Category Archives: Assignment 5

Assignment 5 – If I (the animal) were you (the person)

The Brief:

Construct a stand-alone image of your choice. Alternatively, you may choose to make series, elaborating on the same theme. … draw upon skills learned from Parts One to Four – using various forms of narrative, using yourself as subject matter, telling stories and reading images. The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose. Remember to create a story with a specific context … This means you need to have an artistic intention. …The aim of this assignment is to use props, costume, models, location, lighting, etc. to contribute to the overall meaning of the image. … If the narrative is to be set in a different era then the elements of the image must reflect this. Also consider the symbolic meanings of objects and try not to be too literal in your approach. … For this final assignment, you should also include an illustrated evaluation of the process you went through to produce your final image(s). Include snapshots of setting up the work and write about how you felt your direction went, how you found the location, props, etc. How did this process affect the final outcome? Write around 1,000 words in total (including your 300-word introduction).


For centuries, mankind has been the dominant species. We’ve domesticated animals, locked them up, killed them for sport. But a series of recent events seem to suggest, all across the globe, animals have decided no more.

Zoo TV Series Opening introduction, episode 4 (narrated by Nonso Anozie), Wikipedia

This statement from the TV series Zoo served as the inspiration for my project, If I (the animal) were you (the person). This mythical, surreal narrative is my reaction to the senseless hunting and poaching of game that is taking place in Africa and other countries. By reversing the roles of hunter and prey, I hope to create a moral and visual awareness that may help to address the custodial role that humans need to take to safeguard the longevity and existence of the various species in the animal kingdom. The prey lying on the ground will hopefully “rise from the scene, shoot out of it like an arrow, and pierce [you]” (Barthes, 1980: 26).

Location scouting

To enhance the surreal nature of my project I scouted out a location that would not be indigenous to lions, namely a forest of spruce and Douglas fir trees. The location for my photo shoot was Kealy Woods Park in North Vancouver, a rather deserted little forest. When I first went to scout out the location a couple of weeks ago the forest floor was slightly damp. On the day of the shoot it was positively soggy and slippery, which was rather treacherous for us in some spots. I mainly shot in front of the huge rock outcrop. Movement was restricted by the trees, exposed tree roots, fallen trees and stumps. Below are a couple of pull back shots from different angles.

Pull back shot No 1
Pull back shot No 1
Pull back shot No 2
Pull back shot No 2
Make up trial/Props

I did not need very much in the way of props as initially mentioned in my planning post. I had purchased a lion’s mask which I sourced online in China, a camouflage jacket and gloves for my hunter model (my husband) to wear which was purchased from a red-neck American outdoor/hunting store which shall remain nameless, as well as a toy rifle, from the same store, which hopefully comes across as fairly realistic in the images. My prey model (my son) just wore regular clothes.

My main prop was really the bullet wound makeup that I had to apply to the model’s face prior to the shoot. I had practised this two weeks ago and felt fairly confident in recreating the prosthetic. However, it seems that every attempt comes with its own challenges and I struggled to get the shading right this time. Unlike the practise run, this time I had real fake blood obtained from a movie FX retailer, which made the makeup more realistic. Below is a closeup taken after the shoot. As you can see, the dripping blood held up really well as there was no need for any touch ups during the shoot.



I had initially planned on using flash in the forest as I had hoped to get in there fairly early in the morning. However, the makeup took longer than expected and I arrived at the location later than I had anticipated with the sun already quite high in the sky. As a result I did not need to use flash and relied on the beautiful natural lighting that was filtering through the forest canopy from camera left at about the eleven o’clock position. Initially I had set up using a tripod, but found that the location was too restrictive, and the terrain was not conducive to a tripod as it was fairly steep with lots of obstacles to navigate, so I abandoned the tripod so that I could change my viewpoint more easily.


