A4 Tutor feedback and response

Overall Comments

Congratulations on having written your first essay for many years, Janet! You’ve done a good job in research, writing, and structuring the piece. As discussed, all the main points are there – but it would be stronger overall with some reworking and tightening up. In our conversation you voiced a concern that perhaps you had been too descriptive and not analytical enough; while I’m inclined to agree, I think the main points are there but a little submerged in some unnecessary repetition. The tweaks we discussed will all go a long way towards making this a more analytical piece, e.g.:

  • asking questions rather than being purely descriptive (early on);
  • using quotes to strengthen a particular viewpoint (rather than just as a shortcut to making that point)
  • discussing the specific power of photography itself in terms of “freezing” time, and also in paradoxically conjuring up images of what is not there (the image you’ve chosen makes a terrific example).

Overall this is a well-written piece, and you have interwoven the suggested reading/viewing very elegantly. (A tough call for a short essay!) I look forward to seeing your second draft, and will provide feedback by email.

N.B. When preparing your final draft for assessment, make sure each page is numbered and includes your name, course & student no. The submission for formal assessment will be in my blog. maybe I need to print it as well? Will check with my tutor.

 Feedback on Essay

  • I attach my annotated copy of your first draft, as discussed in our conversation.
  • Important: You seem to be expressing an overarching interest – across this course as a whole – in concepts linked to the passing of time, e.g. nostalgia, memory, absence… (also imagination). While this is a glaringly obvious theme in the photograph, it is rather tucked away in the essay and needs to be made more of, especially as the research should be relevant to your practice, too. I would recommend the essay Fire and Ice by Peter Wollen (it’s old now but a classic), particularly for the description of photography’s special power to “freeze time”. An interesting and helpful essay.
  • Try restructuring the essay slightly in the ways we discussed and reworking the summary/conclusion, which should relate directly to the introduction (rather than making some new points and then stopping).
  • Test: Read the intro followed immediately by the summary – does it make sense even without the main body of the essay? A useful tip I have utilised in the reworking of the essay.
  • Use the final paragraph to wrap up the main points of your essay – how the photographer’s style lends itself to this reading of the image; the themes of universality and familiarity that draw you in; the poignancy of the implied absence (‘late’ photography); the passing of time and the opposing states of permanence and transience. (These are all points you have raised which just need to be slightly better organised.)


In your notes on Liz Jobey’s essay, Diane Arbus: A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C. (1966), you ask whether the photographer can ever get inside the mind of the subject. An interesting question, potentially, which you might have conducted some independent research into? Diane Arbus wrote very eloquently about her subjects firth-hand and the writing is in places both revealing and thought-provoking. (I can point you towards some good examples if needed.) I mention this here just as an example of how the coursework can be used as a launch-pad for you to delve deeper… Really helpful pointer. Thank you! I have discovered the book “An Aperture Monograph” by Arbus. 


You’ve assimilated some of your research (Barthes & Company) into the essay to good effect on the whole. I feel your learning log needs to reflect your research more… it doesn’t do you justice at the moment and there should definitely be more in the way of independent reflective writing and note-taking. This is to make the log work for you as a growing reference tool, and also for assessors to gauge your level of engagement… Understood, more work needed here.
Bibliography: I do only list the books that relate to projects and assignments, where I have referenced them.

Learning Log

  • As above… Listing the books you’ve read, as a bibliography, is not enough. (We’ve discussed note-taking I think?)
  • Horizontal menu working well but there’s that slight issue with the right-hand menu needing to be hidden if possible, as it’s causing confusion with your previous work. Actioned.
  • Exhibitions & Study Visits: Please only include visits you’ve been on during this course. Amended.
  • Research of Photographers: Could this be broken down into separate entries? Reflection could be more critical & in-depth. I plan to review and do more work on my research in time for formal assessment. 

Suggested reading/viewing

Green, David and Lowry, Joanna, From Presence to Per formative: Rethinking Photographic Indexicality, in Green, David (ed.), Where Is the Photograph, Photoforum, 2003. This is something I intend to read into in more detail – initial thoughts are that it refers to the moment the photograph was taken, photographs are therefore imprints…
Wollen, Peter, ‘Fire and Ice’ in Wells, Liz (ed.), The Photography Reader, London and New York: Routledge, 2003, pp. 76-80. (Check for online availability) I found this essay in a book I have, The Photography Reader edited by Liz Wells. Having now read it – it was a relatively easy read (compared with some essays in the book) – I found it a very valuable source for the course, particularly in relation to the passing of time and memory.