Reflection on Tutor Report on Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

Reflection on Tutor Report on Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

The written tutor report was a follow up to an Assignment tutorial via Google hangout audio. Both the tutorial and report gave me valuable perspectives I had missed on the material when preparing the Assignment submission. These insights were interesting and instructive.

The image shown in ‘Gallery 1 Reflection’ (below) is of the subject chosen for the Assignment submission but one that had been rejected because the subject’s face is turned from the camera; this was a valid consideration for this photograph, and for similar ones from the shoot, but only when the image was being viewed as a stand-alone photograph.  However, when viewed in the context of a series of five images the photograph becomes relevant because it shows a valuable relationship between the artist, her art and her surroundings. ‘Gallery 2 Reflection’ (below) shows the original final series but now amended with this contextual photograph added.

‘Gallery 1 Reflection’ (click to enlarge) ‘stand alone’ image

‘Gallery 2 Reflection’ (click to enlarge) ‘stand alone’ image as part of final series

I had appreciated that the use of a mask with one subject (Subject C) had introduced the notion of identity into the portrait series. However, what I had not appreciated was that even with the images that employ the mask excluded, the series contained a separate strong element of identity and performance — see ‘Gallery 3 Reflection’ (below).

This subject’s photographs now arranged in a new series puts the element of identity to the fore – the casual dress of the subject in his workspace contrasts with the wearing of a formal suit at the Outdoor Gallery implying a shift in identity associated perhaps with a performative element to his street gallery persona. Thus, though initially enthralled or blinded by the surreal and allusive complexity that the mask brought to the series I now agree that the photographs of this subject form the strongest series (shown in ‘Gallery 3 Reflection’ below), stronger than that chosen in my original submission.

Another reason to choose this series  is the ‘almost reluctant/uneasy body language’ (tutor report) of the subject in my initially chosen series when photographed at the Outdoor Gallery.

‘Gallery 3 Reflection’ (click to enlarge) Revised final series of five photographs

The report asked whether one of the objectives of the Assignment – to explore the notion of de-contextualisation — was fully achieved. I agree that it was not and the discussion as to why this was so, including that on the technical matter of using a reflector on location without the aid of an assistant, was instructive. The technical aspect of the Assignment taught me the difficulties of using an outdoor (or portable) background, in general the need for preparation and how vital technical and logistical aspects of a shoot can often be to its success. For example, since completing the Assignment I’ve explored the availability of reversible black/white collapsible backgrounds which I anticipate using in the future.

Overall the tutorial and written report were most useful in relation to a reappraisal and analysis of this Assignment (‘Vice versa’) and also for the advice, both technical and conceptual, and suggestions (including web links) for the next assignment and future work.


Submission Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

Submission Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

My ‘Assignment two’ learning blog address:

The five Assignment images are show in ‘Gallery 1 submission’ below. There are several themes: portraits of a single subject; this subject as an art practitioner photographed at sites indoors and outdoors both of which emphasise their identity as an artist; additional portraits use the background to de-personalise (decontextualise) the individual and place emphasis on the person independent of their art practice.

How the Assignment meets the Assessment Criteria Points is discussed in my Assignment 2 learning blog:

This Assignment is about taking what has worked from previous Exercises and then trying to develop this further in terms of interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio). The aim was to develop a series of five final images to present to the viewer as a themed body of work.

For the Assignment I sought to identify an individual or group of individuals who would allow me to photograph them both on location and inside, however, and this was crucial, such that they would be engaged (broadly) in the same activity in both the indoor and outside photographs. I successfully got the assistance of artists (painters) who frequently exhibited their work in an Outdoor Gallery. In addition to photographing these artists in their workspace (indoor) and at the Outdoor Gallery, I attempted to explore the use of plain backgrounds, that is, to photograph the artist in their working space, at the Outdoor Gallery and also include an image of them in front of a plain background. Plain decontextualizing backgrounds have been used often in portrait photography – discussed in my learning blog at: .

In contrast to the examples above I wanted, over the five Assignment images, to attempt to place the emphasis on the personal, individual portrait in relation to the three differing backgrounds i.e. there was no ethnographic or dramatic element to my employment of backgrounds.

In the course of the Assignment I photographed six subjects. The reason for photographing more than one subject as detailed in my learning blog at

were validated by events:

The final five Assignment images are of Subject B (see ‘Gallery 1 submission’ below). Other candidate images for the final set were those from Subject C where the mask as a surrealist object provided visually strong images.

