Category Archives: Reflection

Results day!

Results day, 31 July 2018

Year 2, Context and narrative

I have been expecting an email for a day or two and it arrived today and my percentage is exactly the same as last year (Year 1, Expressing your vision).


The feedback surrounding  visual and technical skills pleased me as there was an extra one (but vital) word: VERY. The comment that there was ‘development of VERY good visual and technical skills’ was, seriously, very rewarding as it shows an improvement from last year.

I will admit that I had hoped for those few extra marks to push me over the 60% bracket but I remind myself that I started this course without even knowing where the on/off button was on my camera, and I am really not joking!

For last year’s blog (Expressing your vision) see the link below

Expressing your vision from May 2016

For my next years blog (Identity and Place) see the link below

Identity and Place from May 2018

I am motivated to do better next year and am still thoroughly enjoying the challenge.


Final overall evaluation (optional)

Overall evaluation

Here is a link to my optional overall evaluation of Context and Narrative

Overall evaluation – final May 18

I have thoroughly enjoyed this course, have learned a great deal and look forward to the next year of learning with the OCA.


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.

Reflection 3 March 2018

There has been a big move forward I think this past two months or so. My knowledge of some of the works of important photographers is increasing and I am building up the ‘canon’ that I thought that I would never do. I have collected many books now and have a small library to turn to for learning and research purposes though most of my research is still done on line.

This course is a little less practical than last year and this is still worrying me. I really need to find time to practice, beyond the requirements of the course,  so that I become more intuitive. I feel that this is letting me down right now. However, I am engaging more with the theory and research  and enjoy this immensely. I also feel that I am thinking more creatively and am prepared to take more risks.

I also have ‘favourite’ photographers that seem to be more on my wavelength than others. I have enjoyed Jeff Wall’s staged images (Invisible Man, Insomnia) and Tom Hunter’s reimagining of old classic paintings with a contemporary message (Living in Hell and Other Stories) and have come across Dulcie Wagstaff  (Familiar Gardens) who I have enjoyed researching and using as the basis for my 1000 word essay for assignment 4.

I have also started to think about presentation now, as a result of the ‘diary’ exercise. I previously thought no further than just printing the images and submitting them for assessment. Now though, I want to pursue a book presentation for the self absented portrait assignment that I completed and will explore this further prior to assessment.

Reflection 30 December 2017

My photography has changed. It has been a while since I updated my ‘reflection’ section and I feel that I have moved forward. Buoyed along by my assignment 2 ‘results’ on ‘photographing the unseen’ and how my tutor commented that he ‘liked the way I had lots of ideas and thought through them’, I have formalised my approach for future. I now consider and document more options before making my final choice of assignment subject. I prepare ‘project proposal’ forms to help me to focus my thinking and keep a record of my ideas. I also find that I have things to ‘say’ and I consider more and more how to say them.


A big leap forward. In my ‘Square Mile’ days, the thought of photographing people was unthinkable, and the thought of photographing myself even more so. However, I now think ‘bring it on’ and to be honest  ….  I. do. not. care. I don’t care whether I am in the picture or not, I don’t care if I take images in a public space, and I don’t care if people wonder what I am doing or if I arouse curiosity.

I am also more inclined to reveal personal things about myself. Inspired particularly by Elina Brotherus and her honest portrayals of herself,  I now know that it is ok to be honest. To prove my point; for many years I suffered with Emetophobia (a real fear of being sick and of other people being sick). I kept it hidden for decades (apart from my nearest and dearest) but now I feel that, through photography, I want to highlight a very distressing condition. I have been thinking of ways to share this experience through photography and it may become the basis for assignment 3. I am cured now thankfully but I remember those days very well.

Another thing. When researching particular practitioners I am able to forge links and notice similarities or differences between previous artists studied and am building up a knowledge of the photography canon.

Reflection 21 August 2017

I have slowed down when taking images. I admit I used to rush a bit when I first started this course, or rather I went straight to taking the photographs rather than thinking it out before hand. Now, I pre- plan what I want my images to convey and how I want them to do it.

