Focus Live: Meeting Notes

What is Focus Live

Focus Live is a student led live bi-monthly forum and provides a platform for peer feedback and review, it also provides a space for discussion on various topics and questions and is oversee and moderated by a number of different tutor throughout the year. We aim to host 4 items with allocated time slot of between 15 to 20 minutes. 
Focus Live is friendly, open and informal, focusing on all lens based practice and creative processes. It is open to all students at all levels. There is no pressure to attend every forum, no pressure to contribute you can just observe. 

OCA (2021). Photography Peer Sessions (student-led) (accessed 10.03.21)

Notes taken from meeting:

This student Focus Live session that I took part in was on the 7th March 2021 and included OCA tutor Clive White and it was my first online meeting with the OCA. I signed up for the session because I knew at some point on the course I would need to become more active with fellow students and also with learning as part of a group. I had felt apprehensive about this side of the course because I am a survivor of domestic abuse and part of the emotional and psychological abuse that I received was connected with how I was told that I was useless and that people thought I was a joke, an embarrassment because I was fat and unsociable. All these labels were of course not true (although I am overweight but that does not define who I am), but gaslighting someone means they question everything and begin to believe what they have been told. Due to the gaslighting working, once my abuser was out of my life, I withdrew from socialising with people because I still had his voice telling me I was worthless and all the other labels he had given me and secondly I didn’t trust anyone anymore.

Taking this first step in communicating with a group of people that I did not know was in fact a very big deal and one that had made me panic inside.

I need not to have worried. I think because those present in the meeting were fellow students and were attending the meeting for a specific reason, photography, I did not feel at odds with them. I was in fact quite relaxed and joined in with the discussions. Not only did I become part of the discussions I had also put my Assignment 2: Collecting for feedback, an action that I am glad that I did.

I found the group session very informative and interesting to boot, it was not threatening at all and the encouragement and support that the students and tutor gave each other was a bonus for me.

Agenda 1: Assignment 3 – Spaces to Places, Hilary Farrow

Looking for feedback

I am reworking Assignment 3, original here

and rework here

Farrow, H. (2021) Focus Live meeting 07.03.21

We began with Agenda 1 with Hilary and her documentary work about The New Forest.

I have chosen to try and show things that mark the New Forest as a place. The ponies and the deer are integral to the place that the New Forest is, hence their inclusion in this series of images. I intend to show the place that the New Forest has become, including a place of work.

In this series we were shown the forestry wild life, deer and trees, aspects of work in the forestry and the tourist element. I found the set interesting as it’s content looked at the three distinct areas and showed man’s relation to the forest for work and pleasure.

Farrow, H. (2014) Assignment 3 Spaces to Places, (Accessed 14.03.21)

During the critique I suggested that the two vehicle images were quite weighty in the set. Where our eyes worked around the content within the other images, with these two which showed the cars in one and the ice-cream van in the other, our eyes were drawn straight to them and they did not have anywhere to go from there. I liked their inclusion in the set but if they were my shots I would have included more forestry information in the background. This would have kept the series visually balanced without the two vehicle images being dominant to the viewer’s eye.

I also thought that the way she had grouped her sequence was very good. As the sequence was read, left to right, every two images were followed by an image of telephone wires, some with the poles present. These wires acted as a connection between the pairs of images. A concept that I hadn’t thought of before where a series content can be linked by a specific theme which interjects at certain point in its presentation.

Another aspect that White had suggested was connected with a sign on a gate. He suggested that rather than just presenting the viewer with the sign, the visual content could be made more dynamic and meaningful by having a glimpse of a section of a person walking past it to give the image the sense of human activity.

Another aspect that we looked at was how Farrow had converted her images into black and white to see if the overall effect would be preferable. The overall response was that the colour images were more convincing and aesthetic. For me the black and white versions were at odds with each other. I concluded this due to the fact that the tones were not visually accurate, for example, within the ice-cream van image the contrast was quite dark and punchy and stood out from the remaining of the images and the group of horses were created from mid-tones because of their different coat colours.

The series also did not flow visually in the black and white set. The question that I asked myself was, Does it matter that the images were visually different in contrast and tone? For me it depends on how they will be presented, if they are to be viewed all together, then yes it does matter because images begin to jump forwards towards the viewer if they have dark or light contrasting areas and draw our eyes towards them. If they are presented one at a time, then no because the difference visually cannot be compared unless one reviews the images and analyses them for this specific technical outcome.

