Today is the day for me to discuss my thoughts with my tutor and I am nervous about how it will go.  I do not like telephone conversations at the best of times because I find it difficult to establish a mental connection and rapport without also being able to establish a visual connection.  I am also not confident that I will be able to remain calm, clear and focussed and be able to express myself adequately in the face of what might be contrary and uncomfortable views.  I am sure that a great deal of my anxiety is connected with my perception of the scale of what is in question here, and I am trying to reassure myself that whatever the outcome all will be well.  However, rather like the EU referendum vote, there seems to be a lot riding on getting it ‘right’ and avoiding getting it ‘wrong’ as either way there will be issues that I will need to deal with.

I have recently received an email post from Eddie Smith, a Course Support Adviser offering support to all students and providing links to a number of support and learning resources which is most helpful.  I will not be taking any rash decisions without first availing myself of Eddie’s services so that is a reassuring back stop.  Amongst the links that his message provided was one to a Blog post entitled  ‘No More Swans! An A – Z of Photography Cliches’    ( which I read with interest.  I suppose that I was subconsciously aware that photography had developed a number of cliches over its years of development but it had not occurred to me that there were so many.  It would appear that no subject nowadays is free of some element of cliche attaching to it and it begs the question as to what remains to be photographed that does not fall into this trap.  

My immediate reaction was that this feels like another pitfall to be avoided and another constraint to my photographic activities.  On reflection and to try to apply a positive spin I considered that maybe it was not necessarily the subject that might be the issue but the way in which that subject might be captured.  It is certainly true that the number of photographs of swans / children / weddings / pets / sunsets are countless and that one has a tendency to glaze over and say ‘Not another one!’ unless it is special in some way.  Maybe there are ways of capturing even these common subjects that would lift them out of the cliche category and make them valid in OCA and ‘artistic’ terms.  This is clearly another area for discussion with my tutor as I am very unclear as to where I stand with this issue.

Interestingly, the author of the post, who I have since discovered is an OCA landscape tutor, included a photograph of his own depicting swans in a way that, it is suggested, attempts to avoid the label of cliche.  It shows two swans in an empty rural landscape with vehicles passing on a nearby road (see below).


Swans, Near Chewton Mendip, Somerset, 2014               Copyright Jesse Alexander

From my viewpoint, I have to make the observation that whilst it might avoid the swan cliche, it appears to fall into the contemporary photographic ‘art’ cliche of being a bland and flat image with no apparent interest or meaning.  I am sure that others will see it differently and will discern some esoteric and highly philosophical / emotional content that lifts it from the mundane into the inspirational but I am not amongst them.  Which brings me right back full circle to my dilemma with the course and the reason for my telephone discussion with my tutor.  Watch this space!

———-   o0o   ———-


  1. Hi David Re this post. Jesse wrote the landscape course. He is photography lead for photography OCA. I think the point of the image is the place which happens to have two swans in the centre. It is their environment. Perhaps you can look at it this way. It took me to Assignment 5 before I realised why images were not picturesque. Hope this helps.

    • PS. Thanks for pointing out that Jesse Alexander is an OCA tutor and wrote the landscape course! I have amended my post to reflect this fact and will use the new confidence I have following my discussion with my tutor not to be depressed by it!

  2. Hi, Hazel.
    Thanks for reading my post and for your thoughts which I respect and am grateful for.
    If the point of the image is the place, then I am unable to see what it is about the place that interested the photographer. It looks pretty mundane to me. I’m afraid that the concept of the swans being in their environment doesn’t help me to understand or appreciate the image though as any photograph of a swan shows it in its environment to some extent or another and swans are often in the middle of fields. I accept that the middle of a field is a slightly less common environment than the more traditional one of a lake or river but is that what the photograph is about and, if so, why?
    I am still out of synch with this contemporary style of photography, but after my valuable discussion with my tutor today I am more comfortable with being at odds with it and wanting to plough a different course in my photographic styles. As you say, I am some way off Assignment 5 and who knows what might change by the time I get there.

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