My Learning journey

I began and lived through this course during an unusually turbulent and tension filled year domestically, managing disappointments and sadness for others in the main, and living with the tensions that these caused. I now look back at this as excellent timing as I was able to reflect on and express my emotions whilst immersing myself in photography. In fact I can see now that the more personal my photography became, the easier it flowed, the more creative and in turn more successful it was.

The course was challenging at many points, forcing myself to broaden and adapt my mind set, interests and develop my technical abilities. There were occasions when asked that I would describe the work as “not my cup of tea” and yet the further I progressed in the course the more enjoyment I gained from it.

Whilst Expressing My Vision was a good introduction to studying photography at degree level, Context and Narrative proved to be considerably more developmental for me personally and photographically, opening my eyes at many levels.

Formative feedback

My tutor’s feedback was forthright and for the first assignment crushing. However this stimulated me to embrace the next modules with a gusto and open mind. I love learning and as well as being challenged, so I set about reading and researching widely and took on board his advice.

I learnt a lot technically in part to the demands of the assignments but largely as my Tutor challenged my outcomes technically and gave me directions to make improvements. I learnt not to shy away from technical challenges but to read, learn and experiment to improve.

I realised that the more I released myself from rigid mind sets and exposed myself, the more satisfying and successful my work became.

Reflecting on best work

It was at assignment three “Photographing the unseen” that through the learning (coursework, independent research, tutor advice) I gained confidence and embraced photography more creatively and conceptually. I particularly enjoyed the research and exhibitions that coincided with this unit and felt as if “the penny had dropped” in terms of using photography to really express myself. I was enthusiastic about reworking some of the assignment making technical improvements.

In assignment 4 once I had my eureka moment deciding on the Margaret Bourke- White Gandhi photograph that I had a personal link to, I relished researching and shaping the essay. I learnt much here about interpreting photographs, a photographer’s motivation and influences.

I knew by the time I met my final assignment that it should be personally driven, though a fabricated outcome. As my tutor suggested I borrowed elements of approaches from other photographers and enjoyed enormously thinking through the concept and then enacting it.

Areas I would like to develop further

  • To push my creative boundaries.
  • To compose with some subtlety and ambiguity.
  • To remember to look very carefully with another’s eye, especially a technically trained eye to spot weaknesses and areas for correction.
  • To continue my learning with off camera lighting.
  • To read and research broadly and learn from not only great photographers but artists in general.

Overall Context and Narrative has developed my sense of adventure and experimentation photographically and creatively, I intend to continue this journey of discovery whilst combining it with increasing technical prowess.

I have reflected on each course module after my draft and again after my tutor’s feedback:




Niki South             Student number: 514516

Submission – Assignment 5: Making it up

“The Supper”

TUTOR REPORT: Tutor report OCA Niki South 514516 Ass 5


This feedback was by google hangout followed by a brief report.

I was particularly pleased with my Tutor’s feedback this time by video and then written. He has been a hard task master, constructively critical and technically a perfectionist, which has been very good for me. I felt that I had been on a long journey this course and that my work on this final module pulled together the huge learning that I had been through over the last year.


  • Understanding of symbolism.
  • Understanding of art history and contemporary practice.
  • Extensive research and my learning log.
  • Careful construction of a tableaux, including the direction of the actors.
  • Commitment to learning about off camera lighting. I had initially thought to avoid shooting this assignment inside, as I was nervous about using off camera lighting; I am very glad that I challenged myself, bought new equipment, experimented with it and have opened new exciting doors in my photography.
  • Technical improvements in my photography. I have looked back to my last photographic assignment (assignment 3) after which my development areas were: lighting, being aware of shadows and reflections and how to overcome them, and awareness of colour balance. I am pleased that I have improved on these areas with the photography for this assignment.


