Reflections on The Art of Photography

As the time draws near for assessment, I will briefly reflect on my studies while doing The Art of Photography this past year. I have enjoyed the course immensely and learned a lot from it. I came into it expecting it to be a little more technical than it was, but I have really enjoyed the discoveries of new photographers, going to exhibitions (which was something quite new to me) and all the various exercises and assignments. My fellow students on the Facebook Level 1 group have been fantastic and very supportive. It is great that we have formed a bit of a cohort. I particularly like the way knowledge is shared on this group. My special thanks to fellow student, Holly Woodward for setting up the group. She has done an amazing job. My thanks as well to my tutor, Robert Enoch, for the constructive criticism of my work. Sometimes the criticism was hard to take, but in retrospect it was necessary and right. I like the freedom that distance learning affords me. I enjoy working at my own pace, although it does require quite a lot of self-discipline. So I will touch on a few points below that have stood out for me over the course of this past year. More in-depth reflections can be read under each assignments’ tab.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

My observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills have improved tremendously since the start of the course. I had a fairly good idea of composition when I started the course, but feel that with slowing down and taking my time more in setting up my shots I have taken care to check to the edges of my frame more carefully. This has now become a habit, which is a very good thing.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

During the length of the course I have become comfortable with using my blog for personal reflections. I used to set up websites in Dreamweaver for work purposes so getting to grips with WordPress’s layout and navigation was a not a steep learning curve for me. At times I still struggle to conceptualise my thoughts properly – the words are there but they just don’t want to come out in the right way, but this has improved quite a bit since the start of the course and I know this will improve the more familiar I become with reading and commenting on aesthetic aspects of photography and pick up the relevant academic language. I haven’t done any serious lengthy writing since the mid 80’s and I’m finding that I quite enjoy these reflections and analyses. I have managed to brush up my LightRoom digital darkroom skills and have seen the improvement that a little simple post processing can do to a photograph to take it to another level. My least successful assignment would be Assignment 2. Initially I had planned on doing the elements of design through landscape of Alaska, but the thought of possibly having to redo parts of the assignment forced me to change my plan and I decided to do raw materials of food instead. As so often happens in life, usually one’s first instinct is the right one and I should have bitten the bullet and just gone with the Alaskan landscape as originally intended. Notwithstanding though I do feel that I learned a few valuable lessons from my Assignment 2 about lighting and set ups. It also helped to cement the fact that I do not like still life photography, although I will still try and overcome this dislike over time. My most successful assignment I think would be Assignment 5 and it would have been perfect if I had been able to get the close up portrait images that the series lacks. Hopefully I will be able to expand the series in the near future and include those lacking shots.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

My creativity has definitely come a long way since the start of the course. This is something that I do struggle with. The assignment I had the most fun with was Assignment 4 – Apply Lighting Techniques as there was a lot of experimentation that went on, especially around the colour photographs. It was also the most frustrating assignment in that I had to do things by trial and error and a lot of my ideas didn’t come to fruition, but this was mainly due to lack of equipment and weather. I also enjoyed the narrative exercise at the beginning of part 5 in that I used abstract photograph to tell the story of my husband’s recent illness in the form of a shadow diary. A lot of emotion went into this exercise and this is the first time that I have exposed myself in such a manner and I found it rather liberating. Fellow colleagues at work follow my blog and say that they can see a change in my photography, a maturity that is emerging and I can see this too.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I have always enjoyed doing research and when I first started the course I asked my tutor what I should research. He replied to me “anything”. So I literally took him at his word and did research on anyone who took my fancy for the first two assignments. During the third assignment I took a more focused direction and concentrated on a couple of photographers that my tutor had recommended to me. However, it was really during the fourth part of the course that I realized that I should be researching photographers and artists who can direct and shape my work in the current assignment. So I concentrated on that approach for the last two assignments and found that things started to fall into place quicker and I found my work becoming a more cohesive unit. I wish I had had this Eureka moment earlier in the course, as it would have made things a lot easier for me. I was fortunate to have two of my reviews picked up and commented on by the photographer and gallery respectively. I find that when I look at images now, I am more introspective of them. I have moved past the “like/don’t like” phase and now can analyse and appreciate the different aspects of the photograph.

Finally but most importantly, my thanks to my patient family members who sometimes accompanied me on various photography outings in all kinds of weather and at all times of day, and to my work colleagues for their encouraging support and comments.

And so I move on to Context and Narrative, my next course where I hope to continue this wonderful journey into photography.