Saturday, 22 August 2015

PWDP Completed - In a reflective mood.

In a few days time the 2 year time limit indicates the end of this module. I did not intend it to take so long but personal issues a while back meant delays but for the past month or so I have been able to catch up and the work, especially the journal is now complete. Most of the work for assessment is also complete. The prints are finished, but need labels, the essay modifications are almost complete and awaiting some divine inspiration to know how to rewrite one paragraph that seems to elude me. The assignment write ups need printing and assembly into their folders and the electronic files will be collated when a new USB stick arrives. I assume during the run up to November assessment (sometime in early September) the labels will come from OCA to stick on the box. The box will be delivered by hand to OCA as I cannot risk it being lost or damaged.
Aside from the completion of the submission it is time to sit and think and reflect on the module and look forward to what happens next. Progressing with Digital Photography is not the correct title for this module. Why the word digital is in there I do not know. Progressing with Photography is more suitable, but that could apply to any course after one called Starting with Photography. It assumes everyone is using digital practice and that might not be the case, and while most of us are (or a hybrid practice) there is nothing in the assignments that forces you to develop any advanced digital techniques. I am sure that is not the intention anyway as on its own being good at Photoshop or whatever is unlikely to make your work any more progressive than those with basic skills. The increase in skills really depends on where you are starting from anyway, but I am pleased with the one or two new areas of expertise I have learnt, especially through the book cover assignment where my layout skills, text and use of multiple layers has been useful since.
Being able to make a drop shadow on text in Photoshop may seem to some to be useful and, yes I did it so as to tick the box, but was that really necessary.
At a different level, the module has through the support of my tutor helped me to develop more narrative and be less of an object based photographer and see more in the implied. I have learnt to not be afraid of ambiguity and realise that I do not have to take an idea to the viewer with an explanation of what I am thinking or doing. Less is more and while the images have to be relevant they do not have to be illustrations. Art photography is not an instruction manual for the viewer to be told what to think, it is a platform for semiotics and signs. This requires the photographer to be aware and conscious of the context of where the work is to be seen and then adjust the message through text and the selection of images. We need to be aware that not all of our work is viewed by keen academic arty types, but there are others who need to be drawn in to the work and not made to feel as though the art world is alien to them.
I will have to wait for the November results before I decide where I go next. The natural progression is to Level 3 and the degree, but that may not be where I need to be. I have not discussed the Level 3 syllabus with anyone yet and that discussion will be key to the way forward. I started the degree pathway because as a practising semi freelance photographer I wanted to learn more and become aware of different ways of thinking and making art. The course has shown me how to do this, by introducing me to the various artists, photographers, writers and philosophers who have made a difference and influenced contemporary photographic art. With those introductions I can continue to read and study, maybe even write, and certainly make more photographs. I take a great interest in the work of other students, read about their work and study their approach to practice and theory. I have found it worthwhile to take part in the online forum by helping others when I can and posing questions to them when I have been stuck. 
I understand that this degree course is, by its title "Photography" a wide brief, and we have to teach ourselves. There will be no lectures and there are no facilities, but on the other hand there are no high fees. This doesn't bother me though as I don't need a photography degree to get a job, but I wonder how suitable it would be if I did. As OCA students we get no time in a professional studio environment and many have no access to high quality post processing and printing facilities. This tends to make the course content less focused on photography practice than maybe it would elsewhere. Since I joined OCA there is a tendency to now include more critical theory and visual culture studies. I seem to remember a comment some time ago that OCA had to include more because up until then the content wasn't sufficient and "we were getting away with it". That may well be the situation as I have no idea what level of content others have, but my immediate thoughts were, I wonder how those you have graduated feel with that comment in the background.
Amongst the current cohort who make themselves know to each other through the forum there are certainly plenty of students who enjoy the theoretical study and do well at it. As a subject, critical theory is interesting and have myself become interested in that field especially in connection with postmodernism. I am not so sure though that I want a course that requires me to do more of that than making photographs and looking at the work of others from time to time I wonder if they too should make more photographs and become skilled at that at a higher level. The study of critical theory can and does influence practice, it requires us to think and place our work in context but that work has to be able to be shown in a professional environment and that part of the craft of making fine craft (not art) photography is not championed by the OCA. This in some part is of course down to the student to make the work, know what it should look like (by having seen first class work at exhibitions etc) and then find out how to make similar work. The level 3 modules seem to have split the theoretical studies away from the body of work in two work streams so I hope that allows for plenty of photography in at least one.
Photography is my life, I spend every waking hour thinking about it in some context or another. Whether it is to buy a new lens, a new book, set up something new in the studio or simple read some more from the works of the adorable Liz Wells. Dare I say I did enjoy "photography", but I don't so much now. The OCA has given me much more to think about, reasons to make images and new books to read, but, my own work, my own path is now a thing of the past. I am directed, maybe in a direction that makes me a better artist, time will tell. I want to spend more time entering juried exhibitions and that takes enormous amounts of time. Some may think it is just a quick flick through Bridge and pick something from the past and email it to the jury with the fee. Not so, it requires research and well thought through editing and then making high quality work, picking frames and mats. The time is not proportional to the rewards, but when you are selected and hung you feel something worthwhile has been achieved and an audience sees the work.

Much to think about.

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