The areas we talked about were for possible post production work although these were suggested as possibles not essentials at all:

  • To eliminate the light switch above my head in the image. How did I not see this myself? Now it has been pointed out it is a huge irritation and distraction and will have to go!
  • I could tone down the right side of the image and the back of the chair slightly, not essential.
  • I could brighten the door a little, not essential.
  • Should I have used less salt? I did wonder this myself, though I also did want it to be obvious.


These I have taken not only from this assignment but from the wisdom shared by my tutor generally and the learning that I want to take onto my next course myself:

  • To continue to tackle challenges head on to broaden and accelerate my learning.
  • To continue my learning with off camera lighting.
  • To remember to look very carefully with another’s eye, especially a technically trained eye to spot weaknesses and areas for correction.
  • Continue to compose with some ambiguity.
  • To read and research broadly and learn from the great photographers.


  • Reprocess “The Supper” to eliminate the light switch.
  • To experiment with lightening and toning down small areas of the image. I need to look very carefully at the image again and ultimately determine whether I prefer it aesthetically as it is or with some changes, going through the exercise will be useful even if I decide to leave these areas as they are – After some experimentation for my submission image I brightened the open door side of the image very slightly, to balance the tone across the image.

Link to learning log:

This mind map summarises the narrative of my brainstorming and planning contained in the learning log.

 Planning brainstorm:

mind map prep final.jpg




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.

LEARNING LOG: Thames Valley OCA Meeting

Thames Valley OCA Photography group meeting 15th July 2017

Though I joined this group a few months ago due to my 2 centre living and travelling, this was the first meeting that I’d been able to attend.

It was good to meet with other OCA photographer, including one that has recently completed their degree as well as a tutor. We were able to share projects that we were working on, mainly through prints, and invite critical comments from the group. There was also a discussion about the body of work that some of the members are working on. For my part the timing for sharing was difficult as I had just completed assignment four and not begun the coursework and research for assignment five, although I did share some initial ideas and had some photographers’ work suggested to me to review.

It will definitely be worthwhile support group and add to my learning journey so I intend to attend monthly when I am able.

ASSIGNMENT FOUR: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Nicola South              Student number: 514516

TUTOR REPORT: Tutor report OCA Niki South 514516 Ass 4



  • Extensive research.
  • Powerful analysis.
  • Use of a personal connection.
  • The image chosen for the essay.


  • Include more on the composition, my thoughts about it.
  • My tutor suggests that I could have mentioned the way the eye is directed to the main subject, and that I should comment on the light hitting Ghandi’s head spiritually; however re-reading my essay confirms that I have written about the way the viewer’s eye is drawn across the image, and described the “daylight alighting mystically on Gandhi’s head”. I think unfortunately he must have missed these comments, although I accept that I may not have been obvious enough about how this directs the eye to Gandhi. I could have been more explicit however about the image following the rule of thirds.


  • Remember to consider and comment on whether and how an image could be improved when analysing and reading a photograph.
  • To use my learning from this part of the course on reading photographs as I go forward.
  • As my tutor suggest to carry on learning from “the greats” to take my own practice forwards.


  • Reread the essay, to check whether any changes are needed, though my Tutor suggests I should submit it as it is. Having done so I concluded that I should submit as it is, especially as I found that I have covered the composition points he mentions apart from the rule of thirds (I thought to go back and insert this but decided it would be rather obvious!).

Link to learning log:

This mind map summarises the narrative of my brainstorming for the image:

mind map prep






Part four: Reading photographs Assignment 4 draft

Student number: 514516      Nicola South

A Picture is worth a thousand words


Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

  • I spent much time reading around the technical, and semantic terms it was necessary to understand for this assignment- I believe that I understand them and have demonstrated this.
  • I tested my visual awareness and observational skills when learning how to read photographs and when reading my chosen photograph.
  • I would guess that the compositional skill needed in this assignment are in the pulling together all of these thoughts and material in a coherent manner
  • I am sure that I should continue to read widely to broaden my knowledge of these areas
  • It will be very interesting to use these enhanced skills when I visit my next exhibition. I am sure the exhibition notes that I wrote in this part of my coursework would have been much shaper if I’d viewed it before working through this section of the course.

