Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Portfolios in Reflective Practice

Sunday, December 03, 2006 #
Portfolios in reflective practice

Adam is a photographer. I learned about his work because he attended high school with my daughter. One day, she and I were talking about high school students who do amazing work outside of school and document it in publicly accessible venues. She told me about Adam's portfolio of photos and feedback that he was getting from sources outside of school. She asked him for the web address and sent it to me. I agree with her brief assessment of his work.

They graduated last spring and have started their first year of college. He continues to take photographs and add them to the portfolio he started in high school. The following entry from his portfolio illustrates how he uses it in reflective practice:

Book 2 by ~JustAskshorte on deviantART

So this is my second book. The idea was to put myself in a situation I was relatively uncomfortable in and allow myself to expand my photo ideas. The final process was finding random strangers on the street, give them my camera, and have them direct me into a pose..this is what I came up with; it reminds me of photos someone used to take of me.
Note: Adam gave permission to use his photograph and reflection in this post.

In addition to his reflective self-assessment, he also solicits assessment from a community of photographers. Note that Adam provided the motivation and drive to get the feedback he wanted to improve his photographs and portfolio. He took the bold step of soliciting feedback from a nationally known professional who's work he admired. In one sample, an established photographer sent him more than a page of tips and specific critique and suggestions for improving his work in an email message. One of Adam's favorite subjects is musical performers; the assessor give feedback in that context.

>> It's nice to hear from you. If it would be an honor
>> how can I say no to such a request!? The first thing
>> I suggest is you get your own official email with
>> your website. That makes you look and feel legit
>> right off the back. Well, you are obviously getting
>> credentialed for big named bands and that is most of
>> the battle. In this day in age it's not always that
>> easy to even get a photo pass. It's the whole
>> Catch-22.how can I get experience if I can't get
>> access. But that doesn't seem to be an issue for you
>> so wonderful, congrats.

The assessor continues with questions to clarify Adam's practice and then proposes specific changes to the portfolio organization.

>> I suggest you keep doing
>> what you are doing. Are you shooting film? You may
>> want to advance into the digital arena if you
>> haven't already. Are you actually using that medium
>> format camera or is that just a prop on your
>> website? Also consider separating your images by
>> category- Concert, Portrait, etc. - Enough website
>> stuff.

The assessor then continues with discipline specific analysis of several of Adam's photos.

>> Now as far as the concert shots, work on your
>> sharpness, not cutting off hands, things like that
>> are good things to concentrate on and acquire
>> discipline. There's no right or wrong ways to do
>> things but there are some guidelines. Not sure what
>> the shot of the drum kit is all about. The exposure
>> & colors are brilliant but where's the drummer!?
>> Things like that. You need to decide what your great
>> images are and only place them on your website. What
>> you have is very nice, it needs some fine tuning
>> though. Is that drum shot one of them? You tell me!?

At the end of the paragraph above, assessor urges Adam to select his "best" work and remove others from his portfolio. The assessor focuses on the marketing value of Adam's portfolio. It seems to me that Adam has another idea for this portfolio. He has not culled his portfolio for only the best but has retained a representative sample of his work. I find Adam's portfolio much more interesting than the marketing approach because it shows the development of his work over time. Adam's choice gives him the opportunity to reflect on his development as a photographer. He will have plenty of opportunities in the future to create a professional portfolio and I anticipate it will be even stronger as a result of his work on this one.

>> It works perfectly, wonderful job. The B&W one is
>> great as well. I might have liked it a bit wider but
>> that's just nitpicking really. The hand on the
>> guitar is a little lost but still works for what you
>> need it to, His smile is a great capture. These are
>> the things I pay attention to as much as I can.
>> Sometimes you get what you get with the situation
>> and moments that are before you, and like what you
>> said before about the sub-par equipment, you are
>> doing what you can. Personally the Interpol shot on
>> that page doesn't work for me. The lighting has
>> great potential and it is a cool artsy shot but it
>> just isn't happening for me.

The assessor even identifies shots that don't work and ends with a sample of his own work to illustrate some of the earlier points.

>> Here's a ______ shot
>> I did over the summer where I played with the
>> lighting and to me it works, check it out. I
>> understand what's going on in the shot. Also be
>> careful of mics. Try to not have them look like they
>> are being hit in the head with them, other than that
>> you are working your way into a career.
>> So there ya are. Just keep doing what you are doing,
>> what you have so far is quite impressive. Please
>> keep in contact, I want to check in with what you
>> are doing.

Thanks to Adam and the assessor for their contributions to our understanding of authentic reflective assessment. As a practical matter, I'd prefer to see a greater emphasis on self and peer assessment because it will build stronger communities.
posted @ 4:28 PM |
Update: I originally wrote this at pbj.ctlt.wsu.edu, a blogging tool sponsored by the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology as part of its action research projects. CTLT decided that it could use its limited resources better by outsourcing blog hosting. This effort to recreate earlier work is one of the costs associated with early adoption.

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