OCA Thames Valley Study Day 17th January 2015

Another successful study day at Thatcham with a record number of students attending (14, I think) with OCA Tutor Sharon Boothroyd offering guidance. The whole day was taken up by individual presentations of a wide variety of coursework at all levels. Each student was allocated 30 minutes. I have summarised the proceedings here to remind me of what was shown. I will add the images from my presentation to the end of this post.

Teresa presented two sets of 5 images which she entitled the Disappeared Woman and The Media Woman. She was reflecting on the perception (in the media?) that life for a woman is over at 40. Her “Disappeared Woman” series was in black and which and consisted of a self portrait, a clock face, flowers in a vase, a nearly empty wine glass,  and a pair of slippers. As a contrast to this her second series showed the same subjects, this time in colour and with  positive attributes, her self  portrait was “enhanced” to remove most signs of aging, the clock face was replaced by a stylish wrist watch, there were spring flowers in the vase, (vibrant colours), the single near empty glass was replaced by two full glasses and the slipper has been replaced by stylish shoes, perhaps for dancing. I thought this was a very well thought out assignment, although I did not record which course it was for, I suspect it was Context and Narrative.

Steven had not brought any work to show but did bring the “Nearest Far Away Place” collection as it is currently in his possession. Having been on its travels around the world for nearly two years, it is nearing the end of its journey. I did manage to get a look at some of the images. Very soon it will be with me and I’ll add the image I took as I approached Tristan da Cunha by sea on the 18th April 2013;

Tristan FB

The Flickr thread can be found here:


Katherine is continuing with her woodland project in which she is recording found objects and unexplained structures in woodland near her home. Sharon advocated a wacky light hearted approach. Katherine had begun working on a fictional hunt for information on items of discarded clothing. We await the outcome with keen anticipation. There was also some discussion about different papers that she had used to present her work. My approach it to use the ink and paper from the printer manufacture that gives consistent results. For me, there is too much time and money to be wasted chasing perfect paper/ink/printer combinations.


John (level 3 Body of Work) presented a large number of prints from Purgatory (a deserted settlement near his home in Oxfordshire). He linked the pictures with words generally associated with the perceptions of “Purgatory” Sharon pointed out the conflict with the words being negative and the images being beautiful and optimistic. John also talked about the difficulty of reaching the location which was a bog for eight months of the year.


Carol’s project was interesting. She had been to Ipswich docks to photograph the regeneration of the area and to contrast the new parts with the remaining undeveloped areas which had faltered due to the economic downturn. She was struck by the contrast between the two and had tried to show this. She thought that this was maybe a more long term project, similar to my Bordon regeneration one (which can only go as fast as the local authority and the developers, I’ve seen very little movement in 12 months). The suggestion came from the floor that perhaps she should introduce a political element to the project as the new university campus was part of the development.

Michael took us off into a fantasy world again with his Gesture and Meaning  “Hidden Histories” theme. His project was called “Rubber Flapper” and is a constructed story about an Art Deco building that has been demolished. Michael is telling the story of a woman (who may be gay) who lived in the house which was rubber lined and could be cleaned automatically. He presented images of “found” objects from the site as well as the contents of a box “given” to him by the sites “current owner”.  The point he hopes to make with his narrative is that the outcome of the story is supressed  because the woman was thought to be gay. Some very enigmatic and successful  images. Michael had worked hard on making the “props” for the story.

Eddy is working on the Advertising section of Gesture and Meaning. He has produced three images to provoke the idea of a product without showing the product itself. His …”beans means ……odour neutraliser” image was the most successful but the thought was that the other two images, “better things are electric” and “Emergencies only…. everything else NHS poster were a bit cluttered.

Holly is working on the final assignment for TAoP – Narrative. On a trip to Bath’s Roman Bath site she has taken a personal view of the modern presentation of the ancient artefacts, juxtaposing  the old and the new.

Vicki posed the question “why do we all take the same photographs?” which provoked a lively discussion and relating of experiences as tourists and of tourists. She illustrated her point (for Context and Narrative) by presenting an album with two sets of photographs of Venice, one taken by her and another compiled from the Flickr site. Sharon gave some useful guidance on her presentation, suggesting using two separate albums and not making the albums themselves so pristine. (i.e. more like the albums we all see in the homes of our friends and families).

Sarah Jane is working on Assignment 4 of TAoP “Light” . She showed 3 photographs, self portraits taken in different lighting in the same location. An interesting take on the assignment. Her narrative is about self, loss, isolation and identity.

Richard is working on People and Place Assignment 2 “People Unaware” Using a long lens he has been photographing the occupants of cars pulled up at a junction. This candid type of photography is not without its problems and I think he has been the recipient of some abuse. His images were given an interest by the reflection of bare trees in the windows of the cars. Discussion also centred on how to present and crop the images. Sharon thought a consistent landscape crop would enhance the series as a whole. Richard also showed some images for DPP Assignment 5 – Memory loss. Family albums with photographs missing, deliberately torn out.

