Monday, 4 June 2012

Some final thoughts

With everything now ready for assessment submission, this seems like a good time to record some final thoughts about ‘People & Place’ & my own state of development.  The ‘learning outcomes’ listed at the beginning of the module would seem like a good place to start. They define what we should be able to do by the end of the course and looking at them now, in overall terms, I’m comfortable that I have demonstrated that I can do all of them.  However, there are areas worthy of a bit more discussion and thought.

·         The first says ‘Use technical and interpersonal skills to capture images which reflect your ideas’.  I would particularly like to home in on the ‘... and interpersonal skills ...’ aspect.  I’m sure that this is primarily about the photographing of strangers or relative strangers, with their knowledge, agreement and involvement.  I’ve certainly done that – especially in the final two assignments.  I have done it and, I think, had satisfactory outcomes from it.  But it is only a start.  I’ve drawn comparisons a few times between making portraits and conducting interviews.  I have vast experience of the latter but6 still very limited experience of the former – but I reckon that, with practice, I can use what I know from 20+ years of drawing out peoples’ experience, personality etc to inform and enhance my approach to making portraits.  I would, perhaps, be critical of myself for not making better use of that skill in Assignment Five.

·         The second learning outcome is to ‘Demonstrate the importance of note taking, research, ideas and concepts to the process of developing a story’.  In the course of studying this module, I have certainly done quite a bit of researching & planning – maybe a bit too much at times.  I have a feeling that my interpretation of ‘research’ in a traditional and even dogmatic fashion might have contributed to the frustratingly ‘blinkered’ view of the brief that caused me trouble early in the course.  One of my next books for study is ‘Behind the Image’ by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana, published by AVA, in the Creative Photography Basics series; and this will hopefully help me develop the way I go about this aspect of my work.

·         And then we come to ‘Demonstrate a good level of ability in the effective selection and editing of images to achieve objectives’.  Once again, I feel reasonably comfortable with that side – though I have made a few changes to my selections between submission to my tutor and submission for assessment. One aspect of this process that I’m not sure I have quite got balanced in my own mind is the potential dilemma/conflict around presenting ‘variety’ (which is often asked for an encouraged in assignment briefs) and ensuring ‘focus’ (which is often important in trying to get across a particular view or message).  It came up, for me, in Assignment 4. In seeking to select a variety of images that would offer choice for a magazine editor, I end up failing to present a focused, personalised view of my subject.  I’m not sure I’ve quite worked out how to resolve that, yet.

·         Finally, there is ‘Show that you can reflect perceptively on your learning experience’ and I have to say that I think I’ve done plenty of that, too.  I was a bit nervous about how I would handle it in the ‘public’ environment of this blog, but I’ve just gone for it in the end.  I might have bored the pants of anybody that chose to read my thoughts, but at least I’ve reflected – and hopefully with a touch of perception at times!

And that almost brings me to the end; but not quite.  Putting things together for assessment has led me to think about one or two other aspects of my approach.

This is a familiar sight to OCA students – and probably to tutors/assessors, too.

This notebook is where most of my thoughts, ideas, plans, reflections etc have started out whilst studying this module.  There have been a few examples on WeAreOCA and elsewhere, recently, of students presenting very ‘visual’ note/sketch books; and this approach seems to have been praised by the tutors/assessors.  Now, I’m not sure that I work that way.  I sit down and scribble notes ... and the ideas get developed that way.

And this is about as ‘visual’ as my own approach gets, judging by my final notebook.

Is that bad/wrong?  Should I be more ‘visual’ in my research, planning and reflection? Does it say something about me, potentially, as a photographic artist, if I pursue my thoughts that way?  I know that I ‘soak up' everything that I see – in magazines, on the Internet, at exhibitions.  But ought I to do more cutting and sticking?  I certainly don’t want or intend to do it because it’s what seems to be catching the eye of the assessors.  This process has to be about what works positively in my own creative activity.  But it has set me thinking about a very, very fundamental principle.  I think in words not images.  Right now, after 62 years, that’s where I am.  But should the development of an effective creative process be encouraging me to change?  That’s a tough one and I don’t know the answer.

Another thought at present is that this course has taken me a long time to complete – longer than any of the previous modules, even though I’m only working part-time now.  There are three main reasons.

·         I have, for the last twelve months, had the time-consuming ‘distraction’ of being OCA’s Student Association President; and that has impacted on time available, without a doubt.

·         Photographing people involves more organisation and diary planning around availability; and that has certainly contributed.

·         But I also think that it is a reflection of my own wish to be serious about what I’m doing.  These days, I have a better understanding of what standard to aim for in the work I produce and a stronger desire to achieve and maintain those standards.  Whilst I might, from time to time, say ‘enough; I cannot afford to spend any more time on this, even if I want to make it better still’; but I don’t ever say ‘that’ll do; it’s good enough’ – and there is a difference, I reckon.

And then one last thought of all; this module has, without a doubt, given me the confidence to make images of people.  I may still have a lot to learn, but my appetite is ‘whetted’ and, whereas I might once have felt that portrait making was not for me, I now feel that I may do more; and might yet come back to it as a significant part of my photographic practice.  Time will tell!

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