Outcome 1 – visual and conceptual strategies
Select log entries and examples of assignment work that show your knowledge of visual and conceptual strategies in landscape photography and the representation of place. Consider selecting examples that show how you have tested and understood these concerns.
Outcome 2 – social and cultural contexts
Your learning log entries will evidence your emerging awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts that surround the representation of place. Show how you have articulated relevant ethical perspectives in relation to your own practice.
Outcome 3 – exercise judgement in the production of visual material
Your range of ideas and creative starting points is likely best evidenced in your log entries demonstrating initial ideas, test-shoots, edits and final workings out. These could be accompanied by some evidence of critical reflection and relevant decisions to show how you have exercise judgement in the production of visual materials.
Outcome 4 – contextual and visual research
The Critical Review in part 4 will evidence the main focal point for evidencing your awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts and help to show your ability to conduct self-directed contextual and visual research. Selected learning log entries and assignment pieces will likely evidence your understanding of visual research and together these can help show assessors the connections you have made between contextual and visual research.
Outcome 5 – autonomy, voice and communication skills
Your learning log will likely demonstrate your developing personal voice. Try to identify where your engagement with your learning community has helped shape your developing practice, knowledge, understanding and communication skills, then select any aspects of the work that help to show this.
LO1 demonstrate detailed knowledge of visual and conceptual strategies in landscape photography, the representation of place and be able to explore your own critical photographic projects
‘To evidence this part you could select learning log entries and examples of assignment work that show your knowledge of visual and conceptual strategies in landscape photography and the representation of place. In terms of showing your ability to explore your own critical photographic projects, you might consider selecting examples that show how you have tested and understood these concerns.’
In my response to the brief for the four practical assignments, I have tried to vary my relationship with regard to the subjects I have photographed.
Outside vernacular and commercial photography, focussing on the tourist experience, or in the highly constrained world of photography club competition, it is quite hard to find contemporary landscapes presented simply as ‘landscape’ – where the relationship between the image and its subject is essentially a transparent depiction of what is there, in front of the camera.
For the first assignment, I selected archive photographs, taken in the north of Scotland. They were presented as conventional views, situated within the realm of the picturesque – formally composed images of ‘tidy’ agriculture, rural beauty edging into the sublime, prehistoric sites, sunsets and other effects of the light. I placed them within a digitally constructed slideshow, emphasising their status as constructs.
Assignment 1 – Beauty and the Sublime
Each photograph from the slideshow was then paired with another, taken in non-rural Walthamstow, which shared some formal or structural element with it. These were titled using the words I had used to describe the equivalent Orkney view in the slideshow’s voiceover.
In this way, I explored the tension between viewing the photograph as an object in its own right and as a simple vessel for its subject matter, while balancing the autobiographical content of the pictures with third-person documentary.
Traditionally, landscape is viewed as static and unchanging (no matter how much we may know that it does, in fact, change almost daily). ‘Narrative’ involves sewing a number of diverse things together to tell a story; often the word ‘journey’ is used as a metaphor for a series of events that move from a starting point to a destination (an example would be to talk of my time with the OCA as ‘my photographic journey’). Similarly, it could the definition of a specific sort of narrative…
Assignment 2 – A Journey
We were asked to depict a ‘journey through landscape.’ In the form of a set of directions, the animation forming the core of my submission tells a fairly simple story of exploration, which moves from a (Tottenham Hale) to b (out in the green belt in the Lea Valley Park).
It is a road movie of sorts, where nothing much really happens…
Much of the theoretical writing included inthis module dates back to the disputes between those who favoured the Modernist-based curation of photography practised at MoMA in New York and the more politically engaged strand of American criticism that helped spark Postmodernism in the late seventies and early eighties. In assignment five, I tried to capture enough material capable of generating concrete meaning within my frame to prevent the – modernism-tinged formal abstraction from taking over entirely.
Assignment 5 – Self-Directed Project
The idea was to balance historically-grounded documentary elements against ‘timeless’ artistic ones. I think I succeeded. By choice, this is the most tightly constrained of the assignments, consisting (almost) entirely of ‘straight photographs,’ but at the same time – and in strong contrast with the Walthamstow pictures from assignment 1 – it is the one that most reflects a close personal response to the place where I have lived for the last twenty years.
