The Digital Photographic Practice Handbook has now arrived so this seems the right point, just before the Assessment event, to look back and assess my overall progress since April 2012 when I first started People and Place. I won’t go into any particular detail here because I reflected all the way through my blog on specific aspects as I’ve written up the Assignments.
Progress through the Module
There were times during those first months when I wondered whether I would get through it and felt ‘stuck’ because so much was challenged in respect of my inhibitions, skills and general competence around photography.
I worked at a much slower pace compared with TAOP but I’ve realised recently that I’ve covered quite a lot of ground in terms of taking on new ways of looking at photography; reading; understanding, and also building supportive networks. The first Assignment, being portraiture, seemed a big hurdle to jump but I learned through completing it that I do have some interest in environmental portraiture and so I enjoyed the second Assignment more and photographing people in their allotments. I hadn’t expected to enjoy photographing buildings for Assignment 3 but, although I struggled with interiors and working in low light, I became absorbed in understanding how people experience space and place and practised achieving an almost meditative state to gain a sense of place and find the personality of a building. It was also at that point that I began to contact photographers to ask permission to use their images on my blog.
Building supportive networks
I can’t say I’m a group person but I’m certainly not a lone worker and links with other students continue to be very important to me. I began the Module with an independent Residential Workshop at the Photographers Place in Derbyshire but have been on a further three OCA-related residential visits – the student organised weekend in Leeds, and the OCA visits to the Brighton Biennial and Arles. I’ve continued to join day Study Visits, including the Talk by Tom Hunter where it was fascinating to learn about his experiences and approach towards photographing ‘ordinary’ people and making his chosen home area come alive. At one point I realised that I was getting over-saturated with images and overwhelmed by all the reading and research I was doing after Study Visits and so I have cut down on this to some extent and attempted to get more of a balance. I was very pleased though to be named as ‘Blog of the Week’ in August last year on the WeAreOCA blog.
The OCA Thames Valley Group meetings have been very important in motivating me to improve my photography practice. It’s certainly helpful to discuss photography on the online Forums and Study Visits but there’s nothing to beat sustained face-to-face discussion and risking showing ‘work in progress’. An outcome of that has also been some informal, smaller get-togethers to look at Exhibitions etc. I
What kind of photographer might I be becoming?
It was only when I was working on Assignment 5 though that I realised that everything seemed to be coming together for me. I had built a Project that combined People and Place and past and present in terms of looking at how an architectural concept from the 1960s worked in practice and I enjoyed every aspect of this. I have also begun to get an inkling of the kind of photographer I might be developing into.
I’ve realised that I am particularly interested in Cultural Geography, the interaction between people and their environment and living history. I was reading somewhere about ‘quiet’ photography that somehow allows the subject to speak for itself and that appeals to me. Some ‘sleeping’ skills also re-surfaced during Assignment 5 and that was talking with people about their lives and hearing their stories – something that was the backbone of my working life. Writing about all that isn’t a problem at all but I know that what I need to develop is my confidence that I can do people justice with my photography.
Areas for improvement
Obviously I need to improve and develop generally but there are some aspects that I think need particular attention. I enjoy the printing process and have always submitted prints as well as digital files for Assignments. My tutor on People and Place was generous with his suggestions for improvements and generally positive about my prints, given that I am still on Level 1 but I want my prints to be more than’ acceptable’ so my action plan for my next Module (Digital Photographic Practice) includes a Workshop on printing techniques.
My tutor also ‘re-edited’ my last two assignments. This did give me a jolt because I hadn’t been expecting something like that, even though this happens regularly with the Thames Valley group. Doing it face to face though is very different from experiencing it a distance where there isn’t much space for on-going discussion. What was positive was that I had enough good images to put together different edits. Going on from there I do want to develop my editing skills. Editing and printing come together in Photo books and that’s another area for further development and exploration. I’ve already enrolled on an evening class in Book Arts and book-binding techniques because I find the whole area of creating books fascinating, although this isn’t discounting other methods of presentation.
I began several personal projects, including working with film and also a medium format camera. I’ve been very stop-go at this, somehow viewing it as separate from Coursework and so I want to focus more and, plan for these to become more cohesive with assignment work.
Multi-disciplinary work is another area for exploration and I already subscribe to a number of blogs in art, creative writing and video work. I’ve experimented with poetry in past years and now have renewed interest in combining this with photography. I like the idea of collaborative work. There is much I would like to do and what’s needed now is to condense my thoughts into my action plan for my next Module. I’m feeling enthusiastic and that’s a good feeling.
1st November 2013