A week is a long time in politics – and also in OCA photography courses it would seem.  Since I published my ‘last post’, in which I said that I had decided to leave the C&N course and the OCA, a lot has happened.  After posting about my intended departure from the course on two OCA Students FaceBook pages and a Student forum, the OCA community, both tutors and fellow students, have been wonderful in coming forward with views, advice and experiences which have triggered some interesting and valuable discussion and new ideas.   I can’t thank you all individually, but you will know who you are and I thank you all for your open, generous and revealing contributions.  The new perceptions and insights that you have given me (and others!) together with the fact that I have found it as difficult to sever my connections with the OCA and the course as I had been finding it difficult to stick with it caused me to rethink my decision.  Life then gave me two messages via (see links below) and I realised that I didn’t want to walk away and feel like a loser.

View at

View at

So I am going to reverse my earlier ‘final’ decision and have decided to shelve my resignation form and return to the fray with the C&N course but with a different approach.  With the help and advice of some of my fellow students and tutors I have come to recognise that some of my perceptions about the content of the course and how I was expected to respond to it, although having some basis in truth, were not the full story and that there was scope for me to do things differently.  It helped for me to discover that there were some fellow students previously unknown to me who were working in styles and had subject interests similar to my own (the natural world) and who were still being considered by the OCA as pursuing acceptable and appropriate artistic paths. I look forward to gaining learning and inspiration from other students and hopefully eventually providing some of my own back into the pot.

If I am to maintain my sanity and my progress towards a successful outcome on the course I will need to introduce some changes to the way that I address the course and my work for it.  These will include : –

  1. re-finding some sense of fun and not taking it all so seriously.  
  2. accepting that, although I will not enjoy all of the research and assessment elements of the course or ‘get’ the work of all of the artists, this is OK as it is a learning opportunity and will help me to be clearer about what I do want to concentrate on and why.  
  3. not judging myself negatively against those students who, for instance, spend two weeks or more on designing and shooting one image for an assignment or fill pages on the research that they have carried out.
  4. keeping a healthy balance between the academic research and written assessment side of the course and the application of my learning to practical photographic experimentation so that I retain the ability to develop the quality of my artistic photographic work.
  5. seeking the advice of my tutor on a more regular basis and working closely with him to ensure that the needs of both the course and also my own development can best be met.
  6. not pressuring myself to try to complete the work too fast.  Whoever suggested that 40 hours was the length of time required to complete a Part of the course was very wide of the mark!  More like 40 days!
  7. not getting hung up on whether work is ‘art’ or not.
  8. being more objective and not being hung up on whether I like a piece of work or not. The question is whether it will be an influence on my own work or not and that might not be immediately obvious.
  9. remembering that I am working for me and not anyone else.
  10. trusting the process.

I feel considerable trepidation about moving forward mostly because it is a major step into the unknown, but I no longer feel alone.  I hope that some will sign up to my Blog and take an interest in my progress.



———-     o0o     ———-

19 comments on “MY LAST POST REVISITED

  1. If nothing else David great writing. I think your list of changes are eminently sensible and proportional. To enjoy it is important – not that the journey will be easy – we are forged in the fires of our lives. What I learnt about the whole thing was ambiguity seems to be valued. I must see can I incorporate a bit of that into my photographs.

    • Thank you, Fergal. I have edited the post by adding a few more points to my list of changes that might resonate with you.
      I agree that ambiguity seems to figure high on the OCA’s list of desirable attributes and sometimes I feel that ambiguity too often tips over into obscurity for me. Personally I prefer work to at least be reasonably accessible but maybe that will change. Onwards and upwards!

  2. Great post describing a positive plan for you to move forward. Your original “resignation” post started a lot of people thinking about their relationship to the course; in my case I started questioning myself whether I was in emperor’s new clothes mode about contemporary photography, like you I struggle to connect to most conceptual photography and, if left entirely to my own devises, would probably focus nearly all my attention on dead photographers. However over time I have found enough contemporary photographers who have inspired me in my own work to use as references creating, what I hope, is a balance between straight documentarists, contemporary landscape photographers and a few current practitioners who are pushing the boundaries.

