I met with my first and second supervisors with an agenda to discuss my approach to editing and presenting my images for the Format Portfolio Review.  The meeting, as always, was helpful and wide-ranging, covering not just the upcoming review but more generally about learning from feedback.  My supervisors emphasised that they will suggest lots of ideas and it is for me to steer my course and take responsibility for my research path.  I should consider and be critical of their suggestions, and if I choose not to pursue an idea, I should resist and be clear about why it is not relevant or appropriate for my research.

The first discussion was about how the photographic work I am producing relates to and answers the research questions I set myself at the beginning of my PhD?  My supervisors advised that I need to relate all my practice to those questions and to assess to what extent my experimentation and play fits the brief.    This is something I need to build into my Critical Reflection pieces that I write at the end of each week of practical work – experiment/reflect and continue or change course.  Also, to what extent do the three collections submitted to Format constitute a body of work that in some way answers the research questions?  I need to review my intention with the actuality of my work – what if the viewers cannot see the essence in my work?

This led to an extensive discussion on receiving and evaluating feedback as part of my PhD and how I might systematically consider and evaluate feedback and carve a path to achieving what I set out to achieve.  My supervisors reminded me of Marcel Duchamp’s The Creative Act (1957).

“In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions.  His struggle toward the realization is a series of efforts, pains, satisfactions, refusals, decisions, which also cannot and must not be fully self-conscious, at least on the esthetic plane. 

The result of this struggle is a difference between the intention and its realization, a difference which the artist is not aware of.”  (Duchamp 1961).

The creative act includes the artist, the artwork that is produced and those that view the work.  I need always be aware of, and minimise the gaps between, intentionality and actuality.  I need to consider how I might incorporate feedback from various stakeholders and organisations within my research method – particularly in relation to academic v commercial insights.

We talked at length about different ways of gaining feedback including a Community Focus Group and a Peer Focus Group. An idea which I immediately warmed to as a means of increasing engagement and building networks on Skye. I could seek a Focus Group’s views on the essence of Skye and whether I capture it, for them, in my images.  How do they observe and understand Skye?  This approach would allow me to open up conversations about my work, navigate the locality and develop my practice in dialogue with others.  I would need to determine however, whether methodologically I intend to produce my work singularly or in dialogue with others.

Our final conversation picked up on the change at the start of my PhD to work in colour rather than black and white.  I need to be clear why I did this, what the reasons were and what the implications are for my work in using black and white or colour.  My immediate response is that I am experimenting with various reductive strategies and moving to colour was a chance to look at the impact on my work of using techniques such as intentional blur as a means of revealing the essence.

Finally, some things to think about in terms of the Portfolio Review itself:

  1. Think about the use of titles, perhaps as an indication of feelings or metaphors
  2. Should I be clear about what I would like to get out of the Review or leave the Reviewer to focus on their immediate reactions to my work?
  3. Ask to record the sessions as a PhD student and send them a consent form in order that I can use quotations and their feedback in my work
  4. Look at the pattern of the questions asked – are they broadly the same from all reviewers or different
  5. Be systematic in evaluating the feedback and determining how it might affect or change the development of my practice – the research questions must be my guide



Duchamp, M. (1961). “The Creative Act.” Lecture at Museum of Modern Art, New York.



Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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