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.


———-     o0o     ———-

8 comments on “MY LAST POST

  1. David, you clearly put a lot of thought into this decision and having just started C&N I am beginning to have similar concerns – it is not going down the path I expected and I too struggle to see the art or even the point in much of what they seem to like. I would be most interested to follow your later blog and work. Good luck!

    • Thank you, Nigel. Yes, it was not an easy decision and I still feel very badly about it. However, I guess there comes a time when the lack of purpose and pleasure overwhelms the will to keep going forward along the same track, and a change of direction is required. I am hoping that when the sense of failure is replaced by a new sense of adventure and freedom I will be able to see it in a different light. It would be great to hear any observations you might have on my new direction as the new website takes shape.
      I wish you every success on your own journey wherever it might take you.

  2. David – as I come to assignment 5 of C&N I fully understand your thoughts and feelings. I can share your disappointment and frustrations with regards to the priority of academia over the actual taking of photographs. I wish you all the very best with whatever photography activities you engage in and whatever you do – keep taking photographs.

    • Thank you, Neil. If I could find interest and relevance in the artists and work that I was required to read and write about I could have found pleasure and purpose in taking on the academic side of the course but when I can find no relevance for my own work and interests in the majority of the course and it was stopping me from developing my own photographic practices then I had to take hard decisions. I wish you success with your studies and your photography.

  3. David

    I have struggled with C&N myself not because of the work but because of time. It is the first OCA and the open nature is difficult for me as I suffer from ADD and keeping focussed on anything is an effort.

    Like you I am searching for my inner artist or a direction to take my photography. I do find that some of the work I have looked at so far is incomprehensible and I can’t see the point of it – I have dabbled as a gallery owner and I came across this type of work in other mediums which I referred to Emperor’s New Clothes Art.

    I’m not a young photographer, this is my second career. I first worked in Social Photography (Weddings, Family Portraits etc) and did quite well but it wasn’t me. Last year I had to change my gear as my canon 5ds (mark I and II) were ageing, so after a dabble with fuji I settled on Leica. This has had the most impact on my work and direction. I have taken courses with Leica and other teachers in the Leica world. There is a focus on style, direction and the courses have been been more collaboration than teaching – so maybe this may be an option for you ( they do accept non-Leica owners as well and you aren’t made to feel second best 🙂

    Good Luck in what you do and I will keep my eye out for you on your journey


    • Hi, Paul.
      Thanks for your post and the suggestions re courses with Leica. Now that I will theoretically have more time to develop my photography I will be looking for some opportunities for learning from others. I like the expression ‘Emperor’s new clothes art’ which sums up my view of things very well. I guess it is good we are not all made the same, but I fear that my experience of the course convinced me that unless one was of a particular mind set, one was always going to feel like a fish out of water! Now I am diving back into the bigger pond and looking forward to it.
      Good luck with all your endeavours. David

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