    I have no idea whether it will be of any help or reassurance but I thought back to my C&N work ( for which I received a surprisingly good mark and realised that whilst I did look closely at Shafran, Wall, Ruscha, Goldin and a few others that have made their name by being conceptual most of my references are fairly “straight” photographers. I also have strong views that are definitely off message regarding technical competence and aesthetics – Stuart Freedman expresses this better than I can “I want to see a return to a storytelling in photography as rigorous in thought and research as it is beautiful in construction and execution. It should have self knowledge and a human centre but understand the tradition from whence it came. Then and only then we will be judged not just on our photography but our humanity and approach.”

    I’m of an age where the course work is only interesting to me if it is directly relevant to the development of my practice so in C&N and in I&P I have generally used the course exercises and research requirements as input to the assignments and in turn have tried to structure the assignments as projects that I want to complete for my own enjoyment; for me there is no point in spending weeks on an assignment to create photographs that I don’t like. In parallel I continue to pursue my own projects that may or may not feed into the course at some point and these include plenty of work that would leave the tutors cold.

    I have clicked the follow button and will look forward to seeing what you do next.

    • Thank you for your interesting and helpful comments, Steve. It sounds that we have very similar backgrounds and ways of operating so I will look forward to checking out your C&N blog for pointers, inspiration and reassurance. I will also check out Stuart Freedman’s thoughts. Thanks for the connection and I wish you well on your journey. No doubt we will connect again. David.

  3. David, I’m glad you’re sticking with it. I was in a similar position on my last level 1 course after some pretty derisory feedback to one of my assignments. It was only through my wife’s persuasion and the thought that “I had paid for it so I will damn well finish it” that kept me going. But I developed a completely different attitude to it, basically to stop trying to please a tutor or assessment panel but to do work that satisfied my own criteria and that I was pleased with. I finished that course with the highest mark at assessment of all my level 1 courses. I’m about half way though my first level 2 course and I still have a love it/ loathe it relationship.
    I hope you come out of this with a stronger commitment, not necessarily to the OCA or a photography degree, but to your own artistic integrity.
    Like you, a lot of modern stuff just leaves cold and wondering “So what!” when I look at it. Incidentally, as part of my research into the critical review that I have to do for the Landscape course, I have discovered a lot of contemporary photographers that are not producing radical work that is hard to relate to.
    All the best

    • Hi, Chris.
      Thanks for your supporting and helpful comments. I am sure you are right and I am starting to turn the corner towards that new approach. I too will be moving on to the Landscape course if and when I finish C&N so I will see if I can access your Blog and see how you are getting on if that is OK.
      I look forward to working with you.
      Best wishes,

    • Hello, Anne.
      Thanks for your kind comments. Yes – you are not alone! I need some connection with the natural world to get engagement. However, I am noticing that I am looking to create something beyond the usual wildlife portraits and HDR landscapes. I will still do some of these for relaxation but I am looking to find something more engaging and meaningful as a means of influencing others to be aware and take greater care of wild environments. That appears to be my developing mission. I look forward to sharing the OCA journey with you and maybe sparking off each other. 😉

  4. Hi David,
    Followed as requested. I know what you mean: I am a very down to earth person and while I don’t mind ambiguity (it can be interesting), once it moves to obscurity and academic posturing, I just turn off. I don’t think that this is necessarily where the OCA are pushing us, but for the moment I’m learning new things and quite enjoying pushing myself out of my comfort zone, so I’m staying the course. Well done on your decision – I look forward to continuing C&N with you.

    All the best,

    • Thanks for your message, Darryl. I too enjoy pushing myself out of my comfort zone if I can see that doing so will lead me to a better place. The jury is still out on whether that will happen but I am now developing a new philosophy that is helping to make progress. Onwards and upwards!

  5. very funny, that I just came along your site, as I did pick it out of the fellow students in orer to follow some other interesting blogs. I think there is no right or wrong, studying requires a lot of time, and “sunk costs” are no argument. Just find out whether you have fun or not. If not there is still time to quit. Remeber, that steve Jobs did not have a degree, he had no time for thta becaus ehe was too creative, I will sign up and follow, Pamela.

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