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CONTEXTUAL STUDIES: PHOTOGRAPHY

ESSAY BRIEF 1.
Introduction

This essay is the first of two that form part of a unit that runs throughout the first year and provides a theoretical context for the visual units.

In the first 12 weeks of the semester it provides an introduction to the nature of representation and considers the questions and issues that arise from this process. It examines the ways in which we perceive and structure information, and It explores the concept of language and the communication of meaning predominantly through an introduction to semiotics. This is related directly to the construction and reading of the image and the potential of the visual sign for the expression of meaning. The ways in which the image reflects and expresses complex social and cultural issues and contexts is also a significant focus which is explored through visual references that engage with themes concerned with physical space and landscape and with the body. The essay brief encourages you to build on the ideas discussed in the supporting lectures given this term through your own, independent research. It is also intended to help you improve your research skills, your ability to analyse, and use references to develop and support discussion and debate. Support during the development of your essay and the feedback you will receive are designed to build your skills and confidence in written communication.

Learning outcomes
LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 A growing understanding of critical ideas regarding perception, meaning, and communication. A growing appreciation of the application and operation of concepts of visual communication to both historical and contemporary practice particularly in photography. A developing knowledge of theoretical cultural ideas and perspectives and their importance in both historical and contemporary practice Developing essential academic skills to support, explore, and expand concepts, support critical analysis, the understanding and development of ideas and their expression in verbal and written form.

Your task

Below are 4 essay titles. You should select one as the subject for your written work They are questions relevant to the ideas you have been exploring this term and provide a starting point. You should use this to direct your independent research to understand the issues and ideas raised by the question you select, and build arguments and discussions that debate your chosen questions supported by your research material. The four titles are,,,, 1. Happy Families: Family portraits tell us very little about the individual family, far more about what society believes the ideal family should be. Discuss and debate this statement with reference to one photographic image from the 19th century and one from a contemporary photographer (work produced in the last 30 years). 2. In what ways can photographic images of the American West be regarded as expressions of spiritual belief. Discuss with reference to the works of at least two photographers or painters. 3. Why is photography so powerful and so problematic in relation to the idea of representation? Discuss either using examples of portrait photography or photojournalism. 4. How can the gaze construct our relationship to an image and convey meaning. Discuss in relation to the painting Las Meninas by Velasquez and Thomas Struths Museo del Prado and Audience/Hermitage series.

Submission of work.

DATE FOR HANDING IN WORK: MONDAY 7TH JANUARY BY 12 MIDDAY.

THE ESSAY MUST BE 1500 WORDS LONG WITH VISUAL EXAMPLES, APPROPRIATE REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY.

REFERENCING AND BIBLIOGRAPHY MUST FOLLOW UCA ACADEMIC CONVENTIONS BY USING THE HARVARD SYSTEM OF REFERENCING SEE STUDY GUIDES FOR INSTRUCTIONS. IT MUST BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY THROUGH TURNITIN (SEE MYUCA FOR GUIDANCE) FAILURE TO SUBMIT WORK CAN LEAD TO FAILURE OF THIS UNIT AND MAY JEOPARDISE PROGRESSION ON THE COURSE. IF YOU ARE HAVING DIFFICULTIES TALK TO YOUR TUTORS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO ASK FOR ADDITIONAL SUPPORT OR APPLY FOR EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT.

Assessment Criteria

THIS ESSAY CONTRIBUTES 30% TOWARDS THE OVERALL MARK FOR THIS UNIT.

Knowledge of Contexts, Concepts, Technologies and Processes Applied knowledge and theoretical understanding of LO1 perception, communication and meaning Critical understanding of historical and cultural LO2 photographic practice Understanding through Application of Knowledge Use of research to initiate, support, and develop ideas LO3 Strength of argument through structure, flow, and LO4 development Application of Technical and Professional Skills Use of academic conventions to communicate clearly LO5 in written form

Essay project timeline Briefing: Wed 24th October. Supporting workshops Wed 24th October Friday 2nd November Select your essay topic and have conducted preliminary research. Monday 12th November You should have the outline of your essay structure and arguments Hand in 7th January. ESSAY PARTICULARS *Make sure you answer the question! *Make sure you adhere to the word count as you will be penalised for going significantly under or over. *Always reference your sources when quoting. This is essential. Use Harvard style of referencing.

*At the end of your essay produce a bibliography; a list of all the books you have read to produce the essay (even if you havent quoted from them). This is essential.

Neither footnotes / endnotes nor bibliography count towards the final word count. *Be aware of plagiarism please refer to smyUCA for guidance on this issue. When using pictures make sure you include their producer (artist / photographer), their title and their date. If they are of a specific material or size, include this also (i.e., marble, 24 foot high etc.). Also make sure it is clear to what pictures you are referring to in the text when using images in your essay. It may be useful to label them numerically, i.e. fig.1. (If doing this, also be sure to still include photographer, title, date with the image itself) ESSAY TIPS: Compare and contrast specific images read these images carefully, in terms of your responses to them and also in terms of other writing on the photographers work. Look at the photographers photographs, not their life stories. A good essay is an analysis of the work and its many contexts (from the personal to the historical) not just that of biography. Try to avoid producing lists of life events (for example: they were born in X, then went to college in Y etc.) and if using life events make them intersect with your argument. What do you want to say about their work? Look at how photographers use technique as a visual language examine visual strategies, look at perspectives, camera position, composition, the use of certain styles and motifs. Look at the use of details, textures, colour and contrast. Be sure to describe the images you use. Locate their work within a context who are they associated with, what ideas do they use? What other photographic histories does their work interact with? Locate a central idea in the essay and read around it dont rely solely on catalogue essays, look around the issues you find. The more adventurous your research the more interesting the essay will be. Follow your gut instinct, but be sure to back it up with the relevant research Remember, an essay consists mostly of research. The better and more focused the research the more creative you can be with your arguments Be sure to structure your essay provide an introduction and conclusion. In your arguments try to stay focussed and dont wander all over the place. FINAL TIPS: Always have a good starting point: If given a choice of questions, try and choose the one that either speaks to you or that you think presents the real challenge (i.e. gets you worked up about the issues). If asked to write on a subject of your choice pick a topic that you really want to cover, not one that you think is relevant but a little dull. Dont be afraid of the obscure and the personal they are always more rewarding Always do the research: Trying to write a presentation or essay on the night before deadline is a recipe for stress ulcers and heart attacks. Any essay is always 90% research with 10% of the time spent writing up the research into an essay. (This is obviously an exaggeration time should be left to write and rewrite the piece!) Always PLAN the research: A very simple point, but if you can structure the research well, the essay can easily mirror it, thus telling the story of your research (the interesting bits at least). Think about opposing positions, about non-agreeing photographers / writers, about using many different sources that you can pull together into a grand plan, an argument that takes us through the story of the research.

Always use an introduction and a conclusion:

The introduction and the conclusion bookend the work with one mirroring the other. You should state your intended journey plan in the introduction, i.e. that you will be looking at the birth of the portrait through the work of Nadar and Charles Dodgson looking at this + that aspect of the work (insert topic here, i.e. lighting, context, history etc.). The body of the text follows through this procedure. The conclusion then mirrors this reminding the reader of the journey taken. ALWAYS USE GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Always use spell-check. Re-read the work before handing it in! Use footnotes + bibliographies!!!!! Reference your sources + title your pictures! Always save your work as you write!!! KEEP A BACK-UP! Keep your own copy of your work.