Assessment self- evaluation

EYV was a significant challenge to me after FiP. I finished FiP feeling confident, inspired and capable. The exercises in the first two parts of EYV seemed to assume rather less experience and the result was that I felt completely wrong-footed and produced some remarkably unremarkable work. I still think that I produced rather better work for the FIP exercises than for EYV exercises, on the whole. Much as I would love to blame the course it’s more likely to be a reflection of me not being creative enough and not being brave enough to explore and exploit the exercise briefs to the same degree as I routinely did for the assignments. I really did struggle with motivation and believe I was rescued by a tutor who spotted my potential and who encouraged me to take risks with the assignments and to broaden my reading.

A1, although ok, didn’t feel right to me and felt less so as the course progressed. I could see a clear difference between it, and the following assignments in terms of creativity, competence, fulfilling the brief and successful rework. Rephotographing wasn’t possible due to a recalcitrant 9 year old. A refreshed edit (my tutor’s suggestion) didn’t improve things much, so I redid the entire assignment with a different subject that I felt to be a tighter fit to the brief and more consistent with the other work that I’m presenting.

A2 was a lot of fun. I enjoyed working with photobooth machines. My tutor’s suggestions for research and follow up reading blew me away and have genuinely changed the direction of my work. I followed a rework suggestion and we both agreed that doing so had spawned a whole new idea to develop in C&N.

A3 almost didn’t happen, I was very nervous about suggesting working with used pregnancy tests but Moira was enthusiastic and encouraged me to try it. That was a valuable lesson. There are still learning opportunities for me here in terms of technical consistency within a typology-type series, but the most fun was to be had considering the best way to present this work for assessment.

A4 also nearly didn’t happen. The ideas on my agreed shortlist just weren’t working, and I remember emailing Moira a couple of test shots of lit phone boxes at night. She encouraged me to continue. This work was far more static than I was used to, as well as much darker, wetter, colder, later and slower to shoot. It’s a fairly “straight” piece of work for me (along with the reworked A1) and I am proud of it, not least because at least two of the boxes that I photographed have since been removed by BT. It was my only assignment that needed no rework.

A5 also happened by accident but at least I was getting better at spotting the signs of serendipity. Following comments by my tutor I was playing with Polaroids and photobooth portraits. Following an idea from A2 I was trying to die-cut a Polaroid with limited success as the development fluid got squidged everywhere. Clive White on the forum spotted the potential, my tutor agreed and I started work. This work has significant potential for development (scans, jpgs of the blue developer before it turns white, images on older technology such as Nokia 3310s). For assessment however I chose to fine-tune the book – made entirely from Polaroid film, including the box and the protective slide. I included the emulsion lift of the Fox Talbot window as it allows anyone to look through that historic window.

Two courses in, my preference is to work with the familiar and the forgotten. I have a strong interest in exploring my feelings about gender, a continuing curiosity for altered physical formats, using the 2d within images and using my photographs as the start of my creative process rather than the end. I shall continue working with analogue formats such as Polaroid and Photobooth as well as improving my digital skills. I hope to start printing my own work. I am grateful to my tutor for her perception and her persistence in encouraging me to go further, even when I honestly thought I had nowhere left to go. I have also realised the value of rework, the comforting knowledge that the better and the best are still to come.

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End of part reflections – Part 5

This part of the course finally felt like coming home. I took my time and feel as if I have made some work with real potential, work that is helping me to explore what I want to make and how I want to make it. This work has been strongly supported by my previous Foundation course and it was very satisfying to plunder my FiP archive for this part.

I found exercise 5.2 very engaging and learned a great deal from the various iterations that we went through together. The help on the OCA discussion board was invaluable, as it guided me to what needed to be done in Photoshop without giving step by step instructions.

The assignment was all-consuming for some time. It was a true journey, I kept my options open and enjoyed exploring the various creative routes that opened up to me. My tutor was exceptionally helpful in guiding me back to focus when the work was threatening to get out of hand. I also had invaluable help from the OCA discussion board, the students who generously comment here and on Instagram and Facebook, and in real life via study visits, study groups and ad hoc meet ups over coffee and exhibitions. Thank you all.

After much discussion and thought, I have decided to remain on the Photography degree pathway. After C&N however I will be taking a third L1 course that has a wider or different focus. I am wondering about book design, visual skills, or one of the theoretical modules such as Understanding Visual Culture or the Western Art one. I am desperate for context, the knowledge that I can both draw on to make work and use to place my work in the contemporary canon. I’m still not sure if staying on Photography is the best decision for me in the long term, but it is the best decision for me right now and after that it’s up to me to make it work.

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.

Reflections on Part 1

I found the transition from finishing the Foundations course to starting EYV rather lumpy and slightly frustrating. I think the problem was that I finished FiP feeling challenged, confident and ready to continue with further challenges. I had a fully functioning blog and was confident in my ability to make self-directed research and work, with an established study regime. I found starting EYV to be slightly underwhelming by contrast, at least creatively. I think it must be a result of having a course that is inclusive to all comers, and really that’s a good thing. I know I didn’t put quite as much effort into all the early EYV exercises as I did into the FiP exercises, because it seemed as if less was expected. Obviously this is down to me and not any particular shortcomings in the course, which I think would have absorbed me from day 1 had I not had the benefits of doing the FiP course first. EYV is also much lighter in terms of the number of exercises, but I think gradually there is more scope for detailed research.

So I was excited about getting to Assignment 1, which was more in line with the work I was used to doing. Less prescriptive with plenty of space for research. It was interesting to revisit Square Mile as it is also the first FiP assignment, and I had also reworked it for the Admissions project. I enjoyed researching it again and taking a completely fresh approach. I had no idea where my tutor’s expectations would sit – whether or not my work would be assessed on the basis that I’d already done FiP and therefore ought to be of a reasonable standard. Tutor feedback has somewhat put my mind at rest and I am once again excited about the possibilities offered, especially by working with a new tutor who is introducing me to new practitioners and guiding my reading. I think, at least for the early parts of this course, that it’s the research and the assignments that will be the most engaging for me. I am looking forward to reworking A1, based on my tutor’s feedback and suggestions. I will do the research first and then reshoot following that, before evaluating and repeating.