Workshops and Meetings

OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting – 16th September 2017

With sixteen of us present, plus tutor Jayne Taylor, it was a packed programme of presentations and discussion. Below is a PDF of my summary meeting notes – prepared for the OCASA website.

final Version Notes for OCASA on 16.9.17.OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting

My thoughts have circled around:-

Aspects of collaboration in preparing an Exhibition – how many of the images does one make public beforehand; when and where? In talking about their individual contributions to their forthcoming Exhibition at Oxford House both Keith and Sarah-Jane talked about how they were linking in with the theme and also with each other’s work in considering details, specific parts of the building, use of light and colour.

We discussed the relationship between text and image on looking at Teresa’s work I was interested in the aspect of whose words to use – the photographer’s based on knowledge and observation of the subject or the subject’s words. What about handwritten text?  When is it more appropriate than print? Duane Michals has a singular writing style and I know I’ve queried before whether or not this is actually his own handwriting or that of someone else. Cig Harvey also uses a singular text print – printed capitals interspersed with occasional ‘handwritten’ words.

From Gardening at Night Cig Harvey (2015)

I do actually have a font of my own handwriting which I’ve used for journal entries and also experimented with as below but I don’t feel so sure about using it.


Staying with Teresa’s work  I also thought what a good idea it can be to use one image as the fulcrum around which the other images arrange themselves.

I don’t know why but David’s images of the pony drift (the annual health check and marking-up)  in the New Forest  reminded me of Appleby Horse Fair  and also the work of Joseph Koudelka. I immediately thought of Koudelka’s image of the Roma gypsy with his horse   plus there was some discussion around colour or black and white. I guess for me it’s more to do with the intention of the photographer now that there is a choice. I have always thought that the New Forest ponies were wild/free but they’re not – they’re owned by New Forest Commoners – those who live locally and have grazing rights. I think this could turn out to be a fascinating project if David develops it.

We exchanged some differing views on the value, or not, of looking at other people/s blogs and whether we could be too influenced into certain ways of working by doing that.  I couldn’t say I’m influenced in terms of being drawn towards ‘copying’ what I see but I’m certainly inspired by the work that other students create, e.g. Kate’s experiments with deconstructing polaroids and how the extracted transparency of the window in Lacock Abbey both looks like and acts as window.  Similarly, Jonathan’s mirror images where one could see subject/photographer and one’s self.  One comment made was that it was hard to know which face to pay attention to and I thought this made the work a most creative metaphor for human interaction and how much we might see ourselves in another person.

My own work presentation created some amusement when I termed it my portfolio of failed experiments! Polaroid prints where I had used colour and black/pink film; cyanotypes of scanned letters and also photographs from Egypt printed on parchment paper. I had used the different types of Polaroid film to see how they worked with different subjects.  Examples of these are on my Instagram site. On balance I prefer the colour film the black/pink film has an interesting effect but I can’t think what kind of subject to use this on at present.  I have decided that cyanotypes won’t work with the letter from Egypt and, am thinking of experimenting with parchment paper which reminds me of papyrus. I am also currently experimenting with layering old photographs and letters  onto more recent photographs of Egypt. Additionally, I began a project on the Copse which came to a surprising conclusion. In fairness to myself, I can’t count these various projects as ‘failed’ because, after all, they were experiments.  Will do a separate post soon.



Harvey, C (2015) Gardening at Night, London, Thames & Hudson Ltd

OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 15th July 2017

Attached is a PDF of the notes I made for the OCASA website as they again provided funds for tutor Jayne Taylor to join us.

Notes for OCASA on 15th July 2017 OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting

I showed the group a selection from the Cyanotypes I created at the recent Workshop I attended (see here   ) and some further experiments using old glass negatives.

The glass negatives are fascinating to work with (I’ll be unpacking some more later today) and I am continuing to upload my ongoing experiments to my Instagram account . In addition to thinking about how I can ‘present’ these variously sized pieces of work I am also thinking whether I can use  cyanotypes of enlarged extracts from my father’s letters from Egypt as development of Assignment 2.


