A5 – post Skype and pre written feedback initial thoughts

I need to do more on this work, neither me nor my tutor is exactly sure what that “more” is.

I think the content is ok, I don’t think I need to shoot more Polaroids.

My tutor suggested the following:

  • several practitioners to research (this was very helpful in freeing up my creativity once again)
  • looking at “time” as an aspect of the work and investigating making lower-res digital copies of the polaroids (backs I think) using either a scanner or an early digital camera. She observed that this would develop the idea of photographing Fox Talbot’s home with a camera that’s out of modern production. Thinking about it, I have the macro jpgs to represent the current technology.
  • thinking about a “perfect bound” book rather than my current loosely associated pages
  • She said that the fronts of the polaroids (ie the normal side) were rather less important to her on viewing than the altered backs. This allows me to explore other forms of presentation where the front is harder to access.
  • She liked the acrylic blocks and the way that one of them allowed the objects inside to move slightly. One option is to explore making use of more blocks.
  • More contextualisation. Her suggestions will help here, particularly the VR artist Mat Collishaw’s installation of a FT exhibition.
  • She kindly offered more feedback in the summer before I start putting everything together for assessment.

So where next? I have updated my post on the OCA forum. I will do a test scan and see if I can source a very basic digital camera. I need to decide how important the actual physical polaroid is to me in the presentation of this work. Am I happy to dispense with them and present for example scans, using the two acrylic objects to show the physical traces, in their almost museum context of being preserved in “glass”? I am wondering about a photobook, on thick paper, with one side printed with an image and the opposite side holding a polaroid that’s secured to the paper in some way (either removably or not). There’s the potential to match polaroids with the macro shot of the same back.

I need to pull the work together a bit more. I don’t necessarily want it to feel “resolved” but I do want it to feel unified.

Reflection against assessment criteria

A4 self-review

Once again I feel as if it’s my technical skills holding me back.  Composition and focus are two I need to pay more mind too. I’m happy with how I realised the work, it did what I wanted and didn’t look like a generic set of phone boxes in villages. It felt like a set and I’m happy with that, the colours and the light were consistent.

I am happy with the way my creative skills are developing, I’m learning to explore ideas with test shoots and just to keep on exploring until I find an area that works for me.

For context I took a slightly different approach on research, based on the feeling that I already had enough, and the curiousity as to how my work would turn out when it was informed by curiousity rather than scrabbling down the back of the internet. In a way this feels slightly as if I didn’t do enough… but I don’t know… what else would I have added?

End of part reflections – part 4

This part has had its ups and downs for me.

I took a slightly different approach here, the work is getting newer for me as I move past the technical overlap with the foundation course. I very much enjoyed exercises 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5 and the assignment was quite different. I am making use of the OCA discussion board and decided to take a much lighter touch with my research for A4. Rather than pretty much turning the internet inside out before picking up my camera I decided to go with just two overarching inspirations – Nick Turpin’s Night Bus series and a quote from the FT. I only added in one other image and a phone interview with a specialist. My A4 topic was a wild card, but I went out with the camera anyway, over and over, and am largely happy with how the work turned out. I’m learning to take more responsibility for how I feel about the course. Exercise 4.2 was not a strong one at all, but I think there is a decent concept there. The lesson for me is how to make good work on something that I don’t feel engaged with. I suppose I need to change the subject/angle until I do feel engaged, either that or make a better job of a bad job. I was absolutely blown away by the film In the Mood for Love and suspect that will influence my work for some time.

The mechanics are all there, I am happy with my study method and my blog and I am confident of, and looking forward to, finishing EYV in the early summer and preparing for assessment. I am looking forward to the Format Festival study visit, as this will give me a weekend to soak up inspiration and meet new people. I plan to start my rework once A4 is submitted, and I have a couple of ideas for A5 which are surviving testing. I can see how my work is improving as a result of the feedback received on earlier parts of the course, and that is very satisfying. For example, I am taking many more photographs now so that I can have a strong pool of candidate images to select from. I had my sensor professionally cleaned, but sadly they missed a bit, and I am looking to buy a copy stand and a mini-tripod.

