Nicola South        Student number: 514516


Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

  • I believe the image is well composed and balanced.
  • I have meticulously arranged the props to give visual cues to the narrative.
  • I hope that the image is aesthetically pleasing, I chose the colours of the clothing to contrast with the harmonising colours of the décor.
  • There is clarity through most of the shot.
  • Working with my new lighting kit (soft box, umbrella and multiple speedlights) was a technical learning curve. I was careful to consider reflections and shadows. I was aware of the colour balance and made choices about it post production. I am pleased with what I have achieved, although I am well aware that I have a lot to learn to improve these skills.
  • I believe that the image shows that I have good visual awareness.

 Quality of outcome: 

  • In my choice of theme and the way that I have presented it I have used much learning from this part of the course, in particular my research of relevant photographers.
  • By choosing a theme which has a context in common with other work in Context and Narrative I hope that I have strengthened my message/meaning.
  • I believe I have combined the presentation of a disquieting moment with an aesthetically pleasing image which viewers may linger over.
  • I have used the props and furniture to layering order to lead the viewer around the narrative.
  • My introduction should communicate how I have conceptualised my ideas to the reader.
  • I hope that I have provided links between a contemporary situation and the visual motifs of a classical painting

Demonstration of creativity:

  • I took a personal risk working with this theme.
  • My concept of linking a classical painting with my modern narrative using some of the symbolism was creative.
  • I have blended fact and fiction in a creative way and hope it leaves something to the viewers imagination.
  • I had to be inventive when directing the actors, including myself.
  • I believe that I have shown that my personal voice is emerging.


  • I have researched beyond the coursework and used this research to build my own practice.
  • I have thought critically about the learning points my research has raised.
  • I have moved my learning and research beyond photography to the wider context of classical painting.


Nicola South        Student number: 514516

Assignment five


Making it up

Construct a stand-alone image of your choice. Alternatively, you may choose to make a series, elaborating on the same theme.

As the culminating assignment for the course you may wish to draw upon skills learned from Parts One to Four – using various forms of narrative, using yourself as subject matter, telling stories and reading images. The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose. Remember to create a story with a specific context like the artists you’ve looked at in Part Five. This means you need to have an artistic intention, so a good place to start would be to write down some ideas. This could then form the basis for a 300-word introduction to the piece. You may find it helpful to draw storyboards to help you visualise your ideas.

The aim of this assignment is to use props, costume, models, location, lighting, etc. to contribute to the overall meaning of the image. (Use flash/lights if required but available light is fine as long as it is considered.)

If the narrative is to be set in a different era then the elements of the image must reflect this. Also consider the symbolic meanings of objects and try not to be too literal in your approach. For example, don’t automatically use red roses in a love scene but try to be subtle in your ideas to obtain a more true-to-life scenario.

For this final assignment, you should also include an illustrated evaluation of the process you went through to produce your final image(s). Include snapshots of setting up the work and write about how you felt your direction went, how you found the location, props, etc. How did this process affect the final outcome? Write around 1,000 words in total (including your 300-word introduction).


IMG_7806 LR crop 1500.jpg

Image 14: Exposure 0.4 sec, Aperture f/9, ISO 200, Focal length 18mm.


I have continued a theme that appeared in other Context and Narrative assignments, domestic tension; my reflections on this theme engaged me fully with those assignments. The tableaux that I’m using to express this came to me immediately, as mealtimes are often stressful in our house. Following a spoiled meal I often resolve never again to cook a special meal, thus the title “The Last Supper” came to mind. I researched Da Vinci’s version of painting, along with other’s and thought it would be interesting to borrow some of its visual symbolism, motifs and choreography to add interest and emphasis to my modern tableaux- vivant.

My overall inspiration was Jeff Wall’s realistic set constructions, and subtly dramatic rather than cinematic lighting, to encourage acceptance of “tableau photography as an imaginative blending of fact and fiction, of a subject and its allegorical and psychological significance” (Cotton, 2015 p52). Lottie Davies shares his compositional devices, leading viewers round the story, I resolved to use this; I was also stimulated by her narratives of memories. Tom Hunter’s classically inspired modern scenes encouraged me to continue with my own fabrication of the last supper. The work of Frances Kearney and Hannah Starkey offered me the notion of obscuring faces to increase ambiguity, and Crewdson’s aesthetically pleasing but disquieting work gave me much to strive for.