I had a fairly good idea of the poses that I wanted from my models, but once in the forest we had to adapt to the in situ conditions as there were many branches that had come down during the two wind storms that occurred after my scouting trip. For the most part the direction went well. I took care to direct my son to keep his head turned to his left in the same direction that the blood was flowing, otherwise his poses would have looked strange. His greatest problem was to keep a straight face. The biggest problem my hunter faced was keeping his chin down, so that the camera would not pick up his face inside the mask. From certain viewpoints the wearer’s mouth is visible through the lion’s mouth. To help with this I had him wear a balaclava so that there would be a dark tone inside the mouth. Happily this strategy worked well.

The Stalker
The Shooter
Trophy Final
The Trophy


Contact Sheets

Because I took quite a few photos of the same poses, I have whittled down my contact sheets to show a few options of the relevant poses.

Assignment 5 contact sheets 1
Assignment 5 contact sheets 1
Assignment 5 Contact Sheets 2
Assignment 5 Contact Sheets 2


Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

My equipment used for this assignment were my 18-140 mm and 70-300mm lenses together with my Nikon D7200 and tripod. Going in I had a fairly good idea of the type of images that I was after. I found that certain spots in the forest allowed in too much overhead lighting and although my hunter was backlit rather nicely, my highlights were totally blown out. Unfortunately I only discovered this after uploading the images to my PC – note to self to check my histogram after taking the photo. Fortunately though, even if the exposure had been correct, I would not have used those images as the hunter’s and prey’s postures were too awkward and looked contrived. Not too much post-processing was involved: mainly just adjustment of highlights, adding contrast and clarity and a little dodging and burning over selective sections of the images.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

I am happy with the outcome of these images.  My planning pages can be viewed on these pages: Assignment 5 Planning, Assignment 5 Planning – Location Scouting, Assignment 5 Planning – Makeup Trial Run, and Assignment 5 Planning – Preselection. I put four test images up for peer review on the OCA Facebook Level 1 group regarding my final image. I was pleased with the positive feedback which can be read here.  I was also relieved to see that the correct connotation had been made in the hunter becoming the hunted. A few comments were made about the wonderful lighting in my second preselection option, but as the lighting was basically the same between images 1, 2 and 3, I simply applied a little more post-processing to my final image of choice. A fellow student also suggested that it might be a good idea to annotate my contact sheets which I have done.

For my ‘trophy’ image I have emulated David Chancellor’s and the countless other images that one sees on the internet with the hunter and the prey centrally placed in the frame to continue the illusion of a real hunt. Like Meatyard, I feel that the use a mask does depersonalise the situation, but at the same time also adds a bit of shock value to the image.

I believe my thought processes are clearly signposted in my planning posts and in my introduction above. I intentionally did not want to overload my images with signifiers as I want to leave the viewer room to play with his/her own interpretation of the myth.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

When I first verbalised my concept for this assignment with a couple of colleagues from work and took note of their reactions, which ranged from horror to “how disgusting/weird” I realised that my narrative had some good potential, even if it was a bit risky. If my verbal narrative could elicit such responses, hopefully a visual one would do so as well. To emphasise the mythological aspect of my narrative, I chose a location where lions are not indigenous (a forest in Canada), with the intention of drawing attention to this global problem. Initially I had planned on only doing one image, namely the trophy pose, but the more I thought about it, I became convinced I needed a few more images to complete my mythical narrative. I have, therefore, followed a bit of a cartoon-like strategy, where some reading between the “boxes” is necessary from the viewer’s standpoint.

I have tried to portray the “thrill” of the hunt in my images. I also decided not to go for the super, polished look that John Hafner’s photographs have, preferring a natural look for my images. The series of images also alludes briefly to the close vicinity that wildlife and humans find themselves in these days. In North Vancouver, where I live, bears, coyotes and racoons regularly encroach into our living space. In my final image by posing the hunter in front of a rock face which is defaced with graffiti, I also want to draw attention to the fact that humans also encroach on wildlife’s living space.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

Hunting is not a subject widely found in the contemporary or fine art environment and it was a bit of a struggle to find suitable photographers to research. In preparation for this assignment I looked at the following photographers (my detailed remarks can be found on their pages):