I am still very unsure of my study path with the OCA and this is colouring my work. I have been continuing my work with photographs as objects (documented on my blog under Research & Reflections Riffs & Impro) and this is causing me to wonder if I should be moving to the Creative Arts pathway to broaden my influences and give me a wider range of materials and formats to work with. There are a couple of options I could explore as a second subject area that would let me work with more media – either textiles or the forthcoming new courses on Visual Dynamics and Visual Skills. Except they are not launched yet, and there is no guarantee that they would be available by the time I finish Creative Arts Today. If I am going to switch I need to do it now so that I can get the right selection of L1 courses with my remaining two choices.

update 23/3 – I’ve been discussing possibilities with OCA support who have been incredibly helpful. I am happy to say that I have a way forward with this now. All I need to do is decide, but with rather less time pressure.

End of part reflections on Part 3

This post has taken a long time to write. I needed a bit of perspective. Today I looked back at my reflections on Part 2 and considered what had changed.

On the whole I am feeling more settled into EYV now. There seems to be less overlap with FIP as I progress through EYV and I am coming to grips with the fact that it is actually up to me to make the course what I want it to be. I am trying not to filter my ideas before discussing them with my tutor and this has helped because the ideas that might not have made the filtered list are turning out to be the more interesting ones. I am also making more use of the OCA Discussion Forum, including putting my work up for critique, and that has also helped to ensure that I am both challenged and exposed to a wider range of influences and opinions. My tutor has helped very much with her rigorous feedback and helpful suggestions for research and reading.

Technically, I enjoyed this part of the course very much. I was able to do some work that I had wondered about for a while – photographing motion at an indoor climbing wall, and as well as learning about the use of strobed flash to capture motion I also learned a valuable lesson about dealing with unsolicited negative feedback and the people who feel it is their duty to provide it (even without the need to see the work first, apparently). It is my intention to return to this work, probably in the autumn now when the evenings start drawing in again. I also plan to explore dance photography further as I think there are many correlations between photographing dance and photographing climbing. I would like to try the “strip photography” Assignment 3 felt very different to me. It was excruciatingly awkward asking people if they had kept their pregnancy tests, and if so could I photograph them. It was logistically and emotionally challenging, and the final images need some rework to improve the technical quality. But I remain very happy that I took that stretch, that leap, and am confident that I can achieve the necessary technical rework.

Creatively, I took a bit of a detour into die-cutting photographic prints, part of which was spent working with Holly Woodward, a local OCA photography student. This started out as a bit of a treat, but is now a strong candidate for A5. I put a phone image of an altered polaroid onto the OCA board and had some very interesting feedback so am currently engaged in exploring this work further.

My confidence, admittedly never that low, is strengthening. I am starting to feel more sure of my gut instinct and more inclined to try out an idea just to see how and if it could work. I think I have my tutor to thank for that.

The area that I am struggling with at the moment is seeing the shape of my study route with the OCA. I find increasingly that the work I want to make is not necessarily a digital photograph, transmittable through the ether and printable anywhere. I like to make physical work, something with three dimensions, a back and a front, with presence. It might be a photograph, or it might include images or have been a photograph at some point in its life. I would love to learn more about multi-media work as I progress through my studies. I am hoping that my L1 path will be EYV, C&N and then either the new Creative Book Design or the new Visual Dynamics course (neither are available yet). I have wondered regularly whether I should consider moving to the Creative Arts Pathway, which would allow me to study textiles (which I love) as well…. but I would have to take the Creative Arts Today module, and with FIP and EYV both being introductory courses I’m not sure that I want to do another course at that level rather than exploring photography further. There is also the point that the photography work I’ve seen from L2 and L3 students is in a very broad range of formats, so this may not be the problem that it feels like. I know that there are changes are coming in terms of what format work should be in when submitted for assessment, so I think I shall sit tight until that guidance is released and see what changes. I am very aware that if I do choose to switch to the CA pathway, I will have to do that at the end of EYV, in order to fit in CAT and ATV as my other choices. Plus the other slight concern about what if my textile skills are not good enough?