When my husband and I decorate a room together, I always want to get the colour on the wall, straight away. He always wants to fill the tiniest cracks, gather all the best tools for the job, buy samples of this and that, lay the dust sheets, etc . I feel that I am like that now with photography. I need to set the foundations and get the plan in my head before I approach the final selection.

During assignment one (Dark Arches), instead of going straight out to take what I could find, I felt increasingly that I wasn’t at the ‘ready’ stage to just go and shoot. I needed time to think. I needed to plan my shoot, think about it and think how I would compose and expose each image and think about what I wanted to say. I approached the assignment by taking snapshots of my intended location, rather like a kitchen designer will produce a CAD image to give an idea of what the finished room will look like. I liked this approach and found it worthwhile.

This part of the course has widened my knowledge of practitioners and their different approaches and voice and I am pleased to be expanding my knowledge of the photography canon as I did with the literature canon a few years ago.

Reflection 13 August 2017

I have recently been out for the afternoon taking images for the exercise on colour and black & white see here . The exercise was to take thirty images in colour and thirty in black & white and  comment on the difference between the two formats.

Aside from having a great afternoon in the sunshine, I think this exercise has opened my eyes. Together with the course work, which considered how street photography started to embrace colour, and independent research, I have learned about colour as a subject in itself and how it can set the mood of a scene.

After returning home with my images I opened them in Photoshop and looked at my colour images in  black & white and vice versa. The most striking one for me was the deckchairs. The green and blue are striking and the contrast is what makes the image interesting but compare it with the monochrome and the ‘colours’ are the same.

I think these two images have made me ‘see’ differently and I will consider tone, colour and contrast more easily now in my future projects.

Reflection 7 August 2017

There has been a lot of learning in part one of the course. So far, I have studied:

  • Documentary photography and its intention to give ‘voice’ to (or exploit) the human elements of global events; whether successful or not (an example being ‘Migrant Mother)
  • Photojournalism (news imagery), and its relationship with the ‘truth’ along with viewpoints regarding problems associated with it.
  • Aftermath photography and the works of Paul Seawright (aftermath of the war in Afghanistan) and Edgar Martins (aftermath of the USA housing market collapse).

Here are a few things that I have been thinking about:

  • How far I have come. I admit I was disappointed with my 2.2 EYV results but when my tutor, Derek Trillo pointed out that I had gone from not even having a camera to gaining 57% in my assessment, all in twelve months, then I felt much better and gave myself credit for what I had achieved.
  • At the beginning of EYV when I went out to do my Square Mile assignment I just wanted to take images that showed the place where I used to live, albeit with a linking theme of mining. However, I never thought about creativity or a message or concept. I was thinking more of composition at that stage. Now, I don’t even want to take an image (except for technical practice) if it hasn’t anything to say.
  • I have friends who volunteer what may be a ‘good’ photograph and, although I am polite, I usually think ‘why’? Why would that be a good photograph? I know I have changed in my thinking around photography because now I don’t think a ‘good’ photograph is necessarily one that just has a ‘nice’ subject.
  •  Again and again, I find myself drawn to topics such as the ‘women’s issue’, injustice and social concerns and find myself wondering how I could articulate these through photography.
  • Weeks after researching Erik Kessels I still come back to the ‘why do we all take the same photo’ question and while watching Mo Farah, during and after his silver medal win in the 5,000 metres, I noticed that some members of the audience were far more interested in taking his photograph than in actually watching the race. Why is this?

Reflection 30 July 2017

This is my second module of BA (Hons) photography and I admit that I have not been quite so enthusiastic over these last few weeks, as I was with Expressing your vision.  I, and many of my fellow students, have commented that this course is increasingly academic rather than practical. Personally, I enjoy both sides equally and am very at home in front of the computer researching and learning, actually more so than behind the camera, so it’s not that. I enjoy the learning and the academic side but it is the practical side that worries me. I am still clumsy … though I can see definite improvements.

However, I am feeling at the moment that my priorities are ‘computer based’ rather than ‘camera based’ and as a result my camera skills are not having chance to improve. I am worried that if I don’t engage in some practical work I will forget how to use my camera. So, I have been practicing on non-course related projects just to keep my practical work ticking over.