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Portfolio Feedback – 1

The time came to get some external feedback on my work, not a step that I was looking forward to. It was all very well getting feedback from tutors, peers and friends, or even the assessors, but going out into the real world seemed a dangerous and potentially demoralising step 🙁

I really liked the look of Laura Noble’s portfolio reviews which can be done in person or via Skype but first it seemed worth going to a cousin of mine, David Williams, who just so happened to teach photography atA Level. In my mind that makes him an ideal reviewer, especially as I can be sure that he won’t pull any punches. Incidentally,  I recommend a quick view of the school’s twitter feed at @ryephotos  where some of the students’ work can be seen – some of it is hugely impressive.

I sent David the PDF that I intend sending to Laura though the version on the link has subsequently been changed in response to David’s feedback. I think that David understood the concept very well and as a result was able to critique the portfolio with my intentions in mind – always a good start. In general, his comments were very encouraging (exactly as I’d hope from a teacher) with some useful suggestions and comments.

Overall I think it’s a lovely portfolio, speaking well to your brief. Some of the images do this stronger than others though, as far as I can see. I think it’s a shame maybe that there seems to be only one season and therefore only one set of colours present. A winter series in snow showing using footprints as evidence of boundaries would have been something I might have pushed you towards (I appreciate this is of no help now!) I also wonder whether one or two might work better in monochrome, and how you might feel about presented a mixture of that and full colour. It could be argued both ways and it is down to your preference of course but I sense poignancy in some of the images and B/W might enhance that. I like the way that you have avoided cliche – too much limited depth of field or as it is trendily now call bokkeh for example would all be a bit obvious for me.

The issue of winter images was something that I’d wrestled with and did have some but, when included, they stood out too much from the other images and I lost the coherency which I liked. If I could exhibit in a gallery where I could separate the images to some extent then I’d definitely do as David suggested.

On to the detailed feedback …

1 I think this is a super choice for the first image, with the actual boundary broken down and asking questions, and the light area leading the eye and creating a desire path for the viewer. The foreground trees could perhaps be darker – they were until I adjusted my laptop screen angle and I think I preferred it. Might be worth a play.

2 OK this is a tiny bit cliched but it’s too fabulous to care. Again, to my mind I’d drop the brightness and up the contrast to reduce the detail on the foreground trees, but I can be a bit depressive in my approach.

3 This is just lovely. Great composition, interesting colours, the little splashes of blue/purple on each side balance so nicely, very Mondrian. Maybe lighten the trunks slightly – see 6.

4 I think this is one of the strongest given the brief. The promised land of the almost luminescent brackens beckoning forward versus the barrier of the fallen tree from the Stygian undercover – great creation of tension.

5 Doesn’t stand out, as in it’s a similar approach to 4 but not as well done. That said the dappling on the diagonal trunk is most effective and you have again used the beckoning light 

6 This is just glorious. The birches look like a gang of strutting teenagers daring you to access their territory. I am minded of a number of Ansel Adams’s pieces with which I am sure you are familiar, and that of course leads me to wonder about this one in B/W. Adams would dodge the birch bark out or increase the contrast too I think.

7 I’m not a fan of this. It looks out of focus throughout to my eye, unless the bracken is moving. The composition is great, although it seems to me that it reverses the metaphor a bit – it looks like we’re in the forbidden it looking towards the path. The hidden boundary yes, but not from the side of the argument that the rest occupy?

8 is a beautiful autumnal shot, but I am less sure that it addresses the brief. It’s absolutely lovely, but doesn’t earn its place under this title as far as I can see.

9 I feel in a similar way about this one. It’s a gorgeous shot but where’s the boundary? The different stages of tree life represented are really interesting, and the composition is strong – especially like the downward sloping line of ground –  but I’m not sure it fits. 

10 This is back on track and really strong. It’s not so pretty. The foreboding and forbidding trees in the background are great. I don’t think you need the barrier branches at the front, you could have let the colour do its work alone, but they were there so no harm in belt and braces.

11 This calls Macbeth to mind for me, they’re indicating the way forward but preventing movement at the same time. Really strong image. The largest tree just left of centre has a distracting blueish curve below the first branch though which looks manmade and I find distracting. Now I’ve seen it I can’t unsee it. If you agree you could just burn that out or desaturate it a bit.

12 I think this one is a little weak. It’s just a bit too busy, with no particularly interesting composition. I think it also suffers from the lack of a clear ground level. It just doesn’t really speak of the project or fit in terms of beauty. I see the promised land beyond, but the image itself is very flat in terms of response I think.

I’m really grateful to David for the extensive critique, it was so useful as I’d reached the stage where, when looking at the portfolio, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees <pun intended>.

In particular his critique of Image 7, now lo longer in the PDF, was useful as it brought me back to my intent. Looking at the image after David comments I realised that I was exactly as he described, looking back to the tourist areas from the more remote area.

His comment on Image 11 (still in the PDF) was interesting as well. There was a piece of bright blue rope on one of the trees which really stood out, though I hadn’t noticed it. As a single image it would have been interesting wit the mark of humans being seen in the remoter areas of the Park but, in a portfolio where it would be the only man-made element, it had to go once I’d seen it.

Image 12 (still in the PDF) is a strange one, it is the image that polarises viewers with some loving it and others hating it. I’m leaving it in, despite David’s comments, albeit having modified the colours slightly, because I feel it is a fitting final image but also, in my mind at least, it gives a nod towards Jem Southam’s wok which heavily influenced me in the latter stages of this course.

Thanks again to David who has set me up well for further critiques

Gaz

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