A1.BoW: tutor feedback

A belated update to my blog on my tutor’s feedback from the diagnostic assignment 1. A pdf is linked below. This feedback was on work made earlier in the year and while I’ve made some progress on the contextual studies aspect of the course, I’ve since had little time for making photographs.

I make notes on the feedback now, as I see it within the current context of my work:

  • The canal (water) as a connecting theme remains important. I’m now exploring ways of seeing it through the lens of cultural geography; how different users of the canal attach meanings to it. Overlaying this, through my more recent research, is how ways of seeing might be influenced by the traditional geography binaries of city / country.
  • The sense of making-do and improvisation in areas relative poverty is one aspect I intend to explore further. Including subcultures that kick against the hegemonic representation of the canal (presented by the Canal & River Trust).
  • Lost skills and new skills around the de-industrialised canal is another aspect I intend to explore – people and their interaction with space to forge meanings.
  • I have a long-standing interest in contemplative photography – in my research there is a theme of ideologies and binary interpretations of space hindering the process of seeing and understanding. There may be some connection between a contemplative approach and the unravelling of habitual binary thinking.

Some useful suggestions for further research were offered, including the idea of film-works and incorporating sound into my own work. These are noted in the feedback, which I’ll follow up on later.


A1.BoW: Diagnostic assignment for tutor feedback


The brief for this assignment is to make some experimental images that are broadly focused – to discover something about the chosen theme and arrive at some ideas to try next.

The idea for my work is to follow the 29 mile canal route from Skipton to Leeds as a journey to discover the people and places along it. The route is shown here. For my preliminary meeting with my tutor, I prepared notes on my thoughts for the project.

For the diagnostic, I agreed that I would work through a large number of images with my tutor, rather than refine too far before her input – to allow a broader discussion about initial ideas. The images were discussed by using LR in screen-share. I write this post after our meeting but it reflects the chronology of the work done.


I was keen to do a number of shoots to become more familiar with the canal and the range of places it passes through. I chose 4 different departure points for walks of several hours, that would take in the urban and rural aspects of the canal, including Skipton at one end and Leeds at the other.

I travelled light with a mirrorless camera, wide and standard prime lenses, spare batteries and cleaning kit (and a flask of tea and snacks). All carried in a black backpack. I mostly prefer to remain inconspicuous and mobile when making this kind of work.

Contact sheets, including notes against each image are here. The final selection of images below, reflects my thinking after the discussion I had with my tutor – this seemed a better way to work for the purposes of a diagnostic.

The images

click to view in lightbox


Image 1 of 21


A different kind of reflection is needed on experimental work that is not intended as a realised piece. I someways it is more difficult; reflecting upon something that is only just beginning to take form and could well morph into something completely different in due course. So I reflect more on the journey than the outcome here. I’ll include my intended next steps along with my tutor’s feedback that will be recorded separately.

I’ve located my work in the genre of psychogeography – concerned with the feeling and atmosphere of a place and have summarised my thoughts on part 1 of the BoW course here. Exercises can be for the course work can be found here. I have an interest in also making images of people and their interaction with the environment. However, this aspect proved problematic during assignment 1:

  • The stretch of water I’m dealing with is mostly without people (apart from lycra wearing cyclists and runners). This surprised me, but it was a mistake to understand it in the same way as canals in major cities (eg Amsterdam or London) – it was built like an industrial-age motorway for the purposes of trading goods, not transporting people. It passes through the backs / hidden places in towns (canals were built on the cheapest land) and ways of gaining access to the canal are limited (similar to a motorway).
  • Engaging people will require a formal approach of locating and targeting specific groups of interest. Not something that can be achieved during a ‘just go out and make photos without overthinking’ assignment.

Technical and visual skills – I think the photos are well executed as straight digital images. However, as I mentioned at the outset of the course, I’m interested in also making work that is tactile. This is a strand that I now need to work on alongside developing ideas for work further.

Quality of outcome – I’m not sure that this is easy to apply to an experimental assignment. I do feel like I’ve got a lot of value from the work in terms of potential directions that will be noted in the post for tutor feedback.

Demonstration of creativity – I feel that I’m very much still forming ideas at this stage of the work.

Context – good progress in the learning log – see here. In particular I’ve been reading about modernity and the postmodern and grounding myself in an overview of philosophical thinkers (frequently referred to in critical review without further explanation). There maybe parallels in the theory to the visual work: the bland disposable housing that is being built along the canal banks in the ‘information age’ in contrast to crumbling, but still standing buildings of the industrial age – showing strength of purpose in their design. While I’ve photographed many of the new buildings, I’ve not selected them. They have little visual appeal and feel more like ‘information’. Or perhaps I’m already guilty of ‘nostalgia’ for a time I did not even know? It is now time to press ahead with the contextual studies work, having put feelers out for the direction of this project.