Assignment Four: Amendment

Assignment 4 Context and Narrative Craig Sinclair 515221 FINAL VERSION 24-09-17

Following the feedback from my tutor I have made some minor amendments to my essay for assignment four. Notably I removed the italics as mentioned in the tutor feedback as well as a reference after the quote by Gregory Crewdson.




Assignment Three: Further thought and amendment

Following the feedback I had earlier in the year from my tutor I have decided to drop the final self portrait/forest composite image from the assignment. In reflection I agree with my tutors very valid comments about the final image weakening the set. I do like the image on its own but it doesn’t work as part of the set.

I have also decided to drop the image of the logs as I felt it didn’t really add anything of importance to the set of images or the story I was trying to portray.

The two images I have removed from the set:

The new series will therefore be as follows:

Assignment 3 Context and Narrative Craig Sinclair 515221 – Reworked final version


1. I feel trapped like I’m in a self constructed prison. I need to get out of here today. I’m scared if I step outside I’ll get sucked off the earth. What was it Susan Jeffers said “Feel the fear and do it anyway”


2. Time for some courage and the well worn trusty boots


3. Getting on the trail. Am I alone here or is there someone else?


4. There’s been a murder here, they killed the trees. Like stolen memories.


5. I wish you were here today my love, to keep me company


6. But I know you’re not real. I’ll see you tonight.


7. Sometimes the only way out of your mind is straight through.


8. I need to climb up this bastard but I’m shit scared of heights, I’m shit scared of so many things. Fear is just a thought process. Every day is a challenge but you have to keep moving forward, looking up and never giving up.


9. Inside the tower I look up and I’m overcome by vertigo and fear but I need to do this. Transformation is a multi layered transition through time and space.


10. Triumph; from up here I can see everything clearly. I can see everything behind me and everything in front of me. I can see where I have been and where I’m going.


11. In reflection it wasn’t that bad after all, the fear of something is often worse than the thing itself.

Context and Narrative Reflection

Out of all the topics covered in this course, which felt most comfortable to you?

If I am totally honest, the area I found most ‘comfortable’ was researching and writing the essay for assignment four. I guess this is because I’ve been using this form of written communication for a long time, where as visual communication is still a relatively new thing for me and I’m still learning about it. I find writing comes quite naturally, however if I were asked to give a speech, that would be a totally different thing altogether!

Did you discover anything completely new to you? What was it?

The idea of exploring the self and self portraiture was something I have never done before and I found that really interesting; to turn the camera around on myself and reflect on the self. At points I feel I may have taken it a little bit further than I would have liked, maybe said too much with out keeping a safe distance from my work. I guess what I’m saying is I am learning about personal boundaries and having some degree of detachment or separation from my work, if that makes sense?

I have learnt to be humble, especially when learning. I know I’m not the best photographer in the world and I have so very much to learn with theory, practice and technique. There will always be something new to learn. The more I learn the more I want to find out and I think that passion is what keeps me going in the tough times of self doubt.

Learning more about staged photography and ‘constructed realities’ in part 5 of the unit has been enlightening. I love it. There have been a couple of times where I wasn’t sure I could do this, some contemporary art photography really isn’t my cup of tea. Then you see some work by a photographer and you immediately connect with it, this then reignites your flame and your interest. I think the whole degree is a voyage of discovery.

I have liked getting suggestions from my tutor about photographers to check out.

Which area enabled you to come closest to finding your personal voice?

I would probably say assignment three. I felt I really started to explore something bigger than snapshots. I felt I was digging deep into something inside. I wouldn’t say I perfected it but I learnt a lot from getting out there and just trying out something new.

I found the 2 week diary was fascinating. Having researched some other photographers and artists I know when they do their own projects they keep journals or diaries. I can see how this can give more depth to your photographic work. I like the idea of further exploring the idea of connecting my photography with the written word.

Which area seemed furthest away from who you want to be as a photographer?