LO2 demonstrate an awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts that surround the representation of place, and be able to discuss relevant ethical perspectives in relation to your own practice
‘It is likely that your learning log entries will evidence your emerging awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts that surround the representation of place. By selecting both learning log and assignment pieces you could show how you have articulated relevant ethical perspectives in relation to your own practice. You could use selected log entries to explicitly show you have considered ethics.’
I am aware that most of the photographs I have used for the assignments are devoid of people – indeed this is one of the characteristic tics that other members of the LPE hangout have picked up on as being indicative of my voice, as discussed for LO5 – and this has required some further examination.
I suspect that Assignment 3 would have more impact if I had been able to make a distinction between the people who live on the island and farm it, and the external groups – the navy, the oil industry and whoever operates the wind turbine – who have made use of it as a location for their activities. I had already noted towards the end of exercise 3.4 where I discuss a campaign protesting proposed restrictions on houseboats in the section of the Lea that I used for my assignment 2, that one of the ways I could get further into the life of the places I was photographing would be by engaged more with the people who lived there.
Earlier in exercise 3.4- a persuasive image, I began to explore the ways different organisations use photography to further their interests. I looked at the way the petrochemical industry – though photographic studies of their own and the sponsorship of cultural institutions – have tried to present themselves in a good light. At the same time I looked at some of the later, more engaged work by Joel Sternfeld, particularly his combination of text and pictures at the 2005 climate change summit (COP11) featured in his 2007 book, The Day it Changed.
It is impossible to deny that photographs on their own (however epic) are incapable of providing more than a starting point for deep analysis of the climate crisis. This really begins to come into stark focus during the final section of the course. I have developed this insight further in my examination of the differences between the epically sublime photographs of Ed Burtinsky – link to post – not published yet – and Richard Misrach’s book collaborations Bravo 20 (1990) and Petrochemical America (2014) – link to post – not published yet – which combine his photographs with writing and deep background in the form of historical and political essays (Bravo 20) and also in the form of fascinating infographics (Petrochemical America) which expand massively upon the places pictured in his original photographs.
LO3 explore and realise a range of ideas and creative starting points, and exercise judgement in the production of visual material
‘Your range of ideas and creative starting points is likely best evidenced in your learning log entries: demonstrating initial ideas, test-shoots, edits and final workings out. These could be accompanied by some evidence of critical reflection and relevant decisions to show how you have exercise judgement in the production of visual materials.’
Looking back over my work for LPE, I have to conclude that the work I have submitted for the assignments has been significantly less experimental than the work which went into its production. It is as if each time I had pushed into areas that I did not have time to fully explore and then moved back to a position of relative stability.
From Assignment 1 to Assignment 5, I have tried to take an idea and let it develop to the point where it seems complete. I have documented this for each of the practical assignments in some detail but would pick out here:
assignment 1 – approach, editing and presentation
…which deals with the early stages of putting the assignment together, taking in the initial edit of candidate images and the process by which I worked out how to present the paired rural/urban photographs, working through diptychs (which recur in assignment 5) and postcards (which made an appearance dummied up and printed in assignment 3) before lighting upon my first go at the ‘Orcadian Photographs’ animated slideshow.
The course encourages you to experiment technically as well as conceptually. Following on from the exercise on the Zone System (the zone system in practice), I moved gradually from working digitally to adapting an increasingly analogue workflow to shoot the next 3 assignments, using a mixture of medium format black and white and colour film with a camera capable of some movements. This led to using a tripod which in turn allowed longer exposure times and therefore greater depth of focus. I suspect that I can get similar levels of crisp detail with my full-size sensor DSLR, but for much of the course, I have restricted my use of my digital camera to acting as a (good) spot light meter and for taking quick sketches when I am out and about. I have bits of writing about this scattered through my log, but shall pull them together into a single post on this subject before assessment. (link to portmanteau post – not published yet ).
