My LensCulture review


Way back in July, because I need to submit my work to industry professionals for critique as part of the SYP module, I submitted some experimental work I was doing with fault lines – rational and organic – to the LensCulture competition.    I submitted it as a body of work and the question I wanted the reviewer to answer was: Is it a cohesive submission?

They notified me some days ago that I had not won and today I received this review of this body of work:

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 19.55.04.png

Contemporary Photography

Hi Anna. It’s a pleasure to review your submission. You are using a very distinct and intriguing aesthetic in this body of work that does a wonderful job of urging me to explore your ideas further. I find this project engaging and enigmatic; and it is undoubtedly different than everything else I have reviewed for this contest (which is a lot of work!)

In answer to your request for feedback, I feel there is some cohesion on different levels within this work. In other words, once I have looked through your entire submission, I can find the aesthetic and conceptual lines that are drawing the work together. However, I feel the key to a submission like this, as distinguished from other submissions for smaller contests, is that you can’t lose the jurors anywhere in the process of looking at your work. In other words, they can’t get too confused, or else they may give up on the project.

So, one thing I would try to do is to start off with images that include tangible aspects that we can understand. In other words, start with photographs that include the rocks. Then you can slowly move into the more abstract pieces that eventually turn into what appear to be pure digital line drawings/paintings. This way, your audience has an index and can refer to that index in their mind when moving toward the more challenging pieces.

I also would recommend working on your statement a little more. I find the language and ideas to be quite beautiful. However, especially toward the last sentence, it is difficult to really grasp onto the core ideas in this work and how that relates to the visuals. The key to a successful statement for conceptual work like this is providing the audience SOME tangible ideas and references to hold onto so that they can move from the ideas to the visuals and back and forth and develop an integrated knowledge of the work on their own. It’s hard when creating such conceptually driven work, but I personally feel it is essential.

Again Anna, I feel like you are exploring some very interesting ideas and aesthetics in this work. Once you are able to bring the two together in a duet or unison, I think this work will be much easier to understand. Wishing you the best of luck!

Additional Recommendations

Recommendations for Gaining Exposure

Other Resources

Books (monographs)

Books (fine art philosophy & criticism)

Photo Competitions (general & other)

Photo Festivals & Events (Europe)

Workshops (Europe)

Outlets for Exposure

Books (business & practice of art & photography)

In my feedback to the reviewer, I thanked him (there are hints in the style of the writing which makes me assume it is  a man reviewing the work – I am probably wrong!) for being so encouraging and diplomatic but still leaving me in no uncertain terms with strong indications on how to improve.

Reflections on the feedback:

There are superb reading materials and pointers on how to proceed with professional feedback on my work in the review.  I shan’t, of course be presenting this work for assessment but that is immaterial.  What is important is getting that guidance and those pointers.

The tact and diplomacy of the review is exemplary and a very good intro to the world of professional critique of my work – it could not have been gentler, in my view.

Some positives:

I have good & original  ideas.

The work invites the viewer to investigate further.

There are cohesive elements in the work.

Some pointers to improve:

I should have asked someone to proof read my statement.

The work should have been submitted in a more logical order to allow a viewer an in into the ideas.  But I did not realise that they would take order into account – should I have?

The statement needs to give the viewer tangible ideas – I thought my statement does that – so that the viewer can link the ideas with the visuals.

Strangely, there is some correspondence between what is said here and what is said in the OCA assessment feed forward.  Which means that what I think I have explained fully, I haven’t.

I would reorder the images like this:

Blood stone Schism 2 1500px DSCF2782


Algae Schism 2 1500px DSCF1187

Effex line and schism 1500px DSCF1184

Schism 3 1500px DSCF1362

Sirens calling Line  schism 1500px DSCF2728.png

Muted greys under stretched pixels BW lighter

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 21.34.48


Large head 2 lines 7155


grad mixers 1500px .png


Acid green on 0607 background 72dpi


The statement written in the submission reads:

The soil which nourishes us is made up of material which has withstood, as we have, clashes and crashes of opposing forces.  We can see evidence of this interaction in the fault lines in rocks but we try to hide what makes us who we are.  There are two types of lines involved natural / intuitive, and rational, constructed lines.