Quality of outcome: 

  • I hope the content is both broad and relevant.
  • I believe I have applied the learning from the exercises and coursework whilst shaping and writing the essay and been discerning in my choice of material.
  • I trust that I have communicated my concepts clearly.

Demonstration of creativity

  • My imagination was needed both when choosing the photograph for the assignment and when reading the photograph, as ultimately there are assumptions to be made.
  • I believe that my interpretation of the photograph was original and unique and this was shaped from thinking laterally around the evidence and being imaginative.
  • I hope that my Personal voice is beginning to show in my analysis of the photograph.


  • I spent a lot of time researching the background before I began to draft the essay and have published a summary this research on my learning log.
  • I believe that the critical thinking and reflection that I did on this image shows in my analysis of the photograph.
  • I did talk to others about the image, non- photographers which was useful, however it may have also been useful to talk to my peers about my ideas. I have just joined an OCA photography group who meet monthly and this will add to my reflective process.






Niki South Student number: 514516

This Tutor feedback was firstly by google hangout and then followed with a brief Tutor report.

TUTOR REPORTTutor Report Form-Niki South 514516 Ass 3

GOOGLE HANGOUT NOTES: Tutor verbal google hangout feedback Ass 3




  • The “bold” concept.
  • My communication, I had been conscious of my Tutor’s previous advice to be more ambiguous and to pare down what was within a frame.
  • The images chosen for the series.
  • Use of the square format for the images, an idea I had taken from my tutors previous feedback.
  • The research and commitment to the subject


These were technical as I had expected: in my self-reflection I had said that I was pleased with my images as concepts but knew that they could be technically improved:

  • Lighting: experiment with diffusers, bouncing the light, reflectors and sources such as soft boxes.
  • Be aware of shadows and reflections and how to overcome them
  • Consider the colour balance, the peacemaker has a slightly yellow hue


  • Consider the type of lighting that is best for the subject, whether it should be direct or soft for instance.
  • Be alert to colour balance
  • Continue to make use of a variety of formats for effect
  • Continue to compose with some ambiguity
  • Continue the use of sketches pre shooting


  • Reshoot “The Peacemaker” in a purer, softer light. I recreated the same composition as in my draft shoot but experimented with the lighting. Before shooting I set up the shot in various locations with daylight from different positions. Having found the best location for light and minimal reflection I then shot the first 4 images without flash, the next 5 with a speed lite and then decided to shoot with only natural light.
  • Reprocess “The organiser” to improve the colour balance

Link to learning log:

These mind maps summarise the narrative of my brainstorming, preparations and post shooting thoughts contained in the learning log.


Putting yourself in brainstorm 1500


Putting yourself in shooting 1500


Putting yourself in editing 1 1500

 Notes on reshooting “The peacemaker”: I recreated the same composition as in my draft shoot but experimented with the lighting. Before shooting I set up the shot in various locations with daylight from different positions. Having found the best location for light and minimal reflection I then shot the first 4 images without flash, the next 5 with a speed lite and then decided to shoot with only natural light.



NIKI SOUTH               Student number: 514516

“The hidden me”


Demonstration of technical and visual skills: I chose to construct my ideas in “real time” in one photograph per image. I considered using photo-montage or photography combined with collage to represent my ideas which I think would have been easier. Working with props and layers within each image was challenging with self-portraiture (difficulties: focus, depth of field, movement, composition whilst in the picture) however I decided that although the photographs may not be as polished as usual they would be realistic and closer to representing me.

