Assignment three (self assessment)

Putting yourself in the picture


Demonstration of technical and visual skills

For all my images I used a 50mm prime lens; a tripod and a remote control shutter release. I initially tried my 55-210mm telephoto lens but the maximum f1.8 aperture of  the fixed lens was more appropriate in domestic lighting. However, I found that in my first set of images f1.8 gave a too narrow depth of field and resulted in the wooden box being blurred at the back of the image, and some of the front items as well. I subsequently reshot the images, increasing to f2 or more in some images; and still more than my zoom lens offered. My final images  do have a very narrow depth of field; for instance, in the ‘housework’ box I like the way that the small writing on the product at the back is out of focus and therefore not a ‘subject’ in itself.

I considered both portrait and landscape orientation for this series but to use portrait the boxes were more appropriately positioned ‘tall’ and I felt that the objects were better displayed horizontally. I therefore decided on a landscape orientation and the boxes were appropriately positioned.

Visually, I wanted all the images to show the boxes in the same position in the frame. So, my camera was placed on a tripod and the box remained in position throughout the shoot. Only the objects inside the box were moved and replaced. This ensured a static positioning of the box in all the images. I found it more difficult than I thought to position the box in the frame so that the margins were equal  but am pleased with the positioning overall. I used a studio light rather than rely on tungsten domestic light and felt that this worked well but it did produce some unwelcome highlights so I diffused the light with some semi opaque fabric. I used the remote control so that I could move away from the camera to avoid my refection being in some of the objects (wine glasses). 

The black backdrop

When I reviewed the images I noticed that the colour of the wooden box varied slightly in one image particularly, and I wasn’t sure why when all the circumstances had been the same throughout.  I corrected this post production to give a uniform series.

Quality of outcome

I feel that I have successfully shown a viewer an insight into my life in a self- absented portrait series. I feel that the images are consistent and coherent with all images being similar, both in arrangement and colour. The narrative is in the form of diary extracts to add meaning to the images and provides the diary context of the brief.

Demonstration of creativity

Through the use of wooden boxes to contain specific items I feel that I have represented, through images, the way that I feel in control of my life when all my own ‘boxes’ are full.

I am finding it useful to keep a record of ideas that I have prior to deciding on a final theme for the assignment. Thinking further around different ideas helps to inform my final choice and provides ideas that I may be able to develop later in the course. For this self portrait series I created the settings for all the images which, only a few months ago, seemed out of my comfort zone. I also used studio lighting, again something that I thought I wouldn’t be doing for a while yet. Creatively, I feel that I have taken a risk this time. I like the images that I have produced but obviously I have some reservation until I build up more confidence.


My images were taken in the context of showing a viewer something about me and my personality. By displaying my own objects you can get an idea of my tastes and lifestyle. By showing my ‘boxes’ a viewer can identify how I spend my time and what is important to me. I feel that this works as a self absented portrait series and together with my diary extracts says much about me.


Context (reworked after tutor feedback)

In his feedback, my tutor, Derek, commented that ‘context’ should relate to where my work relates to other images and concepts, other images, photographers, literature, ideas, etc.  and not about my intention for the project. He said that essentially, it should be my research around the ideas and techniques that I used.

I liked how Shafran used his kitchen sink together with all the domestic paraphernalia to articulate his daily life and I suspect people are generally interested to see another person’s domestic environment;  So, I thought I could use my own items to say something about myself.

Washing up

Nigel Shafran Washing Up

My own items say something about me like all personal possessions do. My box doesn’t contain a pile of car magazines, medical journals, or a pile of local history research; it is a pile of prose literature. I hope it articulates my love of reading and represents my literature studies.

I was inspired by Shafran in thinking that the very ordinary can be used to say much about a person. The boxes reflect how I compartmentalise my life.

Cockroach Diaries

Image by Anna Fox, Cockroach Diaries

Anna Fox’s use of ordinary images and diary narrative gave me confidence to use ordinary items as photographic subjects and her close viewpoint made me consider the way that I represented my ‘boxes’. I think it was the mundaneness of a cockroach infestation as a subject for a photography project that encouraged me to use ordinary items that may make up a happy life, and arouse a viewer’s curiosity, but are not actually anything to write home about; like a cockroach infestation.


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