Category Archives: Assignment 1: ‘Square Mile’

Assignment 1 – square mile – revisited

Based on my tutor’s feedback, I decided that I’d produce a 2nd, smaller set of images that I think are much more coherent and focus on something that is common to many Swiss villages: a trough (un abreuvoir in French, since you asked). Some of them are very old, some relatively new. Some of them have eau potable and some don’t, but they’re everywhere, even in bigger, more developed towns.

So I did a tour of the local area, picking out villages which are close to where I live. They’re all wine-making villages with beautiful stone farmhouses and a lot of character. And sure enough, each one had a trough. Some had more than one, such as Confignon – just up the road. Let me know what you think.
Square Mile - 2nd go

Assignment 1: Tutor feedback

First of all, a big thanks to my tutor – Wendy McMurdo – I have had two discussions with her and have really enjoyed both of them and learned a lot.


Following are my summary notes from our call about my 1st assignment. I’ve not documented every single point, but summarised them so that I can refer to them easily later.

My first assignment photos are fine but looked like they would be more at home in a travel blog. They don’t really give a sense of place.

It’s a good idea to think about how to tie the images together (especially important for a small collection of photos such as this assignment). There are many ways of doing this:

  • Thematically – probably the most obvious way
  • Format – either portrait or landscape
  • Colour or monochrome
  • Photos taken at a certain time of day e.g. dawn or dusk

It’s important to plan ways of going about each assignment and to think these through to visualise the end results. Some ways will work better than others. I should think about what interests me and how to communicate this.  I should expect to take some time to develop my ideas of what interests me – don’t have to put everything into one photo or even one assignment – my ideas will take time to develop.

Suggested reading/viewing

Jim Motram’s ‘Small Town Inertia’ project

Stephen Gill’s ‘Hackney Flowers’ project

Raymond Depardon’s War Monuments

Mini-assignment: Look at these three projects above from photographer’s working in their ‘square mile’ (Depardon’s ‘square mile’ being France). Select one or more and write a 1000 word illustrated blog post on the project for your research and reflection section of your LL.

Learning Log

The LL counts for 20% of the overall assessment. Since I don’t live in the UK, the study visits are not really practical, so I will have to think about other ways of building up my LL. Suggestions include writing blog articles on: exhibitions, photographers, individual photos, book chapters and magazine articles.


Wendy suggested a couple of books for me:

  • Jessie Alexander: Perspectives on Place
  • Charlotte Cotton: Photography is Magic

Websites to look at periodically:


I should look at a lot of photography, including material that I may even have difficulties with. I should write about these in my LL. We also talked about trying different cameras and formats as a way of releasing creativity.

Following is the link to the tutor report in Word format: Tutor report assignment 1

Assignment 1: Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

I think that taking into account my own comments, I have produced a taster for a new area. I have tried to capture simple, clear images that don’t require a lot of interpretation, but just enjoyment for what they are.

Quality of outcome

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

I think that this is the strongest area for my submission. The work depicts village scenes and and a view of the area that would be quickly recognised by someone visiting. I believe that I have accomplished the target that I set myself – to say “hello” to a new area and to record my impressions.

Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

This is probably the weakest area of the assignment. While I think the images are attractive, the don’t show much imagination or experimentation. They are in fact a continuation of a personal voice which I’ve developed over some years. Possibly the biggest area of experimentation is a non-obvious one: almost all my work to date has been monochrome, so including colour images in this collection is a real departure for me!


Reflection, research, critical thinking

This assignment hasn’t much been informed by research or critical thinking. The objective I set myself was to venture out with an open mind. The images are ok, but don’t have a strong link to research –  I expect that to improve in future assignments.

Assignment 1 – square mile

Following are my “selects” – 11 in all – for this assignment. The village of Lully is very small and very agricultural – downtown Geneva seems like a million miles away. Wine-making is the principle thing in this area, and some are pretty good. I’ve tried to capture the things that would strike a visitor: the beautiful vineyards, the flowers which seem to be everywhere and the old farmhouse architecture.

DRG-20Sep2015-002 DRG-20Sep2015-008 DRG-20Sep2015-010 DRG-20Sep2015-011-Edit Renard Courant (bronze), Robert Hainard

DRG-20Sep2015-024 DRG-20Sep2015-027 DRG-20Sep2015-037 DRG-20Sep2015-039 DRG-20Sep2015-048 DRG-20Sep2015-051

Assignment 1: Written Analysis

First impressions & initial response

This assignment was a lesson in “the best laid plans …”.  I was originally planning to do the assignment in my local area before I moved. Well, that was a great theory. It turned out that I didn’t have time to complete what I’d planned.  So what started as saying “goodbye” to one place ended as saying “hello” to another.

After a quick re-think, I decided to do the assignment around my new home. Although I knew the area fairly well, I decided to make the photos with a “beginner’s eye” and try to think about what things would appeal to a person totally new to the area. It gave me a chance to not think, but just take it all in.  I had a bit of plan, based on what I knew of the area, but ultimately I enjoyed just wandering around and letting my eye be my guide. It was great fun!

Practitioners looked-at and their influences

Looking at the suggested photographers for this assignment led me quickly to the conclusion that the “Square Mile” is very open to interpretation. I’m embarrassed to say that I’d not heard of a single one of the listed photographers. Also a bit pleased, because it gave me a place to start.

This image by Venetia Dearden, from her series “Somerset Stories Fivepenny Dreams”, really grabbed me:

Venetia Dearden

The quality of the light struck me – it reminded me of a painting by John Constable painting or Claude Lorrain. It doesn’t seem very typical of her work which in the series features many shots of (presumably) local people and a great many of travellers.

I have always found these beautiful, “pastoral” scenes very attractive. I look particularly for the light and shade.

I am most influenced by Michael Kenna and Michael Levin. I like well-composed, minimalist images which have a real beauty. For this assignment, I have tried to make it clear what the subject is – to keep it simple and also attractive.

Technical approach / particular techniques

Nothing much to say here – I tend to use aperture priority and think carefully about depth of field, sometimes taking a couple of frames to give me post-prod options. Only one photo was processed in PhotoShop to take out a power line which I just couldn’t stand to look at. All the rest were processed in Lightroom with only minor adjustments.

Strengths and weaknesses of particular photos and project as a whole

My single biggest self-accusation is that the photos are all well within my comfort zone. My original idea was people in context, which was great, but fell apart due to practicalities. See the next section for how I would progress …

I particularly like the dollhouse-like nature of the birdhouse photo. I chose the backlighting with the idea that it would look interesting and so it turned out.

The weakest photo for me is the one of the flower display. It is pretty, but for me risks being banal. It could probably be cut without hurting the overall sequence.

The sculpture of the fox running is well-known. It is a bronze by Swiss sculptor Robert Hainard. I love the way it is placed is a small patch of grass to give the impression of the animal moving in a secretive way. I think it is superb.

Thoughts on how I could develop the project further

An obvious extension is to go back to my original “people in context” idea. As I get to know people in the neighbourhood, it would be good to photograph them in their gardens or wherever to give a sense of place.