OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 18th July 2015


There were 11 of us today with Jesse Alexander as attending tutor. As before, the whole of the day was given over to ongoing work review – prints, physical, in photo books or on-screen, or discussion on work planning. There was a lot to cover and below are some notes.

Emerging Themes

Maintaining ‘authorship’ of a work, particularly one that is more personal and emotive

The advantages and disadvantages of editing work after feedback. The advantage is that the work can become more polished/sophisticated, more in line with assignment criteria or tutor preferences and further work can add more depth to a concept, (e.g. Michael’s new ‘artefacts’).

The disadvantage is that the immediacy and raw spontaneity and emotion of work can become diluted so that ‘authorship’ leaks away more quickly and we discussed this in relation to Teresa’s very personal work. The choice can be to retain the original whilst extending/adapting the work for other contexts and so have more than one version.

I had this dilemma with my work for Assignment 2. I have been asked if I will continue Paul’s blog but I felt I would be forcing the story somehow in creating new scenarios for him. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t do something along similar themes in the future.

Context and Narrative

We touched upon this again in relation to whether text supports the image or vice versa. I’m sure this will be a continuing theme.

Holly’s work on C&N Assignment 1 – two sides of a story develops her views on the ways in which our perception of ,say, a landscape is shaped by earlier famous artists and photographers, i.e. always going for a particular composition or scene rather than looking what’s outside the frame that we don’t normally ‘notice’ because it doesn’t fit with traditional views of landscape.

At a slight tangent, Vicki’s intended work on “Fifty Shades of Grey” also brought up how several competing themes might need to be refined to produce more clarity/focus in thinking through strategies. Added to this is the difficulty in using large objects as metaphors or symbols and then taking them out ‘in public’.


The importance of ensuring that presentation of the work complements the display environment, whatever that might be. For instance, the amount of work involved in placing work in an exhibition and how important it is to take the showing environment into account. Where will people exit and enter; and how this can ‘interrupt’ a narrative flow.

Listening to John and Keith talk about their Exhibition planning reminded me again of how much work there is in getting ready for one and the importance of visiting the Exhibition space beforehand to gain a sense of how visitors might view the display – will the narrative flow be affected by exits and entrances. Additionally there’s ensuring that the size of the prints convey your concept as do the size and style of frames plus arranging for the printing of accompanying catalogues/books and business cards.

Printing and Photo-paper

The differences between a photo-book with a more limited selection of printing papers and choosing exactly the paper that fits and then creating an original, probably hand-made, photo-book.

Checking out how the same image looks on different papers and the value of obtaining a personalized printing profile from the paper manufacturer that more exactly matches with your printer. I’m going to a day seminar on the 28th July on using my new Epson printer. I’m told they don’t offer this type of service, but am hoping to become more proficient in using the printer.

Moving on from the above, how different papers affect perception of a work. For instance I noticed that a photograph on semi-gloss paper can keep me at a slight distance from the subject, whereas one on matte paper can absorb me into the narrative with its softer look and texture.

The ethics of manipulation, e.g. Photoshopping

This is a vast topic, raised this time by Stephen’s images from a model photo-shoot. At this point we moved on from a beginning argument concerning objectification – something that is very well illustrated in its various aspects in Francesca Woodman’s work I think and I will be writing more about this.

Coping with the OCA workload

All of us in our own ways had issues with the amount of time spent studying. I have to admit that it was partly because the group was meeting that I pushed myself to take some photographs instead of ‘thinking about it’, concurrently giving myself a rest from obsessing about Francesca Woodman.

My current progress

I had been feeling ‘stuck’ – again – and, as I commented above, knowing I was going to the Group gave me an additional push to use my camera. I decided to challenge myself with self-portraits and one strategy I tried was to wear a borrowed wig. I know of several photographers who have done this in various ways but it was seeing was the work of Alma Haser  that influenced me towards this at this particular moment.. Haser had previously hidden her face in self-portraiture and she utilized wigs and outfits to gain the confidence to look square on at the camera. This was just a beginning because she then went on to explore how other people might feel more empowered by dressing up.

Progress so far is on my Flickr photostream here again I had wanted to make public the fact that I’ve begun to tackle the problem. I’ve had some positive encouragement to continue from fellow students but know that it isn’t enough just to take such photographs for the sake of it. I need to have an underlying concept that interests me. I’ll write more about this on my blog in due course.


18th July 2015

21 thoughts on “OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 18th July 2015

  1. “I need to have an underlying concept that interests me. I’ll write more about this on my blog in due course.” Does anything really annoy you or make you angry? How about visually responding to that issue Catherine?