  • My observational skills were tested as I was moving quickly in and out of camera and I had to both see the composition and then be a part of it.
  • I composed and constructed each image before shooting, although when I reviewed images I had to make changes to gain the effect I wanted.
  • I considered carefully what I wanted inside each frame to convey a message, and therefore for each image which part of me I used was important; for instance in The peacemaker it was the centre, the heart of me that I want the viewer to focus on.
  • I also thought carefully about the perspective I presented in terms of the message I was giving; for instance shooting The Escapist with the bars on top of my body whilst shooting downwards, which I thought enhanced the feeling of containment I wanted to portray.
  • I carefully considered the background and colours for each image, for instance choosing white for The Peacemaker, green for the Escapist, and warm spicy colours for The Lover.
  • I used a remote camera timer for the first time and made extensive use of the self-timer. I also experimented for only the second time with a Speedlight and chose to work without it when this would be more effective and a slow shutter speed could be used.
  • I was surprised that three of the final four images chosen were taken at an aperture of f.8, however this reflects that I had a similar judgement on what aperture would give me the depth of focus I needed.

Quality of outcome:

  • It is hard for me to judge the coherence of my work as I agree that self-portraits are “charts of the most personal sort usually done in quiet complicity with the self” (Sobieszek, 1978). There are elements of some of the images that are meaningful to me but that I would not want to have to explain to others; I hope that there is enough in each image that enables the viewer to build meaning.
  • I considered the images as a series as well as singularly, this is why I reshot The Organiser with more than my hands and arms in it, even though I eventually returned to just my fingers. It was also one of the reasons and why I cropped The Lover to a closer shot when I found the image I wanted to use.
  • I constructed the order of the series to build up the narrative for the viewer from the less hidden of my selves to the most intimate of my multiple selves.
  • I chose to crop to a square ratio as I think this enhances the concept of “The hidden me” as it draws your eye into the centre of the image.
  • The images are cruder (less perfect) than I would normally tolerate but I hope that this is acceptable due to the nature of the self-portraiture and theme that I am trying to relate.

Demonstration of creativity

  • I moved from a position of not wanting to put myself in the picture to doing so with a purpose, self-reflection. This was risky for me and I used little disguise, ultimately dismissing mirrors and masks.
  • I experimented as I shot and after reviewing images to get what I thought were the most effective results.
  • I believe my concept itself of the hidden me is creative and that my construction of these is imaginative.

Context: I researched through exhibitions photographers and books both self-portraiture in general and photographic self-portraits; my learning points were invaluable when planning and executing my assignment:

  • To comprehend hard on my multiple selves and my identity.
  • Not to fear self-portraiture as self-exploration can be therapeutic and enlightening.
  • To consider carefully backgrounds, colours, framing and perspective.
  • To work within a short time frame to keep the focus; I shot all images in a few days. It is possible however that I have sacrificed quality a little for this focus and may need to return and reshoot to improve them when I reflect.


Sobieszek, R (1978) “Other selves in photographic Self-Portraiture” in: Sobieszek and Irmas (1994). The camera i. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Los Angeles county museum of art.


Niki South Student number: 514516

This feedback was firstly by google hangout and then followed with a brief Tutor report.

TUTOR REPORT: Tutor Report Form Niki South 514516 ass 2

GOOGLE HANGOUT NOTES: Tutor verbal google hangout feedback Ass 2



  • My research.
  • My engagement with photography on many levels.


  • Consider different formats as a way of informing the reader about and image.
  • Crop from images to focus on the strongest part.
  • Consider using either portrait or landscape within one series.
  • Shoot images that are more ambiguous, oblique, subtle and less cluttered for the reader.
  • Develop my sketch book use alongside my mind maps.


  • Make full use of various formats where appropriate to enhance my image or message.
  • Crop more brutally if effective.
  • When composing think more subtly and shoot and present images that are more ambiguous.
  • Continue to develop my sketches for shoots, perhaps I should present some on my blog?
  • Re-subscribe to the British Journal of Photography.

My Tutor said not to change the images for submission but to take the suggestions forward into my next assignment.

 Link to learning log:

These mind maps summarise the narrative of my brainstorming. preparations and post shooting thoughts contained in the learning log


mindmap brainstorm better.jpg



Disappointment preparation 3.jpg


Post shooting:

mind map better postshooting 1500