, in my view, be a real complement to the work. There’s a benefit to doing this that hasn’t been mentioned … that of longevity. The work as it stands – ie in electronic format – wouldn’t necessarily survive as a family heirloom, (assuming you’d like it to be one) and whilst not guaranteed, a book might. Whether or not this extra step would translate into marks I’ve no idea … but it might in terms of presentation and show consideration of an audience beyond the academic?”
      • Made a book out of the video, with some extra images and a little more text culled from my mother’s recorded words. For some of the pages I changed the image as I have had yet another sort through her archives and bits and pieces and found a better image or a more interesting keepsake. I may well change these in the video. The book, at present remains in a pdf format so it can be seen online. If the OCA was taking non-digital items, I would make it up. I am considering whether to make it a hand produced copy, so only one (or a very limited-edition number) or made via blurb or similar so I can send copies to all my family.
    • “I guess my only niggle is that I really wanted to study the letters and forms to read the language, but they vanished too quickly! In an ideal world, if this could be some sort of slide show that the user could be in control of moving forward when ready, that would solve the problem.”
      • Agreed that this is an issue. It would be fixed in a slideshow – but difficult to do in a video without adding in long pauses. Hopefully  dealt with this by making a book where you can study the forms and letters for as long as you like.

Overall, the feedback was very helpful, both in terms of suggestions for taking the project forward and in improving my confidence about it. I remain concerned about the length of the video (and even more so of the book). It is impossible to tell the story without it being long – however the length does fall outside the project brief. There were some comments about the length  – “I certainly don’t think the video is too long, it held my attention throughout, and by the end I felt as though I had accompanied your mother on her journey.”

The book – in pdf format – so you have to imagine the pages side by side. The words on the left page and the matching picture on the right side. To see it in a larger format the pdf can be downloaded. This embedded pdf works on a desktop but does not work on tablets!

Cover for book
My Mother’s Story

For those who are using iPads, or want to download directly, here is a link

Cover of book:

Main Story:

Assessment – Learning Outcome 4

Learning outcome 4 is about reflection on your own work and that of others.

I have put my last assignment to our IAP group for comments and received some very helpful feedback which has led me to making a book to add to the project:

Futher Reflection on Assignment 5 with Added Book – My Mother’s Story

I have put together an extended reflection on my tutor’s report on Assignment 2, complied from several different blog posts:

Reflections on Tutor feedback for assignment 2

Because of lockdown – all recent museum visits have been virtual. The MoMA exhibition on Dorothea Lange is one I enjoyed (and would never have seen in the flesh).

Dorothea Lange – MoMA Exhibition

I attended a very interesting virtual study event on another students final work on London’s Hottest Postcode

Study visit – London’s Hottest Postcode

I also have spent time looking in detail at other photographers work, an example is: David Favrod

Reflections on Tutor Feedback for Assignment 2

The objective of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the themes covered in Part Two with regard to the use of both studio and location for the creation of portraits.

This assignment is about taking what has worked from the above exercises and then trying to develop this further in terms of interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio).

You need to develop a series of five final images to present to the viewer as a themed body of work. Pay close attention to the look and feel of each image and think of how they will work together as a series. The theme is up to you to choose; you could take a series of images of a single subject or a series of subjects in a themed environment. There is no right answer, so experiment.

I initially looked at three possibilities:

  • Taking pictures outside in a ‘made-up’ studio of an autistic teenager I know
  • Taking pictures indoors with flash of an autistic couple and their baby
  • Taking a set of pictures of a friend in his garden (I eventually used these for one of the exercises)

The work with the autistic teenager was fraught with difficulties. The weather did not oblige (well, this is Scotland), he was ill, then his mother was. I eventually only managed to get one photo session with him. In that session I attempted to direct him, and the other people involved, getting them to stand and sit in the positions I wanted. This was only partially successful as Sam, while trying to be helpful, did not really understand what I wanted. This made for a slightly uncomfortable session even though Sam that Sam knows me well and usually enjoys being photographed.

In the session with the family I tried a totally different approach. I explained what I was doing then we simply had a conversation about their lives while I intermittently took photographs of them sitting and relaxing or playing with and feeding their baby. This gave a much more relaxed feel to the whole event.

In spite of this, because it seemed to fit better with the brief, I submitted the work with Sam for assignment 2.

See Assignment 2 – Vice versa for the initial assignment trial.

