The feedback from my tutor on the fourth assignment was very encouraging, “this reads well.., I found both the picture and your write up fascinating”.
For the third assignment, I used ancestral research to help inform my submission. Finding more enjoyment and motivation in a personal approach to that assignment, I again turned to photographs of family for the fourth assignment. A decision, my tutor found encouraging. My tutor feels that choosing a photograph from the Kennelly Archive over a family snapshot has allowed me to research the historical context of a family photograph in a broader way than family memories might allow.
I had previously stated in my reflection on Assignment Four (in the post after the essay notes), that I believed this to be the most interesting section of the course to date, and I found Roland Barthes’ writings to be particularly important in understanding the medium of photography. Referencing the studium and punctum, my tutor describes my essay as revealing a photograph that was “keenly observed” and subject to a “solid semiotic analysis”. I’m particularly happy with these last comments as they reaffirm my progress. After all, this section of the course was entitled, Reading Photographs, and to fail in this regard would have been very disappointing.
Interestingly, referencing Project 2, The Archive, in the next chapter, my tutor describes how my essay concludes giving more weight to the contribution of the archive, rather than the individual photographer. This is quite true, as the photograph of my grandfather has limited value when read on its own, but read as part of the archive as a whole its value increases exponentially. I shall make a slight change to the opening line of my essay so as to reflect my bias towards the contribution of a photographer’s archive and work as a whole, rather than the specifics of their work, thus giving my essay better continuity.
On other course work, namely my blog post about Liz Jobey’s essay on Diane Arbus from Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth. My tutor highlights the diametrically opposing view Sontag and Szarkowski have of Arbus’ photographs of ‘Freaks’. I said, “John Szarkowski believed her images revealed ‘no less than the unique private lives of those she photographed’ (Howarth 2005, p.72)”. ‘Believed’ is probably the wrong word to use here. While Szarkowski did make the statement, to say that he believed this might be to do him an injustice, perhaps he was being politically correct and playing it safe. Szarkowski was after-all the Director of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for almost 30 years, and revered. The main point my tutor makes is that “no writing, including course texts, should be taken as authoritative (just as photographs no longer are)”.
I really enjoyed this section of the course and again I believe my enthusiasm came across in the assignment. The amount of information I was able to draw from the photograph of my grandfather has successfully shown me how powerful photography is as a means of communication.
Full tutor feedback can be seen here: CN4_512301
Update to Assignment 4
Below is the updated Assignment 4 Essay PDF following analysis and tutor feedback. The only change is to the first line as mentioned in the above feedback.
The original first line read; What contribution do photographers make to an individual family history and the social history as a whole?
The new opening line reads; What contribution do photographers’ archives make to an individual family history and the social history as a whole?
The amended Assignment 4 PDF can be seen here: 512301assignment4UPDATE
Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography: How photography has changed our lives, London: Quadrille.
Jobey, L. (2005) ‘Diane Arbus: A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C. 1966’, in Howarth, S., ed., Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs, London: Tate Publishing, 67-76.
La Grange, A (2008) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers, Oxford: Focal Press.
Sontag, S. (1977) On Photography, London: Penguin.
Warner Marien, M. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History, 3rd ed., London: Laurence King.