Tutor feedback

Overall Comments

A thoughtful submission that fulfills the brief. The initial impression of straightforward wildlife photos belies your preparation and attempts to provide an alternative to the typical.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Notes from, and in addition to, our Skype tutorial :

You found the idea of ‘discounting stories’ difficult – we discussed the impossibility of removing narrative from individual and sequenced images.

This pushed you to look at birds – there is no story there, in fact “nothing there”, animals simply feed and look out for danger.

Your process involved you staking out, and waiting for them to come into your plane of vision.

This lack of storytelling, meant that the decisive moment is simply the birds and squirrels doing what they do.

I noted that in your images there is no critique of bird spotting cliches – ‘should there be?’ was the question I asked myself, is it my snobbery about ‘typical’ imagery. Are they in fact ‘work’ photos, evidential images? It brought to mind Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan’s work. Does there need to be something that’s against the typical or is that our prejudice towards this subject matter?

You noted that slowing down the very fast movements of wildlife leads to  things that we can’t see with the naked eye.

We discussed how by using animals you were using, in effect, non actors. Despite this they look like staged images, particularly because of the black backdrop.

References – Neeta Madahar, Melanie Stidolph

I brought up the idea of peripataie in David Bate. How a good photo gets the message across. We then discussed the idea of privilege with reference to Cartier-Bresson.

The context is something that has started to interest you, potentially starting from this idea of Cartier Bresson

We discussed Julian Baggini’s Welcome to Everytown, in relation to your location – Baggini spent 6 months in your postcode.

Prints are fine, you used Photobox, and are happy to continue.

We discussed assignment 4. You want to challenge yourself with direction. Look at reference Bettina von Zwehl. Nicholas Nixon, the sisters. Hannah Starkey

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

 With reference to the exercise shots of your dad – Bruce Gilden

Put some of your thoughts on books you have read in your blog.

Suggested reading/viewing Context

 Keep up with the books! See one reference above.

We spoke about Sally Mann and your excitement of being inspired by her.

Pointers for the next assignment

You should follow your enthusiasm for light in Sally Mann’s work. I suggest the 2005 Phaidon book on the family.




Assignment three

Please note that this is a print assignment but I have also added my images and write-up here for completeness. My prints will be with my tutor on Thursday 1st December. I have not used a contact sheet for this assignment (even though this is a learning point for me) but I have had 40, 6×4 prints developed, in order for me to spread these out and choose my selects for this assignment. The 40,  have also been submitted with my assignment to show my process of working. My assignment notes are below the following images and will contain my process, the relation to “decisive moment”, referencing which is included in this blog as a separate piece, my own reflection and finally self critique and marking against the assessment criteria.


I have a lot of time for the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who in essence coined the phrase “decisive moment”. However, I feel that he was a very privileged man who had the time and the money to make such wonderful images. He felt that his images were down to luck, geometry and not thinking about how to make a great image.

Geometry in his opinion was more important than light. I disagree with, as photography (translates to, writing with light in Greek) would not exist without light. Light has to be a prime element. I do agree that luck, geometry and therefore composition are very important points in photography, but that they are not the only elements as I will explore.

As a result of my anti-privilege way of thinking and partly out of pure devilment I have decided to question the concept with a series of images, taken from one/two static points, ignoring geometry and concentrating on light, subject, shutter speed, knowledge of the subject and luck. Luck really does help, but there are elements that can be controlled to bring you luck.

There is no story telling behind my set of images, yet there is a seriality about them. I have chosen the images, not because they are all images of birds or squirrels, but because there is something going on in each image.  This assignment and section has all been about shutter speed, whether slow or fast and in this series, I have tried to show and capture what the naked eye cannot generally see.  This is what Muybridge did with his horses.

On the day when the images were shot, I did not plan to use these for my assignment straight away, this evolved after 10-15 minutes of being sat observing the wildlife. I was armed with a 70-200 mm lens, my tripod and a bag of wild bird seed (forcing the issue and not purely relying on luck). Cartier-Bresson felt that if you were looking for a particular shot it would not happen, yet I knew what I was after. I set up camp in front of an old tree stump and scattered the food. This therefore reduced the element of luck.

 I arrived at my final 7 images by having 40 images printed in 6×4 format and spreading them on my work desk, to assist my choice for the seven below.

  1. The Robin.
    • The decisive moment in this image is the way the beak is open and the tongue can be seen. This would not normally be seen with the eye. The lighting also assists the image as it sits well against a dark background. This was planned due to my position and is present in all of the images.
  2. Female Chaffinch.
    • On this occasion the bird was eating and the food can be clearly seen in its’ mouth, with seed dropping and highlighted against the background.
  3. Great Tit.
    • The decisive moment comes from the spread of plumage rather than the fact the bird is eating. Both sides of its’ wings are shown, along with different feather structures. The line of the wings and tail feathers draw you in to it feeding.
  4. Great Tit.
    • Showing wing structure and movement due to the shutter speed used. It captures the tail feathers. This is well lit against the background and on close inspection you can see the feed falling from it towards the stump.
  5. Nuthatch.
    • Will it or won’t it attempt to eat the big peanut? I like the lines of the bird in this image flowing diagonally from right to left. The seed forms the decisive moment, as the bird is just about to eat this and is in alignment with its’ beak.
  6. Female Chaffinch and Grey Squirrel.
    • The chaffinch slams on the brakes having just seen the squirrel jump on to the stump and start eating. This shot contains some “luck” and is a clear decisive moment, more in line with the Cartier-Bresson theory, but this is also still partly manufactured by me. One animal is frozen in time, the other is moving at pace. Your eyes move between two points of the interest.
  7. Grey Squirrel.
    • The decisive moment here is not the fact the it is eating; it relates to the leaf/foliage caught in its’ whiskers and the shape of the nut being devoured.


Self-critique and self-scoring against the assessment criteria

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills.

    • My images show use of freezing time and allowing it to flow, creating movement where necessary. On reflection in certain images I may have been wiser to use a slower shutter speed (if possible) to increase depth of field, as in image 3 as this would have been better if the whole bird had been in focus. This may have resulted in lost impact yet increasing ISO would have degraded the images too much. I would score myself 20/40 for this part.
  • Quality of outcome.
    • The prints are adequate, but I do not feel that they are of great quality. In respect of my images, I set out to question the theory and I feel that I have produced a set of images that contain decisive moments, but they also prove that light and planning can play important parts in photography. 10/20 scored.
  • Demonstration of creativity.
    • Whilst each image has been shot in the same location, on the same day and I have fixed my camera to a couple of spots, I have used creativity to entice the birds and have planned and thought about how to make a set of images that question the thoughts of Cartier-Bresson. 8/20 scored.
  • Context.

    • During this section I have carried out extensive research including reading a number of books, but where I feel am falling short is my critical thinking. Critiquing is not something I am familiar with and I am struggling with the terminology relating to this. 10/20 scored.