The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

Assignment 2: A response to assessment

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, September 17, 2012 12:06:15

My overall reaction to my tutor’s assessment of TAOP Assignment 2 is, yeah, he’s right, dead right, especially with regard to the certain weaker images that have been critiqued. Issues of meeting the criteria of the question were weaker in some images compared to the majority, and questions of point of view and cropping prior to image selection and presentation within the set are all relevant.

Comment regarding the overall environment of my blog being easy to follow was welcome to read, as this element of the graphical presentation of the story of my journey through TAOP has been a background concern especially as the feedback from other TAOP students is not so forthcoming.

My comments and deliberations regarding the work of established practitioners is still not depth full enough and this has been recognised, and I believe that as my background reading and study of current and historical works continues my confidence in making comment and asking questions of both their and my own work will grow.. However I am aware that this area is an element that has to be focused on, especially to give assessors a context to my submissions.

Of the two images my tutor identified as being the weakest, one of which, curves, I acknowledge that I deliberated heavily over its inclusion, the depiction of a single rider advancing toward the camera on a curved road on reflection does shout single point of interest rather than curve, yet I still included the image. I believe I was aware of the set of images being too static and I was compelled to include another activity image which was different in subject matter to the previous more active shots used for single point and two points of interest. However, on reflection this image is too ‘single point’ focused graphically, my inclusion referring to my narrative thoughts for the set, rather than the graphical requirement of curves.

The second image my tutor identified as weak – the first shot of rhythm, depicting a curved row of exercise bikes, I initially viewed as a successful image for the task and I was happy to include. However, I fully accept my tutor’s assessment in that the continuation of the rhythmic pattern across the image from left to right is interrupted by the out of focus, more proximal to camera, bike on the right hand side of the image. I believe my over appreciation of the image is derived from its commercial narrative tone -and it’s usage in a commercial set of images I provided for a client ( The image is graphical and is to an extent rhythmic but the blockage on the right hand side does interrupt – It does not fully meet the criteria of the question.

The image employed for two points of interest was also highlighted as being a little weak, and again I did deliberate the graphical strength of the two groups of figures included, as identified within the assessment. The relationship between the two points would have been greater if a more directly diagonal composition was employed, which would have, with a slightly different point of view, over ridden the dominance of the foreground features. The understanding of relationship lines should have paid its part in my choice of composition for this photograph more strongly.

Lastly, within the set of photographs for this assignment I included 2 colour images, which, as my tutor identified, interrupted the stream of largely black and white photographs taken. From a personal point of view I am aware that I identify most strongly with black and white photography, and given the choice will always elect to photograph in black and white. My personal thoughts are that black and white photography provides a comfortable level of extraction, abstraction and simplification of scene which aid the compositions I choose to take across a number of genres. There is a mental note in my photographers eye and mind that colour often detracts from composition and complicates scene – the next chapter of TAOP should hopefully help overcome this personal prejudice against colour, we shall see! The inclusion of the two images in colour is a response to my awareness of ‘I like black and white’, however I do agree, the 2 images do break up the set, their inclusion a response to my lack of confidence in my own work and belief that my love of Chiaroscuro (Freeman: 2007; Badger: 2007) in photography is too exclusive, satisfying my own visual fancies.

NOTE: My analogue photography employs a heavy use of high contrast Ilford 100iso film, and digitally, using a Sony Alpha 850 I have adjusted one of the black and white presets to increase contrast, sharpness and reduce brightness.

“Black and White are the Colours of Photography”!? Rober t Frank

“Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected. Most of my photographs are of people; they are seen simply, as through the eyes of the man in the street. There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough--there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph. It is difficult to describe this thin line where matter ends and mind begins.” - Robert Frank

From pages 20-22 of Aperture, vol. 9, no. 1 (1961)


1. Badger G. (2007): The Genius of Photography, Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

2. Freeman M (2007): The Photographers Eye, Ilex Press.


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The art of Photography : Assignment 2 - Elements of Design

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, August 13, 2012 17:06:59

Assignment Two Elements of Design - Theme Bicycles

Comments regarding the theme

The intention was to present the theme of bicycle in two distinct ways; firstly as objects and paraphernalia and secondly as activity/ function. This separation arises primarily due to my worry that initially just focusing on the object would become too abstract and inactive as a set.

Précis of images

1. Single Point dominating the composition

A staged image, from an evening shoot taken with the cooperation of two team riders; The image is presented with a focus on the centrally position figure in flight, the positioning of the figure with the competing horizon line is intended to aid the dominance of the figure graphically, as the contrast of the darker figure against the over exposed sky in the upper background boosts the significance of the figure in frame and re-draws the viewer back into this central point. The image is photographed using a wide angle lens- which amplifies the central point via the distortion of the image and the barrelling effect of the lens.

