Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 4

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 Four: Tutor Feedback and my thoughts

Tutor Report Assignment-4-cn-formative-feedback-craig-sinclair-515221

It was nice to get some positive feedback from my tutor for assignment four along with a couple of pointers for further reading and fine tuning.

I will go back and re-read the Harvard Referencing document again. I think I’m nearly there with my referencing I just need to make sure its on point and fix the direct quotes.

My tutor makes a good point about the header image on the blog! I was messing around with the header image recently and admit I want to change it, so agreed, a valid point. I will look to find something more suitable/relevant.

I am just making my way through the suggested reading from my tutor ‘ Aesthetics of Affect’ by Simon O’Sullivan. I am enjoying all of the reading on the course, seeing work from different artists/photographers and soaking up new information from multiple sources. I find it fascinating. There was a point when I started at the OCA where I was unsure about viewing lots of other photographers work, in my ignorance I couldn’t really see the point, just give me technical know how. I think now I’m starting to get it. Technique is very important but there is so much more to photography than that. You pick up the relevant technical abilities as you are going along, there is no point trying to learn it all at once. At times it can be a little overwhelming or confusing but that’s usually at the point where I need to go out and get some fresh air, then come back to my studies.

I have read ahead through section 5 and the final assignment for Context and Narrative. I have a couple of ideas bubbling away in my brain but not at the point where I want to share these just yet. I will do some brainstorming. I like the idea of something with psychological tension, just one image, staged using props. I will get the next assignment to my tutor in August, I have some time off here and there along with my Fridays and a clear diary! I am submitting for the next assessment for November, so I want to spend September wrapping everything up, making any adjustments and getting prints done.

I went up to London on Friday to visit the Photographers Gallery again as they have an exhibition on by Gregory Crewsdon. Having read ahead I can see this will be helpful and relevant but I will talk about the visit more in a separate blog post.

In other recent good news I finally got my flash trigger to work with the soft-box! It needed to have the flash in manual mode and I think I had the receiver and transmitter the wrong way around. Wo ho!  I also picked up a manual on using flash. As you can see I was a little excited, forgive the terrible highlights and the glowing halo… no cameras were harmed in the making of this photograph!


Craig, 23/07/17

Assignment Four: Reflection

Looking back at the assignment in reflection I am pleased with the end result. I feel I applied myself to the essay and the research behind the photograph and the photographer. I am sure my tutor will come back with some good constructive feedback and suggestions to adjust the essay.

The part I found most difficult was keeping the word count down and I did go over the 1000 word essay. I’m not sure if this will be a major problem or not but I will see what feedback my tutor gives. I feel I could probably develop the essay further and go deeper if I had lots more time but I do have some constrictions on how much time I can apply to the one essay.

I pulled my research from multiple sources which I feel gives a good balanced and unbiased approach. Although I admit I was already intrigued by the image originally I feel I have been able to give an objective point of view due to my research. I have also been able to incorporate some of my own personal feelings about the image. Reading from multiple sources has given me a wider awareness of the work.

I think I have given a balanced essay analysis, giving context, some background about the photographer, posed some questions, some answers and de-constructed the image before pulling together my thoughts and conclusions.

One thing I did find hard was finding any well written constructive criticism of Crewdson’s work. Now, that could be because there is simply none out there or I just couldn’t find any. All the books and research I did praised the work, no one had anything bad to say about any of it. I would have been interesting to have read or discussed with someone who doesn’t like his work. I must admit subjectively I think his work is of the highest quality and from what I have seen he has really forged a new direction for contemporary photography along with the likes of Jeff Wall, they have opened up the physiological door for photographers to explore deeper. I think this has helped to given contemporary photography a strong basis as an art form rather than just a method of visual recording.

I am doing a lot of reading to accompany the course and I am also looking at a lot of different photographers work. I think this is helping me to be more open to different possibilities within photography. I really like the staged/tableau photography so I am looking forward to assignment 5, I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself!



Assignment Four: “A picture is worth a thousand words”

Write an essay of 1,000 words on an image of your choice.

The image can be anything you like, from a famous art photograph to a family snapshot, but please make sure that your chosen image has scope for you to make a rigorous and critical analysis.

If you choose a well-known photograph, take time to research its context – the intentions of the photographer, why it was taken, whether it’s part of a series, etc. Add all this information into your essay to enable you to draw a conclusion from your own interpretation of the facts.

It’s not enough to write an entirely descriptive or historical account of your chosen image. You must use the facts as a means to draw your own conclusions about what the picture means to you. You may wish to apply what you’ve learned in Part Four regarding translation, interpretation, connotation, signs, punctum, etc., but be sure you get the definitions correct.

Follow thought associations and other images that relate to the discussion, directly or indirectly. Look at the broader context of the image and its background and specific narrative as well as your personal interpretation of it and what thoughts it triggers for you. Follow these associations in a thoughtful and formal way. Allow yourself to enjoy the process!

