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2008 Assignment Critiques - Rob Passmore


Business Brief/Plymouth College of Art.

All of Rob's Work.

My Critique


  • Technically very impressive. Something that stunned us when we visited Plymouth was the incredibly high percentage of students who knew how to wield a light or two, even outdoors!
  • Good range and depth of shots and locations - enough to build a feature out of.
  • Strong DPS opener (3), everything all named properly and handed in just right.
  • A couple of very strong portraits (1,5). I'll admit I have a particular fondness for location portraits, and the one taken in the underpass (5), with the flash/ambient mix, is probably in the top 5 shots we saw throughout the whole brief. Technically spot on, lovely frame with a good balance between environment and subject, and just the right amount of ambient burning out to give it some mood.
Not So Good:
  • Biggest problem of all, is that the work doesn't answer the brief very clearly, in fact on first glance we thought this was a submission for the Sunday Supplement brief, as it seems to be mostly portraits of someone who could potentially be a Hollywood actor. We understand (and know it's our fault!) that the business brief was a touch open ended, but fundamentally we were looking for illustrations for the article, which was about business and ethics. Not very much of this comes across in these shots, without a bit of mental agility on the part of the viewer. I know Rob was actually setting out to make portraits of "Will Hutton", but we did point out in the brief that he wasn't available, therefore if you used portraits to illustrate this brief we'd like them to be creative illustrations of the business/ethics debate.
  • The environment shot (4) doesn't fit in with the set at all - whichever way you interpret the brief it feels like an afterthought.
  • It's not really a criticism, more a pointer for future reference, but be careful of what is called "incidental inclusion". In the opening DPS shot (3) a Marks and Spencer sign is fairly clear on the right hand side. If this work were to be illustrating a feature on "business and ethics" and the M+S logo was so prominent, the management at M+S might be a little perturbed, and complain to the magazine! As I say, it's not a criticism of these shots, just something to be aware of in future.
On the whole I love the shots technically (apart from that odd environment shot!), and there's some very strong portraiture here. However, more attention needs to be paid to the brief. Mind you, I've seen Rob's work on Flickr, and on his website, and I know he can pull it out of the bag when he wants to, I suspect many of his problems stem from a slightly vague brief on our part!

From Emma:

Right briefing checklist at the ready!

Well the subject is too young for The Music Mag brief, so that’s out. But he does have a lovely pair of sunglasses and shot 4 seems to be telling us something over and above the man himself so perhaps we are looking at the Sunday Supplement brief?

We could be looking at the Business brief but there seems to be too much focus on the one model here and, as we know ‘Will Hutton’ isn’t available.

And with not an apple in sight this can’t be our Education brief nor is it the Drapers brief despite the rather nice jacket the model is wearing. So I’d put my money on this being a response to Brief 2 and this being our film star Sam Delaney.

Reader I was wrong, and thus my main problem with these shots emerged.

Where I do appreciate the timeframe on this exercise is a smidge tighter than most students will be used to, it is a very realistic reflection of what you can find yourself up against in the ‘real world’. And subsequently it’s a great way to find out what you’re made of.

Not everyone thrives under this kind of pressure but that’s not necessarily a reason to shy away from it. Be aware of your weaknesses; train yourself out of your bad habits and never forget you’ve been commissioned to communicate a message. Whether it’s illustrating an editorial piece or selling tins of beans your shots have to stay on point.

Where Rob’s shots are almost technically faultless, the lighting well considered and the variety available for the Editor to fill their pages, I just don’t know what they are trying to tell me about Business and Ethics.I’m left with too many questions and not enough answers.

The brief says our ‘eminent economist’ is unavailable so who is this chap we seem to spending some much time shooting? Why are we trying to anger Fraser Hart, Hennes & M&S by questioning their business ethics? The passers by don’t seem to be generic shoppers nor do they appear to be businessmen, so who are they?

And why does our model have a jacket over his shoulder and a pair of sunglasses in his hand? I’m not saying economists aren’t a cool bunch (I’m not crazy) but this guy is certainly giving out more of a celeb vibe.

This work is a good case in point that you should consider the information stored in the frame and how it might be translating to the audience.

We are a culture ruled by stereotypes and if you put a pair of sunglasses in a shot there are assumptions we will make.

Rob you’ve certainly got talent and you really have lit your subject with great skill and where these will get your folio admired and eventually gain you commissioned work don’t forget to give the purse holders what they ask you for.

From Rich:

I thought this was one of the trickier briefs to handle and if I’m honest I’m not sure you pulled it off. You can obviously handle a camera, the compositions were good and the detail in your shots was very sharp. However I had no idea what the shots were telling me – Mobile phone advert, fashion shoot???

Using a model / friend could have worked well if you had concentrated on emotions but I felt that there was little point to the person in the shots except to show off his duffle coat. I think the portrait angle was probably a bad way to go with this and if I had this disk delivered I don’t think I could use it

Nice photos but essentially pointless, sorry

From Marco:

I’m guessing brief 3. Rob has clearly got a good grasp on the technical side of things and an ability to control balanced light. The location is good and the styling works. Very polished set at first glance, but… on closer inspection it doesn’t work so well editorially speaking. Though Rob has clearly thought of the space and proportions the busy background on the pds makes it very hard to get a headline to work and impossible for any bodycopy. Also, the lack of eye contact (except for shot 1 which is my favourite anyway) makes the shots feel more like a stock image set and less like an editorial story/portrait set. Oh, and there is no point to shot 4. If I was handed this set I would use 1 and 2 and possibly 5 but I would wish I’d had some landscape variations I could run a headline out of - particularly on shot 1 which really is very good.

Back to me now. That's it for this lot. My profound apologies for the very odd layout of some of these crits - I copied and pasted all the text from the original documents, and it appears the only way to fix the font problems is to go through each line of HTML by hand. It's 5.15 on a Friday evening, and that just ain't gonna happen....


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