They haven’t exposed as clearly as I would have wanted but, as John said, the other cyanotypes I am creating can be regarded as practice models and some of them are very clear.  Both he and Jayne were also interested in the small negatives I had created to use

and thought it would be good to find ways of utilising them as items in themselves.

My brain is still circling around topics to use for the critical review (Assignment 3) but keeps leaping ahead as well to Assignment 4/5 so Jayne suggested I create a mind-map. I have used them in the past but need to guard against being distracted into spending too much time making sure that the map itself has ‘correct’ links.

I also mentioned my idea for a project which will take me back onto the Copse and my intention to use wool to create work in the landscape itself. I’ve already started on this and tagged it on Instagram first as #weftwood, but then decided that #interruptedlandscape would be good as an overarching title for this kind of work. Here’s a taster video I created when I first began

<p><a href=”″>In the Beginning</a> from <a href=””>Catherine Banks</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The project will build fairly slowly according to weather conditions and I’ll be writing more fully about in a later post.

Workshop : An Introduction to Cyanotypes

Workshop with Russell Squires at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth

Russell Squires   is a photographer, based in Portsmouth, who uses both traditional and digital processes in his fine art practice.  He is an OCA tutor in addition to teaching at other Institutions. The Workshop was held at the Aspex Gallery  – a contemporary art gallery which is in a slightly hidden-away corner of Gunwharf Quays – a designer shopping outlet set in the re-developed historic waterfront of Portsmouth.  It’s a pleasant environment, especially on a lovely Summer’s day.

Russell had asked us to send him two jpegs beforehand so that he could convert them into digital negatives ready to use for cyanotypes (in fact he’d prepared two of each and explained to us that this gives a better contrast and structure) and had also prepared a set of treated paper to use (necessary given the relatively short amount of time we had). These were handed to us together with a proof contact frame to hold the prepared paper and objects/digital negatives.  Russell then quickly took us through aspects such as useful accessories; the formula/recipe for the cyanotype solution, how hydrogen peroxide can be used in one of the rinses after the print has been exposed (creates a deeper blue), the best type of brush for painting the solution on the paper (no metal parts),  and the type of paper that he uses ( Goldline Watercolour 200gsm )

We were shown how to weigh and prepare the solution (NB use de-ionised or mineral water to mix and a wooden stick – nothing metal) and then each of us prepared one sheet of paper ourselves which was then placed to dry, in a closed cardboard box to keep it in darkness,  ready to take home at the end of the day.  Next was to set up our first print, using a variety of objects and materials, place in the contact frame and then under a UV tube rather than out in sunlight.  Whilst waiting for the exposure to take, Russell told us some of the history of the Cyanotype process (John Herschel’s invention, Anna Atkins’s botanic prints) and how cyanotype prints came to be used for ‘blueprints’ and later family portraits because they were so cheap to make. Russell also showed us some of his own cyanotype  which varied from various kinds of blueprints  as here to cyanotype prints over-sewn with red thread. He also gave us names of some other contemporary artists who use the process in various ways including Stephen Turner who currently has an Exhibition of his work in the Gallery (see further information below).

Two prints were created using object/materials and then another using a digital negative.


2. After peroxide rinse


I enjoyed watching the prints emerge complete – through one water rinse, another rinse with water plus a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide, further clean water rinse and then hung to dry out.  We prepared a further print but there was insufficient time to rinse it out. This proved to be my one ‘failure’ because I left it over a day to rinse out and it came out very pale.  I actually quite liked the paleness, but have begun to colour it in using Marshalls oil pencils for a different effect.


Some Contemporary Artists who use Cyanotype Process

Walead Beshty

Best known for his work in photography but he also uses many other media in his artistic process such as travelling with unexposed transparency film in his luggage and thus expxosing it to airport x-ray scannersHe has also exposed colour photographic paper to coloured light from a horizontal enlarger and processed this with a large-format colour processor, see here

A year of artistic process captured through cyanotypes

<p><a href=”″>Walead Beshty in The Curve</a> from <a href=””>Barbican Centre</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Annie Lopez has made dresses from old patterns using material that has been printed using the cyanotype process

Rosie Emerson  mainly works on representing the female form. She creates screen prints using unusual materials and has also created hand finished prints using cyanotypes and acrylic paint see here

Stephen Turner

Turner’s multi-media work focuses on changes between human-made and natural environments. His most recent Project has been The Exbury Egg   a collaborative with Space Place & Urban Design (SPUD) and PAD Studio architects. He worked with the designers to create the Egg  which he used as a self-sustaining work space . It’s a fascinating construction, as you can see if you follow the link, and Turner used it to study the life of a tidal creek and create artwork in response.

