A4 Tutor feedback and response

assign 4 feedback pdf

Overall Comments
This is authentic documentary work. You’re searching for character and mood in the social condition of Barrow Island. It’s bleak but it communicates an idea of social degradation and the plight of working people. You’ve shown a lot of commitment here; this looks like the work of a mature observer of human life. Pleased to read that I am progressing well in this area – observing human behaviour and life in general. As previously mentioned this is something I wish to pursue and develop further.
Some of this work reminds me of pictures of post-war Britain in its compositions of people in relation to the environment. But you’ve also been skillful in your framings to avoid too many people or cars. My aim was to portray the disconnect. The social environment of Barrow Island is far removed from that in nearby Barrow town.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Your opening shot, as you call it, sets a scene. I took on board previous feedback, by setting the scene I am providing a context to my images. It conflates visual symbols into a social narrative: barbed wire, fences, industry, dark waste ground and cold looking houses. It looks like there are too many demarcated areas for freedom to flourish.

In many ways this is a classic cinematic social documentary shot. The man is at the same time dwarfed and excluded from industry (= work). Strong use of framing and composition to communicate the idea clearly.


Really pleased with this photo. My intent was to convey different layers of meaning: insignificant person set huge industry backdrop, redundancy, pushing against the boundaries, the factory is/was the nucleus of the town….. 

These lads don’t necessarily look like they are working, but what it does look like is that their conversation is very serious. This picture makes it clear you wanted a high contrast, vivid colour look to this series – something that goes against the cliché of a grainy black & white rendering. That was a good decision. There’s something sharp about the colours and you’ve managed to organize them well in the frame. I chose to use colour in contrast to the familiar black and white images found in my research.

                 3      San Fran dock workers 1901
This long shot of a group of children in the street is really good. You were exceptionally lucky to get a street without cars! One of the reasons I took the shot was because this was Saturday afternoon, the streets were eerily deserted. It’s nicely framed because you manage to capture the sense of place which is quite grim and that is contradicted by the kids.
This looks like America to me. It’s bleak. It’s also really well organized within the frame. The eyes wander easily around picking up information: the discarded chair, the worn tarmac, the red brick building, the pink child running; all this builds a sense of urban desolation.
There’s something funny about this. He’s in a very unconducive place for a swim but it looks like he’s going to jump in anyway! It’s a fish out of the water picture; the subject looks so out of place it transforms out reading of the space. An emotive image – for me it evokes sadness.
I like this a lot because to me it speaks of a time gone by – a time which died in England in the 1980’s. This is the good neighbour who goes out in her dressing gown because it’s ‘her’ street and her street is her home.

7I think you could lighten the satellite dishes a touch just to emphasize them. I tried it here with the Curves tool. I think what it does is introduce the ‘problem’ of social alienation caused by too much TV. Yes, and the contrast here is that this woman is being sociable!
Again a nice social detail, with this woman looking out at you from her window. There is plenty of environmental information: the crumbling bricks and railings; the woman provides a ‘centre’ for the picture.
It looks a bit slanted left, maybe you should see what you can do in Photoshop’s Lens Correction Filter to get it looking a little less skewed.

8       3
The tenement blocks are grim reminders of the past and they have a powerful visual presence, dwarfing the man with his dog.
Schooner Street looks like it didn’t make it through the recession and this photo of a closed down and barricaded hairdressers emphasizes the point. Good choice of what to frame and how.
Denise’s looks like it’s holding on all right but times are certainly not rosy! It’s a good street detail. I think I miss the human element here which gives a ‘centre’ to many of the other photos. I purposefully chose to show the image absent of human presence – closed shop.
Lighten up the path a touch so we can see the dog better. This is a grim picture that tells a story of a corporate relationship with the community. The fences are very strange, make-shift looking things. Strong sense of place here, well composed with that wonderful human centre.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Your text is good and quite honest. Your images are expressive of a place of economic hardship but with a tight-knit community. You clearly know something about this community and looked at photos from the 1950’s – which I think deeply influenced your work. For the good of it. For research, I looked at Bert Hardy, Nicholas Battye and Julian Germain in particular.

I have a tendency to over-saturate colour in my images. For my final submission I have decided to take the colour back down thus portraying a more representational view. I have also printed the twelve images and will be submitting these for formal assessment.

Suggested reading/viewing
You may want to have a look at Jean-Marc Bustamante’s photographs. It’s interesting and unpretentious. Maybe a take on urbanization that will refresh your view. I have looked at the work of this photographer and noted the absence of people and lifestyle in his images, more the progression of buildings and landscapes to accommodate people.


A4 Submission to tutor

Barrow Island, Cumbria

The twelve images I would send to the magazine editor.


My opening shot: The juxtaposition of soft focus and sunlit windows of the houses against the harsh barrier of the barbed wire fence creates visual tension. My intention here is to convey the conflict of residents remaining in their homes, in their town, regardless of the hardship and steep decline in employment.



I captured this young lad leaning against the wall in the empty street under the nuclear sign. Afterwards I approached him and he told me he used to work “here” but the jobs are long gone.



