Category Archives: Assignment 2

Reflections on assignment 2

I will start my summing up with a quotation from my tutors report for this assignment that in one short sentence summarises how I feel about my assignment 2 within the wider context of where I currently sit on the course.

“A well produced and laid out project exploring interesting ideas regarding abstraction in photography. You have produced a coherent series of images in support of assignment 2 (Photographing the Unseen).”

(Wendy McMurdo, 2016)

After assignment 1 I have dealt (quickly) with the disruption of a change in course tutor and acclimatised to a new and positive working relationship very quickly.

I had used a form of metaphor in my work for assignment 5 Expressing Your Vision but this was n many respects a new way of working and communicating visually and it did take a little time at the planning and initiation stages to move away from a literal style of communication.

In the end I feel that I produced a very personal piece of work that was communicated simply but effectively and it allowed myself to begin to select formal components such as the colour blues that I have appreciated in other artists’ work such as Stephen Shore (see here) and Luigi Ghirri (see here).

My only nagging worry in the lead up to the assignment submission was that the work was a little simplistic but having spent the amount of hours and frames required to get the final images any thoughts that this was an easy option have disappeared completely.

As my technical capability improves as well as perhaps my photographic equipment I would like to revisit this formal style perhaps in a larger format which I think would suit the aesthetic look really well.

But all in all I am very happy with my progress so far and I am looking forward to the next stage.

Assignment 2 brief: Photographing the unseen

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Networks: A personal journey


This assignment is an exploration of my personal journey through the most challenging and complex period of my life. Whilst this is a personal exploration I have identified a theme that could be relevant to many others reflecting upon their own lives.

I have always taken positive action in my career and business life creating a company and pursuing a path of growth, and in doing so have taken many risks. Over a number of years I found myself in situations that became so complex on reflection I can now see that the resultant levels of stress and anxiety had pushed me as far as I could go.

Ultimately managing to overcome these challenges and simplifying many aspects of my life has brought significant relief but has also left indelible markings on my psyche. I now recognise that, whilst I was in parts passive to what was going on around myself, mine was a situation created predominantly by my own personal aspiration and ambition.

Creative concept
Living in a semi-rural area still served by an old copper wire network we experienced what was seemingly an unimportant issue with broadband access although the situation escalated into disproportionate multiple problems.

This simple broadband issue became the perfect metaphor for how life almost without my noticing had grown more and more complex and problematic.

Where previously I hadn’t paid attention to the anonymous and homogenous network of telegraph wires and poles lining the landscape. Now I could see the layers and years of build and maintenance that had created increasingly complicated arrangements of connecting wires fixed to poles of various types of wood, different sizes and dimensions.

These complex arrangements became more and more noticeable and evident, almost consuming me until they were eventually stripped away.


I have used inanimate objects, these telegraph wires and poles to act as the metaphor for the complexities that can be allowed to creep into our lives and which can become disproportionally significant and dangerous. This assignment also communicates how we can quite easily come to prioritise things that ultimately prove to have no real importance or meaning to us and in doing so we can create un-necessary exposures and dangers that we do not foresee.

This has been a cathartic experience and one that will allow myself to move on from this period of my life. I have listed my sources of direct reference and inspiration below in the reference list.

Reference list

Botha, D (2013) Ring Road. Open College of Arts. (online) At (accessed 17 May 2016)

Cases, R (2014) El-Porque-de-las-naranjas (online)At:

Ghirri, L (2013) Kodachrome, second edition, Istanbul: MACK.

Pantall, C (2014) The Reason of Oranges. British Journal of Photography July 2014. page 68-77), also (on-line) At:
(Accessed 20 May 2016)

Shore, S (1982), Uncommon Places. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.


Performance against assessment criteria: assignment 2

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I have communicated the concept and ideas contained in the assignment through strong compositions utilising very good photographic technique and visual skills.

Quality of outcome

Very good consistency and quality in the outcome coherently presented throughout in both written and visual formats.

Demonstration of creativity

Very good development of creative ideas gained through a developed analysis of a wider frame of reference and research showing clear signs of a strong developing personal voice.


Very good development in research and reflection touching on a range of wider and specific practices which support development of a specific creative concept.


Overall I am pleased with progress in terms of properly understanding the importance of narrative within the context of the overall course and how this is communicated and interpreted within the image.

I am much more sensitive to how an image is constructed and how it relates to it’s environment and how these components come together to create visual meaning. This has helped my development to move away from imagining things in my images which don’t exist.