With out a doubt the part of the course I really wasn’t keen on was Street photography. Even now it makes me feel uncomfortable thinking about it. Having said that I gave it a good go and I think I did it in my own way. I just don’t like the idea of getting in someones grill with a camera or taking photographs of people in the street covertly. It just feels weird to me. I appreciate it maybe other photographers ‘thing’ and that’s totally fine, it’s just not for me. I have seen some amazing street photography in my research. I watched a great documentary/movie called ‘Everybody Street’. Some amazing street photography and I definitely get it a lot more than I did before, there is a bit of a buzz to street photography. Linking it back into my music studies it reminds me a little bit of improvisation or ad-lib in theatre studies. However, I always preferred a well prepared, practised set or a well rehearsed performance. Having said that it can be different if I’m photographing animals. Landscape photography its a similar deal for me, preparation is key, you can however be pleasantly surprised. Maybe this is why I have enjoyed the staged photography so much.

There were a couple of other moments where I saw some photographs or photographers work and I just thought…nope this isn’t for me, it doesn’t resonate with my soul. I think that’s totally fine though and I’m learning to take more of a balanced and objective view about art that I’m not that keen on.

What were the main things you learnt? Were there any epiphany moments?

Its ok to admit you don’t like something but you need to question why so you can learn from it.

Storytelling and documentary photograph was a massive new thing for me. I have so much to learn about storytelling I appreciate that but I love the possibilities, whether that’s from a fictional or non-fictional storytelling perspective. A lot of the photography I have done in the past has been single images but over the past couple of years I have enjoyed pulling together stories through my photography, even on just a personal basis sharing images on Facebook with friends, I think how can I tell the story to my viewers/friends of my adventures and the treks I go on.

Will you return to any of the assignments from this course at a later date? Did you
feel as if you were on the cusp of anything?

I really enjoyed the aspects of exploring the self and psychology, psychological tension either in my own work or observations of other photographers work.

I liked the idea I was exploring in assignment three with thinking of the woods like the mind. I would like to explore this more in the future and come back to it. The woods, nature and the environment are a massive part of who I am and something I am really passionate about so I want to explore this a lot more in the future.

I have really enjoyed Context and Narrative. I would say more than the first unit I studied with the OCA. Part of this is down to the first year being a real shell-shock to the system. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about different photographers, storytelling and learning to read photographs. I feel I have made mistakes along the way but I have learnt from them, it’s all part of developing as an artist.

The unit has been as much about developing as an individual, as it has been about photography, maybe more so. I have made some massive personal achievements, which may seem insignificant to others but it has helped me grow as a person which I think will in turn help me develop as a photographer. I have seen some amazing exhibitions over the past year in London and I’m so happy that I managed to get along to these, overcoming some personal barriers in the process. I have done a lot of reading over the unit as well and viewing as much photography as I possibly can.

I have some apprehension and anxieties about my next unit ‘Identity and Place’ in particular about photographing people/portraits but I’m sure with the help and support of my next tutor and the OCA I will be in good hands.




Assignment Five: Tutor Feedback and my thoughts

Tutor Report Assignment-5-cn-formative-feedback-craig-sinclair-515221

It was good to get some constructive feedback from my tutor for the final assignment on Context and Narrative. My tutor makes some valid points, I don’t agree with them all but that’s fine.

I don’t personally feel the assignment was rushed, it did take a lot of planning , thought processes, getting and using props etc. Perhaps my tutor is referring to the switch of roles from using myself as playing the roles to my wife playing the roles of the two characters? I also took time processing and editing the photographs afterwards into the final image.

I’m glad my tutor picked up on the viewpoint of the image. I spent some considerable time in the room trying out different angles and viewpoints, low, mid to high. In the end I found the high viewpoint looking down from above really fitted the disconnected feeling of the image and the idea of sometimes viewing your life and yourself as if in a movie. I ended up standing on the a chair with the camera at the very top of the tripod and me leaning on the wall to get out as wide as I could. It was an interesting balancing act!

I have thought about the assignment over the past couple of weeks and whilst I was away on holiday. I don’t currently intend on reworking the assignment. I feel it expresses everything I wanted to for the assignment and I feel ready to finish up on the unit for assessment. I have however taken on board some of the comments made by my tutor. I may go back and look at some of the wording behind the assignment over the next week.