Some of the luckier lads on their lunch break.



This shot captures the spirit of the children of Barrow Island – innocent, playful and divorced from the real world.



The eye is immediately drawn to the discarded chair in this back alley, conveying a sense of deprivation. Bright blue fencing draws attention to the fact that beyond is strictly out-of-bounds. A clear contrast between public space and private space.



My favourite shot. I feel this image is very emotive and poignant. The boy’s face is hidden, leaving the viewer to read his body language.



I selected this image for the composition as well as the subject – the many satellite dishes, the concrete posts (more barriers?). What is going on with the subject is not obvious and leaves the viewer to draw their own conclusions.



I took several shots using varying focal lengths. I selected this one as I like how it puts the subject in context and conveys the tenement building as solid yet fragile – mirroring the community as a whole.



Picking up on the exercises leading up to this assignment, “figure small”. The image shows the scale of the tenement block and delayed reaction as the figure is spotted walking out of the frame.



Every picture tells a story………



This shop had only closed down one month prior to my visit. To me it speaks of tradition and unchanging values, resistance to the pace of the modern world. I like how the tilting signpost depicts the instability of the docks.



Bill, now retired on ill-health, served in the shipyard for 45 years. No escape though as the Devonshire Dock Hall (the tallest building in Cumbria) looms large over the sanctuary of his allotment.


The final six

This is the order I would present them in the magazine. I would name the article








Assessment and reflection

  • What did I set out to achieve? I wanted to produce something a little different from the norm and give myself more of a challenge. Feedback from my last formal assessment, (The art of photography), was “Little evidence of risk-taking with a few imaginative outcomes”. I also aimed to incorporate my learning from the exercises within the module “People interacting with place”.
  • The character of the place? For me it was important to have to have a sense of empathy with the place and to consider  how it affected me. I would describe Barrow Island as a traditional, industrial, tight-knit community that has not moved forward with the times. Economic hardship and declining population is very evident. The buildings are impressive, unforgiving yet fragile and crumbling. The streets mostly deserted.  All of these things leave me with a nagging concern, a sadness and hope that life will get better for the proud Barrovians.
  • I hope my images succeed in conveying the above. I have spent a good deal of time on Barrow Island, chatting to the few folk I could find and pouring long and hard over the resulting numerous shots I brought home with me. One of my big successes was an increase in confidence in approaching people to gain permission to take their photo. I now accept that the worst that could happen is they tell me where to go! Time and access were not an issue for me, my biggest challenge was finding people to photograph! Even on a sunny Saturday in the school holidays, I was pushed to find many residents. Initially I found myself orientated towards street photography, attempting to “capture the moment”, some successes but many discarded images too.
  • The hardest task of all was compiling a shortlist of just twelve images. Decision making is not one of my finer points –  images were shortlisted and then eliminated, then returned to the pot several times over. I am still wanting to offer more than twelve photos. My learning from this is to keep returning to the brief and not become swayed by “strong images” too remote from the subject. I also understand and appreciate that all art is open to interpretation, therefore I needed to be creative in my thinking.
  • How would I have approached the assignment if I’d simply been taking photographs with no end result in mind? I guess my approach would have been more loose, more street photography style, any strong and interesting shots would have made it into the final twelve…or twenty…. or more. My research would not have been so thorough and I would have been more relaxed about the whole thing. Would the final selection have been as strong and cohesive? I doubt it. Being given a set brief, basically told what to do, be disciplined…well that’s a tricky call for me! But, I’ve no doubt in my mind this method will always produce more effective results.




A4 Planning and preparation

This assignment draws together all the various strands explored so far – including skills in camera handling, observation and reaction, and the underlying appreciation of what spaces and buildings mean for the people who live in and among them. 

I am to imagine that I am on an assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication (not tourism promotion) that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. I am to produce sufficient images to fill six pages, meaning six final images as chosen, but at least twice this number of good, publishable images from which to make the final selection.

Initially I did some research into bespoke, “different” travel publications to get an idea of how the stories are told in pictures and what was available out there, I was looking for something away from the norm.

Renegade-Magazine-008     Renegade mag

Renegade “sets out to give an honest impression of the world, to inspire people to travel, of course, but also to go back to the reason we travel in the first place – to attempt to understand a place by seeing it first-hand.  It celebrates the best travel writing and is not designed to sell destinations, but to show the world as it is, the light and the dark together.” Freddie Reynolds. Editor


We are here         We are here 2

We Are Here travel magazine founder and editor Conor Purcell says; “…..it’s an attempt to move past the clichés that dominate most travel magazines. I also wanted to feature local voices, as a lot of travel magazines parachute a journalist in (often on a paid-for junket) and the content is by-the-numbers – how can you expect to understand a place without having lived there?”

I considered locations close to home – bustling towns, sleepy villages and Victorian coastal resorts. I looked online and in local libraries at books, photographs and publications. I didn’t find anything particularly inspiring, original or terribly interesting. After viewing other OCA student work on this particular assignment – many of which had chosen similar topics – cloned high street shopping centres, twee villages, city life etc; I decided to tackle a more original and challenging location and put my own interpretation on the brief.

