I’ve received my grading and feedback from the assessment, and I’m happy with it. I wasn’t graded as “100%” (as if I could be), so there’s room for improvement and also a case for not resting on any laurels I might have (I don’t want the grade to slip further south...). Yes, the grading mark was lower than that of my degree, but then this is a step up in terms of academic level and a step away from “pure” photography and into a fine art arena, so this was expected. I have a clearer idea of any expectations now, and a more accurately defined goal to aim for...
In terms of the assessment comments, I’ve included excerpts from them below:
This was an imaginative submission, after initial problems you were able to refocus, working only with images available through the internet.
The experimental element that brought in literal aspects of a journey, i.e. diesel fuel, was inspired and the whole submission is satisfyingly coherent and well executed with aesthetic care and consideration.
The quality of your reflection and your commitment to research and understanding contemporary photographic practice clearly is reflected in the quality of the work you make.
So, it seems to have been well received 😀. To be honest, some of the credit for the diesel needs to go to my visiting tutor, Lisa, as the idea came from the session I had with here, and discussions around some of the difficulties I’d been having with the execution of my original idea (more down to self imposed limits and the practicalities of doing it than anything else - I needed to work with a larger format than FF, but couldn’t because of focal length).
Knowledge of contexts, concepts, and methods specifically
Your essay identifies and discusses some of the problematics of appropriation in contemporary photographic practice; it shows a discerning level of academic research and is a critically informed debate of topical issues directly relevant to and informing your practice.
Your understanding of the medium means that you have established your own technical framework that supports your practice, you are also becoming more open to exploring wider lens-based and other practical techniques that could expand your themes.
“...becoming more open to exploring wider lens-based and other practical techniques...” is perhaps a key phrase in there. I’m not 100% sure I’ll be doing too much in the realms of “wider lens-based techniques”, but hey, who knows where the fancy will take me? I do like the work Daisuke Yokota turns out, so maybe. I’ve also recently bought a book on alternative techniques, I’m just not sure I want to step away from digital yet. And yes, I’ve started some more work using Google Street View – my series After Stephen Shore (I’ve moved away from song titles for the GSV work – I’ve not thought of a relevant one for this yet). I’ll post some of these soon.
Understanding through the application of knowledge
Your submission clearly shows that you are adept at the material realisation of your ideas, you exercise considerable discernment in the details of editing and presentation of your photographic work in line with the subject matter to produce pieces that are materially and conceptually coherent.
We recognise that you do not have a fine art background but we would encourage you to be more vocal with your opinions in seminars and group crits.
A nice paper and a book has done the trick it seems. No, that’s playing down the thought that went into it, the paper was chosen to make the most of the images. The book was designed to be acknowledging of Ruscha’s original, but not a copy. There was a little bit of a compromise there though, and in keeping the cost down, the paper of the book is not quite what I would’ve wanted, but then if it was, the cost would’ve been 5-fold, if not more, and I wanted to keep it in the sub-£10 bracket so that it was easily affordable. And yes, I know I can be quiet during the seminars for some subjects (i.e. those that don’t involve photography). I’ll see what I can do on this.
Application of professional skills
You began the MA with strong feelings of ambivalence, we hope that these have settled and you can now concentrate on identifying and developing the areas of your practice that will help you realise your ambitions.
If by “ambivalence” it refers to my understanding that my photography is not a main career at the moment, and is perhaps unlikely to become one until I can at least semi-retire, then this is still the case. I do however have ambitions, things I want to achieve, so I will be looking at this going forward.
Things to build on and certainly with positives in there. Yeah, I’ll be signing up for the second year. I will be having a little break from all the reading and making in the meantime though. My batteries need recharging, and not just the ones from my cameras either.
In its execution, the project diverted from the intention. Despite this, the forensic investigations went well; all Ruscha’s gasoline stations were found, albeit with the assistance of others. Tracking down “Bob’s Service” somewhere in LA, the last of the sites to be found, provided me with a certain level of satisfaction. The effect of immersing the prints in diesel was pleasing, although not at all what I expected, which was that the pigment would be affected rather than the paper.
At this point I have to accept that one or two may be wrong, that the findings of others have led me to view places that didn’t sit right with me (Standard, Williams the prime example). Others used empirical evidence though, including copies of the 1962 regional Yellow Pages, something I could not access. It’s been 50-odd years, maybe things changed more than I anticipated.
My intention was that I would marry Ruscha’s 26 stations with a similar number from my own locale. The area I chose resulted in just half that number (12, plus a disused one), so this was disappointing. Still, it allowed the project to progress in the way that it did, rather than being constricted by reductive initial planning.
I would have preferred it in terms of the “object” if the resulting images weren’t so transient. As the diesel dries (which takes weeks), the patterning of the paper changes, becoming tighter and less aesthetically pleasing. This transience provides some metaphoric resonance to the subject matter though, so maybe it is appropriate. However, I now have no idea what will be seen at assessment.
In terms of the process, I’ve missed “normal” photography – I’ve not used a camera except for the local petrol station side of the project and for recording of the diesel objects at a point in time. Having said that, maybe I’m realising its more a means to an end, that I should be more accommodating
The Internet is quite some resource! Without it, this project would not have existed in the way it does. Google Street View is pretty awesome in itself, but then there’s the access to other artists that have worked with Ruscha’s ideas. I’d have been stuck without them.
This was all a big risk, if truth be told. From using GSV to immersing prints in diesel, it’s a long way from what I would normally do and way outside my comfort zone, (technique and results). I’ve wanted to use GSV in the past, but it always seemed inappropriate, but here I’ve been able to make it go the distance, see it through to some sense of completion.
I’m not sure how this can be directly taken forward within my practice. Will I ever use GSV again? Maybe, but probably not. I very much doubt that I will be using diesel in my photography again either, other than for what it was intended and driving me to somewhere I want to photograph. That is perhaps the major realisation I’ve reached; it’s the journey I’m constantly drawn to. I thought it was landscape, but I’m more interested in the getting there than the subject. I think my recurring muse is the journey, whether it be physical, temporal or metaphorical. That is something I want to take forward.