For this constructed reality I wanted to achieve the look of a fabricated theatre stage, but with a rich seductive aesthetic, despite some disturbing detail. It is a narrative of memories, reshaped and refabricated to the minutest detail, as “What counts for us in the memory…is ultimately not its reference to the ‘objective facts’ of a particular moment but its capacity to act as a founding myth”. (, 2017). The props are the clues to the implied disturbance – the punctum. I want the reader to notice the deliberate way the photograph is set up, and realise their significance.  I hope that it the pictorial narrative in the image provides an ambiguous drama that will also carry some viewers narrative as well as my critique on part of an everyday life.

Link to research in learning log: 


Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson. (2017). Lottie Davies [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jul. 2017].


The process:

Subject: A supper, with the context of a tense mealtime. Some motifs, parallels and symbolism borrowed from Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”.

The-Last-Supper use 1.jpg

(, 2017)

the last supper  use 2.jpg

(, 2017)

Location: The dining room striped out and reshaped. I removed extraneous/distracting objects not essential to the meaning of the image. I experimented with different angles to shoot the table; I had originally intended to shoot it front on with the wall running behind and have an empty chair on the camera side of the table (as in Da Vinci’s Last supper), but it was ultimately more aesthetically pleasing  taken from a corner angle with teak door panels as a backdrop. I began with a chair on its side but thought it was too obviously disruptive. I spent ages on setting a pleasing angle for the shoot, eventually shortening the table to compact the three place settings and fill the frame more effectively from the diagonal.

Props: Table and chairs. Settings for a meal: slate mats, napkins, glasses, wine bottle, dipping oil, bread board and knife. The placements of these objects was critical for each place setting. I tried footwear placed by the washbowl, but removed it as it cluttered the scene and wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. I tried different places for the dropped napkin, the wine bottle and bread, both to layer and lead the viewer’s eye around the image and to balance it.

Symbols: Red wine, bread, spilled salt, washed feet, shawl, trilogy, and shocked reactions.

Actors: Before shooting knowing that I would only have my actor for short bursts, I set up and decided on everything that I could. In preparation I took practise shots of what I thought he should do. When I involved him I asked him to interpret my ideas as his own but he naturally adopted the pose I had suggested with the addition of holding the wine glass. I had more problems performing myself and had to release him whilst I took practise shots of what was effective for me in my role before continuing with the shoot. I had decided to obscure our faces to add ambiguity but ultimately that was only partial.

Lighting: I went for subtle rather than dramatic in keeping with my intention to show a constructed reality. I had some ambient light from one wall which is all windows, though thankfully it was a dull day.  I invested in another Speedlight, a 60 cm softbox and an umbrella and stand. I used the soft box as my key light to light my male actor, and switched between using the other Speedlight on my camera with a diffuser and bouncing it off of the ceiling and reflecting into the umbrella on the stand as a fill light; Pre-shooting I spent a long time experimenting with these, the power and the placement.

Lighting diagram:

lighting 1500.jpg

The shoot: My camera was on a tripod and with a remote timer to trigger the shutter on a timer, giving us time to compose ourselves between shots. I reviewed images between shoots several times and then reshot to improve lighting, or resolve other silly mistakes like leaving my notes on the table. I was limited in the amount of shots I could take with my actor which I found frustrating as my search for perfection increased each time I reviewed the images, whilst his tolerance and cooperation decreased.

Post processing: When reviewing the mages I was conscious not just of the slightly changing positions of the actors, but also any reflections, shadows, and the quality and quantity of light. I didn’t do much post production work on the image I chose, preferring to keep the lighting slightly low and not to mess with the slightly green hue given off the glass table and the walls.


It was a new experience directing a scene, and a large proportion of my time was given to the preparation. I was glad that I reviewed images whilst shooting and then adjusting as I continued.

The final outcome was affected most particularly by the one variable that I could not completely control, my actor, and thus I had to settle for less than what I considered was perfect. I did spend a few hours in short burst shooting and had many images to choose from. I guess were I a professional photographer paying an actor I would have had more control over this variable.

These contact images illustrate the process of setting up the shoot and some of the changes that I made before I began:IMG_7726.jpg

References: (2017). The Last Supper. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2017]. (2017) The last supper [online] Available at: [Accessed9 Aug]

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.