Friday, 26 November 2010

Course Progress Part One

I am now 9 months in to my social documentary course.  I had to delay a couple of months early on, but thought it was time to take stock on how I'm progressing with the course.

State of Mind
Do I really need a sub-title like that??? Well, with any journey you go through your ups and downs. And I have found myself growing in to the course particularly over the last few months after a very hesitant start. I lacked the raw enthusiasm to really appreciate and therefore participate. However, I do feel I have turned this corner, largely after completing my critical review of Helen Levitt. I just feel more comfortable with it all as an observer and participant.  

I have found it quite hard in terms of being stripped back to basics however. Both with using a large format camera for the first time and focussing on street photography and social documentary in general, gaping holes in my repertoire of photography skills have surfaced.  And I do get frustrated that I'm so far off where I want my images to be. I've really had to dig deep and accept going backwards before I can make progress.  But hopefully in the long run it will enhance my photography as a whole.  And I thrive on challenges and would get bored if it was easy I suppose!! Time will tell...


Assignment One: completed

Assignment Two: still to do.
This assignment is to do with interactions between people and has become my nemesis.  I have had a variety of ideas and none have worked well enough to pursue. I could probably complete this assignment fairly quickly if I wasn't complicating it unnecessarily for myself!! I am keen to photograph an interaction that is sufficiently interesting to seek out a dozen or so times and be interesting to look at afterwards - otherwise I'm just doing it for the sake of it!! Stalling badly I'm afraid. 

Assignment Three: completed
I wrote a critical review of Helen Levitt's work.  Following comments from my tutor and a period of 'rest' since, I will go back and make a good few amendments.

Assignment Four: making good progress
I am well on my way in taking photographs in the style of Helen Levitt.  I have about 2 or 3 in the bag and several possibles. This is progressing nicely as I can tackle it whilst out and about on the street photography now project. I'm getting out without fail every week and I become more comfortable with it all the time. 

Assignment Five: not started

I have been wary to post any images up on this as the course material specifically says it has to be images your tutor hasn't seen before. I've taken this literally and just in case my tutor pops by here, I'm not going to upload them...

I have two, if not, three options for my portfolio project at the moment and am undecided which I will put forward.

My options are:
i. Street Photography in West Cumbria: very current in my development at the moment. It is an area I will be pursuing actively for the foreseeable future too. However, I don't want to overdo the street photography theme as it already accounts for assignment three and four, and possibly two as well.
ii. Lost to the sea: this is a documentary project I have been carrying out for two or three years, to document the loss of land to the sea on the east coast, near Skipsea.  It is a fascinating place where once fine and enviable holiday homes are being lost, contents and all to the sea.  And at an alarming rate!  However, I started this project way before my course and therefore my approach and photography style has altered considerably throughout this time and so lacks consistency (dare I say the odd hdr is in there too!!). There is also a lack of humans in this project although their influence is clearly evident.
iii. Losing Mum: this is and has been a personal project since September 2009 and follows the lives of those close to my mum during and following her battle with cancer.  I didn't have the courage to carry out anything too radical at the time. However, a poignant series of images has organically grown. My concern is that as it is so personal it is difficult to be objective about the quality of the images and also the depth of interest to others.

And then there are two or three other ideas I want to develop with the 'beast' (large format camera) but given where I am on the learning curve with this, I suspect I'll save those for my next course.

So I'm making fairly good progress at the moment, it's just assignment two that is bugging me!!! Timescales going forward I suspect by late spring, early summer I'll be done with the vast majority of the course, but I don't see the need to set any tight deadlines as I'm well within the two years.

So to conclude, doing ok, not travelling in an altogether straight line, but the main point for me is I'm learning, enjoying the learning with an insatiable appetite for more...


  1. Hi Penny

    One of the dangers with the OCA's flexible model is that sometimes the absence of deadlines can allow an assignment to bulk larger than it really should. In a traditional course you would be forced to submit something, anything by a set date and while you might not be happy with it, it does free you up to think about the next challenge. Don't let assignment two become an obstacle, forcing yourself to do it is as important as getting results you are happy with.

    I hope this helps.


  2. Grrrr, you're so right, I know this is sound advice, I just need to get on with it. I am my own worst enemy - setting unrealistic targets for myself!! I'll try and close it out by the end of the year!!

    Thanks Gareth for taking the time to comment.