The significance of the central point is also aided by the nature of frozen action.

The true central point of the frame being the upper body and head of the rider on the frame, contrasting against the brighter ‘blow out’ sky.

2. Two points dominating

Taken on the same evening as image 1. This again is a constructed image, the two groups of riders providing the two points of focus. In terms of influence, the work of Jeff Wall affects this scene in that the image is staged, yet presents a real life scene. I placed the ‘actors’ in a position which presents a normal scene at such a location, the bmx track, and the figures present a scene which could also be acquired candidly.

3. Several Points in a deliberate shape.

A triangle of riders.

4. Combination of horizontal and vertical lines.

This photograph was inspired by my tutor’s reference to the work of László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). The theme of the bicycle connects with the focus of technology in Nagy’s work, and the image is a reference to the light modulator series of images and the angular constructivist influences held by Nagy and others influenced by the abstract and angular mode such as the sculptor Antoine Pevsner (1886 – 1962). The image is of the handlebar and stem of two folding bikes, against a plain white studio backdrop. The lighting is bare bulb studio flash, near horizontal to the bars with no lighting to the rear of the subjects against the background, this creating an illumination of the 2 bikes and a casting of shadows of the vertical and horizontal components, the intention of the shadows was to repeat the horizontal and vertical elements and amplify this message, this repetition of the key design elements of vertical and horizontal almost delete the significance of the object itself, in a way similar to Victor Passmore’s Pavilion in Peterlee – a designed object with no utility. The camera position is slightly lower than the subject, again with the intention of creating a sense of abstraction as the point of view is not normal to the subject. The shadows themselves offer a modulation of the amount of light affecting the reflection from the background.

5. Diagonals

The first example utilises the effect of perspective to induce a diagonal across the image. The second image presents a ‘true diagonal’ across the image with an abstraction of bicycle wheel spokes and sprocket. This second image could also be interpreted as a presentation of triangles due to the frequency of overlapping diagonal lines.

6. Curves

2 images, one presenting the most common curve found in a bicycle environment, the curve of the wheel, here a number of wheels for repair are presented as a semi abstraction as the whole object is not presented, shallow depth of field is employed to aid the viewers focus upon the curved objects. The second image, though offering a single rider semi centred on frame, the viewer is more distracted by the curve of the road running through the scene.

7. Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

This image, photographed as objects laid out on a white background, was conceived as a semi abstract image of a set of bicycle components, although the abstraction from the subject was to be minimal in that the objects were still recognisable as bicycle components, the abstraction being the out of context setting on the white background.

The method I employed to create the image was inspired by the idea of reducing the drop shadow (the shadow which anchors the subject to the background) on each object by two means; a) Moving the principle light source around the objects while b) maintaining a slower shutter speed to capture softer shadow edge and softer shadow contrast against the white background (Montizambert D. (2003)). The overall effect intended to aid the abstract setting of the items.

The spacing of the objects draws focus on the larger central object which contrasts well with the dull tones against the number of metal polished and burnished objects equally spaced around this central anchor. Each of the shapes is distinct in form and distinct in spacing from the surrounding competing items in the frame.

8. Implied triangle

The first image, a candid shot which I had however planned to capture, a wheel in repair, the arms providing the triangular shape and principle point of attention, low lighting and shallow depth of field combine to draw focus onto the graphical shape. The second image, taken in the same workshop environment employs the triangular shape to draw attention to an otherwise unremarkable scene; my thoughts on taking the image revolved around images by Cindy Sherman, presenting an ambiguous message, almost to the point where only the graphical triangle really matters.

9. Rhythm

Two images, one presenting a spin class- where the recurring shape of the spin bikes creates the sense of rhythm with the viewers eye being drawn across the image in a curve from the bottom left corner to top right. The mirrors provide a background in the frame aid the sense of continuity of this recurrent shape beyond the frame. The second image presents a rack of bicycles ready for demo testing, the recurrent shapes create the rhythm and the graphical elements exceed the frame.

10. Pattern

Bicycle bells – all the same, but occasionally positioned slightly differently from their neighbours. The tightly framed shot amplifies the pattern by allowing the theme to exceed the framing; the pattern also completely fills the frame.


Montizambert D. (2003): Creative Lighting Techniques for studio photographers, 2nd Edition, Amherst Media.

Hunter F, Biver S, Fugua P (2007): Light Science and Magic, 3rd Edition, Focal Press.

Online sources:

Victor Passmore: Apollo Pavillion

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Possibilities for assignment 2 TAOP elements of design

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, August 13, 2012 13:35:56

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Missing the point - general reading, background references, use your reading! Thanks to the tutor!

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Tue, July 31, 2012 21:59:32

Dear Tutor (name changed to protect the innocent),

Sorry – a big rambling email but your previous suggestions have kind of switched the motor on!