I had a formal and helpful review from my tutor, His comments are in blue, my initial response in black

  • From a photographic perspective it’s obvious, and as stated by yourself, that you encountered problems directing Sam. We discussed the notion of authorship and directing subjects as part of the previous assignment. Regarding your visual strategy, working outside with ambient light and a backdrop is appropriate, it’s clear that you have considered an external studio set-up. The backdrop and obviously Sam suggest a series but I feel that your differing camera angles breaks up the coherency. It’s quite difficult to offer a critique here upon your relationship as photographer and taking control. Clearly Sam hasn’t the cognitive skills to recognize and take direction. This is demonstrated within your images and it’s hard to be critical of your input. However, (taking sentiment out) I do feel that better planning and a more considered use of the set-up would have resulted in a more consistent series of images. I think that this also applies to your inclusion of Sam’s friends. I actually think that there is something interesting behind the dynamics of their relationship and how this could develop as a series of portraits. Maybe this is something that you could have considered further, almost like a collaborative project. I feel at the moment the images are too passive and lack a connection between you, the subjects and the viewer
    • I totally agree with this. I ended up taking the images in a rush, partly because of the endless delays on the shoot due to illness and weather, partly because Sam was clearly getting bored. I had planned on trying to redo them, but again this was delayed and then became impossible
  • I know it isn’t your assignment submission but I feel that the project you also worked upon with the autistic couple and baby is really interesting and shows great potential. I’m not sure how much you have shot (70?) and you decided against inclusion as assignment due to the studio brief but personally I find these images (potentially as I can only see 12) stronger and more engaging. They feel like they are born out of a more collaborative process and less intrusive, there is empathy but also distance and rawness to the images
    • I also felt that these images were stronger, I had a good, but not too close, relationship with the family. I didn’t use them initially in the assignment as I was trying to keep to the ‘studio’ part of the brief. I will have another look at them and work them up as a set.

Since my initial response I have spent some time thinking about the assignment and reflecting on it. I have become aware that I got stuck on one idea that seemed to fulfil the brief, while being more creative (and patient/relaxed) while taking the images of Sam and his family and friends would have given a much more engaged series.  Sam is usually easy to work with, I suspect my nerves (because I was aware that I was running out of time) rubbed off on him and made him both pull silly faces and lose his normal air of engagement. This work is something I want to try again, and I think it would be helpful to do over several sessions without the implied pressure of it ‘being for an assignment’.  I want to work long term with taking images of people with autism, so this is a skill I need to improve.

Following this I went back to the images of the family and their baby and reanalysed them. They were (as he suggested) a much ‘better’ set of images. They told a story. I had managed to get some very revealing pictures of their close relationship with the baby without being overly intrusive.  The research I had done about people with disabilities was relevant to both sets of images. This was much more the type of work I want to do, seeing people in their own environments, letting them tell their own story.

See  Assignment 2 – Anything You Can Do for the redone assignment

Learning points:

  • Do not get stuck with your first idea if it simply is not working
  • Be prepared to start again or completely change tack
  • Controlling the shoot and using a made-up studio might work in some situations – but this needs careful thinking about to get consistency of the images
  • If possible give yourself time for repeated shoots
  • If you are using a ‘studio’ set up, do not make it too complicated
    • In these images of Sam and friends the background overwhelmed the people
  • Try and be relaxed (then your subjects are more likely to relax themselves)

This was an extremely helpful feedback report and one I will try to carry forward as I felt I learnt considerably by redoing the assignment from a different angle.

Assessment – Learning outcome 3

LO 3 is about developing a critical understanding of contemporary practice and its place in relativity to the historical use of photography.

In IAP there are a lot of new concepts and ideas. These all needed to be researched. Some examples of this research are:

  1. Research about essays that introduce the concepts:
    1. Bates – The Memory of Photography – talks about the use of archives, the way photographs effect our memory of things and the way the present plethora of digital images alter the way family memories are held.
  2. Research of a range of photographers who worked on a particular topic:
    1. Journeys – 1 and Journeys – 2 – between them they show the work of photographers who have taken journeys, from the very earliest Victorian photographers to the most recent.
  3. Research specifically for an assignment:
    1. In Research for Assignment 3 I looked at the ways you can present a story and several different photographers, attempting to pull out what made their work successful.
  4. Research on a specific photographer:
    1. Laura Letinsky
    2. Deborah Orloff

A Learning Log by Zoe