A 1: My evaluation

This is my self-evaluation against OCA quality criteria. The next tab is a copy of my tutor’s written feedback and my responses to it.

1. My evaluation against OCA Quality Criteria

1.1 Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. 

My main ‘materials’ are me and the people I have recruited to tell their stories and have their portraits taken.

My ‘strangers’ were recruited via social media through an advert linked to my photo website.  This was followed up by email correspondence or phone calls to respondents to talk about the project and what would be involved. I made it clear that I would use their words and ideas in my project and elsewhere.

A lot of my time was spent having cups of coffee, listening to people and asking my single and supplementary questions. I had heard similar stories before but I am always impressed by the variety and intensity of responses to serious illness. I used a Nikon D810 with a 50mm  lens for most photographs with natural light and settled on a depth of field of f8-10 to ensure that enough of the background was in focus to provide context – this was their chosen environment. I made contemporaneous notes (verbatim quotes) in my OCA diary and started to take photographs. The precise expression of the ‘money’ signifier came from our discussion. These included the open purse, the parking ticket and pass, the money bag, the £100 of notes. On one of these occasions I used a location outside the home, the car and this seemed very appropriate. The location in the cafe was determined by my first stranger but perhaps these differential locations provide some variability with the money and issue being the constant item in the images.

I brought with me a flash and softbox but most of the time the natural light was effective. I could have experimented with using fill in flash, especially with Maureen, where there was a very bright background. This would have given me more choice of images although adjusting the images for differential exposure in Photoshop was not difficult. The Joshua images came later and I used a 24mm lens on camera flash because of the confined spaces I was working in; I wished that I had used this approach for all the images.

The text talks more about the emotional cost of this illness. I decided early on that the text was very important to the project. The issue was how much to use and how much to use it relate to the image in the diptychs which I had decided to use.

1.2 Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. 

There is a strong intention to the work with the conceptual underpinning being about power and social injustice, with Marxist theory being the underlying theoretical framework. I moved away from this a little after hearing what people had to say and also the images which seemed fabricated and in authentic to the people.

The text talks about the emotional and financial cost of this illness. I decided early on that the text was very important to the project. The issue was how much to use and how. I used diptychs to combine text and image but after some OCA peer feedback decided to use something similar to the ‘Humans of New York’ project.

For me, ‘Josh’ and the images I shot of him are where I wanted to be. They are wider, more natural and the background is not forced. I also started to experiment with alternative framing of shots. He is not a ‘stranger’ but I was thinking about consistency of participants (all with cancer or relatives of people with cancer) and so removed Lynda my first ‘trial’ stranger. I did not have time to contact someone I don’t know (as the brief) and I found it hard, even with the Huffington Post tweeting me on to get people to meet.

1.3 Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. 

I think that my subject matter taps into my personal experience and life. My approach is iterative and not linear; you can see that in my preparation work. I spent time thinking and researching an issue then shot with flexibility on the day then had a period of reflection and seeking opinions and comment, then interview and shot some more.

1.4 Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. 

I am a reflective person and my blog shows that. I started with a personal experience and expanded my research and image making to ‘strangers’ in my locality and more distant from that.  My approach has been iterative with changes of tack and learning from previous experiments ‘in the field.’

The meta-narrative of these images is about social injustice in the NHS health care system. It is people rather than the hospital ‘trust’ managers and financiers that are affected by this ‘tax on illness’ – especially in ‘Little England.’

1.5 Possible future areas of work

I have have done a number of health care photography projects in this last year that have unique content and that I have not seen before in NHS or health care photography. My voice and style is still developing. I could explore;

  • What more people with cancer and their carers say – can I expand the range of content without losing its focus?
  • Making new images with different signs and signifiers, backgrounds, lighting and people, yet still produce a consistent series of work that is true to these people’s stories
  • other ways of presenting my research and images – I have used diptychs a few times and need to expand my knowledge and skill with other methods. I am attracted to making a slide show commissioned music and book. Perhaps the McMillan charity would use it as part of their campaign. For me this is no longer ‘doing a degree’ but expanding my photography.
  • I could also explore the wider impact of cancer on people’s lives; that would have to be rooted in listening to people and these are a difficult group to recruit.

I have preliminary thoughts and shooting for a personal diary of what it means to have someone in the family with cancer for Assignment No 5. By the time I am preparing that I will have covered more ground and have clearer answers to some of my questions and a few more skills.


2.1 Link to Tutor’s feedback, my responses and changes made