    • Pete, this Module is about “Putting Yourself Into the Picture”, covering ‘self-portraits’ in various guises such as shadows, reflections, masquerades domestic details etc. I made the self-portraits as a challenge to myself to get over the ‘hump’ of being averse to ‘straight’ self-portraits.
      I’ve got quite a few ideas on the putting myself in the picture aspect but they don’t involve self-portraits as such – hence my statement regarding needing an underlying concept if I decide to go that route.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I took my Stanwell images because the study group was coming up as well but without a underlying reason for them they don’t mean much either. Good luck with Assignment 3 and I will follow with interest.


  3. That sounds like quite a constructive session, Catherine. I am finding this working in isolation quite difficult & not being able to get regular, valuable feedback on ‘work in progress’ is a huge negative for OCA studies. Any feedback is haphazard and inconsistent in my experience, particularly in such a subjective and changing field like photography. Are we moving towards an RPS mode of selection or are we maintaining an independent set of criteria for assessing our work? Vacillating between the two is quite damaging, I think.


    • This is a difficulty Anna. I’m wondering as well how much your involvement with your other photography group corresponds or conflicts with OCA expectations. I’m saying this because you mention RPS. I’m probably expressing this wrongly so apologies in advance if this is the case.
      In terms of OCA and TV group in particular what constantly comes through is advice/support to express your own personal take on something and to argue the case if this doesn’t seem to fit the brief of the assignment.
      I’ve always admired the fact that you’ve been prepared to travel a long distance to get to Thatcham or London I might be mistaken but I had thought that the SW group do have meetings on similar lines to ours. If not is it possible to get something together? I notice from reading OCASA minutes that there is quite a bit of money still available to be used.
      I’ll be in touch.


      • I hear what you are saying about the personal expression & conflicts which might hinder it. I guess that it comes down to having confidence in my own expression/worth. Travelling to London etc is just my way of trying to see & chat about what is going on out there in terms of photographic expression although I could do most of it on google but there is no discussion on google – no soundboard to test ideas. The SW exists as a notional group & we get together occasionally. Amano organised a talk by Jem Southam which was very good & we could take our work along – I showed one of my projects (Widgery) but there was that ominous silence following it which is never a good outcome but neither Jem nor Jesse said anything – just grunted. What was I supposed to take from that? Several of the students said it was interesting – again, so …? Perhaps I should try crochet!


      • Anna

        I’d never want to be seen as pushing TVG, but the group is too vocal now for there to be an ominous silence. Criticism is constructive, incisive and very vocal. I think the group, because it has a strong centre [?] has grown in confidence to voice their opinions. Does that make sense?


  4. Good write-up of an interesting and thought-provoking day, Catherine. With you, Teresa and Vicki being a couple assignments ahead of me, it is very useful to see what you are all producing, as it informs the direction of my own work. Best of luck with the self-portraits.


  5. Gutted to miss you all and to see how people’s work is coming along, but a nice write-up Catherine. Hope you get over your ‘stuck-ness’ soon. I usually find that it’s being inspired that original idea that stumps me and has me going round in circles so wishing you good luck in your progress


    • The odd thing is that people’s interest in this work is encouraging me to do more. Isn’t there a saying somewhere about characters in search of an author? Ahh – have just looked it up and, of course it’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” the play by Pirandello.


  6. Anna, Please don’t take up crochet just yet! It would be great if you could get to the next TV group but, if not possible, let’s try to manage it another way. I’ll email you.


  7. Your group meetings sound so interesting , the feedback and moral support invaluable. I generally don’t mind working alone but occasionally feel isolated and wonder why I am doing this ! Good luck , it seems to me that you are making good progress with your self portraits .


    • We ll – I didn’t want to go through chapter and verse on what people said and did (which would be my default write-up of old) which is why I looked at themes. You’ve done yours differently because you’ve pondered on what comments meant to you and put them in context of the research you’ve done. Doing it that way you’re consolidating learning.


      • But I need to find a balance. Effectively the time spent on attending TVG and then writing it up equated to nearly the time allocated for two weeks of study?? It’s either shorten it, or give up attending TVG?


      • Shorten it! Seriously, I find the writing-up hard, i always end up writing far too much. With TV I decided not to write up people’s work specifically (wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do anyway tbh) and just wrote a summary 🙂


      • Carol and Catherine, I think you are right! I always felt the need to comment on everything and everyone—for fear of seeming to make a judgement call on people’s work if I did not comment. But think in future, will comment on what I got from it and maybe general themes like Catherine above.


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