Thank you for your email response regarding TAOP Assignment 2. I must admit I’ve not linked the core reading of this module into the exercises too readily, the two elements have remained very separate in my approach so far. The particular references you suggested have broadened the point of view a bit.

I selected my topic for the assignment fairly readily – assuming that the ‘ideas’ board of photos I had presented myself with were a good leader – however I quickly came unstuck, firstly with the mundane perception of my bike filled workspace and too much clutter kind of fogged the ideas, but additionally the elements I wanted to put together to meet the design criteria were, for want of a better word, a bit boring. I was looking for a narrative theme, utilising the design elements listed, but I have stumbled in the basics of creating/ finding images which satisfied what I saw in the design criteria and in finding a narrative which prompted my interest sufficiently and therefore the imagination of my imagined viewer of the images.

My question to you was brought from my lack of inspiration with what I was finding in my everyday…. And looking to clarify the design requirements by isolating on white with studio flash – boring and not seeing the potentials!

Your suggestions have presented me with a greater sense of freedom in my approach to the assignment. I have been missing the point, feeling that the background reading was almost abstract from the assignments and exercises themselves.

I love the sense of deadpan provided by the practice of Cindy Sherman, though for my assignment maybe her work is a little too analytical and commentary like in a social sense, but the created compositions present ideas to broaden the scope of the images – more than just design elements, but a photograph to look at which maybe says something more about the subject that just the physical. The work of Jeff Walls has a nice excitement and action which again I have missed the point of, most notably with both – I was neglecting any interaction with others in my photographic approach to this design exercise – these references have helped greatly in this sense.

In my email to you I was asking too simple a question which reflects a lack of connection on my part; the Nagy light modulator is really interesting for me on this point; to use the studio environment to create a more abstracted version, again presenting more than just photographic fact.

Many thanks


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Upcoming TAOP - a direction after some moping about!

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Fri, July 27, 2012 21:33:58

In quote Libi Pedder - The Guardian

"I shot this picture of my nephew, James, in the summer of 2007, when he was nine. I have worked with him a lot: he is very open to being a model and understands my ideas. Several weeks before, he had been larking about on a trampoline in the garden with his sister, when all of a sudden he came off and feigned a dramatic fall. He looked so elegant and ethereal, it sparked an idea. I got a quick snap, then returned a few weeks later to take some more.

Aesthetically, there is a sinister element to the shot which I'm drawn to. I haven't really nailed what it's about yet; that's still puzzling me slightly. Some people think it's beautiful, others wonder if he is dead or alive.

I achieved the neoclassical lighting by using a flash in daylight, which is why the hedge in the background isn't visible. It's a technique that was fashionable some years ago, and which I've developed for myself. The setting up of the light can take time, but because I was inspired by the original picture, I had a fairly clear idea of what I needed to do. It took just 45 minutes and 20 shots, and turned out to be one of those perfectly satisfying pieces of work: exactly the way I had it in my mind's eye.

I never direct my subjects. I like to observe people and work with what they do naturally. I was apprehensive about what James would think; you never know how people see themselves, and it's often very different to the view you have of them. Luckily, he liked it. He is 14 now and while I still shoot him, he is a bit of an awkward teenager: it's not quite as easy. But he's still an intriguing character. He's my muse, I guess."

From my point of view - currently lining up for TAOP Assignment 2, I acknowledged this small online Guardian article. I love the fact that Libby saw a moment, it wasn't THE moment, but was a theme that required more work - physical and lighting set up and working through to get the resulting image from the idea. - Some inspired design!

As I prepare and take images for TAOP assignment 2, I have been overly wrapped up in the topic of the design, neglecting the core reading for this module, I have struggled with finding the design shapes in my chosen subject and have been sticking to the themes of the design too strictly and therefore struggling to pull what I wanted together, a string of images with narrative but relaying the graphical themes. I have especially struggled in the 'finding of some of the design shapes in the exisiting environment - emailing my tutor, I was keen to move to 'create' some of the themes as images in a more blatantly contrived studio environment.

My tutor agreed to my change in direction, and my question was presented in little detail - can I stage shots ?- however I was thinking only of creating shapes in studio white background and flashlight - knowing there was a lack of narrative.

My tutors wise words have added the dimension I have been missing - acknowledge your reading!

I have much work to do; I have been set in the 'right' direction - use your critical reading - study other practioners - and the created shot can still be done with narrative, there is something to play with here...

More to come!

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Tutors Assessment TAOP Assignment 1: Contrasts + thoughts of mine

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Sun, June 10, 2012 17:29:57

I've had the tutor’s reports for assignment 1 in TAOP... and overall I'm happy and agree with all said - though my head is already taking a peek and growing ideas for assignment 2.... However this moving on attitude is a common one for me and anyone else interested in photography I reckon (and this is alluded to in Susan Sontag’s On Photography (1977)).

