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Beauty & the Sublime

brief – submission – blog – feedback 

Tutor feedback received 7th January 2022

Overall feedback

Seeing the final submission of images indicates to me that you have applied yourself in the matter of collating a coherent set of images. There is a great deal of preparation in terms of a strong sense of developmental research.

As this is the first submission to me, I can see/read that your approach is very analytical.
I note your mentioning of the labyrinthine, it certainly feels as a reader that this is so [1]. Balancing’s the need and requirement to find a way to keep these elements working together will be key.

The set of final images are very structured, of course the depiction of the bridge and its environs accentuates this and brings to mind at attention to pattern. Reading your own evaluative commentary about aesthetics is interesting. Often when people use the term ‘aesthetically pleasing’ [2] they are referring to an object or item that someone considers to be beautiful or attractive, something that fulfils a need and qualities for beauty in one object. But as you also are aware (in your extensive references etc) this is also based on many other cultural, societal and psychological elements. This is where it gets messy and that leads to contentious arguments. It is without doubt that if you look at much contemporary landscape photography that is collected and shown by museums that the current ‘trend’ within landscape shows a very distinctive, dispassionate method of observation. The enigmatic, deadpan and straightforward aesthetic from the Düsseldorf Art Academy has become very prevalent. There are of course multiple areas of practice and as you progress further, we shall see how your actual photography changes over time.

The way an artist or photographer might talk or write about their work may or may not be poetic or analytical or a combination etc.  [3] One way of creating balance in your notes and writing is to think about the following:
Keep visuals/artwork close to you while you write
Show the reader in images where possible don’t just explain in words only
Paint the picture/image/artwork in words
Be specific: use detail, use concrete nouns
Think about all the senses
How does your work look or sound or feel…?
Does your statement about your work match?

Feedback based on Learning Outcomes

L01 Visual and conceptual strategies
The approach is didactic and based upon a self-directed methodology

L02 Social, cultural and ethical consideration
Perhaps harder to comment upon other than possible relationships to photography in public spaces.

L03 Exploring a range of ideas
There is some excellent written evidence – where it would be useful is to narrow down to the key elements.

L04 Research, managing time and resources
This seems to be well managed as evidenced across the blog and website

L05 Autonomy, voice and communication
Great to see the comms with others in the Diversity & Inclusion training and the LPE Chat Group


Action points

Understory Books is a new publishing house founded in 2019 by Tom Lecky as a home for his own books and those of other artists investigating related themes. I add this link by a way of introducing a kind of poetic arrow.

Kate woods photographic work introduces other materials that not only enhances the print surface but is typical in the way a form of hybrid methods is being applied in new photographic works.



10th January

1 As I have pointed out elsewhere, the subdomain lpe.baphot.co.uk is intended for academic inspection and a new site is built for each module for that purpose (here are C&NI&P). The original, main site covers the whole degree and is for public consumption: it is dense and convoluted by intention as my preferred approach to the interworld is by stealth rather than proclamation. I want the occasional visitors to come upon the site by chance on web searches, follow links wherever they lead and then depart.
I have altered my OCA email signature to point to the LPE subdomain.

2 I use the term æsthetically twice on the Submission page,

“I regard this submission as aesthetically and technically sound but inevitably incomplete ” in the introduction,

and then when refining my idea of a ‘strong photograph‘ that can stand alone without explanation or justification,

• Technically competent (no distracting technical “errors” unless intentional);
• Aesthetically pleasing or arresting (perhaps as regards the composition, or the contents of the image if the arrangement is enforced by circumstances); and
• The subject matter having potential for stimulating viewer interest.
All these measures are entirely subjective and the list is not exhaustive.

Assignment submission text

I stand by my second usage, including the “not exhaustive”.
On the first, I have often described my work in reflections for previous modules as “competent”. This was an attempt to be more positive – aesthetically and technically sound.

Regarding my tutor’s comments, my current view is that a photograph cannot be beautiful (etc.) in and of itself but the documenting photographer can choose to depict a beautiful (or hideous or tragic etc.) object and the measure of success is the extent to which they convey the nature of the original. There are numerous other approaches to the craft but for this assignment my intentional was to position the photographs towards the objective and documentary ends of the various spectra.

3 In most cases, I prefer my series of photographs to stand alone, requiring the minimum of text, perhaps a location or date if relevant †. When preparing an OCA assignment, I have to explain the processes of creation, editing and selection and then write a reflection on the outcome. This is not my natural or chosen way of working but I quite understand that it is necessary for the course.

† Richard Misrach wrote in 2020, admittedly about an event 40+ years earlier,

In the late ’70s, I held an artists’ salon at my studio. We would meet monthly for an informal potluck dinner and take turns sharing work. Bay Area artists like Lew Thomas, Donna-Lee Phillips, Hal Fischer, and Lutz Bacher were part of it. We were doing different kinds of work, but all of us were exploring ideas about the relationship between photography and language. Most of the folks included language prominently in their projects as a way to draw attention to the often invisible impact language has on images. I responded by taking the opposite approach. With the night desert work, I decided to remove every single word in my book: book title, essay, captions, page numbers. The final book is driven solely by images, and the photographs speak for themselves, without any influence – directly or indirectly – of the written word. This made my gallery crazy: without titles, or even page numbers, how could collectors order pictures to purchase? That was my point: any and all forms of the written word were extraneous to the pictures’ meaning. In taking this strategy to its extreme, it is impossible not to become aware of the conventional uses of language we’ve become accustomed to. Absence becomes presence.

Misrach, 2020, p.34

4 The responses on Learning Outcomes are pleasingly, if tentatively, positive.

5 This is entirely subjective, but I suspect from the links that my tutor is encouraging me to loosen up and become more imaginative and creative in my output. This suspicion began with the LCE Chat Group, where most of the other participants seem to have come from the DIC module and have a far less straitjacketed documentary approach to their photography.
My taste in other people’s photography is freer than my own. When approaching a subject (or required to choose a project) my inclination is for a sizeable, tangible subject and then to photograph it in a straightforward manner (representationally rather than impressionistically), thus giving any audience the opportunity and space to bring their own impressions to it. But when I buy photographs or photobooks, they tend to be interpretive, such as Renato D’Agostin, Olga Karlovac, Daniel Castonguay and Paul O’Kane.
Assignment 2 is already in progress and already tending towards the monumental, perhaps Assignment 3 can manifest a change.

No rework required.

No mention of assignment deadlines, so I’ll aim for two months apart, the next due towards the end of February.

Misrach, R. (2020) On landscape and meaning. NY: Aperture.