End of part reflections – Part 2

I was not thrilled with much of my project work for this part. 2.4 and 2.6 made me happy but much of the rest leaves me slightly embarrassed to have it on a public blog, it feels far less adventurous than the equivalents were on the Foundation course. Consequently, rightly or wrongly, I feel far less invested in the exercises in this course. That said I appreciate the need for the exercises to be done so will continue to do them and hope to be better inspired as I move beyond the overlap between the courses. I still have one exercise to finish for this part which I shall wrap up with some Part 3 project work over the next week or two.

The assignment was completely different and far more engaging. I relished being able to have a more creative input and a broader brief to work to. I felt as if I was making my own work again. Having started to establish a relationship with my tutor after A1 also helped me to feel more confident about returning to a more creative and risk-driven approach. I very much engaged with, and enjoyed, the different research paths available to me and this helped me to produce an assignment that I felt benefitted from my parallel research into photobooth work and the use of the smile in every day social media and advertising. My tutor’s research suggestions were bang-on and really helped me place my work in the context of the research I did. I am very excited about taking this work further and that is probably worth the lacklustre experience on the exercises.

Interestingly, I had mentioned my plans for this assignment to my Foundations tutor who led the Conceptual Art study visit that I went on in August. He was interested in the work and asked me to send a link when it was finished. He commented that this was also an idea that I’d tried on the FiP course, in Exercise 3.8 Rephotographing. This similarity had completely escaped me, obviously the beginning of the idea was there then, although it’s less about the smile at that stage. Really interesting.

The Skype and follow-up notes feedback from A2 was very helpful indeed and I look forward to getting more feedback this way in future. Similarly, it was helpful to discuss my ideas for A3 in real time and to finish the call with a convincing shortlist that I could now consider with confidence. I am very much looking forward to making A3.

I am trying to ramp up my study visits and reading, and am consequently behind with blogging them. I found the suggested reading at the end of A1 to be very helpful. Stephen Bull’s Photography was very clearly written and accessible. Girls! Girls! Girls! I am still reading, it is very absorbing and helpful to my work. It was good to read it on the way to a study visit, then walk into the Photographers’ Gallery and see work by the artists that I’d just been reading about.

Assignment 2 personal grading against review Criteria

Specific notes on what I did well, what I wished I’d done differently and plans for developing the work further can be found in the assignment submission post here. of technical and visual skills



I find this review of my work quite difficult and feel that I get more from my own assessment of what went well and what didn’t. Since I used a photobooth I was not able to adjust the settings so this work is probably not the best way to demonstrate my technical skills. I do however feel that it showed that I could identify a concept, research it, apply the research to my work and produce the final deliverable that was in my mind’s eye.

Organising webpages, to-do lists, research plans…

Sometimes it feels like the actual camera holding part of my course is the smallest tip of a very big iceberg. As my research broadens, the iceberg grows. I realised some time ago that my Favourites bar wasn’t doing me any favours and have been looking out for a better way to organise my data that can include more formats. I’m a big user of Wunderlist for simple task-based lists but it’s not efficient for storing data or large numbers of URLs. I had previously used Evernote for longer term storage and planning but it wasn’t fully compatible with Windows 10.

Thanks to the Win10 anniversary update I now have more functionality in some very useful apps. I’ve taken a student subscription to Evernote so I can thrash it for a year and see how we cope with each other. I’m also testing TaskClone, which allows me to squirt out a task list to Wunderlist, as that is better for simple binary tasks and supports reminders better.

So my current setup is along these lines.

Evernote (with web Clipper) for keeping lists of course exercises (as Snaps of the coursenotes, accessible from my phone), lists of blogposts to be written (also sent to Wunderlist), lists of books to read, lists of photographers to look at, assignment feedback, webpages filed under photographer, lists of Evernote tips, also planned to use it for study visit notes with photos (suggested on a Facebook post I made on this subject).


evernote screen
Evernote screenshot



Taskclone to provide an interface between Evernote and Wunderlist

Wunderlist for setting tasks and reminders (this is also my domestic task manager). I also need to migrate some items out of here and into Evernote, as they are not strictly tasks.

Pinterest – for photographic inspiration and ideas. Mainly image based, more critical data is within Evernote. Evernote notebooks can have links to the relevant Pins.

SimpleMind for mindmaps.

I am currently trying out RefMe for references.