  • John Hafner – a Montanan based commercial photographer, who specialises in sport hunting photography.
  • Ulla Schildt and Liza Dracup – as suggested by my tutor, as they both photograph animals in an alternative state.
  • David Chancellor – photographer who splits his time between the UK and South Africa and has won the 2010 Taylor Wessing portrait prize for one of his hunting images. I had written to David to request permission to use one of his images in my write up, which he kindly gave. He also requested to read my write up and thought that it was “a fascinating observation” and further requested to read my assignment when completed.
  • Ralph Eugene Meatyard – mentioned by a fellow student for his use of masks in photography.

My detailed notes on the exhibitions that I attended are linked to their individual postings and listed below. A few were not of a photographic nature and therefore a little difficult to comment on.

I did an online MOOC course through Coursera on Learning How to Learn, which imparted valuable study methods which will definitely come in handy as I try and assimilate the theoretic aspects of this and following courses.

I caught up on some backlog I’d had with reviews, namely Roland Barthes’ Rhetoric of the Image.

Another MOOC course that I completed through Coursera was Seeing Through Photographs which was presented by the Museum of Modern Art. This was a new course and I only wish this course had been available when I began Context & Narrative as it is so relevant to this module. I found the materials and resources MOMA made available for this course very useful and comprehensive and particularly enjoyed the exposure to new artists and their opinions. This is a great companion piece to Context & Narrative.

I read This Means This This Means That by Sean Hall, a very down to earth, no-frills book on semiotics with examples of every aspect. This book was recommended by a fellow student on the OCA Level 1 Facebook group and it has really been extremely helpful in expanding my semiotic knowledge. I would not use it as a substitute for Daniel Chandler’s Semiotics for Beginners, but definitely as a companion text.

Reference List

Barthes, Roland. (1980) Camera Lucida Reflections on Photography.  New York: Hill and Wang

Zoo (TV Series) [online]. Available from: [Accessed 18 March, 2016]

Assignment 5 – Tutor Feedback

After a few weeks of anxious waiting for my final tutor feedback, I received it today and I really couldn’t be happier. I’m relieved that my final assignment is wrapped up and also the course, but also sad to say aurevoir to my current tutor. She has been absolutely amazing with her feedback, pushing me beyond my comfort zone with each assignment for which I am grateful.

Her feedback follows below. My comments are in italics.

Overall comments

A great set of images exploring the hunter and the hunted, technically very proficient, well styled and thoughtfully executed. Your background research is thorough and supports your creative experimentations. Well done!

Thank you – very pleased to hear that.

Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

As a series of images I really enjoy the piece of work you have created for this assignment. There is something of the unreal/surreal, within the set up that jars my reading of the work. We know this is a constructed image, a lion is obviously not going to pick up a gun with their paws… but somehow I want to believe this is possible and to see it enacted in a photograph. I want to be tricked!

This was the reaction that I was after, so good to hear this feedback.

The saddest thing about some of Chancellor’s images, that you comment upon in detail, is the evident pride in the expression of the hunters who have killed such beautiful animals. The way the animals bodies are draped around the hunters like trophies induces a real sense of sickness and disgust in me when I look at the photographs. Perhaps it is the carnivalesque mask that punctures my viewing, its lack of expression or inability to change expression that doesn’t quite have me convinced.

I had hoped that the lion’s stance with his foot on the prey’s shoulder would convey some of this arrogance.

I feel you have done extremely well to produce the images you have in the context of the forest with the resources available to you (considering that Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson have massive teams of assistants and helpers to create their work).

Extra voice activated light stands would have been most welcome :-).

Technically the shots are well observed, as you note there are some exposure issues, but in this context I don’t think they matter massively as we are interested more in believing the shot. You make great use of a variety of poses, experimentation in make up, the natural lighting and different view points within the frame to create a set of effective, stylised and constructed photographs.

Thank you.