Agenda 2: (Re) constructing Deptford, Johnathon Hall

Looking for feedback and to explore presentation possibilities for my Body of WorkI am looking for any feedback for my Body of Work, (Re)constructing Deptford, especially how I might present it as a publication for my final L3 course. I am currently thinking it would work well as a photo book but I am open to other possibilities. I will provide a link to the project on my website so you can get an idea of the project.

Hall, J. (2021) Focus Live meeting 07.03.21

To be honest I got a little too over excited with Agenda 2 which was Johnathan’s images of Deptford. They brought back memories of home and I do miss London and it’s surrounding boroughs. This set of images was accompanied by poems that Johnathan had written and the whole feel to the series was akin to the Hoxton Mini Press books, of which I have four. I actually asked if I could buy a copy if he had it printed as a book because it fits in with the photography themes I like to shoot and the books I like to buy.

By sharing these images alongside anthropomorphic poems, I am inviting the viewer to explore the ongoing changes in Deptford with me, through my eyes. This is realised by image and poem forming a diegesis which informs the observer of how I perceive these changes. It is a local project so the people who I most want to look at the work are its inhabitants. However, since similar changes can be extrapolated to other developing towns, I consider the project to be wider reaching than Deptford.

My images are made up of composites where people were present at those points in the frame but at different times. This questions the decisive moment within photography and comments on this trope by subverting it. At the same time, it comments on community in developing areas and how, even in times where a place is being reconstructed, there remains spirit amongst its people.

Hall, J (2014). (Re)constructing Deptford, (Accessed 14.03.21)

The content of the images were really strong because of subject theme and information within them. I didn’t have time to read the poems and to contemplate on the combination of text content with the images. I would have been happy with just the images and a few poems so that there was a breather between the pages so that I didn’t get overloaded with the sheer amount of information on the two facing pages.

The discussion was predominantly connected the text. I explained that I would have been happy to push the poems off their page and soak myself in the images without having the text seen out of the corner of my eye which would be distracting. This is not to say the poems were of no interest, they were and some suggestions were that the poetry could be presented at the back of the book.

Other discussions around presentation of the text:

  • Text on tracing paper and layer over the images so that the image is seen slightly through the thin paper and this could be turned to see the image in its own right.
  • Putting the poem in an envelope on the page opposite the image.
  • Adding just one sentence of the poem to the page and having the poems written at the back of the book.
  • Adding just one word of the book and having the poems at the back of the book.

Other points to remember with text is it’s placement in the page, it’s size and the font.

Clive also mentioned having an exhibition of the work so that they could be printed large for viewing. Johnathan agreed with this idea and said he had thought about it as the images in planning were large but because of COVID restrictions any type of exhibition was difficult to organise. White suggested the train station and Johnathan is researching this possibility further.

One of the ideas about text was changing it from presenting a poem to obtaining quotes from some of the people in the images. This is hard to fulfill now because the people have long gone but new quotes at the images location could be obtained instead. I actually really like this idea it would make the body of work stronger because it will all be about the people living in Deptford, people who experience it daily and nightly, use the buildings, parks, roads and walkways etc… in their life. So they have authentic descriptions and opinions to enrich the content on the page.

A great deal was learnt from this discussion especially about presentation of text, which in this instance is a poem.

Agenda 3: Landscape assignment 1, Simon Chirgwin

(Slightly later than advertised) Here is the assignment post from my log, in what I think is pretty much its final form. There’s more words that need to go in (and some that will need to come out, in order to keep it brief). 

But it’s all about the pictures isn’t it?  So in the words of the brief:  do they function as a coherent series? Do they hang together to provie an interpretation of beauty and/or the sublime within the context of landscape?

Chirgwin, S. (2021) Focus Live meeting 07.03.21

Agenda 3 was an interesting presentation comparing past holiday views of Orkney with views in a non-holiday hometown of Walthamstow in lockdown. Simon began his work with a slideshow which he had set up to resemble and sound like the ‘click’ and ‘move’ family slideshows of old.

Simon had recorded a commentary with the slideshow and had described images from past holidays.

The pictures of Orkney were selected (from many, many others) either because they rhymed with things I knew I could photograph in London  – the Old Man of Hoy and the 50s clock tower, cliffs and the sheer walls of the blocks of flats that are springing up on any available plot at the moment, in Walthamstow – or because they were ‘typical’ of rural beauty, but generic enough that their equivalent should be findable in the city if I thought hard enough – sunsets, or symmetry arranged around a vanishing point.

Chirgwin, S. (2014). (Accessed 14.03.21)

I did not know how to comment on this series of work. Simon had cleverly chosen images that looked similar in shape and form and when placed together were very strong indeed and the content involved in comparing images was easy to decipher.

