First year results

My first couple of university projects didn’t go well. The workbooks showing my thought processes, or not, were godawful, and the teachers didn’t like them or my images. My first project mark was 47 – a third and frowned upon – and the second 62, pulled up by a better workbook, but still not hot on the images. My overall timekeeping had been appalling, with the last week of both projects very stressful, and I really needed to get my act together for the new year.

So it’s now June, with the second term all finished, and I think I improved. I managed to organise myself better, and it was certainly less stressful, but by deadline day I’d lost all perspective on quality. I had no idea what the marks would be like, and wasn’t relishing finding out. They turned up on the uni intranet in the last couple of days, and I’ve had a nervous few seconds between email receipt and loading the page. I’ve written it up below, as much as a reminder for me as anything. Hopefully this isn’t too wanky of me.

Our modules this term were on Digital Photography and Ye Olde Photography. The theory module was ‘Modernity and After’, which basically looked at the various meanings of ‘Modernism’, straying into formal art theories, (frankly impenetrable) surrealism, psychoanalysis, and finally postmodernism.

Digital Photography

The digital project was essentially learning Photoshop with a montage-based project – we didn’t even need to take any original pictures. We worked in pairs to submit images on the theme of ‘Double Take’. My partner and I decided – clearly in a moment of optimism and happiness – to spell out the word ‘DEATH’ in five similarly-themed images. I worked on D and H:

Double Take project - 'D' image Double Take project - 'H' image

We were told to steal images with abandon, so I did. I bought a couple of shots from iStockPhoto for the backgrounds, but everything else is scanned / downloaded. It’s purely educational with no publicity or commercial use, but I’ve only uploaded low quality versions on Flickr, just in case.

There are a few problems with the H – the enormous tightrope walkers particularly – but I was pretty happy with the results, at least technically. I hadn’t used Photoshop since version 5, and it’s changed quite a bit in the intervening decade. I’d kept my hand in by using The GIMP, though, so wasn’t totally rusty. I quite enjoy digital manipulation, so this project was good fun overall.

The scope of the project was changed in the last couple of weeks, and instead of a group project we were told to submit two images each. As a result the A image never got completed, although I have some insane concept sketches. That’s a shame, and I might try to put it together this summer, just for my own satisfaction.

Final results: 67 for the workbook, 73 for the technical aspects. I’m very happy with this!

Ye Olde Photography

The old-school module was on slide film, and broken into three themes, each of which required 3-5 images. The themes were ‘Urban Landscape’, ‘Domestic Scenario’ and ‘Abstract’.

Urban Landscape

I called this ‘One Night in the City’:

Urban Landscape Triptych #1 - Coloured Trails Urban Landscape Triptych #2 - Traffic Lights Urban Landscape Triptych #3 - Car at Lights

These are scans of the actual slides. I emailed them to my teacher for feedback, and she was pretty negative, suggesting they’d make more sense in the abstract project. I disagreed, and, unlike the first term, stuck to my guns and tried to explain my reasoning in the workbook.

Final result: 63. Phew.

Domestic Scenario

This project was called ‘Superhero’s Day Off’ (I rejected ‘A Wonder Woman’s Rightful Place’ as A Very Bad Idea).

Superhero's Day Off #1 Superhero's Day Off #2 Superhero's Day Off #3

Superhero's Day Off #4 Superhero's Day Off #5

These are the digital test shots rather than the actual pictures, but are close enough. I’ll scan in the slides when I get them back.

I hired the boots from a local fancy-dress shop. I rang first, and can confirm there is no dignified way to enquire about hiring ‘knee-high red and sparkly silver boots that lace up the front’. Quite funny, though.

I thought this project was looking ok, then a week before deadline we had a last-minute-advice screening. Firstly, my teacher seemed a bit nonplussed. Secondly, the girl before me had a similar project with a rock star at home, complete with face-paints, guitar, smoke, stage lighting and general cool stuff. It was awesome, and I felt rather inferior. Still, it was a bit late to change anything at that point. I re-ordered it, but that was all.

Final result: 72. Yay! Maybe she liked it more than I thought 🙂


The title was ‘Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles’. I haven’t scans of the actual pictures atm, but this is the same style:

'Abstract' project - digital outtake 6

Each image showed something covered in bubbles, next to a blank void. I had some fun getting these images. First my film lenses couldn’t focus as close as my digital lenses, so I had to get hold of close-up filters. Then I used the incorrect flash-sync speed with my film camera (it can only do 1/90 – I was shooting at 1/125 with a wireless flash), resulting in all the negatives fading to black 7/8 of the way down. The final batch, taken 12 days before deadline, thankfully came out ok. Such are the problems of using Ye Olde Technology – you have to wait a week to find you’ve buggered it up.

Final result: 67. Cool.


I worked much harder on workbooks this term, including all sorts of inspiration pictures, random train scribblings and workings.

Final result: 70. Woohoo!

Theory Essay

We had to write a 3,000 word essay, and I chose to compare Pictorialism and Modernism. Pictorialism was a late 19th century genre that essentially used photography to evoke the same feelings as paintings, while 20th-century Modernism said photography is a separate art form that should stick to its unique characteristics, almost to the point of ignoring the subject completely. Well, ish. That’s a simplification – in as much as these things are ever clear-cut – and I’m not sure I completely got to the bottom of it, to be honest. I managed my time better than previous terms, managing to get the first draft nearly complete a month before deadline. I then didn’t finish it until the final week, when I knew (at least, hoped) all the practical work would be done.

Final result: 83. Holy shit. Wasn’t expecting that.

So I’m very happy and very relieved with these results. Unfortunately none of these count towards my degree, as the first year is essentially to get people warmed up. Ah well. I now know I can do it if I put my mind to it – something I wasn’t sure of at Christmas – and this’ll give me something to aspire to for the next three years.