In her book entitled ‘On the Portrait and the Moment’ (Mark, 2015) Mary Ellen Mark writes: ‘Let things happen. There is a fine line between having control of the shoot and overcontrolling it to the point that the subject looks forced’ (Mark, 2015: 62). I successfully followed this advice in the case of Subject C where elements were added during the shoot (see However, on other occasions mainly related to the use of the plain decontextualizing background I found another piece of Mark’s advice more difficult, namely:

Take Control. As a photographer, you have to understand how to gauge people. You have to read their signals and know how far you can push and when you need to back off. But I also think it’s very important to get strong and intimate photographs, and for those you have to push (Mark, 2015: 52).

In this regard the white background in the series of Subject C had to be heavily post-processed in an attempt to achieve the envisaged result, the attempt at the actual shoot having only partially succeeded. Although the mask makes the images rich with allusive complexity I rejected their use as the final series because to do so would have diluted the main theme (indoor/outdoor) by too great an amount.

Another strong candidate series for the final selection was that of Subject F in which the indoor shoot I felt was successful (

The photographs shown in ‘Gallery I submission’ (below) best fulfil the Assignment’s broad objectives as described at the outset of the Assignment (see my learning blog at ).

‘Gallery 1 submission’ Final five images for Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

Contact sheets (click to enlarge) Photographs from the final image series are marked in red, and others in blue


Mark, Mary Ellen (2015) On the Portrait and the Moment. New York: Aperture


Assessment criteria points Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

Assessment criteria points Assignment two ‘Vice versa’

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. (40%)

Technical and visual skills were displayed in the preparations for and completion of a collection of five portrait images. Six individuals were photographed both indoors and outside while maintaining a common theme. Digital images of each individual, made over several shoots, were processed, edited to a short list and displayed in my learning blog. A set of five images was then chosen from one individual to form the final five images for the Assignment.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. (20%)

Prior to taking photographs research was undertaken into photographic portraiture, particularly as related to two topics: the use of decontextualising backgrounds and the use of masks – as documented in my learning blog. The blog also includes images from the various shoots of each of the six subjects and also a consideration of the criteria used in choosing the five final images for the Assignment.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. (20%)

The Assignment involved interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio). I chose to photograph artists (painters) both in their workspace and while displaying their work at an outdoor gallery thus maintaining a common theme in any series of images. In addition I explored the use of decontextualising backgrounds and took advantage of the serendipitous opportunity to explore the use of masks both in portraiture and within the Assignment brief.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs). (20%)

My on-line learning blog demonstrates my reflection, research and critical thinking on the Assignment.

Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iv)

Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iv)

Subject D

Gallery 4 below shows photographs of the working space of Subject D whom I did not manage to photograph at an Outdoor Gallery.

Gallery 4 (click to enlarge) Subject D, no photographs obtained at an Outdoor Gallery

Subject E

Gallery 5 shows the subject photographed in her working space, and with her displayed work at an Outdoor Gallery. Here the decontexualised portrait was taken against a plain dark background.

Gallery 5 (click to enlarge) Subject E

Subject F

Gallery 6 shows the subject photographed in her working space, and with her displayed work at an Outdoor Gallery. The decontextualized image is against a non-descript background.

Gallery 6 (click to enlarge) Subject F


Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iii)

Assignment 2 Vice Versa (iii)

Subject C

Gallery 3a (below) shows the subject photographed in his working space, at an Outdoor gallery and against a nondescript background.

This artist’s interest was in popular culture and in particular he painted scenes related to the Star Wars films. While photographing him in his working space he showed me a ‘Stormtrooper’ helmet and I asked to make a portrait with this also (see Gallery 3b below).

The use of masks in portraiture has often been explored. Gillian Wearing (b. 1963) has extensively explored their use in self-portraiture – see for example her ‘un-self-portrait’ (Ewing, 2006: 91) shown in Figure 1. Recently Wearing’s work was shown with that of Claude Cahun (b. 1894) in an exhibition entitled ‘Behind the mask, another mask’ (Grant, 2017). Here the focus on masks:

allows for a foregrounding of the surrealist strategies present in both artist’s work, in which the mask is used as an uncanny object, a surrogate for a body that draws out photograph’s similar qualities of being life-like and embalmed (Grant, 2017).

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) is an artist who has made extensive use of self-masking in her practice (Searle, 2009; Respini, 2012). A use of masks in portraiture (as opposed to self-portraiture above) is seen in the work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (b. 1925). Meatyard’s son recalls how one day in 1958 or ’59 his father: ‘walked into a Woolworths store in Lexington, Kentucky … he came upon a set of masks whose features suggested a marriage of Picasso and a jack-o’-lantern’ (Zax, 2011):

“He [Meatyard] immediately liked their properties,” recalls his son Christopher, who was with him at the time. Meatyard père bought a few dozen. “They were latex and had a very unique odor,” says Christopher, now 56. “In the summer they could be hot and humid” (Zax, 2011).

