OCA Thames Valley Study Day – 19th July 2014

Today’s meeting was quiet as we had no tutor and only four students.

Michael presented  some of his assignments for PWDP (which he currently has in for assessment). His work is based on memory, feelings and emotions. He told us he enjoys staging scenes but also uses combinations of found and constructed images to form open ended narratives . His work is very personal related to his childhood and family and he tries to express himself through memory triggers. Amongst his images was “Dreams” which was his image for the “Nearest faraway place” project, based on “The Dream”, a painting by Henri Russo :

He explained that this was one of his favourite paintings and the staging of this image led him to produce the rest of his images for this particular PWDP assignment. We discussed context and the use of explanatory texts. For this assignment  (which was about  therapy) he had restricted the captions to just one word which he felt kept the mystery and left the interpretation open. The group discussed inspiration and how difficult some of us find the search for ideas and the essential difference between the abstract and the literal.  Also mentioned was the feeling (which I often have) that the more we live with our images while preparing for assignments, the less fresh they appear. We did not come up with an answer to that question although my feeling is to start working on something fresh and go back to it. As this was PWDP there was some technical discussion of the use of software to deepen shadows to give depth to an image using PS Light room.

Michael also showed us two photo books that he had produced. One on a local area project in which he produced images of his locality which tied in with texts he had researched around  the history of Brisley Farm.  His second book was a fictional celebration publication for the re-launch of the Brussels Atomium. In this he constructed an imaginative discovery/journey of the Atomium from photographs he made using a young model that he photographed in a remote location (Dungeness), combined with images from the Atomium itself.  I got the impression from this book that it was produced in a specific style. Michael mentioned various filters that he used to achieve the feel of the images.

In the general discussion around his work and what inspired him, Michael mentioned that his way of thinking about the creative process was kick-started by his tutor posing the question, about one of his earl;y assignments, “Where is ‘you’ in these images”. I thought this was something that I need to apply consciously to my work. Also discussed among the group was the notion of the striving for perfection against the need to meet the assignment deadlines.

Eddy and Carol had nothing to show so we discussed ideas for their upcoming assignments and I am between assignments so I had prepared  ten images of the architecture in Rotterdam. I decided that I would show how I had responded to the city photographically during my recent visit. My abstracts of some of the buildings and the shapes they made, as well as my images of  the “cube houses” drew some interested comments.




Although these images were not taken for any particular purpose, they were my response to the buildings as I saw them and the variety and contrast of the built environment of a major city. The ideas may form the basis of new work at another location.

Afternoon discussion: Social Documentary and Race

With just four of us the discussion was quite short with digressions in all sorts of directions. The reading (and viewing) in preparation for the discussion is here:

American Gothic http://archive.today/arPHD

Malthusian eugenics  http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/list3.pl


The Baldwin lecture and a perspective on post genome race: http://www.princeton.edu/president/tilghman/speeches/20100309/

BBC4 documentary Scientific Racism: The Eugenics of Social Darwinism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FmEjDaWqA4

These links put some detail onto the research I did for the history of documentary photography and above all points out the dangers of claiming that photography provides objective evidence. From these examples of the development of eugenics, it can be shown how easily information and data can be misappropriated to form the basis of a pseudo scientific idea. The BBC4 documentary put an hour long historical perspective on the development of the movement and its relationship to Darwin’s theories on the Origin of Species. All very negative.

There were positives however, the parody made by  FSA Photographer Gordon Parks   in 1942  of the  painting  ‘American Gothic’ became the icon of the pre-civil rights era. Parks was an immensely successful photographer, musician and film maker, often highlighting the plight of the poor populations of the world.

http://www.decarava.org/ Is a link to the archive of photographer Roy de Carava, another successful and influential photographer. From his obituary:

“Among the many subjects his camera focused upon, he expressed an early desire to address the lack of artistic attention given to the lives of Black Americans, illuminating the aesthetic and human qualities of each individual life through the lens of his perceptions.”


2 thoughts on “OCA Thames Valley Study Day – 19th July 2014

    1. richard506896 Post author

      Thanks Catherine, they were a last minute idea. I realised that the group meeting would be small and had no new work to show. At least it provided some discussion.


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