Week 12 – Reflections on Finalising my Critical Review and Work in Progress Portfolio

I began work on my Portfolio and Critical Review several weeks ahead of the deadlines for submissions and as a consequence completed the work well ahead of schedule. These are some of my thoughts now that I have completed and submitted that work.

Portfolio

While I made a lot of work during this module, I had decided early on what type of work I wanted to make and was therefore able to create photographs with a mindfulness and clarity of intention that I had not before achieved.  I took many more photos than ultimately ended up in the final edit and I frankly left some very good work out of the final submission.  However, one of the things I have learned through the first four modules of this MA is the need to create a visually consistent, coherent body of work for the WIPP submission.  I think I did not fully appreciate that fact in prior modules and as a consequence, the work submitted had a bit of a ‘this and that’ character that detracted slightly from the way the work was viewed.  I can attribute this failing in part to a lack of clarity in my intentions in the prior modules and the fact the project I was attempting to take on was massive and diverse.  It was too big to distil and attempting to ‘cover the waterfront’ I diluted the visual impact of my imagery; good as they were technically.

So for this module, I intentionally reduced the scope of what I was trying to include in the portfolio and was very disciplined in the editing process as I worked to get to a set of photos and videos that were consistent with my intentions and had a sufficiently consistent and harmonious thematic and visual character.  It was difficult initially to eliminate good photos and I went through several iterations before arriving at a final decision.  I did also choose to incorporate three video clips taken from the same vantage points as stills either before or after the videos in the sequence.  I had not done that before, but felt it important to realising my intentions and conveying some key contextual concepts about the dynamic and transient aspects of nature.

Another important decision in the editing process came when I realised the normal landscape format was not conveying the feeling I was trying to achieve with this body of work.  I have been resisting cropping in post-production for some time now and on the rare occasions that I did, I always retained the aspect ratio that I shot originally.  However, the landscape format was not constraining the image enough to evoke the response from a viewer I wanting to elicit.  As I experimented with cropping to square, the photos suddenly had much more impact.  Making them smaller, more constrained actually made them spatially bigger; more universal and more timeless.  It amplified the integrity of what was visible in the frame and in some cases created more ambiguity, but also added more mystery and intrigue as to what was just beyond the frame.  It was these things that I believe will result in the viewer becoming more engaged with the photographs.

Critical Review

I wrote the initial two drafts before I had really narrowed my portfolio selections sufficiently.  While not a waste of time by any means, the first drafts were not as focused as they needed to be.  It was only after bringing my WIPP to the near final edit state, that it became a much more straightforward process to write my Critical Review.  With the clarity of what I had chosen I was able to zero in on the clearest way to convey my intentions and determine which of my contextual references were indeed most relevant to the work I had completed.  I wanted the CR to be clear, concise, cogent, and coherent and most importantly to convey without any question that I had made this work with, and from, a critically informed position.  As I was finalising the CR I was able in parallel to make the final cuts for the WIPP so the two submissions were completely in sync and mutually supportive.

Final Thoughts

I read a great deal during this module and I had to be as discerning about contextual references as I was about photo selection.  I took much better notes as I was reading this term and, that proved helpful when recalling references, particularly on things I read early on in the module.  I intentionally did not read CRJs or CR submissions from students further on in the programme.  I felt quite confident that I could properly interpret the requirements of the assignments and the LOCs to create a document that met or exceeded the standards.  I wanted to do it on my own and not be tempted to follow someone else’s path, particularly not knowing whether their work was really good or just okay.

I also completed work early enough to seek input from trusted peers and tutors and I am appreciative of both groups.  While I didn’t get any huge redirects out of any of the reviews, the combination of little things and my own desire to write a very tight and focused CR that supported the choices I made in the WIPP drove me to a series of revisions that I am very satisfied result in a solid submission.

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