Some of this (and more on working to create seamless panoramas) is contained in the first section of the Reflection piece for Assignment 3 which also includes my first experiments at coming up with a photographable physical display of the collaged Flotta pictures. The physical display of my pictures is something I have been working towards throughout the course, although this is not yet a completed process. I have made prints of all my work (apart from the first assignment) to use as an aid to editing down my image longlists. I also would like to push beyond simply reproducing the finished images, flat and in two dimensions on a screen.
I visited the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery too late fully to incorporate the display ideas I’d found there into the submitted version of assignment five, but I had time to make a start with something closer to a 3D installation. Now, in the time I have before the assessment event dealine, I shall try to experiment with this more and see where it takes me and my work for the assignment.
LO4 manage learning resources, conduct self-directed contextual and visual research, and be able to appraise your progress with increasing confidence
‘The Critical Review (2,000 word essay) in part 4 will evidence the main focal point for evidencing your awareness of the wider social and cultural contexts will likely help to show your ability to conduct self-directed contextual and visual research. Selected learning log entries and assignment pieces will likely evidence your understanding of visual research and together these can help show assessors the connections you have made between contextual and visual research.’
The critical review can be found here: Assignment 4 – Critical Review. After some revisions to strengthen the conclusion (as suggested in the formative feedback), it will be added to the relevant folder of my assessment G:Drive.
Part of the motivation for my choice of essay subject grew out of my discovery that all but the most remote areas of Flotta (the small island which was the location for my third assignment) had been surveyed by Google’s Street Cars and also my use of proprietary software to document journeys of my own. This is discussed in my log post Mapping the Lea Navigation and a Journey to Flotta. More traditional research with maps has featured in the work I submitted for assignments two and three, with a day spent in the Orkney Archive providing useful context for the third assignment: Exercise 3.5 – local history.
Further evidence of my ability to apply critical thought to my work can be found in the Course Review that forms part of assignment 6.
LO5 demonstrate increasing autonomy and a developing personal voice, and exercise your communication skills confidently and interact effectively within a learning group
‘Your learning log will likely demonstrate your developing personal voice and engagement with your learning community – this could be amongst the OCA student body through forum activity, group work sessions, study visits or regional groups; or your increasing autonomy may relate to interacting with photographers outside OCA. Try to identify where in this project your interactions have helped shape your developing practice, knowledge, understanding and communication skills, then select any aspects of the work that help to show this.’
From the start of my time work for LPE, I have engaged regularly with other OCA students. I have sought feedback on my work in progress from photography-focussed groups – mainly Forum Live and monthly meetings for students working on the Landscape Course – and have found my peers’ critique to be useful in shaping my direction of travel, particularly as I was getting started with the module. I ran the slideshow presentation from assignment 1 (see LO1) past the landscape group – who got it straight away:
Assignment 1 – peer review (work in progress 2)
Then I tried out an early version of my ’journey’ animation at Clive White’s final forum live.
Forum Live – 11/7/2021
I have continued to demo my practical work with these groups, and have also put forward the assignments – at various stages of completion – for critique in the relevant section of the OCA Student Forum.
The Forum Live post also discusses how the prototype of my animation for assignment 2 can be found in work I did for the OCASA-backed Keeping Up Momentum session, Contamination/Collaboration. I drew on my work with programming.org’s scripting software for the previous module, Digital Image and Culture and moved it forwards to make a scrolling, animated gallery to showcase my multidisciplinary group’s work; in a more fully developed form, this provided the structure for Assignment 2.
The full animation can be viewed on the WeAreOCA post, written by drawing student Paula Alessandri-Gray, describing our collaboration; a short extract of it can be seen here:
At one of the LPE zooms, Ugo Moin suggested we listen to Lyse Doucette’s contribution to the Apple Podcast series, How I Found My Voice where the BBC correspondent mapped her journalistic voice directly to the questions she naturally asked and to understanding where the origins of those questions could be found. I found it quite easy to translate the idea of ’questions‘ into ‘photographs taken’ so it was interesting when other members of the LPE group began to identify pictures I was showing as being demonstrably mine.
At present, I am unsure whether this amounts to more than a series of identifiable stylistic elements – and indeed I think the first three assignments are more distinctive than the final one – but it does feel as if I am getting somewhere in terms of making work which is demonstrably mine.