A2.BoW: tutor feedback

The feedback on this assignment was useful and thought provoking and has resulted in a change from a conceptually oriented work towards a more poetic direction, which I’ll discuss in my self-reflection.

I felt that this assignment was almost like a restart on BoW after so long away from making images and in the meantime, while working on CS, my thinking about the canal has been heavily conceptual and textual. I’d used the assignment to try out an idea and kick back into BoW. However, a criticism was that the concept didn’t feel sufficiently substantial and clear to support a full project and that I hadn’t treated the assignment as a staging post in developing a BoW but more as trying out a discrete idea (perhaps like the assignments in L2).

While there was encouraging feedback on some of the images, a stumbling block was the concept of showing the banal as a counterpoint to the picturesque. This was considered too binary and also that it is likely a mute point on which side of the divide individual images would sit. I can see this, now I’ve let go of my attachment to the concept. I think this a risk when spending time thinking conceptually – it often needs a flexible interpretation in practice. I’m reminded that one can’t improvise on a musical instrument by simply using scales – there is a pushing of theory to the subconscious and creation of something spontaneous.

My tutor had some useful suggestions in approach a rethink of direction:

  • Consider what draws me to the canal personally and what makes it distinctive from the places around it. What aspect enthuses me?
  • Consider whether it is really about a specific stretch of waterway or something more universal.
  • Suggested making some small (cheap) prints of possible images and exploring how they might work together / inform further shooting. Also making larger / quality prints of key images.

Some ideas for contextual research were recommended; some writings of Walter Benjamin and other photographers working with waterways (Alec Soth, Frank Watson and Nadav Kandar).

While the assignment itself may not have jump started my staggering project, the dialogue around it has. As in so many things, it is the journey or working through a process that help understanding.

A2.BoW: The same place, a different perspective

Assignment two of B0W comes an eternity after A1 – last year a business project made it near impossible for me to visit the canal. This year, the first few months were a washout then, as I was about to restart, Covid-19 lockdown. It’s not all been wasted time, as I’ve completed the contextual studies module and have my final tutorial tomorrow. This has filled my head with ideas for taking the BoW forward, which is what A2 is about.

This assignment submission includes, seven composite images, a draft artist’s statement and self-reflection.

The images

Click to view images in full screen

A2 -1

Image 1 of 7

Artist statement (v1)

The same place, a different perspective

The canal was quieter than I’d imagined, short of people. They’d sometimes jog by in go-faster lycra or race past with bell-less bicycles, claiming towpath territory with their speed and metal. Those on boats are in private spaces, floating living rooms or holiday homes; a space where gongoozlers are suspected as if  strangers lurking in front gardens. But the 200 year old waterway carries signs of culture as it joins people, places  and times along its watery flow. De-industrialisation and ruins, relics of the UK as the ‘workshop of the world’ preserved as heritage, the signs of making-do in an absent “knowledge economy”; the sprawl of bland mass development bloating the commuter belt. Most visible of all, is the normalisation and regulation of the canal as a place of leisure.

In my photographs, I have used a series of pictures-in-pictures to disturb linear perspectives of space and to consider how the canal is shaped and contested through culture. The photographs are not objective, they contain exaggerated elements that counter popular (mis)representations of the canal as a pastoral leisure space.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (30%)

Use of PS techniques to isolate image elements by adding contrast and intensifying colours – particularly to the non-picturesque images. Use of PS techniques to exaggerate the picturesque in the pastoral-like images, including bringing out reflections in water.

Use of picture-in-picture design to break linear perspective (what I’d referred to as the ‘tyranny of linear perspective’ in my dissertation) and draw out conflicting narratives in the landscape. Attention to design layout to ensure consistency across image series.

Quality of outcome – content , application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%)

This assignment is a stage in BoW, therefore a work in progress. I’m happy with how I’m starting to visually interpret the concepts explored in my dissertation. Presentation is only images on a blog at this stage, but I’m also printing the work so I can begin to think about presentation as the work evolves.

Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (30%)

While away from working on the canal, I’ve been making images with an iPhone and manipulating them with apps. This has acted as a point of departure from straight photography towards using it to express an interpretation of subjects without being overly mindful of the referent. I’m embracing the possibility of photography’s creation of a ‘new and distinct reality’.

Context – reflection, research, critical thinking (20%)

Much detailed research and contextual thinking has been a part of my dissertation work (final draft emailed separately to BoW tutor). I’m now beginning to assimilate that into the visual and package some of it into a brief artist’s statement.