There are many good examples of writing about single images (e.g. Sophie Howarth’s Singular Images), which you may find helpful to read before attempting your own. Take note of the level of critical analysis and aim for a similar approach in your own writing. You may write about personal connections but ensure you express yourself in a formally analytical and reflective manner.

Gregory Crewdson – ‘Ophelia’


*Untitled (Ophelia) 2001 by Gregory Crewdson b. 1962

I was first introduced to the photographic work of Gregory Crewdson as a recommendation by my tutor, whilst studying ‘Expressing Your Vision’. I picked up a copy of the book ‘Twilight’. I put some of my thoughts on the Twilight series in a blog post here. I have decided to pick the photograph ‘Untitled 2001 (also known as Ophelia)’ from the Twilight series to critically analyse.

Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962) is an American photographer, best known for his tableau/staged photographic work, often portraying tense psychological scenes that wouldn’t go a miss as a still from a science fiction movie by Spielberg or an episode of Chris Carter’s X-files. Crewdson links a lot of his influence to over hearing the sessions his father would have in the family home as a Psychoanalyst, sowing the seed of interest in the unconscious mind. Other influences on Crewdson include the art of American realist painter Edward Hopper, Crewdson relating a ‘similar emptiness’ in Hoppers work to his own. The American Photographer Walter Evans is another influence, in ‘Capturing a Movie Frame ‘ Crewdson speaks of Walter Evans’  ‘interest in the American vernacular of ordinary life…of indigenous architecture…’ going on to say ‘I feel in my work I have a similar thing that’s kind of controlling aesthetic, to make a perfect façade and then then..sort of…the deep undercurrent of that, what exists beneath the surface.’

In 1998 Crewdson started his work on the Twilight series. This would be a shift from his earlier work, moving into more of a directorial role, working with a large team, akin to a film crew for a major movie. The series has a powerful psychological narrative throughout, often depicting dramatic paranormal scenarios, in many ways the photographs are left open to interpretation by the spectator. The series was shot on a large format Sinar F1 8 x10 Camera with a mix of 300mm and 210mm lenses.

The question I find myself asking with this work is, despite knowing it is staged, is it meant to portray a version of reality, the truth or is this some form of dreamlike, otherworldly interpretation on reality, is this a snapshot of the unconscious mind?

The image Untitled (Ophelia) 2001 from the series Twilight shows the scene of a flooded ground floor, it looks like a living room/lounge. Central within the image is a woman in a night gown, she is floating on her back on the surface of the dark, murky water. Her skins is pale blue, she looks dead, cold to the touch. Her eyes are open but she looks vacant in a transcendent state of mind.

The photograph is influenced by Ophelia from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, found dead in a brook “incapable of her own distress” following the death of her father Polonius and a love denied. In ‘Photography the whole story’ Juliet Hacking references the 1851-1852 painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais as an example of this reoccurrence in art of the woman in the water.

As I deconstruct the image I can see to the left of the woman a coffee table with a glass of water, a bottle of pills, a romantic novel by Nora Robert titled Inner Harbour (1999), there is an ashtray with cigarette butts and what looks like a glass ornament in the shape of a lotus flower. Could this be a suicide or an accidental overdose? Perhaps these pills are sedatives and this isn’t reality, she is dreaming, weightless, motionless upon the water. The sofa behind looks disrupted, a blanket and a couple of pillows lie on the sofa as if someone has been sleeping there or reading a romantic novel wrapped up under a nice warm blanket.

Moving through the scene my eye is then drawn to the clock on the bookcase behind, the time seems to indicate 5:05, my eyes are then immediately drawn over to the right to the windows, is this 5am or 5pm? Then I’m reminded of the title of the series, Twilight so my assumption is this is 5pm but it could just as easily be 5am. A catastrophic event has happened here. The room is flooded so how are the lights still on? Why have they not short circuited? Upon the book case are a selection of books but I can’t see the titles of the books from the print I have, there’s a record player with a selection of vinyl. Upon the top of the book case is a wedding photograph, could this be the love lost?

From the book case I move through the scene in a clockwise manor and I’m presented with the stair case, to which my eye leads me down the steps. It’s at this point I observe the mould and decay on the back wall below the stairs, has this water been here a while? How long has this lady been lying here? Why has no one found her yet? Does she have any friends or relatives that care for her?

Above the stair case is a series of 3 photographs; 2 of women and 1 of a man, placed centrally. The image of the man seems to bear stronger significance, it looks illuminated, is this a father or a husband perhaps? Could this be a reference to Polonius from Hamlet? Moving down the stairwell I see a pink dressing gown draped over the banister, a window above is bathed in golden light, a side cabinet lies on the landing of the stairs, a red torch sits on top of it. Why would the lady need a torch if the lights are on? On the step below is a slipper, followed by the second slipper on the step below that.