I missed seeing The Egg itself when it was installed at Gunwharf Quays but, fortunately, there is an ongoing Exhibition Everything Comes from the Egg   at the Aspex Gallery( from June to 3rd September).  I was able to visit during lunchtime and found it fascinating.  There are many cyanotypes which he created using different materials ,such as discarded packaging, as a base plus  architectural drawings; small egg-shaped sculptures and glass jars filled with local flora.  I found it all very inspiring.


Interim thoughts

This was a thoroughly enjoyable workshop for me and I was surprised how quickly the time went by.  The Gallery was a lovely space to be in and Russell had created an excellent structure for the day – entwining creative work with information, practical skills and discussions.  I felt good to come away with completed creative work, think I now have a good grasp of how to create Cyanotype prints and am already thinking of  ways I can use them in my coursework.







OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 20th May 2017

Twelve of us met at the Phoenix Centre with tutor Jayne Taylor and we had a busy day, as usual, with a full agenda. I am attaching here the PDF of a report on the meeting which I prepared for inclusion on the OCASA website.

Notes for OCASA re OCA TV Group Meeting 20th May 2017

Here are the photographs of the day in a better resolution than on the PDF.

I realise that I’m never in any of the photographs of the day because I’m the one taking the photographs so must make sure someone else takes the photographs next time.

My thoughts on the day

I’m a member of the Body of Work Project sub-group, so I enjoyed the discussion after Teresa gave a summary of progress so far. The Long Kiln Gallery at the Maltings seems very spacious with its high ceiling and it was a shame that, due to class taking place, we weren’t able to take a photograph of the gallery to show the rest of the group.

It always refreshes me to see the variety of work being created by other members – inspiring as well. I’m still at a ‘stuck’ phase in relation to coursework for the Digital Image & Culture Module but I did feel better when I related the other photography connected work I’d been involved with – two short videos; photographs created using a Holga lens; first experiments with colourising 1940s black and white photographs; joining Instagram,  and preparing for two of my poppy photographs to be in a local exhibition.  I will write separate blog posts as a fuller record of these.

Thanks as ever to Jayne Taylor for her valuable input and to OCASA for the funding.

































OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 22nd April 2017

Talk by Photographer David George


NB (This post is an extended version of  one I created to be placed on the OCASA website)

15 of us (including two new members Jonathan and Alan) travelled to the Phoenix Art Centre, Bordon to listen to photographer David George talk about photography and collaborative practice. The talk was arranged for us by OCA graduate and TV Group member John Umney.

David has been a photographer for 40 years now and gained an MA at Sir John Cass Metropolitan University in 2009.  At that point David joined with two of his fellow students Spencer Rowell and Fiona Yaron-Field to found Uncertain States   an artist-led project that publishes a free quarterly broadsheet newspaper; holds monthly talks focussing on contemporary photography and organises/curates an annual exhibition.

Morning Session

David told us that he thinks that photography is going through an exciting time at present being freed-up to do other things now that we all have cameras.  Just as the invention of photography expanded painting into other areas of creative art (such as Impressionism) so photography, in an age where we all have cameras, can now focus on other aspects of life, such as our inner worlds. David uses landscape photography as metaphor and is very interested in the qualities of light, particularly at night and in the early morning. He enjoys working with square format, as he ‘sees’ square and I can understand this point of view because I usually prefer working with landscape as opposed to portrait format yet have noticed recently how often I use square format on my iPhone camera.

In his own work David has taken a contemporary approach to notions such as the ‘Uncanny’, the Sublime, the Pastoral  and Romanticism.  He is firmly of the view that, when editing work, one should always start with a title and then exclude any image that doesn’t fit that.  Work should also be given context otherwise you’re taking pictures. He talked us through several of his projects:-

Enclosures, Badlands and Borders  (2009) looked at the Sublime and what terrifies us now in a western post-industrial landscape.

