Writing Feedback

I have felt that I would like to develop my writing about photography as I have become quite interested in some of the ideas behind the reasons why I am photographing. I have taken the opportunity to submit a number of text to open calls and other competitions to see how I might develop this as part of my visual practice. Prior to the MA and when I was a freelance photographer, I would often contribute written articles to accompany my images and found that this was a useful way to present myself commercially. I found that editors and commissioners of work were more likely to hire me if I had a complete package of word and images – for the travel sector at least. This very much sits in the topics of the ‘Art and Commerce’ week as I acknowledge that the style of writing that I am pitching for are very different entities and should be approached in different ways.

After submitting to a number of these calls without much success, I replied to my rejected entry to the Source Magazine’s writing prize to see if I could get some feedback from the Editor, Richard West. For some context, my entry to the prize was about an idea that I had during the last module about how photographers aim to separate themselves from the sea of images; by drawing attention to the process of the photography in the images that they produce (Fig: 1).

Figure 1: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Link to ‘Drawing Attention to the Image’

West did see that I was aiming to write about what he referred to as the ‘presence of the photographer in the image’ (2020) however he didn’t think that the ideas I was putting across were put across in a convincing way. The idea of ‘Presence’ is clearly an area that I need to continue to investigate and read further into the topic in order to create a fully rounded argument. The examples that I used to support my points were also considered disparate, which may be a reflection of how I was trying to cram in as much information within the 700-word limit. Not a great deal of space to flesh out a convincing argument, which is completely a reflection on me as I have a tendency of dancing around a topic when I really need to be more concise (a challenge that I have found for each of the oral presentations). I was reading quite a bit into the topic and possibly needed some more time to really drill down to the fundamentals of the idea; I can see the links, yet unable to convey this to the reader, an important consideration for my writing and also my images. To better communicate the idea of drawing attention to the process, it was suggested that I might be better looking at concentrating on photographers working at a similar time, or focus on a similar subject as a better basis for comparison.

For example, West mentions that my use of Robert Frank in this regard as Source have in the past highlighted similarities to his aesthetic with that of the vernacular, and it is in fact Frank’s lens on the culture and politics of the time that is important (2020). This is a valid point, and I think that I have missed an opportunity to better explain my reasoning behind using Frank as an example in my essay. Crucially, I believe that there is an awareness that Frank has over the vernacular, which creates the separation of his work and comment on American society that it is synonymous for. Interestingly, in this week’s reading was ‘The Messy Truth’ episode on Authorship with Alex Coggin (2019) discussed the idea of how an image can be ‘unmistakeably authored,’ which is something that definitely feeds into this idea that I am trying to get across. Ultimately, the authorship that Coggin is referring to is a way that photographers apply the process and intentionally draws attention to the photograph, the photography, and the photographer creating a significance for the image. My essay, I feel was misinterpreted to be more about the photographer might use equipment, so I must work harder to ensure that my meaning is being interpreted. As West suggests, it is important to get many people to read through my work.  

Finally, West notes that my concluding paragraph could have been more concise, which is a fair point. I have started to understand that I have a tendency to not properly structure my essays and instead keen to get the ideas down onto the page in order to evolve the writing as I am typing. Potentially, in future this is something that I should treat as a draft version to be structured (Table: 1).

Definition of TermsIf you are going to utilise terminology in a particular context
Argument oneReason + Counter point
Argument twoReason + Counter point
Argument threeReason + Counter point
Table 1: Phil Hill (October, 2020) Suggested future essay structure


Coggin, A., 2019. The Messy Truth: Alex Coggin on Authorship [Interview] (May 2019).

West, R., 2020. RE: Submission: Source Writing Prize [Email] (1 October 2020).

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