Assignment 1: Tutor Feedback

Overall Comments

You present a thorough and exhaustive exploration for this first assignment. The body of work is well referenced and analysed within its historical, social and political context. There is a a good mix of cultural analysis interspersed with personal experience/opinion, that makes for interesting reading. If may be so bold I feel there are some areas that are overlooked in your analysis, which I will outline below, however there is the word count to consider and it’s a weighty tome already! Excellent work Steve.

Feedback on assignment

A well thought out and considered set of images that explore the margins of the manicured edge lands at Stourhead. The concept works well and you investigate the areas to good effect using different framing devices to draw the viewer into a variety of scenes.

Depending on your particular interest (history/geology/botony) I think there’s much here to enjoy. It’s hard however to assess the success of the images on the screen. Presented as they are currently I only really understand your intentions after reading the accompanying text. To really push the practical work up to the level of the written work my feeling is that the final images need greater thought in their presentation.

What are your thoughts on presenting the work for assessment?

My feeling is that it would improve the quality of outcome were you to give more thought to the titling and sequencing of the images. For example something to physically locate the image to a marginal location? A grid reference?(ref. M Power/A-Z), a map? (ref. Hidden Islam), fold out pages?

Based on this feedback I will look at three possibilities:

  1. Referencing a map as per Mark Power Twenty Six Different Endings / The Shipping Forecast. Power explains that “I can only make sense of a place if I see it pictured in two-dimensions” (1) I share this interest in maps, being also unable to venture into an unknown space without first studying the topography in two dimensions.
  2. Incorporating a map or maps into the presentation of the work as per Nicoló Degiorgis’ Hidden Islam. 
  3. Using Joseph Addison’s 1712 essay  The Pleasures of Imagination as a source for text to use as captions. (2)
  4. Or some combination of the above

Some of the images work better than others in depicting the contrast between the ‘landscaped’ and the wild/overgrown. I can see that you are trying to balance the set and not repeat the motif too much here, I enjoy the nuances within the work but I think the contrast could be made more explicit in some of the images.

I take the point but I wasn’t necessarily looking for direct or obvious contrast between the ‘landscaped’ and the ‘wild/overgrown’. For example the ponds that appear in many of the images are man-made; it is not clear whether they were created by Henry Hoare as part of his landscaping or whether they have been formed for agricultural or industrial purposes at an earlier time and the dead or dying tree might be part of Hoare’s original planting. I wanted to maintain a certain level of ambiguity and subtlety in the series rather than just comparing the obvious ‘garden’ to the obvious ‘wilderness’.

It would be nice to see the accompanying contact sheets for the next assignment.

I will include contact sheets going forward and have added one to my blog for this assignment as a point of reference (here).

I like the way you have used the language of ‘A pretty Landskip of his own possessions’ I wonder if something of this word play could be brought into the title of each image, adding a further level to the reading of this image. You have done so much in the way of research I think the presentation of the final images would do well to reflect this and inform the reader in a more immediate way of some of the background reading you have undertaken.

A good idea as mentioned above.

Coursework

You make some excellent points within the projects/exercises accompanying this assignment, especially in relation to the fluidity of context in which we view the work of photographers. Thoroughly researched and well referenced throughout, you fulfil the brief and go beyond it in most cases. I’d say watch the word count, but as there isn’t one for the exercises/projects and it is all so fascinating it can be hard to trim it down. For the most part you keep to the main point with very little wondering. These exercises are really for your benefit/wider research and it’s good to see you engaging so thoroughly with them.

I am pleased that my tutor hasn’t come down too hard on me for including such long essays. The subjects I have looked at are so broad in scope that it was highly challenging to find a succinct path through them.

Some Points to Consider:

I’m not sure of the comparison with the Camel Estuary/Simon Roberts as an example of the Pastoral which I have always associated with the rural landscape – what were your thoughts here?

