Category : Section 5 – Publication Evaluation

Looking Back and What’s Next

Having finished the module and sent off the assignment I thought that I’d take a quick look back at the module, what I’d learnt and where to go next.

Prior to beginning this module I was looking at it as a chore, not something that would interest me at all. After all, why did I need to build up a network of contacts since I had no intention of taking my work out into the wider world. Similarly, why would I want a work attachment or analyse a role within the commercial world if I had no intention of entering it.

In addition, because I kept hearing about this need for a work attachment or internship during the module, even though I knew that I could do something else it, to some extent, set me against the module to begin with.

Not surprisingly those doubts soon disappeared and I thoroughly enjoyed the module. Many of my early misgivings stemmed from the fact that I was unsure about my work even after all this time with the OCA but a reasonable mark in Body of Work did help allay some of those fears and feedback from my burgeoning network of contacts, whose benefit I’d scorned at the outset, similarly gave me the confidence to proceed. Similarly, the essay that I completed instead of the work attachment was something that I found interesting. It involved some reading and research that I thoroughly enjoyed such as Balzer’s Curationsim.

As I started the module I quickly realised that it wasn’t simply about the portfolio that I intended to present as part of the module but it was about my practice in general, how should I take my work and my interest forward as a whole. With this in mind I utilised the framework of the early part of the module to expand my contacts further and solicit feedback on other elements of my work such as Travel and Wildlife. This aspect would run parallel to the main focus of the module, the presentation of a single body of work. However, it has led to a clear progression for my interest after the course has finished.

The travel aspect has led to a burgeoning relationship with one of the travel companies such that I’ve been offered free holidays with them if I commit to creating a portfolio of images on that holiday that they can use in their marketing. They’ve already use some of my images as double page spreads in their brochures and in the national press or magazines. It might not be as prestigious as some outlets but it gives me a real buzz when I see one of my images being used as a full page spread in the Guardian or Country Life etc.

The wildlife images have led me to plan another exhibition, this time in a commercial gallery. David, my tutor, was very supportive about this, suggesting that my wildlife images looked fully professional to him with the caveat that he wasn’t a wildlife photographer. However, he very encouragingly commented that they, to his eye at least, would not look out of place on a gallery wall among professional images.

As far as Virtual Boundaries is concerned, I’d like to take this forward and create a larger body of work looking at a number of different aspects of Windsor Great Park. This would include such things as ongoing conservation, the wildlife including the rare plants, the people who work there etc. I’d also like to write some essays to go with them covering similar subjects and also look at how people perceive areas such as the Park and include historical anecdotes. I’d envisage expanding my website to include these elements and, possibly, produce a book to complement the site which I’d market locally.

These plans to take it forward are something that I might try to approach through a Masters course with the OCA but that’s just a stray thought a the moment and I haven’t thought it through yet nor approached the OCA to see if it would be a feasible subject for such a course. Besides, I need to wait until my results come through for SyP!

Anyway, that’s it for now after a really enjoyable and rewarding few years with the OCA. Many thanks to all at the OCA that have helped, from the tutors to all of the staff at the head office.

Preparing for Assessment

So it’s the final assessment of the course and, as usual, I’ve been debating what to send and discussed this with David, my tutor. He suggested that I look at Peter Davies’ PhD submission which I mentioned earlier and use this as a template for a document to submit. This details Davies’ approach to a project, similar in concept to Virtual Boundaries.

In his PhD thesis he looks at the meaning that landscapes and forests in particular have to people and his methods for creating a portfolio of images that reflect this. His approach to the images was similar to mine in the sense that he repeatedly visited locations to get the correct light, composition and depth of field to create a consist but accurate representation of his theme. In addition, when he came to exhibit the resultant portfolio he avoided frames and glass, believing that they would create boundaries.

I followed this approach and create a lengthy (55 pages) document which explained the theme of Virtual Boundaries as well as my journey through the module. It wasn’t as much of a chore as it could have been since much of the material already existed in these blog posts. I had this hard bound in the same format as my Contextual Studies essay/thesis so it has a consistent look and feel.

I debated that CS essay for a while and decided to send it with the submission but clearly marked it as background material. The reason for including it was that I refer to it on a number of occasions throughout the SyP document. Since I couldn’t cite it properly as it wasn’t online anywhere and hadn’t been published I had to include it as a reference source. In addition I’m hoping that it shows that I treated the three Level 3 modules as a coherent whole, with each module dependent upon, and linked to, the other nodules. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this doesn’t conflict with any regulations but, since I’ve clearly marked it as background material it should be OK.

Following David’s advice I’m also including two sample images from the exhibition to demonstrate the quality of the printing and of the mounting and I’m also including the information board that I created for the exhibition. This board had my photo on it together with my bio, background information explaining the concept of Virtual Boundaries and my artist’s statement.

I know that we upload a course evaluation to the G: drive but I’ve printed out a slightly longer version to include in the submission. I just wanted to explain how I felt about he module, how I’d developed throughout it and what I’d gained from it.

In addition, I included examples of the advertising and marketing material such as the business cards and fliers that I used.

