Final Assignment Appraisal

My final project required me to produce a documentary feature that would be suitable for publication in a magazine, newspaper or website. In the world of documentary photography it’s essential to negotiate into somewhere in order to acquire the best outcomes, therefore this was the route I decided to take. The idea for my main assignment came to mind when watching television one day; I came across an advert about adopting a seal and how threatened they had become. This gave me the idea of producing a documentary on seal rescue. I remembered once visiting Scarborough’s Sea Life Sanctuary and their programme involving the rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of seals back into their natural habitat.
The Sea life sanctuary is home to a vast number of sea creatures including sharks, turtles, jellyfish, otters, penguins and seals.
In order to carry out a detailed documentary I researched into other photographers work, as this would aid me in my approach and the structuring of my project.
Photographer Peter Dejong was commissioned by Associated Press to capture photographs of baby seals that are kept in a seal-rehabilitation centre in the Netherlands. These seals were washed up along countries northern coastlines after torrential storms across Europe. The photographs captivated my interest and enhanced my idea further.
My chosen publication for my feature is the ‘National Geographic’ as this is a magazine that covers all aspects of the planet and inspires its readers into caring for the world we live in. The magazine is packed full of insightful and thought provoking photography and infographics, including proficiently written articles and features on wildlife, culture, geography, history and current events. The National Geographic institution cover just about anything of importance to our world, and I believe awareness on wildlife rescues is a very important to the conservation of the worlds animal species.
I contacted the sanctuary at Scarborough and spoke to a member of the animal care team giving a brief description of my proposal and asked for permission to take some behind the scene photographs of seal rescue operations. The sanctuary worker approved and said she would be happy to give me a tour of the facility.
The photographs taken are presented in black and white, as this theme is stereotypically more common in documentary photography, this sets the mood or feeling of the importance of what is taking place. I have chosen to approach my documentary feature in a way that will allow me to capture ‘behind the scenes’ activities supported with descriptions on the things that are happening within the photograph. I also intend to describe the codes and signs used in the pictures.


This is the establishing photograph I shot for my seal rescue documentary, the image shows two of the care workers behind the scenes of the sanctuary. The signifiers on this photograph are the workers and the equipment that surrounds them. They signify the workers responsibilities as the woman looks to be engaged on what essentials are contained in the box her hands are in, she looks as if she could be preparing for food prep or tidying away. The man in the photograph is glancing towards the whiteboard in concentration, perhaps reading the text that has been penned. All the tools such as the knives indicate that this is the kitchen where the workers prepare the food for the animals.


This photograph was taken behind the scenes of the sea sanctuary showing one of the animal care workers preparing the food. In this image demonstrates how the worker sets out the fish that will be fed to the seals within the food preparation area. The main signifiers in this photograph are the fish; they are the main focal point of the image and show the viewer that this is food prep. The fish, knife and table signify that this is the kitchen area and I imagine that the workers must follow strict procedures and policies when using the premises. The writing on the whiteboard looks coded, which I believe will make the viewer curious and ask questions as to what the message portrays.


This photograph is one of the captivity rooms within the Seal Rescue Centre. Seals that are sick or being rehabilitated are housed in this area. The signifier of this photograph is the room itself, and through the window is a picture of a seal, which identifies the area. The window in the image is where the visitors would view the rescued seals. Evidently there were no seals in captivity on this occasion but it certainly gives a feel of isolation however it’s important any seal being treated is kept incubated in this room to prevent further spread of disease.


The picture above also taken at the Seal Rescue Hospital shows a care worker providing multivitamin and iron tablets for the seals, which is the signifier. The carer carefully places the tablets on some tissue in order to separate the multivitamin tablets from the iron tablets. The carer also counts out the tablets before carefully placing them on the tissue, this is very important to ensure the seals receive the required dosage.
The seals are given these tablets twice a day and the young pups once a day in order to keep their bodies healthy. The tablets are administered by placing them inside the dead fish’s gills so they go unnoticed when the seals feed.


This photograph was captured on my tour with the paying visitors around the sea life centre. The intention when taking this picture was to capture the visitors interactions with the seals. The signifiers in this photograph are the seal and the visitors. They signify a communication between the people and the seal. The seal looks curious as his eyes are fixated on the mans finger. The little girl from the side angle looks to be entertained by the seal’s expression and looks like she is enjoying the whole experience.

The photographs shown depict a wide range of social codes demonstrated by the body language of the subjects. Hopefully this gets a message across to the viewer regarding the importance of the work being carried out at the sanctuary and the responsibilities of the workers involved.


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