Assignment 5: Portrait Not Portrait

NOTE: this is the reworked version of this assignment for assessment, following feedback from my tutor. The revisions are minor updates to example images, a re-recorded voiceover and an added List of Illustrations.

This assignment is an oral presentation of about 16 minutes on the subject of Portraiture as a Device in Documentary Photography.



  • As part of the original assignment I did a ‘virtual Q&A session’ by taking questions from other students – to see these questions and the answers I gave, please look at the original assignment
  • There are two key preparatory posts that provide some detail on how I produced the presentation, which may be of interest for assessment:


Whilst not all of the headings normally used for photographic assignments are relevant for an oral presentation, some of them are and so I provide short commentary here.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I was conscious throughout for the need for a clean and consistent look and feel, and so spent a little time upfront deciding on an appropriate presentation template. Elements such as typefaces, white space, positioning of images and text, transitions and colour palettes all came into play, which extended my design and compositional skills beyond the photographic frame. This was both an enjoyable and educational experience.

Quality of outcome

I am happy with the quality of both the content and the presentation and believe that they work together to support the key messages that I wished to communicate. There was a great deal of discernment required to identify which example images best supported my key messages. The image analysis knowledge I applied in the example selection process gave me both good practice and a deeper appreciation of visual analysis generally, and I have developed analysis techniques that I continue to use.

Demonstration of creativity

In this context creativity can be applied to the choice of photographers and images used to support the points being made, and I worked to make it a blend of iconic and less well-known images.


Both the practical (photographic) research and the reading around the critical theory took up an enormous amount of time before I started pulling the presentation together, which may not be immediately obvious from the handful of blog posts I did. It was, however, all worthwhile for the quality and depth of understanding I gained. As mentioned in the voiceover, the most enlightening aspect of this assignment for me was to reflect on my own past work.


(List of illustrations used is provided at the end of the presentation)

Angier, R (2007). Train Your Gaze. Lausanne: AVA.

Bate, D. (2009) Photography: The Key Concepts. London: Bloomsbury.

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press.

Higgins, J (2013). 21st Century Portraits. London: NPG.

Marien, M.W. (2014) Photography: A Cultural History. UK: Laurence King Publishing.

Wells, L. (ed.) (2002) The Photography Reader. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wells, L. (ed.) (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.


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