Surfaces & Strategies Reflections – Grades – Where To, Now?

mickyatesAftermath, Cambodia, Coursework, Critical Research Journal, Dark Tourism, Documentary, Ideas, Photography, Practice, Project Development, Reflections, SSWeek12, SurfacesStrategies, Work in Progress 6 Comments

Just got the Surfaces & Strategies results – and although the overall result (70.6%) is remarkably consistent with Positions & Practice (70.8%), the internals are different – and more balanced across the range of the assignments. I am particularly pleased that my WIP was better regarded than last time, as it is moving forward from the more traditional documentary approaches that I started with.

Feedback covers the S&S Oral Presentation, Work in Progress and this Critical Research Journal.

Gary warned in todays ‘wrap-up’ webinar that we shouldn’t compare modules directly, rather that one is cricket and one is football. However, as we are here to improve our photography overall, I think it’s natural to compare, more like two different football teams 🙂

He also noted that the module average was 64%, which is merit level, and a strong overall result. The feedback (and marks) came via Gary with input from Cemre and another tutor, all involving Jesse. In the webinar, the point was also made that this module, like the other 3 ‘carousel (initial) modules are really more circling around each other than linear in theme and learning.

It is still worth going back to the main resolutions I made after the P&P feedback:

  1. Spend more time taking photographs and less researching and writing. Lots of ‘mini-projects’ between Cambodia trips.
  2. Pay more attention to what my Practice is and what I want it to become. That’s where research will help.
  3. Explore new ways to present my work.
  4. Engage in more open-ended conversations with tutors and peers alike, to explore new directions.
  5. All in all, a great use of Beginner’s Mind.

I think I am happy that I did indeed follow through on all of these, and it shows in the work (and feedback).

So, what do I take from the S&S comments? I think the overall heading should be something like:

Be slower, more deliberate in making intimate images in situ – building engagement, developing meaning and exploring traces across time

Looking at the comments of the module, first the CRJ. This was well regarded for its reflections and completeness, noting that I do know how to research, reflect and write. However some of the posts could do with being tighter and more succinct. I should also consider reducing the images size …

And looking to the future, whilst this is clearly a resource for me, do I also want it as a student resource for others, in some form?

A thought provoker:

‘You have also looked at quite a lot of and covered practitioners from different eras; from Roger Fenton to Adam Broomberg or Lukas Birk. By doing so you tried to understand their work in order to develop your own conceptual understanding. Such research is yet to rub off fully onto your chosen apparatus but give it time and it might’.

The Oral Presentation was considered strong. If I am honest, I would expect that, as the Cambodia project has much going for it, and I think my practice has really started to explore new avenues in S&S. It was good to include film and the critical frameworks of ‘dark tourism’ and ‘aftermath’, though the latter could be more purposefully included in such presentations. Going forward, I do need to decide exactly what (or who) this project is about – certainly by the FMP – though I think I do need to keep pushing and exploring new ways of telling the stories.

A key thought:

‘Overall, such a direction is a good one but as you know is riddled with issues of post-truth that is arguably still a very current and relevant problem. Perhaps your work can contribute to a resolution?’

For the Work in Progress, I presented something relatively experimental, and it was well-received, telling a story with traces rather than traditional documentary images. The blending of work with the Landings (digital negatives) also shows promise, though needs real scale to build impact and understanding. It is clear though that my imagery is not where it can grow to – technically it may be rushed and not edited well enough (very fair critique).

‘Overall, this module helped you to shift your practice into a more conceptual approach and helped you to problematize your own voice as being somewhere between documentary photography and fiction through personal story telling. Moving forward, be sure not to get lost amongst the materials you want to include’.

The most telling comments were that the images in the WIP:

‘ … appear more as brief documents rather than contemplative works and this is perhaps due to how they are produced. As you know, different mediums have a different ‘feel’ and the images here resonate more with the duration found in images accompanying serious reports. … Part of the problem may also be that the equipment is too precise, too sharp – dare it be said – too rational. This is not to peddle anachronistic aesthetic tricks such as vignettes or soft focus (often applied in post-production), but rather to consider the in-situ apparatus you use in relation to the time, space and place in which you are (re)connecting’.


‘This is still a work in progress and there is always more to do in terms of developing your skills with colour management, cropping and editing a portfolio. Discernment regarding these aspects are however most in need of further refinement and perhaps even re-evaluation. Why for instance must the colour be as we would encounter it; why can’t it be as we might remember it?’

Gary and the other tutors helpfully provided some links and books to consider throughout the feedback.

Overall, I find this feedback really helpful, and much food for thought. I would also be really remiss if I didn’t once again mention Ashley, Danny & Gem as being especially helpful in pushing my work along and making me think. Onward and upward!

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