As commented by my tutor I have now gone back to the assignment on my blog and added a link beneath the image to a full size version of the photograph. I can’t place a larger version directly on my blog so this new link should help viewing the image at a better scale.

I’m glad my tutor enjoyed my write up of the Gregory Crewdson exhibition, it really was amazing!

As suggested by my tutor I have amended my main blog photograph to cut out the bottom section which had included my watch on my wrist and the Nikon branded camera strap. I can see how these were distracting now in this specific use of the image. I agree the original image was also too large.

I will definitely have another look at the photography of Cindy Sherman, I have seen some of her work previously in one of my books at home and I think at an exhibition as well.

I have been really grateful for the input and constructive feedback from my tutor Robert Bloomfield throughout the duration of the Context and Narrative unit. It has been nice to have a tutor who gives balanced, level headed feedback. We haven’t always agreed on everything but I have truly valued his comments, experience and knowledge. Thank you.



Assignment Five: Making it up


For the final assignment on Context and Narrative I decided to create a standalone image. The image is a reflection on the book ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ by Robert Louis Stevenson (also known as the ‘Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’) but it’s also a reflection on the duality we all have within us and the dissociative state we sometimes find ourselves in. Recently I have found myself feeling disconnected from my surroundings, as if I am watching myself and my life in a movie, as if I am the camera observing my own life from the sidelines.

Looking back at my first assignment for Context and Narrative I touched on some of my thoughts about Social Media; the duality of our real and on line life’s, the on line persona. In many ways you could say we are all a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. I also feel it is a reflection on mental health and the way people try to hide it, even today mental health problems can be frowned upon by some parts of society.

In my interpretation of the story, Mrs Hyde has drugged Dr Jekyll with a of cup tea full of sedatives. Hyde sits smiling drinking whiskey with a large knife. Dr Jekyll is asleep on the left of the frame, bathed in light, Hyde is in the shadows on the right of the frame, the positioning of the characters is intentional, you could say a nod to the way I interpret the current political climate. I also thought it was important as a visual aid to the viewer reading the scene, in the west we read left to right and the story develops throughout the frame from the left to the right.

DSC_6730 Blend 4 and shadow exposure editing

Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde, 2017

Link to full size image

Thinking of and developing ideas

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One of the biggest challenges was settling on an idea. I had noted down a number of ideas, sketched out some stories and visited a location for the assignment. I managed to cut the ideas down to the following:

  1. a mystery forest shot :IMG_3422
  2. a garage murder mystery scene using my own garage:FullSizeRender 6
  3. a dream like theme (I had done some reading about dreams, notably trying to interpret what dreams mean) similar to my final shot but of a person asleep dreaming of multiple versions of themselves playing cards around a table:FullSizeRender 4
  4. the duality of Jekyll and Hyde

I tried out a couple of the ideas with limited success; I either went off the idea, the logistics were a nightmare or I just couldn’t get it to work. Most notably option C with 5 versions of myself started to get really complicated when I started to incorporate the lighting in the scene. Blending 5 images into one composite was too much. One of the biggest challenges was lighting and the resulting shadows that are created, it just seemed to create endless problems especially with the entire set having to stay exactly the same. I would like to come back to the idea at some point in the future once I have worked it out. I think a proper sound stage would work better than my front room.

The final image

The final idea didn’t fully come to realisation until I started working on option C. As I discovered that option C wasn’t working I started to see the possibilities for option D. I had originally intended to be the subject but I spoke with my wife and she was happy to take on the role of both characters. I thought this was an interesting twist on the typically male associated role. This was good as it freed me up to focus on framing and directing the shot from behind the camera. It was also helpful as my remote triggers decided to stop working!

The photograph is shot in my house. This gave me the maximum opportunity for moving props and furniture around and also playing around with lighting. I had to clear quite a bit from the room. I used a number of key props to add to the story telling; an old cup and saucer with liquid in it, a book (Jekyll and Hyde), a desk lamp, bottle of whiskey and whiskey glass, knife, clock, chair and stool, table and chairs, cabinet and plant on the cabinet and clothing.

