OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting 21st November 2015

Six of us met in Thatcham and we spent the day reviewing progress in our various projects. Eddy’s documentary project lead to us discussing choices – why black and white, justifications for this and – one of my continuing interests – whether, and when, images provide narrative within themselves or act as illustrations to text.

Carol is studying UVC at present and this got us on to the topic of its relationship to the creation of photographs – does studying the theories assist in development of creativity. This aspect is something I became more aware of recently when studying Part 4 of C&N as I hadn’t really taken on board how much photographers follow their own theories on photography in their work. Reading about ways of analysing photographs, and signs, signifiers etc (again and again) also made much more sense to me this time around and made me realise how I can use these more consciously in images now if I wish to.

Teresa has really met the challenge of creating portraits in landscape of her family. It was very interesting as well to see the work that Holly is producing as a self portrait and how she is creating something tactile and three dimensional in weaving two images together. I so often wish that my brain could also sometimes use a different path. I have the ideas but then I just don’t feel I have the wherewithal to carry it out. I write ‘feel’ because it is a feeling, a feeling of being inept! It’s good to take on something new and challenging.

Keith talked about his Exhibition and I was pleased to hear that Toynbee Hall have asked him to do some work for them on two projects they have. He also showed us prints of different techniques he is experimenting with for his on-going work on new building developments in East London.

I didn’t have any prints to show but talked about the work I’d done in response to tutor feedback on Assignment 3, including the min-Exhibition in the Copse. The collaborative group, ‘The Elephant’s Journey’ have also asked me to link with them and to re-post my blog post onto their site. It was flattering to be asked and to know they appreciate this work. This has given me pause for thought though because I haven’t worked this way before – does it fit with my style/ voice? Keith commented that there are many photographers who do different kinds of work but do not include these on their websites. I’m trying to think of examples – like authors who always write the same kind of books so that I begin to think they’re following a formula.

I’ve thought more on this since the meeting. There was some discussion about ‘style’ and ‘voice’ on the OCA student site which came about from the topic of “It’s all been done before” here for those students who can access it. Vicki asked about the difference between personal voice and personal vision. Clive’s response was “Personal voice is about discovering what you want to photograph and why”. He made a comparison with handwriting in that beautiful handwriting may not necessarily mean that what is written ‘… is inherently worth reading’. This led on to comments regarding authenticity and personal voice. That takes me back to my earlier concern regarding working in a new way. It’s important to me that I’m doing this as part of developing my creative vision.

In my reading for Part 4 I was interested in Terry Barrett’s views on ‘Style’, ‘Subject’ and Subject Matter’. ‘Style ….. is recognized by a characteristic handling of subject matter and formal elements’ (Barrett, p. 31 2006) . Subject matter is what the photographers chooses to put within the frame, but the Subject is the underlying message, the connotations. I’m assuming that Voice is linked with connotations. I saw a good example of this the other day, which also helped me to think about the difference between ‘style’ and ‘voice’. I followed a link to another photographer through a fellow student’s blog. The photographer is Bill Jacobson  who is known for his quiet and pale ‘unfocussed’ portraits and landscapes – work that ‘parallels an inner journey through a world we are constantly experiencing with the uncertainty of the mind’s eye rather than the sharp clarity of a camera lens’. He moved from black and white, to colour, and now to a different style which is an exploration of space and geometry with images that are more minimalist, yet distinct, with sharp focus. He continues to look at what lies beneath the photograph, the interplay between what can be seen within the frame and what lies beyond it.


Well – we’ll have a fresh start in January when we decide how we’re going to conduct ourselves for the year. Everyone will be expected to go with ideas – so watch this space!




 Barrett, T (2006) Criticizing Photographs : An Introduction to Understanding Images 4th Edition, NY McGraw-Hill