Gingerbread House Series (2010) examined the idea of the Uncanny in the 21st Century by looking at familiar structures such as pumping stations, lodges and portaloos that are rendered somehow unfamiliar when viewed in a different way.

Shadows of Doubt (2011) captured looming buildings in haunting light evoking Alfred Hitchcok’s East End childhood. Not recreating scenes or film sets but photographing landscapes that would have been familiar to Hitchcock.

Backwater (2012) was an attempt to discover whether the Pastoral ideal can be found the present-day British countryside, or whether the traditional distinctions between the urban and the rural can no longer be found.  David’s contextual statement  reminds us of the link between the Pastoral, with its contrast between the countryside and the urban, and, subsequently, Romanticism.  He asks whether the pastoral ideal only existed for a certain strata of society, i.e. ‘the landed gentry’, and suggests, “…. perhaps if we view the English pastoral with some sense of irony, it may become more relevant to a contemporary society and seem slightly less unjust to a historical one”. These night landscapes, created over the summer of 2012, all contain some element of water reflecting that this particular summer was the wettest on record at the time. This series, with its mainly golden-brown tones, does present a still almost painted effect which is more often lit by the electric lights in the distance than the moon.

Albedo (2013) With this series, David moved on to reflect upon the differences between romanticism and the New Topographic School with its arm length view of landscape.  He finds romanticism in the man altered landscape with the use of infra-red film, whilst also questioning the notion of ‘landscape’ as being a wild and unaltered space as he explores 120 plus quarries that run over a 20km stretch of the River Wear, no longer in use, with nature drawing them back into the land.

Hackney by Night (2015) Part of a larger series created between November 2014 and July 2015 for the book Hackney by Night (2015) which deals with the notion of the “Broken Pastoral” by looking at the cultural response to the impact on the English landscape of  industrialisation and technological advances during the past fifty years.

Nine Square Kilometres (2017)  is a new series, not currently on his website, that looks at historical Peckham and will be exhibited during Peckham 24 –  a short photography festival taking place over a 24 hour (19th/20th May) period during Photo London week . The Exhibition Elsewhere has been curated by four artists from Uncertain States , including David George.


The morning session ended with a Q&A Session where David elaborated more on his approach to editing and again stressed the importance to him of contextual research, whilst emphasising that he wants people to look at his images first and then read the text at which point they go back and look at the photographs. His overall aim is to get people to think more about the world they inhabit. He is a fan of Instagram which he thinks is a good way to get your work out there and he only uses his iPhone for this.  I was pleased to hear that as only the day before I had joined Instagram here  and was already appreciating the opportunity to be more spontaneous.

Afternoon Session

To begin with David talked more about Uncertain States and how their quarterly broadsheet came about through an Exhibition. The artists who appear in the broadsheet contribute to printing on an equal basis as it supports and develops lens-based art practices that share the same approach whilst retaining individual choices of subject, visual language and forms of expression.

He then went on to give some advice about Exhibitions – planning, preparation and presentation and I attach some PDF notes.

David George’s advice re Exhibitions

The advice was most helpful given that Thames Valley Group are currently planning for our own Exhibition in 2018 but I have my own proviso that we are mainly fledgling exhibitors who are likely to start small, whereas Uncertain States are now well-practised in putting on large Exhibitions.

We then had just sufficient time for two of TV Group members to present some work and utilise the projector that Richard Down (TV group member and venue liaison) had kindly brought along for the day. Sarah-Jane shared images of her children taken during a stay in Ferentillo, Italy, where her mother has a home, so Sarah-Jane is collecting photographs of her children as they visit and grow over the years. This village not only has two great castles but also holds mummified remains in its church of Santo Stefano . For Sarah-Jane, this phenomenon links with photography and the way it fixes images in time/freezes a moment. We had a beginning discussion around the sequencing of images and her notion of transitional space between them. How does one ‘free’ images to create their own space, introduce randomness.

