28th February 2013
The idea for this meeting came from my experience belonging to OCA South-West Group and the attempts Jesse Alexander and myself had attempting to encourage a series of meetings to help students of all levels get some face-to-face tutorial time and peer-to-peer feedback. Although those meetings were fairly successful I felt that the formula of meeting in South Wales/Bristol, at a gallery/exhibition, during the working week, wasn’t as alluring as it should have been. I then decided that travelling to the West Country for peer-to-peer meetings/visits wasn’t the best solution for me, and the other members of that group also wanted to meet further down into that region, and so I spoke to a few more students I knew within the Thames Valley’ish region who gave me support to organise another group in Thames Valley.
As Catherine Banks has already put in her blog, it took some time to get a date together for enough of us to meet to make it a worthwhile event, but eventually we did and Saturday 23rd February was set. Eight students and OCA Tutor Sharon Boothroyd met in Thatcham, Berkshire at a venue I was able to arrange to hold this meeting. An agenda had been arranged beforehand and at 10-00 am we got going with peer review of ongoing work along with Sharon’s comments and supportive suggestions. Thirty minutes each had been allotted for this but we were just over an hour in excess of the time allowed by the time we’d finished this section.
We then went on to hear from John Umney about how he is transitioning from being a photographer who is now on level 2 subjects but also how he’s changing from making what he calls ‘pretty pictures’, to pictures that hold meaning and substance for him. He did state that some images he’d made, and subsequently sold several times, now meant nothing whatsoever to him! I for one, and many others there, were very surprised by this assertion as the images presented were of a very high quality, of an extremely attractive subject, perfectly exposed, technically very well executed, black & white, landscapes. He felt they were great for hanging on the wall for decoration but nothing else. Why? The answer is down to the fact that the images we were looking at had also been the subject of work by Ansel Adams, this to John was part of the problem, he didn’t feel that they had any substance and real deep meaning after thinking about their worth versus that of the work created by Adams, nor any subsequent work in that vein and now wants to create work with deeper meaning to himself.
I can sympathise with John, to have created these really excellent images, to sell them and then to find that in a way they could be considered copies of the master, even though at the time you don’t know this, must be very disheartening, and I find the strength he shows now to recreate himself through a different type of work edifying.
Keith Greenough followed and gave a very in-depth discourse on what it means to attempt the transition from level 2 to level 3. The emphasis it seems is on the artist taking the reins and pushing the boundaries of their research and work to fully develop a voice that is theirs, regardless of the fact that there is no new subject, just different ways of looking and capturing. Research is of paramount importance and not just of photographic subjects but of visual arts per se and how photographic work is influenced by and influences other mediums. Keith showed an enormous depth of knowledge of practitioners, commentators, critics, philosophies and a great number of other subjects which he’s found to influence photographic art.
In another post I’ve made in this blog I’ve speculated about what is learning and what is influencing when it comes to artistic work and how can it be measured. This meeting was a wonderful melting pot of ideas, discussion, critique and genuine teaching which advanced my interpretation of the course I am following, presenting me with challenges in ideology, practical matters, inspiration and determination, something that can’t be obtained from working solely in isolation. Tempered by the guiding hand of a tutor the outcome was enervating and something that I really want to continue to participate in over a much longer period.