The Oxford dictionary defines pastoral as “(of a work of art) portraying or evoking country life, typically in a romanticized or idealized form.” and I see this idea as being at the heart of We English

He looks at the English countryside as an amenity, a place to visit and pursue “healthy activities”, to camp, walk, picnic, sight-see, sledge, fish, play sport or holiday; he selects quintessential English landscapes as the site of these activities and in doing so creates idyllic scenes that are as much romanticised as any photograph of a shepherd and his flock. If we remove the day-trippers from his photographs we see an industrial or agricultural landscape that has been exploited and modified by humans as an economic resource (maybe the beaches are an exception). The countryside wears these two hats – an idyllic amenity overlaying an economic resource with the former representing, if not wealth, at least disposable income, and the latter potentially representing the struggle of rural industries and communities.

I make no claim to originality here. Simon Robert’s website describes We English”:

“The resulting images are an intentionally lyrical rendering of a pastoral England, where Roberts finds beauty in the mundane and in the exploration of the relationship between people and place, and of our connections to the landscapes around us.” (3)

However, You didn’t draw a picture but used an existing image. I note your discussion with a peer at the bottom of the post where you state your reason for doing so but I’m wondering why the reluctance, the idea is to free yourself up from the technicalities of holding a camera – let go!

Research & Learning Log

    • Comprehensive presentation of research throughout the learning log.
    • An exhaustive, but relevant, amount of written work which is fully referenced.
    • Use of hyperlinks to link back to previous work, used to good effect, adding depth to written text and demonstrating prior learning/engagement.
    • Thorough analysis of course materials and other relevant sources, drawing well rounded conclusions, interspersed with personal experience/point of view.
    • Uses a wide range of reading/external sources to make links between the contemporary and the historic.
    • Engages in peer to peer feedback/dialogue, good to see debate and reflection within projects and exercises.

Areas for Development:

A different perspective – this is probably outside of this assignment brief and will be covered later in the course, but I can’t resist! You have covered so much already within this assignment but I feel there is something missing from the discussion at this level – women and their experience of the landscape. Landscape can be so (historically) dominated by a white male view that we can become blind to the experience of others who have had their view restricted within art history. It’s all too easy to carry a version of history and the language of that history forward if we don’t apply a different lens to our contemporary critique. The use of the title – A Pretty Landskip of His Own Possessions, is a case in point about ownership, power and control which the landscape comes to symbolise.

I know I have suggested good old Liz Wells before, but I really can’t stress enough how much I think she succinctly locates the British landscape within it’s cultural context. Have you read the chapter on the female gaze/experience of the landscape? I think this is an area for you to consider and broaden out from, an intersectional feminist critique of the British landscape. Who is missing from the view? Who is included/excluded from the landscape. This can be broadened out to include many other views/lenses including the colonial, racial, national identity, and all the points where any of these views/experiences inter-sect.

Following an email conversation with my tutor I will digress a little at this point and consider the role of race and gender in landscape art.

A smaller point – the exercises/project in the learning log could be labelled numerically so easier for assessor to locate, i.e. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc

I will fix.

Suggested reading/viewing

Hall S, 2000, “Whose heritage? : unsettling `the heritage’, re-imagining the post- nation” Third Text 49 (Winter) 3 – 13

Kinsman P, 1995, “Landscape, race and national identity: the photography of Ingrid Pollard” Area 27 300 – 310

Liz Wells, Land Matters.

Nash C, 1996, “Reclaiming vision: looking at landscape and the body” Gender, Place and Culture 3 149 – 169

Sources

Books

Internet

(1) Power, Mark (2014) Mark Power: Twenty Six Different Endings (accessed at Bleek magazine  26.8.16) – http://bleek-magazine.com/stories/mark-power/

(2) Addison, Joseph (1712) The Pleasures of Imagination (accessed at Mnstate 14.2.17) – http://web.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/addison414.htm

(3) Roberts, Simon (2009) We English (accessed at the photographer’s website 12.3.17) – http://www.simoncroberts.com/work/we-english/#PHOTO_56

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