Johnathan, one of our new members, presented some of his Instagram images which he had used towards an Assignment around a crime scene in his Module “Expressing Your Vision”. David George made an interesting comment along the lines of “… once you put a person in the landscape the whole thing becomes about that person”,  and I immediately thought of the work of Elina Brotherus, as in her series here . David also commented about the use of hashtags as in Instagram and how this can add to ways in which an image is read.


Another interesting day which gave an excellent insight into the way a professional photographer approaches photography as a discipline. What came through to me was the way in which David George contemplates both the effects and consequences of the rise and decline of manufacturing and industry at a time when the UK has become more of a ‘Service” Economy. His approach is more scholarly and considered than political I think, in the sense that he presents us with what he sees by utilising approaches such as night photography, long exposures and infra-red that add the element of stillness/caught in motion to fix the image in front of one’s eyes. I admire the way in which he collaborates so effectively with other lens-based artists whilst retaining his own approach and vision. Uncertain States have a YouTube Channel here which includes two 2009 interviews with David and  there is also an audio interview here from November 2016

I’ve been musing on ways I can incorporate my own insights from the day in my own work. I have used infra-red photography in the past but the aspect that bothered me was the way it, somehow, makes everything so similar as, unlike, black and white photography it seems to remove shape, form and structure from an image giving more of a sense of drifting in the landscape in some indeterminate space. I have recently returned to experimenting with a Holga lens which puts back colour into the world for me yet still retains a dreamier aspect. I’m attracted also to long exposures but will have to think around that because it’s better-suited to night time perhaps which is not my preferred time of day for going out and about.

David George’s emphasis on the importance of context led me to think again on text and image – how much images might rely on textual reference to be understood and ways to traverse those boundaries between photograph as narrative and photograph as illustration. When I started with Instagram I omitted captions but viewers sometimes asked questions about images and so I’ve now begun to use hashtags.









OCA Thames Valley Group : Meeting on 18th March 2017

Eleven of us met with Jayne Taylor, our presiding tutor.

We discussed progress on the Body of Work Project which began officially on 8th March and I’m pleased that we now have fourteen members who want to participate and a new, private, Facebook group, for relaying up-to-date information plus member discussions.  Potential venues need to be researched and Dawn is currently looking at one possibility for us. In any case, we want to exhibit in The Phoenix Centre as well – probably as a taster for a larger Exhibition and, at lunchtime, we members of the sub-group looked around the Centre at available space. Jayne is very interested in our plan and gave some helpful suggestions re potential sources of funding. She also suggested that if we decide, say, to go for September 2018 instead of August 2018, we might find other Exhibitions where we might be able to attach ourselves. Jayne also suggested Artquest as a very helpful site.

There’s promising news on the proposed OCA/UCA merger. A pity that we still won’t be able to borrow books but at least we’ll be able to access online journals etc. Monica mentioned that it is possible to borrow from Farnham UCA Library for a fee so I phoned their Library. I’m able to borrow up to six books, for two weeks, for a fee of £25 per year – much cheaper than buying books! I also checked the Degree Show dates which are from Thursday 8th June to Saturday 17th June.

Work presentation:

Nine members shared work and/or gave updates on progress:


Sue is creating a calendar for Gesture &Meaning Assignment 4 – iconic film posters referenced with Lego figures in scenarios created within the home.

Dawn is continuing to work with her camera alongside studying Graphic Design.  She showed us some photographic still-life experiments based around food (floating lobsters, oranges and bananas) and how disconnected we are from it nowadays as well as giving us some interesting facts that we might not know about food consumption in the World. What was interesting for me was the difference that taking a Fine Art approach towards food photography can make to the feel and message.

Gerry is studying Drawing Level 1 and has been experimenting with blue and ochre ink wash to represent sea and sand as a base for shells and other objects. He also has some ideas for drawing food, with a move away from a traditional approach

John – having completed his Degree work (and awaiting results from Assessment) is working in collaboration with another Level 3 student, where they respond to each other’s images,  and is producing many variations on flowers including collage and origami.

Richard showed us prints from his Level 2 Landscape series on Antartica and how the impact of tourism on the environment is being controlled. He has also been experimenting with printing maps on tracing paper as an overlay for images.