Once you have taken a photograph, reviewed it and archived it, it becomes less of a moment and more of an archival piece that you might on occasion offer slight reflection upon; it has become just an item in the archive whose significance is lost the deeper and deeper it is buried in newer material. As soon as the image is captured or the project reaches completion… you’re already looking at the next potential image or series….. I like this mode of operation – but it is a neglectful process for the content you have already achieved – and re researching and reflecting upon ones own archive is essential but often neglected (by me certainly).

I’d already kicked Contrasts into the cupboard – but my tutors comments serve me well to re check and consider.

Below in italics are the general comments and feedback. My thoughts are darted into the paragraphs bracketed.

Overall Comments

This is the first assignment that you have undertaken to cover the requirements of the course. In it you have demonstrated an awareness of a range of technical skills in controlling light /exposure and in composition. In working your way through a number of the exercises you are increasing your visual awareness and knowledge of the medium It is clear that you made a commitment to producing work that met these requirements and in doing so you are starting to think more about the process of image making.

The challenge in this assignment is to produce images that show visual qualities that identify and express the difference between subjects using contrasting concepts. As a photographer it can often be difficult to get ideas and concepts into the images that we make. In this assignment you have confronted some of these issues. Technical ability and an understanding of the formal elements are essential in translating our ideas into practice. In this instance it also highlights the need to reflect upon the work and to evaluate it within a critical context of the processes undertaken coupled with the underpinning ideas and concepts contained within critical reading. I am glad to see that you indicated an awareness of this process and that you are also reflecting upon your position as indicated in your blog (return to learning).

I am not quite sure why you have submitted prints for half of your assignment. This can cause some problems as it is not always possible to colour manage (camera/monitor/printer/paper) without the proper calibration tools (understood at the time of presenting the portfolio – an overcompensation on my part). Using a professional lab also requires an understanding of their profiles and set up requirements to achieve best results. It is acceptable to use electronic means to present your work and of course is less time consuming. Your blog is one of the means through which you can present your learning log and images and it is already shaping into a good record of your learning progression. I would suggest that in future you submit all work through this medium (I know I need to expand upon this… I dart in and out of blogging but do not push the learning log element enough, not showing my reading or discussing with enough reflection upon reading the exercises and assignments).

Feedback on assignment

You have submitted a range of images for the Contrasts assignment. You have understood the concept of the brief and have engaged with it. I like your overall approach, which appears to have an underlining narrative feel to it. However there is also a sense that you may be holding back in your interpretation and resolving of the assignment. Do consider your ideas and do not be worried about taking a thematic or conceptual approach to the work. The course is also about how you put your ideas into your photography rather than just following a series of exercises. The exercises can be used as an experimental stage in the process of developing your projects (Agree, and I will let loose more with the themes within presented work – that I often run with in my personal work i.e. Flickr).

Of the images submitted rough/smooth is quite amusing. The few and many are problematic in that I would expect to see the focused area of beads to be pinpoint sharp. In this instance they appear to be just a fraction too soft. This also applies to the hard image. Pointed and blunt would probably work better as a pair with tighter cropping around the main subject area. Broad/narrow demonstrates a good use of B&W with the creation of a strong atmosphere. Large/small is a clever idea, which works.

Overall this is a good submission of images that are technically proficient but with a need to expand and develop your approach through practice and research into the work of other practitioners as well as engaging with critical reading.

Pointers for the next assignment

As I already suggested in your feedback

I would like to see you include in your learning log evidence of critical reading, reflection on the work of others, exhibitions you have visited and other relevant items that have had an influence upon your work.

Please focus on this for future work and take the opportunity to develop your learning log. The learning log forms an integral part of formal assessment.

Proceed to the next assignment

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TAOP Assignment 1 - Contrasts

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, April 30, 2012 20:25:35

TAOP Assignment 1: Contrasts.

The enclosed PDF document is a detailed summary of this study and should be viewed in full, however for the purposes of the blog I have reproduced the images and themes below.

This first assignment has provided a thought provoking and interesting challenge, promoting a deeper consideration of images in a literal and descriptive sense.

The selected contrasting themes are:

Rough/ Smooth....... Pointed/Blunt....... Many/Few....... Hard/Soft....... Broad/Narrow

Light/Dark....... Large/Small....... Still/Moving

And the final image for both themes is focused on light/dark

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Assignment 1TAOP: Procastinating

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, April 23, 2012 21:23:06
I can tell its my first assignment of academic work in a long time!! mucho beard stroking and over deliberation... However at last I have made my decision and reviewed my log notes, prints have been sent off for.... Nearly there.

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