Over the next 13 years ‘Meatyard persuaded a procession of family and friends to don one of the Woolworths masks and pose in front of his camera’ (Zax, 2011) (see fig. 2. – 5.). Some give to Meatyard’s pictures: ‘an existential slant, claiming their ‘theme is the essential otherness and shifting personae of people, even those to whom one is closest’’ (Coleman cited by Durden, 2014: 66).

The photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin have used masks in their practice, for example Figure 6. – 9. Covering more than two decades, some of their work:

began as advertisements, while others first appeared in gallery shows. If the resulting mix — glamorous celebrity portraits, androgynous fine art photos and mannerist fashion editorials — feels a bit schizophrenic, that’s kind of the point. … to show that the distinctions between these genres matter less and less (at least for in-demand photographers …). “Sometimes our work that’s been published as an advertising campaign ends up on the walls of a museum,” she [Inez Van Lamsweerde]noted (Heyman, 2011).

A discussion of Van Lamsweerde and Matadin’s photograph ‘Anastasia’ (see fig. 10.) gives an idea of the complexities that can unfold from the use of even a simple mask in portraiture:

The subject of Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s portrait … conjures up a world of transgressions. Exuding an elegant, refined, Versailles-like decadence, … But, above all, there is suggested transgression in the ‘mask’ itself: black/white, male/female, adult/child. … Perhaps, then the mask is yet another’s face – the face, in fact, of the desiring male, which would mean that there is no female present at all, only a mirror reflecting male lust (Ewing, 2006:74).

The artist Marcel Dzama says of his  curated show of masks ‘The Mask Makers’ (Baritaux, 2017) that the theme is ‘Be what you want to be … The mask is freedom, anonymity, a new identity or gender, and bridging us to the afterlife’ (Baritaux, 2017). Among the photographers included are Wolfgang Tillmans (see fig. 11.) and Stan Douglas (see fig. 12).

An indication of the allure of the use of masks in photography is the image chosen for the cover of ‘Art Photography Now’ by Susan Bright (Bright, 2005) – see Figure 13. A historical perspective is seen in Oscar Rejlander’s (b. 1813) ‘The Mask’ (see fig. 14.)

Gallery 3a (click to enlarge) Subject C without mask

Gallery 3b (click to enlarge) Subject C with mask


Baritaux, Zio (2017) marcel dzama curates a show of masks, from cindy sherman to raymond pettibon. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Bright, Susan (2005) Art Photography Now. London: Thames & Hudson

Durden, Mark (2014) Photography Today. New York: Phaidon

Ewing, William E. (2006) Face. The New PhotographicPortrait. London: Thames & Hudson

Grant, Catherine (2017) ‘All Those Faces’ In: Source. 90. pp. 46 – 47

Heyman, Stephen (2011) ‘Photographers Without Borders’. In: The New York Times [online] At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Respini, Eva (2012) Cindy Sherman. New York: Museum of Modern Art

Searle, Adrian (2009) ‘Photographer Cindy Sherman’s changing faces’. In: The Guardian [online] At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Zax, David (2011) Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Man Behind the Masks. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)


Figure 1. Wearing, Gillian (2000) Self Portrait. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 2. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1962) Romance (N.) from Ambrose Bierce # 3. At:×420.jpg (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 3. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1970 -72) Lucybelle Crater and photo professor Lucybelle Crater , ca. At:×420.jpg (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 4. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1974) from: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 5. Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (1974) from: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater. At: (Accessed on 03.08.17)

Figure 6. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (n.d) Joan via Inez. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 7. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (2004) Alexander McQueen. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 8. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (1997). The Widow (White). At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 9. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (2011) Lady Gaga – V Magazine. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 10. Van Lamsweerde, Inez and Matadin, Vinoodh (1994/2001) Anastasia. At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 11. Tillmans, Wolfgang (2016) Eleanor / Lutz, portrait. [Inkjet print on paper 40.6 x 30.5 cm] At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 12. Douglas, Stan (1945/2010) Trick or Treat, [Digital fiber print mounted on Dibond aluminium, 110.8 x 83.8 cm] (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 13. Starkey, Hannah (2002) Untitled. [c-type print 122 x 162 cm] At: (Accessed on 04.08.17)

Figure 14. Rejlander, Oscar (c. 1860) detail from The Mask. [Albumin print] At:–vintage-photography-art-photography.jpg (Accessed on 09.08.17)