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I specifically didn’t want to pin the image down to any particular period in time, a bit like the exhibition I recently saw by Gregory Crewdson’s ‘Cathedral of the Pines’, it feels familiar but you couldn’t say exactly when it was. I didn’t want to fill the image with modern technology or intentionally set it in the past.

The main source of light comes from the green lamp used to light Jekyll on the left of the frame. I have used the light from the cabinet as some side lighting. The remaining light source comes from the two large candles, one placed near Jekyll with the clock and cup the other placed next to Hyde to create more of a sinister mood, it also acts as a visual device to split the frame into two halves. I had experimented with a light off the frame to the right but it didn’t look right and created a lot of strange shadows. The light acts as a way of distinguishing good from evil, light from dark. On the night we took the shots there was a terrible rain storm outside which seemed to add to the atmosphere in the room when we taking the shots. It felt quite eerie.

I set up my camera on the tripod as high as it would go in order to get the perspective I wanted looking down from above. I then had to stand on top of a chair to take the shot and see the back of the camera. I spent a lot of time in the room trying to find the right angle and viewpoint. If I remember correctly I used live view on my camera, most if not all the time. Unfortunately I didn’t have a wider lens to use and I couldn’t step back any further, I am literally leaning on the wall of the room.

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The images are shot on a Nikon D610 with a 24-85mm lens. The final image is a composite of two shots. The first shot of Dr Jekyll is the base for the entire shot. I then blended in Hyde on the right of the frame using Photoshop. I photographed all of the images in RAW.


Image 1



Image 2

I felt the direction went well. I think if I had more time and resources I would have liked to explore different lighting options but I used the lighting that was available to me at the time. It is quite hard to be objective directing and it was only the two of us, it would have been nice to maybe have some collaboration or support guiding me with the lighting setup. I think I did well with the resources I had available to me.

I think the use of props really helps you to create another world or reality and tell a story visually. I have learned that the placement of subjects and objects plays a key role in their significance within the frame and in the story.


  • Freeman, Michael. 2007. The Photographer’s Eye. Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos.
  • Gregory Crewdson exhibition ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ at The Photographers Gallery, London.
  • Morningstar, Sally. 2003. Divining the Future.
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. 1886. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.


I found the challenge with this assignment was having too many ideas. At the start of my planning it seemed to swamp my thinking process and I found it hard to find focus, it overwhelmed me. I don’t think my problem is having no thoughts/ideas, its having too many all at once. I really had to start taking actual photographs to get my thought process working correctly, writing down ideas and planning has some real benefits especially logistically and I can see that now 100%. However for me I have learned that my ideas often take an organic, fluid development when I start taking photographs. I guess what I am trying to say is you can plan until you are blue in the face but a lot of the creative element comes when I actually start taking photographs.

Some of my other frustrations came from having ideas but not being able to get them off the ground for a variety of reasons. Some of these are technical issues, like not fully understanding lighting. What I did find helpful was actually, physically moving around the lights and seeing how that changes things in the scene. YouTube videos and lighting diagrams in books are all fair enough in supporting learning but actually doing things in real life is much more beneficial to me as an individual for retaining new skills and new knowledge. It is a shame the OCA doesn’t have some way of incorporating learning in a photography studio or a study visit to a studio to learn about lighting and other aspects of photography.

Craig Sinclair



Do you have any archives that you could have access to? Might you be able to use it for the beginnings of a project? Blog about some ideas that you could come back to some day.

I do not currently have any burning desire to work on an archive project at the moment but I can see possible opportunities in the future that may interest me.

The archives I currently have access to would include my own personal photographs but I also know my parents have an extensive photo album collection from my childhood (my Dad took lots of photographs of our travels) which could be interesting to refer to as an archive project at some point in time and transfer to digital. My dad also has a large collection of photography slides he had made up for projection so they would be fascinating to look at.

I guess there are also local archives in museums of my local area which would be fascinating to look at as a project or family photo albums more further afield.