So in the end the assessment package consists of

  • a contents list
  • a hardbound book which details my journey through the module and background on the theme of Virtual Boundaries
  • the essay from Contextual Studies – clearly labelled as background material and not part of the submission itself
  • a brief evaluation of the course and my approach to it
  • two sample mounted prints from the exhibition to demonstrate the quality
  • the information board used in the exhibition which has my bio, background information to the exhibition and my artist’s statement
  • examples of the business cards printed for the exhibition
  • examples of the fliers printed for the exhibition
  • printed examples of the adverts that appeared to advertise the exhibition

So that’s it!! All packaged up and sent to the OCA. Now all I have to do is wait. I need 47% (I think) to get a 2:1 after all these years – let’s wait and see.

Assignment – Publication Evaluation

The very last assignment of my very last module of the my degree course with the OCA can be found here. It feels strange to be typing that. Much of the detail in it can be found in this blog in various entries but it was interesting typing up my experiences in that way. It made me think about various aspects that I hadn’t appreciated until I actually started writing them down.

The feedback from David, my tutor, was fine. As he said, it was a thorough account of my experiences in presenting my work which, to me, is exactly what the aim of the assignment was.

He suggested the addition of a section on what worked and what didn’t work in the exhibition and this I’ve now added. For example, he suggested that I discuss whether the decision to mount without frames was correct. For me the answer to that was an unequivocal “yes” though I have to admit that when friends have subsequently had them framed behind glass they do look good. However, framing an individual image in a home is on thing but an individual image is just that, a single image when the image is more important than the theme. In the exhibition, when all of the images are on show, the connecting theme of the virtual but boundaries that can be traversed is more important and the frames would have obstructed the presentation of this theme.

Another area of discussion that I hadn’t included was the lighting which I felt was good, as did many of the comments received. It was very adjustable with just one image slightly shadowed but I’d made sure that it was the most suitable image for that spot.

I had to smile when David also suggested a comment about the size of the images since I’d originally being going for a smaller size until David himself warned me that images always look smaller on a wall. He was right and I was very glad that I’d taken his advice.

One criticism that he did have to begin with was because of a couple of photographs that I’d included of visitors to the exhibition. He felt that I’d placed the images too high for the average height of a visitor. I had to laugh and explain that both of the people in those images were around 5′ 3″, well below the average height! At that he agreed that they would be at about the correct height. I won’t post those images here to avoid embarrassing my vertically-challenged friends 🙂

In the tutorial we went on to discuss what I should send up for assessment but I’ll cover that in another post when I’ve sent the package off to the OCA.

Exhibition feedback

Before the exhibition I felt that obtaining feedback was going to be an important aspect of the event but couldn’t decide how best to approach it. My favourite option was to have a large cork board or similar with a large supply of brightly coloured Post-Its and pens to enable comment to be left in this way. In theory this would have worked well and I did set it up at the beginning but I realised before the exhibition a slight flaw with this plan. The Arts Centre is next door to a college whose students use the bar area for coffee breaks or for after-college drinks. Whilst a number of the comments left were appreciative, many of the students did exactly what I’d have done as a student meaning that the board wasn’t going to be of much use!

In addition, most of the respectable comments were along the lines of “Beautiful images” or “Lovely work”. Whilst very much appreciated and flattering these comments weren’t going to be of much help in planning future exhibits.

Of more use were the comments that were left on the website exhibition comment area whose URL was on the information board. When I was around and talking to visitors I took to pointing them in the direction of this contact form and asked if they would leave a comment if they had the time and inclination. The comments solicited in this way were far more constructive, nearly all were complementary but many had suggestions on things that would have worked better. Some of which I agreed with and some that I didn’t but all had merits.

Generally, the venue was well-received but there were one or two suggestions regarding the positioning of the images and of the information board. The latter was placed near the door that led to some of the other areas so that most of the people passing through could read it and, hopefully, be encouraged to stop. Some of the comments wanted a start point and a sequence to the images so felt that the board should have been at the beginning – even though I had deliberately not created a recommended path or beginning. I’d felt that this was contrary to the idea of exploring, if I created a path through the images then it was no different to creating a boundary to the exploration of the area.

Another suggestion that cropped up was to have more information with the images, the location and the time/date of the image. Again, this was something that I’d deliberately avoided for the same reason. If I’d told people where the location was then they would go there, much as they would find the location when photographed and uploaded to Social Media. When I explained the reasoning most people came round to my way of thinking but, of course, not everybody felt that it was the correct decision.

On some days there were more tables and chairs in the main room than I would have liked. This was largely due to the fact that some groups such as a language class might use part of the room for their chats and the chairs were placed accordingly. That was the negative aspect, the positive aspect being that the presence of these groups introduced more people. I even heard one of these groups discussing my images in Italian as part of their practice!

I’ve included one of the more extensive comments below as an example of the type of feedback obtained when solicited.

Venue The choice of what is in effect a licensed coffee bar was a particularly good choice for capturing the attention of a broad range of visitors. The converted old fire engine station has a welcoming ambience which encourages chance visits from people of all ages. Being distinctly not a pub meant that it was also attended by families some even with small children. Its position on St Leonards Road was great for passing footfall.