Holly is preparing Assignment 3 for Identity & Place and has settled on contemplative photography. One of someone reading includes silver stitching which enhanced the effect of him being in a place all his own.

Michael updated us on progress for Level 3 and his work on hidden history. Our discussion also touched on how shining the light on hidden history might be mirrored by a psychological journey.

Teresa is also preparing Assignment 3 for Identity & Place and building a series on reading. She talked about her efforts to make them complementary despite differing environmental lighting.

Monica has now changed from Context & Narrative Level 1 to Graphic Design Level 1. She showed us an exercise on visual communication and a game she devised that involves guessing the names of ten contemporary films from line drawings and signs alone

I didn’t present any work because I’d been concentrating on reading and exercises for the moment after a recent short stay in hospital suffering from the effects of biliary colic. In fact, I’d been feeling so low that I was in two minds whether to attend the group. I’m pleased I did though because it was so inspiring to observe the richness of forms that creativity can take. I decided I must get to grips with still-life photography so have booked myself on a day workshop on product photography, on the assumption that the methods might be the same even though the effect is different. I have experimented with printing on tracing paper in the past but have bought some more as I have an idea for some work with pressed poppies which will further my previous work on Assignment 1.





















OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting on 18th February 2017

We spent some time discussing the suggested tutor brief and all present agreed that it was a helpful document.  I particularly took on board the point about students needing to be clear what questions they have in mind regarding proposed work or a beginning idea, plus what, specifically, they would like to take away from the session.

I’m a member of the Body of Work Project sub-group.  We’ve now produced a project brief for all involved and we had a very productive discussion around this.  I’m seeing this Project as very much a learning experience for me as I have no experience whatsoever in either submitting work to or setting up an Exhibition. To be honest, the idea of doing so causes me to feel quite anxious but it will be a step by step process of learning and I know that it is something I need to experience as another step towards taking myself and my work seriously. It’s good that I’ll have the support of the group and those of us who do have considerable experience.

Work presentations took up the rest of the day. I had taken the printed Blurb version of the photobook created for Assignment 2 and asked for feedback re the sizing of the book. Feedback was very useful and positive, along with suggestions that I try some full-bleed images; either have the header on every page or not at all; check I maintain the sizing of borders and to be deliberate about what I do, e.g. including a header or not.


I had actually missed the variation in headers and think it best to have none at all. I’ll take account of all the feedback when I prepare the final version of the book

Whatever its shortcomings might be I enjoyed sharing the book and, as ever, seeing and discussing ongoing work from other members.

OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting : 21st January 2017

Brief Notes:

First meeting of the year with a lot to discuss.

Further discussion on the Collaborative group project idea mooted by Teresa at our meeting last November. Encouragement and good advice from John who described his own experiences and suggested that it needs to be work that is important to you; the end goal should be clear (such as Exhibition, book, online Exhibition etc) and that it should be bound in time. Aspects covered included curation; the focus of the Project (e.g. Theme); emphasis that the project would be a voluntary one and to only include Thames Valley group members who attend meetings; should there be a competitive element; do we need a sub-group and/or co-ordinator and if there was an Exhibition we would need to provide good prints.

All of us present are interested in being involved and agreed there should be a sub-group and a co-ordinator and I volunteered to be in the sub-group. I have realised how little new photography I have created during the past few months and it’ll certainly be beneficial for me to get back to work with my camera. Teresa will be our co-ordinator and organise a meeting of the sub-group to discuss aims, content and timing of the Project and then feed this back to the whole Thames Valley group.

 There was further discussion around the kind of input we would like from our attending tutor who will be joining us again for the February meeting.

As ever it was good to see how work was progressing for everyone.  Due to my eye problem I had been gradually losing confidence and enthusiasm during last year but I was pleased to be able to say that it has returned during the past week or so since I had the cataract procedure done last December. Thankfully I’m almost at the stage of completing my Assignment 2.

One of the very positive aspects of this group is to get support and encouragement from other people and also to realise that I’m not the only one who gets dispirited at times.

OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting : 19th November 2016

OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting : 19th November 2016

Brief notes:

This was a student only meeting with eight of us there so we had a full day with discussion and then presentation of work.

