Well, it’s time to submit all of my work and then sit back over the summer and contemplate what I can do with my cameras that is interesting and captures my imagination.
This post is a quick look back at the academic year and see what has gone well for me and what I’ve learned about photography, myself and others.
By far, the biggest part of the year is my Year Long Project which can be read about in this post which documents my project from it’s initial genesis in a brainstorm and chance encounter with a piece of art in the Tate Modern that set me on the path I followed. As you can read in that post there were many times I did a handbrake turn to change direction and a number of dead ends I turned down as well as a few open roads that I didn’t have time to explore but remain in the sat nav for me to go on a road trip in the future.
The year long project has been difficult to do as I usually just take photographs and don’t do any manipulation other than some small adjustments in lightroom. Going full maker on these images was something I don’t normally do but was an enjoyable experience. The research I found along the way was also inspirational and I’ve picked up a few books for my shelf too that will help in the next few years. The result of the YLP are two 12×12″ images that will be physically submitted as well as a digitized copy of them in a power point slide set.
The contextual work we’ve done with Alice, the essay and exhibition review as well as the tasks from the different seminars on artists, their methods, their ethics, their reasoning and multiple other considerations we must think about as a photographer. Some of the tasks have been full on making tasks as the images I transferred onto tiles and leatherette as well as the surrealism photo series in which I wiped myself out of existence in a mirror. Again, some of this academic writing in the essay and exhibition review is new to me but I dove in with all the effort I could afford and did my absolute best to get a good indicative grade. This work appears to have paid off in the progress reviews I’ve had and I’m pleased. I didn’t join this course to simply scrape through with a 40% pass and not make the most of the opportunities that would be presented to us. At time it has come across like I am a big swot who asks lots of questions in the classroom and engages with the discussions as required. I’ve spent many years in the past, sitting back and not asking a question but since I’m getting older I find that any question I ask might not be a silly one. If I do say something dopey I am also self deprecating about it too. I’m not frightened of criticism or ridicule. There was one session where I referred to Adolf Hitler twice and afterwards wondered if my classmates might think I was a closet neo-nazi.
Some of the posts that refer to the seminars, tasks, reflections and responses can be found in my blog and if you want to read them feel free to have a scroll around or even use the search box to search for anything that interests you particularly.
I’m learning to be an artist, I know I’m a photographer and I have also got a history of being creative but Impostor syndrome has been a part of my first year, (last year) and I’m getting over this now. Conversations with Alice and Niki in particular have teased concepts, thoughts, ideas and opinions out of me that were bubbling along under the surface but needed to be teased out to allow me to recognise why I was doing something in a particular manner. The YLP is a good example of what the disassembly and reassembly meant to me as an engineer with a curious mind as to how things operate. Conversations have helped me make sense of these thought processes and I;ve learnt a great deal about how to unlock these thoughts and to not be scared to write them down for making sense of at a later date.
In terms of engaging with the wider school of art, I’ve pushed myself out there a bit more this year too. I’ve volunteered for the SpacePlay Easter Egg Hunt, Print Club, work for the FABSS Voice magazine, a photo walk with Black Country type, visiting the exhibitions for the L4 and L5 Fine Art and photography students, the exhibition at the Wolves Gallery of work by lecturers and the trip to London. I’ve also gone out of my way to create a zine based on my car park images, which I self published and then created a Riso printed zine for use in the book binding workshop we did with Jim.
Building up the relationships with Jim Abernethy, Laura Onions, Simon Harris, Claire Buckerfield, Tim Baker, Tom Hicks, Maggie Ayliffe and students in different years and different parts of the School Of Art has left me feeling more involved in the SoA as a whole, whereas last year I was a little disconnected as a Part Time student. Going the extra mile has helped me with my confidence and experiences and will pay dividends in the future years.
I’ve had plenty of opportunity to get out and make photographs, I’ve visited several exhibitions throughout the year and I would not have been as keen to do this before the degree, I would have thought it wa above me and imposter syndrome would have stopped me. I’ve used all sorts of digital cameras, film cameras, pinhole cameras, old vintage beasts, medium format, 35 mm and even drone photography. Some of them have landed up as videos published on my Youtube channel which you can view on the link at the top of the page.
The content of the photographs I’ve taken throughout the year have also been more varied and I have found myself with images of buildings from more unusual angles, more stylised street photography and more considered general landscapes for example.
I’ve suffered from Covid again this year, twice which impacted my studies a little but I caught up relatively quickly. There have been a couple of strikes by the staff, for valuable reasons, that have caused some sessions to be disrupted but that’s understandable.
There are some of my classmates that are not trying hard enough and a majority who are doing really well and showing excellent levels of commitment. The rare people not putting in as much effort as they should have that right and I’ve talked to them briefly as to how they can make improvements but when I see excuses and blags, I find that I will step back and help those around me that are really trying hard to succeed. It’s not easy though. I’d like to help everyone to get through with the best result possible and will go out of my way to assist them but one can only go so far, you can lead a horse to water as the old saying goes.
My Dad also died in March 23 which was a big load on top of what I was already doing with the essay and other workload. The strange thing about him dying though was that I had my camera with me to document the events leading up to and after his eventual death. I have been known to take photos of my kids in the hairdressers chair, the dentists chair, the casualty bay etc but I would never have been as blunt as to take pictures at such a sensitive time and location as at the side of my Dad’s death bed. This curiosity and a need to document these important moments has been exacerbated by the studies we’ve done throughout the year. With some of the photographers capturing very personal images that proved to be important historically and contextually I almost felt it my duty to capture Dad’s final moments and transition to non-existence, especially after I had been capturing him in his previous few years of decline and strife. It would have felt like an unfinished symphony somehow.
As a result of preparing for the essay and exhibition review on top of the contextual tasks, I’ve found myself watching a few documentaries and youtube videos about photography, and also art which I’ve not done before starting this course. I’ve developed an interest in finding out more about methods, and meaning of artists works which has helped me with my own practice.
I’ve built up a collection of photo books and also some books on photography as a result of the written work. I;ve also learnt more about Google Scholar, Browzine, the Library Catalogues and a whole host of resources that are available in the Harrison Library.
Overall I think I’ve practiced a lot of experimentation this year, engaged with riso printing, intaglio printing and silk screen printing, volunteering and involvement with school events. I’ve contributed to the Student Profile on Instagram for Wlv_soa, the student magazine, documenting the easter egg hunt for spaceplay and producing some wonderful colour and black and white prints in the darkrooms.
I’ve gained more appreciation for the settings on the cameras and in the processing of the images as well as more knowledge of lighting and studio photography, although I haven’t done a huge amount of this in the last 9 months.
Some of the prints, the zines and other work I’ve produced are for sale on eBay and etsy and maybe this is the start of a professional career as an artist. It’ll take along time to get there but who knows. I know the more effort and time I put into these exercises results in products that I’m proud of and am happy to share with others.
Once I receive my results for the work I’ve submitted I will share them on here too and discuss my thoughts and feelings about them but overall I’ve had a productive, insightful and thought provoking year. I’m looking forward to the next four years but sometimes wish I could jack in my day job and just complete the degree in the next two years. Needs must as the devil drives though eh?
thanks for being a part of my journey this year, I don’t know if anyone reads this stuff, maybe it’ll help me in the future, looking back at how my development occurred. It might even help other people in my position as a mature student with imposter syndrome to make the leap and get back into education.