I would rewrite it like this:

The soil which nourishes us is made up of material which has withstood, as we have, clashes and crashes of opposing forces and it is only the time scale which makes our fault lines different.

We can see evidence of this interaction in the fault lines in rocks but we try to hide our own fault lines, or what makes us who we are, either physically by dressing to please others for example, or emotionally by pretending we are what we are not, by putting on a brave face, for example.   Both these processes create their own pressures which will, in time, create more fault lines which we will again try to hide.

In the images, there are two types of lines: the organic and the constructed.  They each have their own beauty.

In Jennifer Schwartz’s paper (Schwartz), she emphasises 3 main parts of the statement:

  1. What are you trying to say with your work?  What is the story you are telling?
  2. Why are you making this work?  What inspired the project?
  3. Why should the viewer care?   Why is what you are saying significant or valuable?  How are you making me see something in a way I wouldn’t see it otherwise?  How are you making me feel something unique or important?  What are you making me think about that deserves attention? Why is your voice the best one to transmit this information?

Having read that, this is how I would restructure and re-write my statement for this body of work:

We are flawed human beings but we try to hide those flaws by pretending that we are what we are not.  If we look at rocks we admire their colours,  lines, shapes and, if we are interested, we look into their history into why they are the shape, colour and size that they are.  But, as humans, we try to hide all that by being the non-person that we have become by doing what everybody else does, by looking like everybody else does.  We have a symbiotic relationship with the rocks: in crumbling and decomposing they feed us; in dying and decomposing, we feed them.  We, like rocks, are shaped by the forces of nature around us which make us unique beings – why can’t we accept that?

I love rocks to the point that when I go to Rome, my birth place, I stand against the ancient wall that surrounds it and I feel part of it.  Living in Devon, UK, I am privileged in that its geology is studied by universities all around the world.  Unlike the well-known Jurassic coast of Dorset, Devon has its own Devonian Age which lasted from about 395 to 345 million years ago.  I have loved exploring and photographing the different rock formations all around Torbay and found the fault lines which defined them fascinating.

Going from something beautiful and extracting that beauty which, in a different setting is perceived as ugly, is important.  Adding rational lines to organic ones extends and enhances that concept emphasising that lines, however they are formed, are markers of a life lived and cannot be taken away.



Schwartz,J.: 2014. Crusade for art: The Artist Statement. (PDF)



6 thoughts on “My LensCulture review

  1. It is interesting feedback – this suggestion of beginning with the tangible (concrete? obvious?) and then moving more into the conceptual. The thumbnail is too small for me to see clearly which is a shame.
    Are you going to have a go at re-ordering? Although I wouldn’t want you to lose the engaging, enigmatic and very different aspect of your work.


      1. I can see now how an ordering of the images influences how you read them. I do believe it has made a significant difference in showing the evolution of the idea making the abstraction of the lines more comprehensible. It is quite a significant lesson learned in displaying work.


  2. I think this is really constructive and thoughtful feedback and I was interested by this statement ‘you can’t lose the jurors anywhere in the process of looking at your work’ because that seems to me to be the opposite of what the OCA expects.

    I do agree that your re-ordered version works better and specially like the linking image between actual rock and constructed lines. I like the simplified artist statement too.

    The list of recommendations and additions resources may be a standard part of feedback but really useful. I have taken a note of Jennifer Schwartz’s book and I’m sure I will find that useful.


    1. By the statement ‘you can’t lose the jurors …’ I think he is saying that you must not lose the jurors, in other words, you must keep them interested. What I find ambiguous is the sentence regarding giving SOME lead-in: does that mean that I must give some but not much, or is it an exasperated ‘for heavens’ sake, give us a clue!!’ ! But, I appreciate the approach and the constructive pointers. You are right, the suggested resources are really worth the money spent on the entry.

      Liked by 1 person

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