The Self and The Other

OCA study blog | Andrew Fitzgibbon

A5: submission for formative feedback


This work is not yet fully realised (as permitted by the brief) and is presented here as a work in progress. Once I’ve made more photographs with the changing seasons, the work will be presented as a book (or magazine so it is affordable to participants). For now, it is presented as an ebook.


click to view full screen


For this review, I’ve also included the portraits as individual images.

Artist statement

Throughout this course I have explored notions of self and other and their representation through photography, and I explored conceptual ideas about the self in my essay for assignment 4. Through photography we can create likenesses of others in studio environments, which act like mirrors but do not speak much about a persons identity. I have come to see identity as the projection of a multifaceted complex self into the world. It is a window through which we can glimpse the self, with no chance of ever really knowing it; even perhaps in ourselves. To show identity through photography, we need to show something of a person’s context so that the photograph might become a map to understanding rather than a simple mirror. A polysemous visual context might be assisted by words that are placed to avoid distracting from the images.

In this work I have begun to explore on the most troubling aspects of human identity in our relationship with the environment. While woodlands and trees have sustained and shaped humanity throughout time, we are doing them perhaps irreparable harm. My work references this harm but shows how we interact with them as places of enjoyment, perhaps oblivious to the damage we are doing. It is intended to encourage viewers to pause and think, and perhaps act differently in some way.

For the shoot, I engaged strangers in the woods after publicising what I would be doing in a local social media group and interacting with the Woodland Trust, who hold the public access woodland on a 75 year lease. I handed out flyers to the participants so they can find the images when published and as an opener to discussion of what the woods mean to them. I prepared by researching the history of the woods and human relationships with tress and woodlands, including through myth and story. I shot with a wide angle lens and on camera flash (CTO gelled) with the idea of creating an impression of the view meeting the subjects while in the woods. Because of the conditions, terrain and low light, on-camera flash was the only practical solution – I did a little research on gels here.

Images were shot in RAW and selections processed in Photoshop, with the backgrounds darkened to emphasise the subjects in the scene. As well as contrast adjustments, some adjustments were made to the colour tones (with curves) to add a little warmth to the wintery blues. Contact sheets are here.

The ebook was created in Indesign, sized for screen output rather than paper output. However, through the editing process, it ended up mimicking a paper book as a familiar way of looking and for an association with quiet reflection. I included monochrome images as pauses between each portrait – monochrome as abstract (thinking space) between the main colour portrait images. The book is introduced with words that set the scene for the human relationship with trees and woods and inviting viewers to reflect upon this. It is part of my practice to aim to make work that helps people to think.

Self-review against assessment criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills: Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Effectively engaged with strangers in tricky terrain and less than perfect lighting conditions to make portraits and discuss their relationships with the woodlands. Developed effective ebook format using Indesign for dissemination of the work online.

Quality of outcome: Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

Well-conceived ebook for interim presentation of project that might ultimately be made into to a printed book. Some adjustments were made to the initial layout following feedback on the OCA Discuss Forum.

Demonstration of creativity: Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice.

A way of understanding and encouraging reflection on the everyday, with a dark under current of the ‘calamitous sublime’. The assignment picks up from the food bank project by exploring identity through connection with environment and the idea of awareness of global issues through local images (or knowing the broader picture from the particular). This is the kind of work and research that I’m drawn to.

Context: Reflection, research, critical thinking.

Extensive research and reflection recorded in blog and in the preparation for the assignment.

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