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Assignment: the Photo Essay
You will need
Some means of recording images. I don’t require you to spend a great deal of money achieving perfect picture quality, but the images must be up to the job – the low pixellation and limited field of vision in some mobile phone cameras, for example, might not be up to the requirements of the assignment, or to what you want to achieve (though other mobile phones would be perfect for the task). A throwaway camera (with a flash) would be entirely sufficient – though digital cameras obviously make re-shooting more economical, and image manipulation and presentation more straightforward.
What I’m looking for
I’ve called it a photo essay because, rather than looking for picture quality and your skills as photographers, I’m looking for the quality of your ideas. I want you to tell me a story about the city - to be documentarists of city life. Things I’m looking for include a good theme, care in selecting your images and the organisation of the pictures (do they tell a singular or multiple stories? Are there contradictions/juxtapositions between them?) You need to be clear about what you’re intending to do before you take any pictures, and be prepared to think about them once they’ve been taken.
The essay is a commentary on your photo essay, but I expect it to be a theorised commentary, rather than a description of what you did. That means engaging in detail with some of the ideas I’ve introduced over the 9 taught weeks of the module.I’ll be glad to discuss academic sources during the tutorial sessions you will have from week 7 of the module onwards, but you must then go and do some serious reading. For a 2000 word essay, I would expect an absolute minimum of 5 pieces of reading to have been used in detail – and by ‘reading’, I mean books, essays and journal articles, not Wikipedia or other non-peer reviewed sources.
This is entirely up to you, but the images must be printed (I won’t look at discs). You can give the images captions and comments if you like, but it’s not compulsory. The contextual essay can stand alone, or (better) the photos can be integrated into the essay. Hand both the essay and the photos in together.
Allocation of marks
I mark the piece as a whole (in other words there aren’t separate marks for the photos and the essay). See the accompanying feedback matrix for a precise rubric.
It makes no sense to completely exclude images of the city from other sources. An essay on the redevelopment ofNottingham, for example, would be odd if it didn’t make some visual reference to the city’s past appearance. You may therefore include a maximum of 3 found images in your project (though you may not exceed the upper limit of 12 images per assignment).
I would expect many projects to be about Nottingham because of its accessibility, but would be disappointed if all projects were about the ‘Queen of the Midlands’. Since the assignment doesn’t have to be submitted until the spring term, if your family live in another city (or you’re going to another city for the holidays), you could take the pictures over the Christmas break (having done some preparatory work during the term). Equally, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t visit another city as a tourist, giving your first impressions (at least 4 other cities are within an hour’s drive or train journey). You’d obviously have to use your written essay to theorise this, but I’m here to help you do that.