I was pleased to learn that we had been granted some finance from OCASA which would enable us to have four sessions with an attending tutor up to the end of July 2017.  We acknowledged that we needed to discuss the type of input we would like from the tutor but agreed this should be put on the agenda for the January 2017 meeting.

Teresa put forward her idea of  a group-based collaboration where those of us who wished to would  produce a distinct body of work, separate from our Coursework,  which could then be exhibited in some form or other. I like the idea of that very much and already have in mind a project that would be different from, yet link with, some of the work I’ve been doing on my current Module. All present agreed this was a good idea but, again, we’ll discuss further at the January 2017 meeting.

As ever student presentations were individual, creative and inspiring. What specifically came out of them me were:

  • How the photographer can subconsciously process an image in editing to reflect their own emotion around the image (Teresa’s work).
  • In terms of editing a photobook – with a two page spread one of the photographs takes precedence so pairings are important (put forward by Michael when discussing Miriam’s work)
  • Some wonderful hand-made books from Michael which again made me wish I gave myself time to learn and practise these.
  • Two examples of the way in which ideas/concepts were turned into sculptural art/installations in their different ways. Also reinforces the importances of carrying on doggedly with a project, trying different ways to express the idea. (Work of Michael and Vicki)

I showed some small prints of work so far on Assignment 2 of DiAC.  It was good to be able to spread them out physically, explaining/making links with how I see they might fit together as on this PDF


and then have feedback, which included:

  • Create more images layering past with present as in (1) – the difficulty here for me is that I can’t visit the Derbyshire locations again for quite some time.
  • Writing layered over images as in (5) works well
  • Show just one photograph on each page for the book
  • Reference given to the work of Angela Kelly Sundays at Sea (1999-2000) 

A satisfying day with lots to think about


4. OCA Thames Valley Group Meeting : 3rd September 2016

We had a packed day with 13 members (two new) , together with our presiding tutor Jayne Taylor. Members included two UVC students, one Graphic Design student and an OCA graduate who was one of TV group’s founder members. As ever we discussed some inspiring and creative work with seven members presenting, but, in this post, I am going to concentrate on the two morning discussions.

Artists sketchbooks/paper logs.

I always have difficulty with the term ‘artist sketchbook’  as I have never seen myself as an ‘artist’ in terms of art and crafts, despite many attempts at drawing and painting classes and working at embroidery and knitting. I don’t seem to have the ability to translate what I see or envisage into a drawing or painting, just as I was never able to ‘play by ear’ even after having five years of piano lessons.  I’m not complaining because that’s just the way it seems to be for me.  It doesn’t mean that I will stop trying either, but I get so frustrated and seeing those wonderful videos on working sketchbooks etc on the WeAreOCA blog, as here, always touches that painful spot for me as do the wonderful sketchbooks I see at Graduate Exhibitions.

Early on in my OCA studies , having looked at the work of Ori Gersht, I bought his three volume, limited edition,  Artist Book (2012). Small, square blue-covered books in a matching blue slip case, together with a separate text grey booklet Gersht’s Ghosts by Robert Rowland Smith (2012). To be honest, I was disappointed at first as there is no discussion of the process Gersht used to translate his inspirations/reference material into his own work. All we see are the small images. It’s only now, looking at them again that I can see how Gersht translated his inspirations into completely different work – taking a colour tone from there, a shape from here etc.

Later on, one of Edward Weston’s Daybooks (1973) was the first  such book that gave me an insight into the way that a photographer approaches his work – his views on other photographers (he wasn’t too thrilled about the pictorialists), experimental photographs taken whilst walking and self- criticism, and the way he saw his subjects


B sat to me again: six negatives exposed, all of some value, three outstanding, but two of the latter slightly moved. However, the one technically good is the one best seen. As she sat with legs bent under, I saw the repeated curve of thigh and calf,-the shin bone, knee and thigh lines forming shapes not unlike great sea shells,-the calf curved across the upper leg, the shell’s opening. I made this, cutting at waist and above ankle.

