Category Archives: Part 5 – Narrative & illustration

Assignment 5 attempt #1

The OCA handbook advised taking time over this assignment, and careful planning. After weeks of throwing ideas around my head I decided on photographing a standard London commute, and capturing people on their journeys – where were they going to? Where were they coming from? Could I narrate their mood using body language or facial expressions?

Photographing people is something that I find rather daunting – where is the boundary for being intrusive? What if the person does not want to be photographed? From the get go I was not going to photograph any children whatsoever. Being crammed on a tube carriage meant that I had to be up-close and personal – something that didn’t come naturally to me. Even using my 50mm prime lens felt too intrusive. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on the tube, you’re usually sat in a row facing your fellow commuters. This meant that eye contact was at a high, and eye to lens contact was even more so. Even trying the ‘shoot from the hip’ method was not producing the results I was looking for. Had the train been near to empty this may have been different. This was the first of many obstacles I encountered.

The second was camera shake. I hadn’t anticipated just how hard it would have been to get a still shot – the tube jiggles you around much more than I was aware of (usually i’m in my own world listening to music, not noticing how much I move) and this became a BIG problem. I could alter my shutter speed setting, and then crank up the ISO but I didn’t want to produce grainy pictures.

This brings me on to the lack of light. Duh, I’m underground – so there’s firstly no natural light, and secondly, the strength of the artificial light at times was weak (tunnels were a no).

The biggest problem was that I was banned by security for using my tripod anywhere in the stations (health and safety….apparently) which just emphasised my struggle to capture what I had imagined and wanted to produce. I feel that what I envisioned in my head was not unrealistic but unattainable due to these set backs.

As a result of the above I have decided on doing the same sort of theme, but in an easier environment. I still want to push my boundaries of photographing people, but maybe not when they’re sat 2 feet opposite me, looking at my camera like i’m paparazzi.

I did, however, manage to take a handful of interesting shots, which I have included below.

I learnt a great deal from this ‘failed’ shoot, and wonder if i’d researched it a little more if I could have avoided these problems – perhaps by heading to the outer city where it’s not as busy and the trains are emptier, also shooting on over land routes so I can use more natural light.

couple fan long exp mans head people

sleeping tunnel



Exercise: Juxtaposition (TAoP)

For this exercise we can either choose a still-life approach, or a larger scale shot. I chose the still-life and am required to take any book I like and make a suitable illustration using several elements.

Having research other fellow OCA students I found it was very common for people to choose fiction books, most of my home reading jumps from photography, to crime novels, to Marilyn Monroe books…I was at a loss!! The only other books are cookery books….so I decided on illustrating one of my favourite books: ‘Chinese Food Made Easy’ by Ching-He Huang.


A simple still life using some of the most fundamental ingredients for Chinese cooking. For this shot I used my photographic studio with natural light (positioned next to large window) and used a reflector to the left hand side.

As a quick example of how it may look with text on, I threw together a very basic idea with photoshop:

Juxt cover

Exercise: Rain (TAoP)


Imagine a magazine cover on one subject:rain. You have the entire cover space to work in, and you should produce a single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no one in doubt about the subject.

For this shot I wanted to try to make it eye catching and interesting. I was trying to avoid the cliched ideas of photographing puddles, or street lights reflected in wet pavements etc. The topic of rain in itself is fairly dull and boring, so iI wanted to try and create the opposite.


I think this picture fills the brief – it’s strong and attractive, and all the people i’ve showed it to and asked ‘what do you think of’ have all replied with rain.

I enjoyed this exercise. It was a beautiful sunny day outside with no cloud whatsoever, so this shot was 100% set up. Using my camera settings I was able to make it feel fairly grey and cold, but without reducing the colour of the fruit or their umbrellas.


Exercise: Symbols (TAoP)

For this exercise the idea is to find symbols for a number of concepts, and add a short note saying how I might use them in a photograph. The subjects are; growth, excess, crime, silence and poverty.


I think the most common idea for growth would be a plant; perhaps from seed, developing into a flowering strong plant/tree. Another example could also baby, toddler, child, teenager, adult, elderly person. Relating to business – you could use a simple ‘idea bubble’ above a single head, and then multiply a) the number of heads, and b) the number of thought bubbles.


Relating to the current obesity problem, excess could be shown as an overflowing plate of food, or a ‘muffin top’ waist hanging over the top of trousers (mainly for women, for men it could be the ever so popular ‘beer belly’)


The obvious one for crime would be something like handcuffs or police tape. Perhaps broken glass or a burglar/security alarm.


Silence could be a mute symbol found on TV’s and sound systems. I think the most popular example is probably a finger held against closed lips.


This is definitely the most thought provoking subject. Poverty could be illustrated through an empty bowl, someone begging, a cardboard made home, slums and malnourished person or animal.

Exercise: Evidence of action (TAoP)

For this exercise I am required to produce one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened. As a suggestion, the handbook mentions photographing something that is broken or emptied.

In planning possible pictures I was inundated with options!! Evidence of action appeared to me almost everywhere – an empty plate, a tyre mark in the road, an empty crisp packet, freshly cut grass, a stubbed out cigarette butt and so on. I wanted to find something that was a bit more meaningful than the examples above.

Evidence of action

The initial evidence of action is that someone has passed away, the secondary evidence of action is that the grave has been damaged; albeit through nature rather than vandalism.


Exercise: A narrative picture essay (TAoP)

This project requires you to set yourself an assignment and then photograph it. Based on what you have learnt so far, tell a story of any kind, in a set of pictures numbering between 5 and 15. It could even be something as simple as the preparation of some food.

For this exercise i had several ideas in mind. First i was looking at some sort of event happening in my area that would be interesting to document. Unfortunately this was slightly spoilt by the wet weather we have had recently. I often find that i spend too long trying to make my exercises interesting and artistic while also filling the brief. SO, with that in mind i decided to keep it simple, and shoot some pudding in the making.

The brief requires that we vary the size of our final images, and write a small caption describing what each shot shows. Here is my work


Firstly, I did not want to document every single step of this event. Where do you draw the line? Do you show peeling the banana, or do you deem that self explanatory?! I decided on photographing the main steps, hoping that by looking at the pictures and reading a small caption it was easy to follow. Often with blog food photography the aim is to use as little steps as possible so the reader/viewer is not overwhelmed and the recipe appears simple and easy.

A huge draw back to this ‘event’ was that I did not have a model! Trying to demonstrate something AND photograph it is near on impossible!!

Regarding different image sizes – i think the most important and therefore largest images should be the main ingredients and the final product.

Documenting any event requires preparation. From planning sequence of events, camera equipment, camera angles, to camera settings and layout of the final images; each step needs careful planning.