When the images were not viewed side by side the context of the work changed and the content was not as strong because the similarities in the coupled images were not as easy to notice. By the time the slideshow ended I couldn’t relate the lockdown image to the holiday photograph as I had forgotten some of them.

We discussed the two different styles that we observed and people commented on which they preferred and why, as well as which viewing method was the strongest for his series. However I do not think people took into consideration Simon’s initial concept and a question that perhaps should have been asked were along the lines of, ‘Who is the target audience?’ and ‘Where would the work be shown?’ If we had known the answers to these then perhaps knowing wether an ironic slideshow would be appreciated or whether the viewers would appreciate a comparison set of images that are traditionally displayed in pairs.

I enjoyed the content of Simon’s work and it did make me think that there may be other ways of exploiting the slideshow format.

Agenda 4

It was my Assignment 2: Collecting that took the Agenda 4 slot. My original post without the images can be seen below:

EYV Assignment 2 COLLECTING: Heads
Presentation has been over thought so my knickers have twisted. 
Chosen ‘Heads’ for the Collecting assignment. Which are head portraits of myself taken throughout different stages in the year lockdown. Concept is how my mental health in lockdown impacts on my emotions and how I change…

Original title was ‘Heads in Lockdown’ changed it to ‘Heads in Isolation’ and with it experimented with different presentations to run parallel with the title.

Then there is the half drawn idea… which symbolises how I spend my nights creating artworks on my iPad because I do not sleep as I have CPTSD.

Tomlin, D. (2021) Focus Live meeting 07.03.21

The problem that I was seeking advice for was how to present the images, which would be the best style out of the ones I had already experimented with. I have an awful problem with over thinking things where more and more ideas are visualised in my head, sometimes it really hurts as I do not have control over the way I think, it is like a tap of thoughts has been turned on and ideas come rushing out one after another all developing on top of each other. I even dream about end products of art and photography and dream myself creating them from beginning to end product. It sounds fascinating but it is awful when your brain is constantly inventing things and you cannot turn it off.

This is what had happened with this assignment things had begun to spiral out of control so I thought I would try to nip the surge of ideas in the bud by discussing the few I had already experimented with, however things were about to get worse.

During the discussion suggestions were made about the visual content, for example, Clive White said that I didn’t really need the text as it was obvious they were viewing emotions. Other suggestions were to think about presenting the images in a book format for example the leporello design which is an accordion-style book where pages are folded together, glued and therefore form a pleat.

Clive White asked how I produced the portraits and questions were asked in between my descriptions about the technique and concept. I mentioned the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ film I was watching and how the concept was related to the idea of feeling as though in jail due to lockdown. Clive suggested that would be a good title for the series, I have subsequently names the series, ‘Jail House Punk’ and spent two days designing an album cover which Included research on the correct record label for the single when it was released and trying to find an image of a price sticker connected with the album charts. I named the work ‘Jail House Punk’ because I have listened to and had my hair shaved and styled like a punk including green and blue in colour and of course being in lockdown is akin to being in jail. The completed album cover is shown below,

I noticed during the session when I was discussing my work I began to get flustered made a couple of mistakes when describing the concept of my work, for example talking about the bed lamp on the right of me when it is actually on the left and just generally waffling with my hands flailing all over the place. Yet I managed to stay calm for everyone else’s discussion which is dumb founding.

I learnt loads from this session and have stepped forwards in my learning by taking part and I have already attended another peer meeting and have others booked for this month. I am very glad I took that leap of faith as so much positive as come out of it.



  1. Hi Dawn, great to meet you at the hangout the other day! Thanks for your suggestion about Hoxton Mini Press, I will check out more of their books, I currently only have Zed Nelson’s A Portrait of Hackney. And I’ll see whether I can get you a copy of my book, when it’s finished!


    1. Hello Johnathon, I have my books printed online, there are lots of websites that make them and they are budget friendly. Really loved your images. Hope to catch up on another hangout 🙂


  2. ‘I did not know how to comment on this series of work’ – you’ve made a pretty good stab at it here, I think.

    The context – and you’re right, it would have been good if either a: someone had asked that or better, b: I had done it myself, rather than assume everyone had had time to go to my blog and read through the post carefully beforehand – at the moment is that it is a first assignment, answering a brief (produce a series of​ ​8 photographs​ that convey your own interpretation of beauty and/or the sublime within the context of landscape). For this I think I will stick with the presentation currently up on my blog, but possibly with a reprise of the slideshow at the end, as I can show the images much larger that way, than if they are side by side. I may change it, of course, for assessment. Thanks Dawn!


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