Barrow Island

I have selected Barrow Island part of Barrow-in-Furness on the west coast of Cumbria. I knew some history of Barrow itself – one time biggest iron and steel centre in the world, and  major ship-building industry. The Island is still home to one of the largest shipyards in the UK now owned by BAE Systems.

In the late 19th century, to accommodate and retain the 17,000 strong workforce, a “planned town” was constructed in Barrow which included “company housing” on Barrow Island, a grid of tenement blocks in the main residential area.  The end of the Trident submarine building programme in the 1990s led to around 10,000 job losses from the shipyard, most of those affected lived on Barrow Island.  Hard times followed for the residents of this geographically isolated community. The industry decline led to further job cuts and depopulation.

Having chosen my “place”, I looked again at magazine publications. My research brought me to a non travel publication “Inside Housing”. This is the leading weekly magazine for housing professionals in the UK. It includes features on key topical issues providing an in-depth insight into all matters in social housing. Ideal for my subject.

Housing mag

images 1   Inside housing 2

I headed off to Barrow Island, what a revelation! It was an unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable environment for me so it was important to get a good feel for the place and observe the local people. I wandered around for at least an hour, barely lifting the camera to my eye. I found a quote by Carolyn Drake in the book “Street Photography now” [1] “It can be invigorating to work in a place where I feel like an outsider because it usually means it is a place I don’t fully understand and I enjoy the process of trying to understand’.  This was very true of me on Barrow Island.

At the end of the day I came away with 170 shots. On reviewing my photographs I recognised that I had many of buildings and insufficient of the inhabitants. I needed to revisit the location.

DSC_3194 DSC_3196 DSC_3197 DSC_3198 DSC_3199 DSC_3200a DSC_3201 DSC_3202 DSC_3203 DSC_3204 DSC_3215 DSC_3230 DSC_3237 DSC_3268 DSC_3293 DSC_3298 P1110334 DSC_3195 DSC_3416 DSC_3459

Michael Freeman in “The photographer’s Story” [2] stresses the importance of the planning stages: “Research the subject and it’s background – done. Stay around long enough to get under the skin of the subject” I planned another visit to Barrow Island, armed with a street map for reference….

Barrow Island map

The shipyard physically dominates Barrow Island,  the map indicates this with the light brown area illustrating the shipyard buildings. The island is now a Grade 2 listed conservation area of architectural and historical significance. For my assignment I focused on the tenement blocks and surrounding streets.

….. having completed a third visit to Barrow Island, there followed a serious culling session of my 348 photographs. Due to the nature of my subject many of the shots were an attempt to “capture the moment” and I found myself in street photography mode, hence many unsuitable wasted images. Here I have shown a few I eliminated along the way.

DSC_3198        DSC_3293     These two shots show how the massive dock building looms large, impacting on the softer, greener areas of the town. I feel the composition of the first image is not showing enough of the children or playground rides. The second image I have replaced with a more emotive image (see “possible contenders”).

 DSC_3215      DSC_3234

Too fussy. For better shots I could have positioned myself better and avoided the obstacles.

DSC_3473  I considered this image as a slightly obscured shot (as per the exercises leading into this assignment), but with the brief in mind I am not convinced it says enough about the character of the place.

  DSC_3206     DSC_3204

I took many of this outdated hairdresser’s shop, I decided on a tighter framed shot for my final selection.

DSC_3355      DSC_3268

I like these shots, but they are not contextual. I took several of the young girl in the window and have selected a stronger image in my final selection.


Possible contenders 

3-3318    DSC_3506    3-3259

DSC_3387       DSC_3365            DSC_3233  DSC_3416

3-3366     DSC_3270

DSC_3200    DSC_3208

More research led me to the following photographs. I was able to make comparisons with some of my images.


Maryhill, Glasgow 1975. Nicholas Battye

archive barrow

Barrow Island 1908. Delya Slater

5th August 1955: A Canton restaurant in the Chinatown area of London's Docklands, advertising English and Chinese cuisine. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Chinatown, London. 1955. Bert Hardy

My images

DSC_3350    DSC_3333   3-3318

3-3208    3-3211

Below:  Steel Works, Consett 1989. Julian Germain.

kids    rainy town     allotment

My images

DSC_3399     DSC_3195


Below: “Give my regards to Elizabeth” 1993. Peter Bialobrzeski

Strange pets

My image

DSC_3270 - Copy


The following are runners-up to my final selection.

DSC_3268     3-3366

DSC_3200     DSC_3365

DSC_3355  DSC_3202   DSC_3506


After several weeks and much deliberation, I have selected the twelve images I would send to the magazine editor. I have published these under the tab for Assignment 4 – A sense of place along with my assessment and analysis.


  1. Howarth, S. & McLaren, S. (2010) Street Photography Now. Thames and Hudson Ltd. New York.
  2. Freeman, M. (2012). The Photographer’s Story. Ilex, East Sussex


renegade. Editor Freddie Reynolds (now out of print)

We Are Here. Editor & founder Conor Purcell

Inside Housing. Editor Emma Maier