OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting : 16th July 2016

 Seven of us met to share progress on our individual studies. We discussed:

  • Stephen has set up his own studio and showed us work he’d done with a model, where he asked her to act-out a variety of emotions, as he continues his exploration of how personality can be portrayed via portrait photography. Photographer Dawn Woolley (an OCA tutor) was suggested as a useful artist for him to research.
  • Richard has been gratified by tutor feedback on his Assignment submission and we discussed some of the feedback suggestions, including a way of separating image from text by the use of a transparent layer. Richard is now planning his next assignment and talked of his idea for a project in an area in West Sussex where the movement of a shingle bank has threatened buildings for many years and residents continue to the fight to restrain nature. We all thought this had much scope for a very interesting project.  Simon Schama’s book  was suggested as a most appropriate reference for the way in which landscape can be infused by cultural memory.  Regarding the evocation of memory, John mentioned Elizabeth Ransom and  her series Imprints  After living abroad for 15 years she returned home and used a pinhole camera created from a cardboard box (allowing light leaks and movement) to portray a warped representation of memory. From her website it looks as if she used coloured layers in processing or gels to achieve this effect
  • Sarah-Jane is currently working on a deconstruction of an advert and contemplating one by a well-known Supermarket. We had an animated discussion about the way in which food is advertised. I had recently read an online article that included comment regarding how often people photograph what they are going to eat. I have now located the article and will write further on it below because it makes some interesting points. Also a reminder, again, of Dawn Woolley and her occasional WeAreOCA posts  on advertising plus Judith Williamson’s articles in Source Magazine. There is also a 2010 book by Williamson on the same subject
  • John had asked for some time to rehearse his presentation for a forthcoming symposium on Landscape as metaphor in Sheffield. I was struck anew by the amount of creativity, thinking, hard work and preparation that has gone into his project and how this has evolved from the beginning.
  • Dawn showed us A3 prints of her triad on Plastic Vanitas. The larger size really brought out the complexity of the subject matter and allowed the eye to explore what was in the frame.
  • Teresa talked us through her current ‘block’ and then towards work she has in mind.

For my presentation I had brought the cut-and-paste montages created as one of the exercises for Part One of Digital Image and Culture. I had written about this here  and it was good to talk myself through it again. I had thought that contemporary artists had moved away from cut-and-past (apart from Peter Kennard) but John said that both Martha Rosler and Barbara Kruger were continuing with this. Subsequently I found some useful links on Barbara Kruger here   and Martha Rosler here  . There is also a lengthy interview at the Whitechapel Gallery on 11th July 2014 on YouTube .  Mitchell-Innes & Nash have a very interesting selection of Rosler’s work here  from her continuing series   House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home and Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain.  It’s quite difficult to tell on-screen whether these are digital or cut-and-paste montages but, whichever method used, they are very effective in getting the messages across.

Regarding photographing meals.: Joel Colberg writes on thoughts regarding the distinction between professionals and amateurs “based not on who or what they are but rather what they do”. The difference between professionals and amateurs in the world of photography is that the former spend a lot of time thinking about what their medium is, whereas the latter are perfectly happy to “merely” take pictures.  He then goes on to make some points on articles that tell us people have become narcissistic because they take all those selfies plus aren’t enjoying anything because all they do is to take pictures. Colberg also cites research showing that taking photos can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences because it increases engagement.

Thinking of professional/amateur then I’m obviously both – moving backwards and forwards along the range according to whether I’m in my student role or my ‘everyday life’ role, albeit with some crossover in the middle. I still don’t understand why I take photographs of meals occasionally and put them on Facebook. What message am I giving – that I enjoy food sometimes, can cook something good, my husband cooks as well? It’s a mystery to me at the moment!

The other topic in my mind goes back to my comment on John’s work because almost from the start of our meeting I had been thinking about how much research goes into all our projects and how widely this travels into so many other disciplines.  I’ve reached the stage where most of what I read and see I consider as a potential resource for photography and make notes on it.








  1. This group seems to be exponentially inspiring and fulfilling everytime you meet! That’s fantastic.
    Maybe just keep doing what you do with taking food images, with time it is possible that you see in it why it matters to you.
    And it might be an interesting database of images at some point to work with…

    Thanks for sharing what happens with the group, I always like to read it!

    Like you, everything I read seems like a possible subject, I have been reading books about physics lately and simple introductions to quantum theory, and it could to be the bridge to move from the idea of distance to the idea of fractured continuity…


    1. I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s when I feel proud that I’ve managed to cook something that looks good!
      I like the idea of the concept of ‘fractured continuity’.


      1. Do you think your food pictures reflect you and show a snapshot of where you are in your life at that particular moment in time – relaxed, social, happy, sharing etc? I too like the concept of ‘fractured continuity’ – I need to look up its proper meaning but it sums up my internal mindset at the moment to a tee – life goes on but with mental interruptions/questions/doubts along the way – could be a project in here.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m assuming you mean a project for you Carol. Yes – I was thinking about life going on despite events but, also, thinking of it more broadly I began to think of ‘self’. Did some reading around which reminded me of process of ‘self’ as a verb, ‘selfing’ so we maintain a basic sense of self but continually re-define it given experiences.Somehow or other this got me to here – https://www.bcbsdharma.org/article/some-mostly-secular-thoughts-about-emptiness/.
        Stephanie talks of it, to me, in the context of being away/back to France for a while, so I’m waiting to read how she will be using this concept for herself. Very interesting and intriguing.


    2. Thank you Stephanie for raising ‘fractured continuity’; it’s not a term I had heard before but it completely sums up where my mindset is at the moment, a very accurate descriptor.


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