Assignment 4 – Self assessment

Following completion of my fourth assignment for this course, I have made some notes about how I feel the outcome matches the course assessment criteria

Criteria Self-assessment
Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. In this assignment, my visual skills were predominantly applied in observing the subject photograph. Informed by the secondary research, that talked about the duality of viewing when looking at Gursky’s large-scale photographs (a reading done at close up and another one from a distance), I spent considerable time looking as close as possible to the original photograph, making notes, but also looked at the image from a distance in situ and in print to come up with additional observations and the final interpretation of the same.
Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. My decision on how to structure and write the essay was influenced by many sample articles that I read in connection with the critical commentary of photographs, including the ones previously referenced in my research notes for this part of the course, but also the other chapters included in the book Singular Images: Essays on
Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth (1). I also looked at the book How to write about contemporary art by Gilda Williams (2). This was fundamental in shaping the way I approached my write-up (from the visual experience viewpoint) and provided many practical tips to improve clarity of presentation, which I hope are evident in the final essay.
Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. I first approached this assignment thinking that I was going to do a survey of the various views about Gursky’s work and Rhine II, and that my essay was going to focus on a summary of this. However, I decided halfway through to change my perspective and re-focus the essay on a visual response after extensive scrutiny of the photograph. This was a new experience for me, as I normally have limited contact with an individual art piece and move along without exhausting my reactions. I believe that Gursky’s pieces, with their level of detail, were particularly suitable for this, but I will try to apply the way of looking at art that I developed for this assignment to future explorations.
Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. As previously mentioned, an important part of my research was visual inspection of the photograph, but I also undertook extensive secondary research in order to shape my viewing and help me draw conclusions. This secondary research included scholarly articles on Gursky (link to comments here), notes and interviews from the Hayward Gallery exhibition catalogue and exhibition guide (link to comments here and here) , online videos on Gursky’s work (link to comments here), a documentary in connection with the making of Hamm, Bergwerk Ost (see comments here), a video interview between Gursky and film director Jan Schmidt-Garre (see comments here) and the chapter dedicated to discuss Gurky in Michael Fried’s book Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before (3)I tried to keep notes in most of these sources, but many themes were repeated and in the end I decided to focus on the ones that I considered more relevant for the assignment.

(1) Howarth, S., (2006). Singular Images Essays on Remarkable Photographs. MPS.

(2) Williams, G. (2017). How to write about contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.

(3) Fried, M. (2008). Why photography matters as art as never before. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp.156-182.


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