I have now completed the course ‘The Art of Photography‘ and I am about to submit the results of my work for Formal Assessment. It seems an appropriate time to briefly look back at my experience of the course and to look forward to what might follow.
My overall impression on reflection is of a great learning process with considerable expansion of my knowledge of the history and art of photography as well as the techniques and processes required to produce photographs that demonstrate some positive development of my work. My naivety and lack of knowledge prior to the course rapidly became clear and I felt that I had a mountain to climb. However, the greatest challenge that I had at the outset and for some time afterwards was not my lack of photographic knowledge but the difficulty I had with navigating around the OCA sites and processes and setting up a Blog through WordPress. I had hugely underestimated the complexity of what I had taken on and how long it would take and it took quite a while before I felt any confidence in what I was doing. Eventually managing to make contact with other students helped me to overcome some of the problems and to feel less isolated.
As I worked through the various elements of the course and carried out the exercises and assignments my knowledge and confidence grew and I believe that this is apparent from the quality and diversity of the work as it developed. I am particularly struck by the difference between the images in many of the early exercises and the improved quality and variety in the later exercises and assignments. I think that the two narrative essays in Part 5 (Exercise 1 and Assignment 5) show this improvement effectively and I was pleased with the results of this work. I do not believe that I would have had the confidence, the technical ability or the eye for a photograph to achieve this level of work at the beginning of the course.
As the course and my investigation into the creative processes of other photographers has progressed I have become increasingly aware of the large part that post-processing plays in modern digital photography. I had thought that post-processing was a form of cheating and that a genuinely high quality photograph had to be created in camera rather than subjected to ‘re-touching’ to turn it into something worthwhile afterwards. It was only when I learnt how much work and dedication to end result was put into the creative process in the dark room by highly acclaimed film photographers throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries that I realised that post-processing has always been an important element of photography. The concept that post-processing tools such as Lightroom and Photoshop could and should be considered as the digital photographer’s darkroom equivalent helped me to accept that post-processing was a valid element of image creation. I still have a niggling concern that there is a risk of devaluing the ‘in camera’ part of the creation process as post processing technology is so powerful that a sow’s ear can readily become a silk purse with a little time and expertise. I have now reached the stage in my awareness that enables me to both attempt to get as much right at the point of depressing the shutter button and also to accept that post-processing is also valid as a means of achieving my creative vision.
Working through the reading list and delving into other information and image sources, both online and otherwise, during the course has raised my awareness of the range and diversity of artists, their work and their philosophies. I came to the subject initially with a relatively narrow appreciation of the art form but I am aware that that has now been expanded. There are still many artists whose work leaves me cold or confused or both but at least now I can in many cases have some appreciation of the artistic and technical factors that have contributed to its creation. I have discussed some of this in my Learning Log and I have no doubt that it will be an ongoing element of my future study.
I sense that I have come a long way and that, despite the fact that it has taken much longer to complete and has demanded more of me than I had expected, I have benefitted greatly from the experience. Provided that I pass the Assessment for this course I propose to continue with another and am attracted to the course Photography 1 – Identity and Place but I have yet to make a final decision.
Whichever course I take next I believe that the principal areas of learning that I will need to address will be the following : –
- Improving my existing techniques and developing them so that the basics become second nature.
- Developing my post-processing skills through dedicating more time to the self-learning tools that I have and through practice.
- Becoming more creative in my handling of subjects, light, etc. and establishing a personal style(s).
- Exploring themes and storylines in order to provide a focus and direction to my work.
- Becoming more familiar with the work and techniques of other photographers through reading, attending exhibitions, and online and other resources.
- Joining a photography group and making more regular contact with other OCA students.
I face this list with a mix of trepidation and excitement and I trust that I will get the opportunity to take this next step.
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