To the right of the stair case there appears to be a lampshade in the water. I wonder if this could this be the source of the ladies demise. Did the lampshade drop into the water, did she get electrocuted upon entering the water? There is an open window above, the wind may have knocked the lampshade over. Or is this just a red herring? There are a series of coats on the wall to the right and the windows of the front door again show golden light shining through.,

Coming full circle I am drawn to the old telephone and battered armchair, half submerged in water then back to the motionless woman on top of the water.

Reflection plays a primary role within the whole construction of the image. The water acts as a psychological mirror, its dark blackness gives a sinister emptiness to the entire shot. The water could have been clear or clean to signify purity but the darkness feels intentional, lucid, the blackness of the soul. For me, this is what stings me, this is what Roland Barthes calls the Punctum. The dark reflecting water acts as a means of self reflection, looking deeply inwards at the soul, it draws me back to the image to ponder my own existence.

With such an image as this it is hard to find a definitive conclusion to the storytelling within the image, there is an underlying mystery which I think asks the spectator to form their own conclusions rather than have the photographer (‘the operator’) provide all of the answers within the image. Having watched various interviews with Crewdson this seems a likely conclusion, he likes to put clues within the frame but leave the mystery of the solution to the viewer and to interpretation.  For me it poses more questions than it answers, partly this infuriates me but for the most part I absolutely love it for this very reason. I think it’s this emotional conflict or tension that makes this such a fascinating image.

This draws me back to my original query, dream or reality? I am split on how to interpret the image. On the one hand, like a detective I can see the clues/signs within the image to make me come to the conclusion this could be an accidental death or a suicide. However, I prefer the idea that she is dreaming. She walked down the stairs and kicked off her slippers, took some sleeping pills and started to read a book, huddled up under a blanket on the sofa she slowly drifted off. What we are seeing is a mix of reality and her subconscious mind, trapped between the spaces of reality and another dimension.

Word Count: 1396

Craig Sinclair



Twilight Photographs by Gregory Crewdson my thoughts whilst studying the OCA Unit ‘Expressing Your Vision’:


  • Barthes, R, 1980. Camera Lucida.
  • Cotton, C, 2014. The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art). 3. Thames & Hudson.
  • Hacking, J, 2012. Photography: The Whole Story. 0. Thames & Hudson Ltd.
  • Higgins, J, 2013. Why it Does Not Have to be in Focus: Modern Photography Explained. Thames & Hudson Ltd.
  • Howarth, S. 2005. Singular images: essays on remarkable photographs. 1st Ed. Tate Publishing.
  • Kirstein, L, 2012. Walker Evans: American Photographs: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Edition. Anv. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Moody, R, 2002. Twilight: Photographs by Gregory Crewdson. First. Harry N. Abrams.
  • Shakespeare, W, 1997. Hamlet (Wordsworth Classics). Annotated edition. Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

Web research:

*Image of Untitled (Ophelia) 2001 by Gregory Crewdson b. 1962 reproduced for academic purposes. Copyright belongs to the respective owner.

Assignment Four: Prep


For this assignment I pulled together research from multiple sources including books, websites and interviews on Youtube with the photographer Gregory Crewdson and others reflecting on his work, in relation to the Twilight series but also his work more generally.

As well as reading books relevant to the photographer and the photograph I also picked up a copy of ‘Singular Image: Essays on Remarkable Photographs’ by Sophie Howarth. It was pretty expensive! I read the essays for Jeff Wall, Diane Arbus, Hiroshi Sugmimoto and Bill Brandt in particular but I will finish off reading the other essays as well. This gave me a good feel for constructing an essay and critically reviewing a single photograph.

I re-read ‘Camera Lucida’ by Roland Barthes again, this time accompanied by the Critical Analysis in the book ‘Basic Critical Theory for Photographers’ by Ashley la Grange. Along with the OCA course book for Context and Narrative this helped to explain some of the terminology/language used. I also had a lengthy discussion with my mentor (who has studied languages) about language more generally and some of the terms used academically.

At the start of section four I emailed my tutor some ideas of photographers I was interested in looking at. These included Ansel Adams, Jeff Wall, Sebastiao Salgado, Gregory Crewdson and Simon Marsden. My tutor suggested I steer clear of Ansel Adams unless I was prepared to be critical. I decided to go with Gregory Crewdson as the image I picked fascinates me and I could find some good reference material. He is also more of a contemporary photographer than Ansel Adams for example.

I spent a couple of solid days making notes and researching the photographer and the photograph before starting on my first draft of the essay. In the end I wrote 3 drafts, the one I have submitted being the final draft.

I have seen recently that the Photographers Gallery in London has some of Crewdson’s work on display so I am hoping to get back up to London if I can, it may not be until after I have completed this unit and started the next unit.