Presentation The display of the photographs around the walls encouraged you to walk around the different areas which served to provoke discussion with others also viewing the pictures. However, sometimes the presence of occupied chairs and tables proved an obstruction and occasionally prevented as close an examination of the photographs as might have been ideal.

Concept of photographic content The idea of going to a well known geographic location but then seeking out pockets of otherwise unexplored territory was quite thought provoking and it has inspired me to do the same since. When visiting paths and woods I know well I have deliberately chosen to follow unfamiliar paths to unfamiliar places.

Images I really liked the different natural light that was captured by the photographs. Without the inclusion of classic dramatic landscapes to make each picture interesting, the scenes caught your attention through the way that the natural light illuminated the various images.

This type of feedback was extremely encouraging and the above was far from an isolated case.

Another item of feedback that I found extremely heartening was from the Director of the Centre

 “Hosting Gaz’s exhibition at The Old Court was a real pleasure and working with him was a delight. The photographs were beautiful, and enhanced greatly by the clear and helpful description and explanation of his work. The result was well-received by the general public, and much comment and interest was made and taken in the works which helped provoke thought around these less obvious aspects of Windsor Great Park. I would welcome Gaz back to The Old Court most happily.”

In summary I couldn’t have been happier with the feedback and to get an endorsement from the Centre was unexpected.

However, there was one anecdotal piece of feedback that hit home far harder then any of the complementary or critical elements referred to above. I wasn’t present at the time but some of the staff at the Centre mentioned an elderly gentleman who had seen the exhibition advertised in the local paper. Now in a wheelchair he was unable to visit the Park as he had done in the past, just wandering and exploring the lesser used areas, much as I was encouraging people to do. He’d asked his daughter to bring him to the Centre so that he could see the images of the places that he so missed. According to the staff who helped him get closer to the images the memories came flooding back to him, he couldn’t stop talking about the area and his memories of it until all of those present could feel the same emotions. He, and many of the others, ended up with tears in their eyes, in a good way, from the memories that my images brought back.

If that wasn’t a worthwhile reason to have created the exhibition then I don’t know what would be!

After the Exhibition

My first ever exhibition is over and, contrary to my misgivings at the start of the module, it seemed to go very well. The feedback was, in my view at least, excellent but, more importantly, I actually enjoyed it – something that I would have found inconceivable a few months back.

There’s really not much to add to the previous post that described the installation and the early days but one problem did arise. Some of the images, particularly those in the bar area, tended to warp slightly. Most people wouldn’t have noticed but, to my eyes, it was a disaster!

The temporary remedy was quick and simple. I just needed to take the image off the cables and it lie flat on a table for 3 or 4 minutes then put them back – that’s all it took, but it was still annoying as I had to do that two or three times for the affected images. I think that it was caused by the temperature since the affected images were the closest to the heaters.

Obviously, if I’d framed the images behind glass this wouldn’t have happened but I’m still of the opinion that the images, or at least the theme, worked better without these artificial “boundaries”.

On a couple of images I tried putting vertical battens on the back which worked well. The battens were invisible, added a little extra stiffness but were unobtrusive.

In hindsight I think that I should have gone with the 5mm Foamex instead of the 3mm that I originally selected. It would have supplied that little bit of extra rigidity and the extra depth of the blackness on the side view might have enhanced the floating impression but that’s a minor improvement.

I was “in attendance” on most days even if it was only for 30 minutes at a time and found it fascinating to watch people as they moved around the rooms. Sometimes I’d just listen as they talked to other visitors, on other occasions I’d introduce myself and chat about the images and the theme in general. People were universally friendly when I took this approach and were happy to comment or criticise constructively. It was interesting to listen to other peoples’ interpretations of the images, sometimes very different to mine or just surprising.

Back in the days of the Documentary module I wrote an essay about the “Reflexive View”, discussing how a person’s experiences or cultures led them to perceive things differently, whether as a photographer or as a viewer. The different interpretations that I heard would have been excellent examples to use in that essay.

Due to commercial regulations associated with photography on Crown property I wasn’t allowed to sell my images at the exhibition or, more accurately, I hadn’t applied for permission to do so, mainly because there was a licence fee to be paid and I didn’t want the distraction of commercial licencing during the preparation for the exhibition. Instead, after the exhibition, I simply offered the mounted images to friends who’d visited the exhibition and all of them were snapped up quickly. Some of them have been framed behind glass and I have to admit that they look good in that form. However, they definitely do create a boundary which is totally acceptable for individual images (because the theme has been removed) but I still don’t think that frames would have worked when all of the images were being displayed together. When together the theme was apparent and the images worked well together, frames on all the images would have separated them, creating boundaries between them, instead of being able to view them as a consistent and integrated whole.

In summary, I had a great time, I really (unexpectedly) enjoyed putting on the exhibition and felt that it was well appreciated, both by the Centre and by the visitors. Indeed, the director of the Old Court has already asked me to produce another exhibition due to the success of this one – I don’t think that I can get a much better endorsement.