Context and narrative: conclusion

Context and narrative 

Out of all the topics covered in this course, which felt most comfortable to you? Why?

Part 1 – The photograph as a document

This was perhaps the part of the course that resonated with me the least. Not all of it by any means as I was comfortable with and interested in the issues of compassion fatigue, street photography and socially driven photographers. Perhaps it was the subject matter of war that came up twice that swayed my opinion of this section. Roger Fenton’s battle scenes and Paul Seawright’s Hidden that captured images of Afghanistan were concepts that I really don’t engage with.

Part 2 –  Narrative 

Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project and Kaylyn Devaney’s The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings particularly attracted my attention and I can see my work being drawn to the photo essay. My assignment on  photographing the unseen where I chose to show how I imagined life with limited reading and writing skills, was very well received by my tutor so is perhaps indicative of my interest in this area.

Part 3 – Putting yourself in the picture

After a nervous start about self portraiture I really engaged with this part of the course and felt comfortable with it. Particularly, Shafran’s Washing Up and Anna Fox’s Cockroach Diaries as examples of self absented portraiture. I chose self absented portraiture for my assignment to show how I have compartments in my life that all need to be ‘full’ in order for me to feel my best.

Part 4 – Reading photographs

I was comfortable with the learning surrounding semiotics and deconstruction and very much enjoyed analysing an image of my choice for assignment four. Essay writing is something I am comfortable with and find enjoyable and very rewarding.

Part 5 – Constructed realities

The part that I was initially very uncomfortable with. A quick flick through the course at the beginning alerted me to this final assignment and I wondered how I would approach it. As time passed and I worked through the course, it started to seem less daunting. A favourite part of the course was the link between photography and literature/painting and the work of Jeff Wall and Tom Hunter that was inspired by other art forms.


Did you discover anything completely new to you? What was it?

The idea of using diary extracts to inform a series of self portraiture (part three: putting yourself in the picture). This section really expanded my comfort zone both in its requiring me to be the subject of the project and in the presentation of it in diary form. It led me to research book making and to designing and making my own book in which to present my images and text.


Which area enabled you to come closest to finding your personal voice?

I was particularly attracted to the work of Bryony Campbell (The Dad Project) and Kaylin Devaney (The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings) and my assignment on illiteracy, with a similar photo essay approach, was well received by my tutor. I was also very interested in Tom Hunter and his work that was inspired by old paintings. In addition, I came across Dulcie Wagstaff while researching for assignment four and immediately engaged with her work Familiar Gardens’. I am veering towards projects that relate to personal experiences of ordinary life.

Which area seemed furthest away from who you want to be as a photographer?

Aftermath and insider reportage.

What were the main things you learnt? Where there any epiphany moments?

The whole course was hugely informative and how it slowly builds up a significant awareness of the canon of photography is a main learning point. Exposure to other people’s work is inspiring in showing the diversity and importance of different approaches.

Regarding epiphany moments? Learning about deconstruction  and semiotics really made me think of photography as a language and now I have had the epiphany I cannot ‘un-have’ it!  Oh, and punctum and studium also helped everything fall into place regarding finding the meaning in images.

Will you return to any of the assignments from this course at a later date? Did you feel as if you were on the cusp of anything?

I was encouraged by my illiteracy project and feel that I could consider other areas in which to develop a photo essay narrative; perhaps concentrating on female experience (I am thinking of Hannah Starkey) or mental health, or ordinary life or gender issues or the minutia of life that is important at the time but really not in the whole scheme of things.

Below are resources that I intend to return to:



and finally…

A great course and a great tutor. Many thanks to the OCA and many thanks to Derek Trillo for his very quick responses, his feedback, help and approachability. I couldn’t have asked for a better tutor.


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