Project 2 The archive – Exercise 2

Exercise 2

Record a real conversation with a friend. (It’s up to you whether you ask permission
or not!)

Before listening to the recording, write your account of both sides of the conversation.

Then listen to the recording and make note of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are
unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, mis-communications etc.

Reflect upon the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied
to constructed photography. What do you learn from the conversation recording
process and how can you transfer what you learned into making pictures?

For this exercise I recorded a conversation with a friend  down the pub. I asked my friend first if it was OK to record a conversation. We spent the whole evening putting the world to rights but I recorded roughly a 17min conversation. I have decided not to share the actual conversation on line, for my own privacy but I have a recording if my tutor wants to hear it.

My recollection of the recording was that we were sat drinking pints outside in the evening. It was fresh but not cold. My beer was good! There were a few people about and there was some kind of function going on at the pub. There was also a bit of Police activity further down the road during part of the conversation which kept distracting me (4 Police cars drove past at one point, generally unheard of in my town) along with people walking past.

I remember having the usual catchup conversations but I find recalling the detail of the conversation is quite hard now thinking back to it. A lot has happened in the past week. It was a clear night and I remember chatting about how it would be a good night for photography, talking about different camper vans, travelling and wishing I knew more about fixing up engines.

Having listened back to the conversation I was surprised to hear how many different things we discussed in a short period of time; some interconnected/linked others entirely random. I spoke about a red umbrella I’ve recently purchased, book purchases, framing pictures/photographs and YouTube.

As a general observation I noted how conversations don’t take a linear storytelling form and how the un-constructed conversation differs massively from a pre thought out or planned story, play, film, conservation or speech.

I think one of the challenges for photographers as storytellers (whether fictional or non-fictional) is to make the conversation coherent but also fluid and natural. When I think back to some of the TV shows that were around when I was a kid growing up in the 90’s some of the dialogue seemed out of place for the characters i.e. written by an adult for a teenage character and audience, the two things didn’t align correctly. Ever watched an episode of Dawson’s Creek or Roswell? It could be it was an adult trying to recollect their own childhood but only seeing it now through the eyes of an adult in a different time and place.

I think another challenge for photographers is getting your visual message to communicate effectively to different types of people who all have different backgrounds and upbringings etc. A single photograph may mean something different to different people but you may want the core message (your intention) to reach as many people as you realistically can. I also think we as photographers may learn something new from fresh eyes that we never saw ourselves or never originally intended. Its important to be clear about what you want to communicate, unless you intentionally want to leave something widely open to interpretation.

I was also interested to observe the following:

  • I really hate the sound of my own voice recorded. Its sounds really different to how I hear it in my own head or when I write. I struggle to find the correct words sometimes when I speak, as if the thoughts are too fast for my mouth to communicate verbally. I may even hang on a particular word for a moment or take a pause or drink some of my pint!
  • It was fascinating to see how conversations start, often through open questions or through observations on society and reflecting back upon them.
  • how topics end and lead into other ones.
  • how themes or patterns in conversation develop.
  • how conversations can go off on tangents, sometimes coming back to its original theme.
  • how conflicting ideas are dealt with in conversation.
  • how fascinating the introvert mind is.
  • how there are gaps in verbal conversation where other types of communication take place, like visually observing your surroundings.
  • the recording doesn’t necessarily capture all the distractions around us, like cars driving past or people walking past. I find I am often highly aware of my surroundings or easily distracted, this in turn means I sometimes don’t hear what people have said properly. So it was interesting to hear that on a recording. For example at one point I misheard a town my friend was talking about, it wasn’t until further down the conversation my friend and I realised we were thinking about two different places! I guess this is an example of miscommunication.
  • how the words we use and the way we say them impact on the successful or unsuccessful delivery of our message. This would seem extremely relevant to the visual language of photography and how we as photographers communicate our message across.
  • how conversations don’t always follow a smooth pattern of one person listening and the other speaking. Communication isn’t always a straight line, it jumps around. There are stops and starts, interruptions, sometimes someone loses their train of thought and the other person tries to pull the conversation back to where you were.