Reflections on the course

The second Assignment that I submitted for this course was called ‘A Journey’ and it feels as though I have been on a journey as the course progressed. So it is appropriate to consider where this journey has taken me, where I started as a photographer and where I am now.

I find it interesting to look back at some of the earlier exercises, particularly the one where I was asked to sketch out my idea of what constitutes a landscape. I suggested that it would probably be a ‘Claudian’ image of rolling landscapes with a strong sense of perspective leading to a diminishing horizon.

My understanding of what makes a landscape has changed considerably over the course, as evidenced by my various blog posts on ‘What is Landscape?” I now think that they can comprise:

  • Aesthetically pleasing images of the land
  • Views of the land with strong social or political messages
  • Urban landscapes showing the effects humans have had
  • Landscapes portraying form, pattern or colour
  • Abstracted landscapes or montages

Were I to repeat the exercise now, I would not be able to answer the question so simply, I probably could not draw a single, simple image to illustrate it and would need many, many more words to describe a landscape than the seemingly simple answer that I gave earlier.

I have learned or refined a number of technical skills throughout the course, including:

  • Use of print profiles
  • Preparation of images for printing
  • Improved use of Photoshop for manipulating images

But it is probably in the way in which I approach a task where there has been the greatest improvement in my work.

At the start, eg Assignment 1, I would take the task that I was presented with, think how it could be fulfilled, and then start taking photographs. I did give some thought to how I would approach the task but this was limited to the way in which I would do so. By the end of the course, eg Assignment 6, I would again think how the task could be fulfilled but, even more importantly, I would give a lot of thought to how the final product would look (pre-envisaging it), consider what I had learned, whether from the course, reading or exhibition visits, and bring this all into how I would produce the final image.

For example I had not heard of Romare Bearden until I visited the ‘Soul of a Nation” exhibition at the Tate Modern. I was very taken by his work at the time and studied it in a lot more detail, reading many books on his work. This helped me a lot in my approach to Assignment 4 (Critical Review), in which I studied photomontage. Although the essay was mainly a history of the technique, it had a considerable effect on my approach to Assignment 6, influencing my pre-conception of the final image for that Assignment. This was further influenced by visits to a couple of further exhibitions. I have described on my blog how seeing a display of Stephen Shore’s work at Tate Modern and of Gerhard Richter’s clouds at the British Museum, had a significant impact on how I conceived the final format for Assignment 6.

Over the period of the course I have come to recognise how the work of others can be incorporated into my own photographic approach, not by copying, but by how it influences my thinking and conception of the work.

I also found the OCA Google Hangouts to be very useful – as I have detailed on my blog postings ‘What is Landscape?’ It was extremely useful to get the views of other students on this concept, especially as I was able to ask different students – other photography students in the Landscape Hangout, and students with different artistic backgrounds in the Creative Arts Hangout. I hope that my contributions to the many other subjects discussed helped others as much as I had received help.

In conclusion, I find that my technical skills have undoubtedly improved over the period of the course as has my appreciation of what constitutes landscape. The biggest improvement, however, is in my conception of how the final image will look. For example in Assignment 6 I took a statement of opinion (that photographs fail to represent how most people experience landscape, i.e. moving through it rather than viewing it from a single fixed viewpoint) and attempted to address this in my approach to the task. This was very different from my approach to Assignment 1 at the start of the course.

I have enjoyed the course a great deal and I believe that, by the end, I have been attempting to answer the tasks in my own way, bringing my own knowledge and values to the subject and this has resulted in a less traditional but much more ambitious approach.