Have you considered how you will present the work for final assessment? I enjoyed seeing the sequence of images develop, or perhaps you will opt for one single image. Something to think further about.

One of the OCA students had suggested a tritych and this might be my best option. If there were a few more images, I might have considered a short film clip, but I think with only three images it might not have the deisred effect. I also don’t have the time available before the assessment submission deadline to learn how to put a film with sound together.

Your pre-shoot location scouting is well documented and you have evidently spent much time considering how to construct the shots. The annotated contact sheets work well in this context to show your working process. This is highly effective work presented in a professional way showing strong judgement. Well done.

Thank you and also thanks to Jayne Kemp who suggested annotating the contact sheets.

I like that your colleagues thought you were weird for wanting to do this, as you rightly state it probably means you’re on to something! Well done for taking a risk, being imaginative, creative and playing around with your ideas. It’s been great to see your work develop throughout the assignments.

I think I’m beginning to realise that the wacky ideas are more fruitful in the long run and I’m now more comfortable getting out of my comfort zone. Of course I know that the comfort zone boundaries are ever shifting so we shall see where this leads me in the next course.

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

You have engaged thoroughly with all the suggested exercises and projects within this assignment. You often go the extra mile in terms of additional research and reflection in relation to these projects. Your log is easy to navigate and I was able to quickly locate all of your responses. I especially like the embedded links to specific practitioners and your analysis of their work/application to the assignment in hand.

Thank you. I know how frustrating it can be to navigate a badly signposted website or blog.

Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

As above, your research is thorough, detailed and insightful. You visit a range of sources to inform your practice and are able to critically evaluate the work within its wider contemporary context.

You write well, clearly communicating the information that is relevant to the exercise/project/task in hand. You also strike a good balance between writing in an academic context, where analysis is valued over description, whilst also maintaining a sense of the personal approach and view of the subject. I find your reflections and research both enjoyable and easy to read.

Thank you. Academic writing is quite hard and very dry to read most times, so I’m very relieved that there is a good balance between that and the personal approach.

It is commendable that you are also pursuing other MOOCs to do with photography at MOMA and other online sources. I’ll have a further look into some of these as they might be a good resource for other students on the course.

I can highly recommend the MOMA course as a companion piece to Context and Narrative. It would have been wonderful to have had that available at the start of this module. The accompanying reading texts from the MOMA exhibition catalogues are also very handy to have.

Learning Log
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

Similar comments as above, your learning log continues to be thorough, detailed and insightful. The depth of self reflection is evident in your write up, where you consider both technical improvements that could have been made whilst weighing up the practicalities that the situation demanded. You go on to implement several of the suggestions into the presentation of your work, which works to good effect (annotated contact sheets – nice!).

Seems like I’ve made a bit of an improvement in self reflection which is always difficult for me, so I’m happy to hear that.

In using the OCA student forum, you take full advantage of peer feedback and develop this further, following up practitioners suggested by other students and incorporating this into your wider research. I think I have mentioned before in a report, the importance of being critical of some of the feedback and pushing beyond the purely positive comments to find some critique, or have some of your own in response. This is not a criticism, more of an observation, it is also something that is not always possible depending on the student group. However I would encourage you (perhaps on future courses) to guide the feedback a bit more and push people to engage beyond the positive comments.

Point taken. I did make a note of amendments I had made after receiving peer feedback, but I do take your point. I should analyse and document my responses better. I will take this through to the next course.

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

North American paper sizes are different to those used in the rest of the world. The closest I have to A4 is 8.5 x 11 inches which is what I will use for assessment.

Assignment 5 – Alternative Presentation

After deliberating for a while I decided to try and create a video with sound effects for my final assignment If I (the animal) were you (the person). I first created a PowerPoint presentation and inserted blank slides between each photograph to create a sense of anticipation and mystery. Various sounds effects were also added to the presentation. I then enlisted the help of a student at the university where I work to help me convert the presentation to a video file, which I uploaded to Vimeo.

The video If I (the animal) were you (the person) can be seen here.