Working process: research and development, creative process and practices including image making and post-editing and printing

Research and development

I initially generated a long list of ideas which included:

Commuting, inner thoughts, the digital human, various plots including a murder not committed, perception, self-image, money, corruption, time, my personal period of difficulty, judgemental people, my son, my partner, my business, fear, secrets, social class and mobility, things that matter, horoscopes, confusion.

My objective was to identify a subject matter that I was passionate and knowledgeable about and therefore could better visualise metaphorically without defaulting to a literal representation.

I initially focussed on my own personal journey through a difficult and challenging period of my life and I began trying to visualise my thoughts and feelings through this time. I was disappointed with my initial ideas for images as they were typical of business related problems such as shadowed financial newspapers, empty offices at night, empty wine bottles and computers – all of which seemed very literal and clichéd.

As part of our course research I reviewed Ring Road by Dewald Botha (more can be read here) and this proved to be an important development in my creative thinking.

I switched to the subject of my weekly commute to London and I would use this as the metaphor for my own personal journey of discovery where I have begun to explore my own self in much greater detail. I wanted to see how my (recent) more creative aspirations gained through studying with OCA and how my wider thinking in general might be affecting my personal objectives going forward.

Working process

Test shots


Experimenting with test shots the project began to change direction becoming more about social mobility and initially I felt very excited. I had started to focus on the limited greenery in London as a metaphor and link to where I live at the weekends in a semi-rural Worcestershire.

As I began to collect my initial images I had noticed a range in the condition of the greenery and this became a sort of hierarchy I could link to financial and in effect social resources and this I found to be an interesting idea.

After a while I felt that this was too similar to topics that I had previously focussed on and I did n’t find the photographic challenge particularly inspiring and I felt that I needed a fresh challenge.

Moving forward and changing direction

I returned to my original idea of exploring my own personal journey but in over coming recent complexities as oppose as a journey of discovery as I felt that this was really the true and accurate narrative of my life and I wanted to explore in more detail my actions and thought processes from this period of time.
This time I began to focus on an incident a short time ago where the telegraph wires (and therefore the access to broadband) had been vandalised in what is a normally a semi-rural location where nothing happens. As one of the remaining locations relying upon the old BT communications network of telegraph poles and wires I stumbled across a perfect metaphor for communicating the theme of the assignment.

I kept an exercise book as a physical log and I noted down and reflected upon ideas and made rough sketches as the project came to fruition.

Direct influences and inspirations: Other Photographers’ work 

My direct inspiration and research for the development of the metaphor came from Ring Road by OCA student Dewald Botha (read more here) and El porque de las naranjas by Ricardo Cases (read more here)

As I began to consider how the images would look I took further aesthetic influence from Kodachrome by Luighi Ghirri (read more here) and Uncommon Places by Steven Shore (read more here) as well as returning to El porque de las naranjas by Ricardo Cases mentioned above.

I imagined an endless blue sky as a backdrop, contrasting and isolating some sort of complex incident.

Making images

test rejected -1

As is my normal practice I set out on a photo shoot to try to find an image suiting my immediate thought process as in the image above. From this starting point I began to build a collection of images I constantly reviewed, re-shot, reviewed, re-shot until the direction of the assignment became clearer and moved steadily towards a final interpretation that I was happy with and in turn the resultant series.

In total I probably went out for between 12-15 separate sessions before I arrived at the final series of images with the correct form, consistency and quality that I was seeking.

Technical boundaries

To establish consistency I made a technical plan also which also developed over the period of image taking, review and reflection. My final selection was in line with the following technical cues:

Blue skies (which can be frustrating to wait for in Worcestershire during May)

Photo sites which allowed an isolation of the main area of focus or with selected objects such as greenery which was relevant to the particular narrative of the image and series as a whole – again much easier said than to find

Apertures of F5.6 to creating an image ranging in focuses, in turn force the viewer to search for order within the composition.

The narrative prompts the series to escalate to a high point and then reduces in tension

Cropping of the main object within the compositions reflect the narrative

Post edit and printing

I used Adobe Lightroom 6 software for the post edit and finally I used a local professional photo-lab based in Birmingham to produce prints on 12×8 matte fuji XZB paper with 10mm white borders.

Reference list

Ring Road by Dewald Botha Ring can be see at: (accessed 11 June 2016)

Pantall, C (2014) The Reason of Oranges. British Journal of Photography July 2014. page 68-77), this article can also be seen on-line at (accessed 10 June 2016)

Ghirri, L (2013) Kodachrome, second edition, MACK

Shore, S (1982), Uncommon Places. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.