GOODBYE TO THE OCA COURSE
I have come to a final and very difficult decision. After considerable thought, soul searching and indecision I have finally decided that I no longer want to continue with the Context & Narrative course and I am therefore withdrawing from the OCA Photography degree course. This is particularly difficult for me because I have committed a great deal of time, money and effort on getting to where I am and I am very reluctant to let it all go for nothing. Also I am not, and never have been, a quitter, and this feels like quitting. So why am I giving up?
As those who have looked at my work to date or have followed some of my posts on the OCA student fora will know, I have struggled for some time with the direction that the course was taking me and its almost entirely academic nature. I would have been able to be more comfortable with all of this if I could find some empathy, comprehension and value in the work of the artists that I was being asked to study but in many cases I found this difficult and sometimes impossible. I also found the work of many of the OCA tutors, and the students and artists that they were impressed by, to be incomprehensible and meaningless. As the course progressed I increasingly felt alienated from the work and the OCA and it has reached such a state that I can see little purpose in continuing.
It is rather ironic that the stage in the course that I have chosen to leave it is the one that I was particularly looking forward to, namely Part 3 ‘Putting Yourself in the Picture’. I had thought that by engaging with this part of the course I would be able to learn some new truths about myself and my path in life, but the Exercises and the examples that I was asked to work with were so far removed from my own world that I rapidly came to the view that I had no place on this course. So, why can I not see this through and keep going? The fact is that whilst struggling with the works of Brotherus, Wearing, Lee, Morrison and Moffat and finding little that I get hold of, I looked ahead to see what was next only to find the, for me, equally opaque and un-engaging works of Kapajeva, Calle, Shafran and Fox. I spent considerable time exploring and trying to get to grips with the significance of the 107 interpretations of a letter in ‘Take Care of Yourself’, photographs of kitchen sinks and washing up and a diary about having cockroaches in the house, but the idea of having to spend more time trying to evaluate them and treat them as works of art to take seriously filled me with despair. Others clearly find it easy and natural, but for me this sort of work seems to be on a different planet.
I also looked ahead to the Part 2 course on Landscape that lay ahead once I had completed C & N. This was another element of the Photography degree course that had particularly attracted me, but I could now see that the reality of the Landscapes module was far removed from what I had imagined it to be at the start of my OCA journey, and that to meet the expectations and directions of the course and the tutors would not be the pleasurable experience I had hoped or expected.
I came into the course hoping that it would a). make me a better photographer, b). help me to discover and develop my inner artist and creative abilities, c). help me to discover and develop a personal style or range of styles and a direction for my work, and d). work with like minded people to feel that I was not alone. Sadly, this has not happened. The time required to complete all the background reading and research and then the writing to meet the formal and academic requirements of the course has meant that I have had little time left to actually take photographs or to learn and develop new techniques or processes. This academic side to the course would have been great if I had managed to gain any inspiration from the process or if I felt that it was relevant to my path of trying to learn how to create work that would inspire others and be the foundation of a financially viable business. Sadly, most of it met neither criteria and therefore lacked relevance for me. When I have reached out to other students or to tutors through the various internal OCA communication channels I have felt more alienated and lost as they all seem to be on a different planet to me.
Whilst I acknowledge that my photography has developed and moved forward somewhat whilst I have been on the courses, and the academic elements of the courses have enabled me to gain a clearer and wider view of the history and development of photography as an art form, I feel more at sea as a result than I did at the beginning. Rather than discovering and developing my artistic side and finding a personal voice and direction as a result of taking the courses, what now appears clear to me is that I am not an artist, nor even a photographer, but merely someone who takes photographs. Maybe freeing up the time to actually take the photographs that I want to take rather than filling my available time with what is required for completing the course and meeting the expectations of tutors and assessors will enable me to take some photographs that start to meet my own expectations and personal needs. I hope so.
Finally, a big thank you to all those students and tutors who tried to encourage me during my time on the courses and in their own way tried to open my eyes to their visions and understandings, even if some of that sharing and feedback has been integral to my decision to leave. I will shortly be dismantling this Blog / website and transforming it from an academic record into a site with a more functional purpose. A new and different chapter in my life begins.
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