Amano is working on Assignment 1 of Landscape and he brought his completed assignment for critique and discussion. He had produced 3 diptychs showing winter landscapes of the flooded Somerset Levels and the same location in summer. He had also produced other images of the flooding. Sharon said that the three diptychs would complete the assignment on their own and the other flooding pictures would also complete an assignment on their own. Amano also produced a photo book of the assignment but Sharon thought that unnecessary at this stage of the course although the quotes he included from the local people provided good context.

One thing that came across from this session was that it was fine to link all of the assignments in a course on a common theme where it could be done, even stretching the brief where necessary.

Keith has finished his level 3 body of work. We have been privy to its development over the past year or so. His final job has been to produce a photo book of “Lifting the Curtain” and he is also trying to arrange an exhibition of his work in the East End of London. Any proceeds from the sales of the book and prints will be donated to Toynbee Hall from where he got his inspiration – Charles Booth’s Poverty Map of 1898 – he has been looking at the relationship between location and society by revisiting the locations on Booth’s map and printing Booth’s texts alongside his images.

Sharon updated us on progress on her “They All Say Please” series. Again we have seen the evolution of the project over a year or so. She has looked at on line prayer forums and taken simple lines of prayer and illustrated them with constructed photographs. Today’s discussion revolved around the choice of mounts for her prints and the texts, floating mounts printed on aluminium? Not the sort of decisions I will have to make for a while yet.

185 empty chairs

While on holiday in New Zealand I had part of a day to kill in Christchurch before flying home.  I had been taking holiday snaps for nearly three weeks so I decided to try and capture the mood of the city as it struggles to rebuild after the devastating earthquake at 12:51 pm on Tuesday, 22 February 2011. I decided to use this series as an exercise rather than an assignment.  I wanted a narrative which told of the destruction and then showed the optimism and resilience of the city. I presented the images in two groups with a brief explanation of each one. The title comes from the temporary art installation which consists of 185 empty white painted chairs, one for each of the people who died on that day. Each chair is unique, reflecting the individuality of the person lost.


This crack was in the parapet of a bridge crossing the River Avon. The series of earthquakes and aftershocks which started on 4 Sept 2010 and continued until 23 Dec 2011caused considerable damage to the city.


The Anglican Cathedral, built by renowned architect George Gilbert Scott  was severely damaged. While the Diocese favour demolition and replacement with a new building, several court actions have resulted in the demolition being postponed.


This is the Citizens War Memorial (1914-18) next next to the cathedral. I thought it appropriate and optimistic that the angel, (bending the sword of war) although looking forwards having survived,  needs a little help to stay in place.


Many properties in the city remain fenced off and abandoned, either awaiting  repair, demolition or just because their owners have moved out of the city to live elsewhere. This overgrown garden and unused mailbox reflect this feeling of loss.


Surrounding the isolated abandoned buildings though, are a mass of building sites, regenerating  repairing and restoring those structures that can be saved. The Canterbury Arts Centre is shown here.


After deconsecrating the Anglican  Cathedral, the transitional “Cardboard Cathedral” was designed by innovative Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and constructed in 2012-13. The ‘A’ frame construction is of cardboard tubes with wood, steel, plastic and glass and the ubiquitous (in Christchurch) shipping containers. A time lapse movie of its construction is here: http://www.snowgrass.co.nz/cust/cathedral/timelapse.html


I did hear it said that the only good thing to happen as a result of the earthquake is that it solved Christchurch’s parking problem! This is just one example of the the colourful murals and street decoration used to brighten up what is an enormous building site. “Graffiti bombing” of condemned buildings is common as can be seen on the right in this picture.


The “Restart” shopping mall is a fine example of the city’s inventive and resilient nature. Small shops, cafe’s and bars sprung up  to temporarily replace the shops destroyed.


Christchurch still has a sense of humour. The sculpture is in the garden of Christchurch Dyslexia Centre. The ‘Crocs’ may be a response to another sculpture in the garden  “Ron’s Shoes” which is inscribed “Combining insight with intention, Ron Davies invites us to nurture the seed of genius that lies within us all”


185 empty chairs.

I got some positive feed back from the group and some interest in the narrative. While it was a good exercise my feeling is that the story is not really strong enough.


2 thoughts on “OCA Thames Valley Study Day 17th January 2015

  1. Catherine

    The New Zealand images are strong Richard – well at least I think so! I guess it’s the accompanying narrative that could set the tone of your approach to the theme.

  2. richard506896 Post author

    Thank you Katherine. Yes, I was writing about the strength of the narrative rather than the images. I’ve got a little while before my next assignment and my plan is to leave this one and start another a bit closer to home. That will make it possible to re-shoot!


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