Second Meeting of OCA Thames Valley Group 20th April 2013

Second Meeting of OCA Thames Valley Group 20th April 2013

 We had a slightly different format this time with Portfolio review in the morning and then the afternoon spent discussing Semiotics.

Portfolio Review

I didn’t have anything to show at the last meeting because I had been going through a stuck phase which seemed to have lasted for months. It wasn’t that I wasn’t taking photographs just that I couldn’t feel enthusiastic about photography.  This time was different and I took two sets of prints from ongoing work.

(a) Medium Format Camera (earlier post here )

I told the others that they were my witnesses that I’d carried out my promise to myself to do more work with the camera. I’d expected to be asked, “Why film; why medium format?” and I was. I’m still not sure I was sufficiently coherent to give a reasoned reply though and keep thinking about this. It’s the whole process and the slower pace.  Putting film in the camera (still with some trepidation and remembering to push in the locking buttons); the awareness that it’s more costly; I won’t know what I’ve got until I get it back from the lab.  All this makes me consider framing and composition more.  I can’t just walk around the subject as I try to do every time now and then have a quick look at the screen to check the focus and settings. It’s exciting to get the negatives back and CD with scans. I hardly need to do anything at all apart from minimal tweaking and slight cropping (why does that black line appear down the side sometimes?).  The aspect ratio appeals to me and, most importantly, prints from film are different. They have a special quality for me, that soft clarity.

I got very positive feedback and encouragement to continue working with the camera; including the sense I’d conveyed of me looking at people from afar, from behind the trees, and beginning to show groupings; the way in which people come together in the landscape.

(b) Work towards Assignment 4 of People & Place

I explained the process I’d worked through from three visits to Winchester; and my developing concept of how one aspect of the cathedral is a place where the living meet the dead; a timeline; how still the visitors are in their looking.  Sharon was very positive about the idea of statues and also suggested I look at Mark Power’s “Mass” .

(c ) Insights gained from looking at other members” work

One aspect I enjoy is to see how others are progressing their ideas; trying new approaches, and how they’re putting their interests into coursework. As before, I won’t go into any detail because I know they’ll be writing their own posts. Areas covered looking at manipulation and reality; re-doing assignments in a completely different way – just for fun!; using small images as details to take the viewer beyond the frame/fill out the picture; dealing with issues regarding confidentiality and strategies used; combining found images with current ones; how to combine images of nature into a personal theme; moving forward on photographing people.

Sharon excellently models the critical approach towards selection for a series and the importance of having physical prints there that can be shuffled around to make different stories. It isn’t a case of the rest of us just sitting back to observe a 1:1 discussion – we all get involved and absorbed.

Introduction to Semiotics

This will need a separate post so that I can summarise what I’ve learned so far;  thoughts on the further work set for us, and, more importantly, how I’m making use of this type of analysis.  The format was good.  There was reading to do beforehand and we then had a discussion around the topic and the meanings of signifier/signified/denotation/connotation. We also talked about studum and punctum. After this Sharon read to us an essay on “The Hippopotamus” a photograph by Count de Montizon taken in 1852 (from David Bate, 2009)  which lead into some pairs/trio work on analyzing an advertisement to draw out the underlying messages.

We’ve been left with some further work to do. More questions for me to ponder concerning the order of ‘signs’; text as a form of relay as opposed to anchor and what needs to be in an image to make the viewer stop and look. Another topic was to now deconstruct a photograph. So many to choose from!

What did I gain from the day

After the discussion on my prints I said, “I feel like a photographer now”. I think that was a real step forward for me in that I’m taking myself more seriously and I’m sure that a part of that is being taken seriously by my peers.

The importance of meeting face to face with a tutor who is a role model for constructive criticism and analysis and demonstrates editing a series visually.

I’m very pleased that our small group has melded so quickly. We all knew each other already so that is obviously a factor but that shared purpose and desire to encourage others constructively is very important.

Semiotics doesn’t seem as complicated (once I put aside my reaction to the stilted language of its academic proponents) to the extent that I’ve ordered a book Semiotics: The Basics by Daniel Chandler. I know I can read it online as well under a different title (Semiotics: The Basics) but I wanted to get the book this time.

27th April 2013




Bate, D (2009) Photography (Key Concepts),  Berg, Oxford

Chandler, (D) (2007)  Semiotics: The Basics, Routledge

6 thoughts on “Second Meeting of OCA Thames Valley Group 20th April 2013

  1. Once more, very interesting. It is good to have ‘exchange’ with others. The semiotics discussion sounds particularly interesting and useful – I look forward to your full report on that part of your day. It is good that you have the opportunity to discuss a topic like this – you know my views on the lack of opportunities to discuss philosophical issues etc.

    Daniel Chandler is relatively easy to understand.

    Semiotics is one of the subjects for Part Three of UVC which I will be tackling after I have completed Assignment Three for UWA. It will be interesting to read of the views of the Thames Valley Group

  2. I’m seriously envious of those medium format images, they’re really good.

    Glad you’ve managed to get over ‘stuck’ phase, it’s always nice to get to the other side. Unfortunately I’m still in mine and unlike you I can’t seem to get myself to make images of anything other than for the coursework. In some ways I suppose that’s not been too bad because I’ve used the time to really think about what images I want for the assignment and when I do make an image I seem to be getting it right first time. Just wish these periods didn’t happen.

    • It lasted quite a while for me until I became rebellious and decided I wanted to explore something else. Once I did then I felt more free somehow. From what I’ve read of other students’ journeys I think this is pretty common, it’s just that the process of going through it seems so depressing and lonely at times.

    • Like Catherine, I think it happens to all, not just students. I find it comes in waves, I’m hoping I’m out of a long down-time. I’ve had some photo work to do and I think that helps me to get out of a rut.

  3. I like the part you said that I redo the assignment 5 “just for fun”. At least it doesn’t sound like I was taking the piss 🙂

    I thought if I have taken People and place, I could have used these images for it, so I hope this fun will get me going in photography for a while.

    The more interesting part is, my ex-tutor sent me a “tutor report” for assignment 5 a few days ago, saying that this is retrospective. It is a month after I got the my assessment result. The interesting part is, he picked a different one than the one I submitted for assessment. Seriously, I should start writing comedy with photo illustration 😛

    • Yes – you certainly could have used these for People and Place. Comedy with photo illustration sounds good as well so I’ll look forward to your next fun project.

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