I sent off my assessment parcel a couple of days ago after pulling it together over the previous week or so, taking photographs as I went along so that I could present a record of the decision-making and production processes. This is the second post on my assessment preparation, following the first part on research and inspiration.
The main challenge I found in presenting Gesture & Meaning work for assessment is the eclectic nature of the assignments:
- One photographic assignment each on four distinct genres (documentary, art, portraiture and advertising)
- An audio-visual presentation
- A written essay
The outcome of that research and inspiration piece was that I decided that the key to presenting the whole set of assignments in a coherent way was to standardise the presentation in terms of the design principles – colour schemes, typefaces, materials, sizes etc) to provide the consistent framework in which the visually different assignments could sit.
An alternative approach could have been to bespoke each assignment’s presentation to its subject matter, changing the materials, sizes, layouts and typography to best present each individual assignment as a standalone piece of work.
However, I took a step back and endeavoured to correctly frame this for what it is:
- It is not primarily a presentation of individual art projects
- It is primarily a presentation of a linked set of artefacts to be academically assessed
With this in mind, and putting oneself in the shoes of the assessors, I determined that consistency of presentation format would give a better impression than eclectic presentation tailored to each assignment.
First of all I decided on the presentation size: my tutor tried to persuade me to go 16″ x 12″ as a ‘true’ photographic size rather than A3 (a paper industry size), but I instead took the advice of Clive White, a tutor who regularly advises on assessment matters on the OCA forum, who coincidentally posted on the subject on the very day I was researching this: “A3 or 16×12? Once upon a time it went 10×8 then 16×12, 16×12 is just a short hand way for old timers to say A3 […] Nobody is fussed on the difference.” (White 2017). Between this and the fact that I could more easily source A3 portfolio box, paper and divider card I decided to go with A3.
My next decision was how many prints to include. Again I heard conflicting advice! My tutor initially suggested a few samples from each assignment, which was my original plan, but shortly afterwards she passed on advice from a colleague saying it would be better to include everything. Hmm… once again I took to the OCA forum, where issues such as this have been much discussed. I found a sensible opinion offered by the aforementioned Mr White: he advises his students to present a selection to demonstrate print quality, not the entire set as a duplicate of what is on the learning log. Most other OCA students I spoke to online concurred – expecting the assessor to look closely at 40 prints across the four photographic assignments seems a little excessive.
I ordered a half-depth A3 portfolio box from Silverprint. I had previously used the A4 equivalent and was suitably impressed.
For paper I generally use a good quality luster, and Canon make a pro quality luster paper made to work with my Canon Pixma A3 printer. I have seen assessment advice a number of times that recommends matte or luster paper over gloss due to the reflections from the latter. I presume that assessors spend a lot of time looking down onto tabletops under overhead lighting, not straight ahead to a mounted, framed, hung print as one would in a gallery situation.
I wanted to delineate the six assignments more clearly than I had done in the past and so sourced some thick A3 card (‘greyboard’) to use as dividers.
For the section introduction pages I felt that luster might be a touch too ‘photographic’ to carry a mixture of image and typography, so I got hold of some A4 matte paper.
Finally, for the essay I wanted a good quality regular printer (i.e. non-photographic) paper so got some premium A4 paper with a reasonable weight and a subtle texture to the surface
Once I’d gathered all the basic materials I ran print tests of the images I planned to include, as they had all been done at different times, on different equipment (I have changed my computer and printer during the course). I produced variations of Relative and Perceptual colour profiling and experimented with tweaking the output brightness and contrast until I was satisfied on the match between screen and paper.
I made section introductions for the six assignments, with simple explanatory text, just one or two sentences, plus a sample image and confirmation of what was enclosed.
These were printed at A4 and mounted on the divider card using photo corners.
I aso made an overall introduction sheet and attached this to the inside lid of the portfolio box.
All prints were done with a minimum 30mm border for handling – minimum as some images were done to slightly different ratios to best serve each individual assignment (e.g. the documentary project used 5×7 to better align with the target book layout; the portraits were done at 8×10 as a standard portrait ratio).
I’ll now briefly cover what I included per assignment – a tricky decision given the fragmented nature of the assignments (four photographic including one with a book and one with a calendar format, plus a 16-minute video presentation and a written essay).
I included three sample images from the 12 submitted as the full assignment.
The main challenge was how to present the book version. I really wanted the whole presentation to be based around A3 materials to avoid anything ‘rattling around’ the portfolio box. My solution was to tightly fasten ribbon to a greyboard card and slides the book under the resultant ‘straps’.
As a symbolic aside: the ribbon formed a cross, and the project was about a church, which I thought was an appropriate coincidence.
I included three sample images from the 10 submitted as the full assignment.
I felt it important to include the final image as it is different to the other nine, offering a kind of resolution to the narrative of the series.
I included the final selected versions of each of the four subjects. Coincidentally (but very pleasingly) all four sitters preferred the bespoke shot of themselves, so all four final images sit together quite well I think.
I did have a dilemma here: the original assignment submissions asked for the selected images to be printed large (A4) and the rejected shots at 5×4″. However, as detailed earlier I have been at pains to keep the presentation format as consistent as possible across the assignments. I wanted all the images to be at A3, and I felt that printing smaller versions of the rejected shots was visually jarring. For this reason I chose to exclude the smaller rejected portraits.
I included all six images from the assignment, for a couple of reasons. First of all, six is such as small number compared to other assignments that selecting three or four out of six felt arbitrary and odd. Secondly, the concept (names subtly embedded into scenes) really needs to be seen as large as possible, so A3 prints is the minimum size that does it justice – I can’t assume assessors look at the online versions on giant monitors.
I discussed with my tutor whether to make an actual calendar for this assignment. Her opinion was that the images work better as a standalone set of photographs and that the calendar format felt like a secondary version of the series. She also took advice from an OCA colleague who agreed that “It doesn’t have to produced as a calendar – it’s mainly about the photography. Design of the calendar can be online”. So the calendar format is presented online but not printed. As per other decisions outlined above, my guiding principle was visual consistency.
For this I included just the divider with an A4 section intro mounted on it, to keep it consistent with the rest of the submission – leaving it out completely felt wrong.
I did check with OCA whether to provide a DVD or USB drive with the presentation video on it, but was advised not to.
This is the critical review essay, so it was clearly important to print a good quality copy of the essay. I also decided that the essay needed a cover page for visual appeal, so I took one of the images I discussed (Don McCullin’s shell-shocked marine) and the concept of ‘joining the dots’ to form a graphic design of circular extracts from the photograph.
The dilemma though was how to present an A4 document as part of an A3 portfolio (printing the essay on A3 would just look silly). My solution was to craft a kind of A4-sized ‘tray’ out of three sheets of the greyboard card and sit the document in this recess. A ribbon was added to lift the document out.
And – that’s it.
Wish me luck!