After the sitting I fell asleep, sitting bolt upright, supposedly showing Bertha some drawings,-! was that worn out. (1973:10)

I have continued to experiment with what I call my paper log during the past few years. To begin with I used the OCA notebook (too small for my large, scrawly handwriting) then an A4  blank page notebook where I either wrote in directly or pasted cuttings, notes made elsewhere etc. However, this didn’t fit my way of thinking/learning style.  What seems to have worked for me best so far is to carry some form of writing paper or notebook with me wherever I go so that I can jot things down as I think of them. I end up with a collection of paper which I then gather together as I work on assignments etc so that my scattered thoughts become more coherent for me.  I find my iPhone really useful for quick shots at Exhibitions or paragraphs in book and also use my Pinterest Boards for visual reference.

We had a very interesting discussion in our group, sharing examples that showed a range of formats. Some members don’t use them at all, whereas others are now converts, being initially anxious about using them but then finding them very useful as a form of visual diary and record of experimental progress. The most important aspect that came through was the importance of finding a format that works as a useful tool and resource.

Jayne had brought the book Photographers Sketchbooks (McLaren S & Formhals, B, 2014) to show us and as I didn’t get a chance to have a really good look at it, I have now bought a copy. I’m pleased I did as it’s reassuring  to see such a wide range methods professional Photographers use to record concepts, experiments and progress. It certainly isn’t just about ‘sketchbooks’. In the Introduction, McLaren, refers to the way in which what constitutes photographic work as an artistic medium has changed in the digital age.  In fact even during the past five years I have noticed a change in the way that photography as an art is taught in OCA. At the beginning it seemed to be more about genres of photography, presented either as prints or in a photobook whereas now, we are also asked to look at a wider variety of presentations.

This is definitely a book I would recommend. It is divided into different sections covering Projects, Let Us Experiment and Publishing. For example, documentary photographer Peter van Agtmael shares his experience of joining Magnum and being involved in edits of others’ prints, with a comment that “… there’s always a core group of images that float to the top” (2014:26). We see him standing looking at his own prints spread out along the floor (just as can happen in TV group) . Jim Goldberg talks of his collages in Candy/A Good and Spacious Land (Goldberg et al, due June 2017),   using material from an unpublished maquette. He states

(…..) there is always a slow progression of adding and subtracting images until each one becomes whole and succinct. This revisiting and reworking of my previous images and collages allows the book to be more open and to change, the way memories do.

PS (19th October 2016) Ted Forbes also has a video on Photographers Sketchbooks on his YouTube Channel here 

Adam  Curtis The Century of Self  (2002) Documentary Series

It was suggested that we look at the first episode which can be accessed here  and I attach a PDF of my notes  century-of-self.  I was surprised how angry I became as I was shown the way in which Freud’s theories were used by his nephew Edward Bernays in America.  First to promote America’s war aims in the Press and then to turn this ‘propaganda’ into Public Relations, with an aim to earn money for himself. An example viz the tobacco industry. Smoking in public was taboo for women. Bernays spoke with A.A. Brill a psycho-analyst and then came up with the notion that cigarettes are a symbol of the penis, therefore women could have their own penis if they smoked (video at 11.22). Women were placed in a Parade, lighting cigarettes, with news spread that they were suffragettes using “Torches of Freedom” (Linking with the statue of Liberty and signifying power and independence)

In the video there is certainly a strong link with advertising. With some relief I also thought of the old adage regarding not being able to fool all of the people all of the time, although I acknowledge that advertising probably influences me when the item is something I already want but haven’t decided who to obtain it from. The narrative is constructed very tightly and is also one-sided as there are no arguments against the theories of the subconscious.  It works well in this respect I guess as such a strong argument is presented that anyone disagreeing would have to have a lot of knowledge. Doing some further checking I learned that Curtis has sometimes described himself as a libertarian, but, in this interview   he says “I challenge anyone to know what my politics are because basically I don’t have any politics.  I change my politics like most sensible people do in our present age as the facts change “.  Okay, so does this mean that he can put forward a strong, one-sided view of a situation but then later put forward a strong opposite point of view? Interesting to ponder.  Curtis also has a BBC blog expressing his personal views.


All in all an intense day with much to see and think about. At some point there will be a review of the day on the OCASA website and also Jayne Taylor has written a blog post for WeAreOCA here  giving a tutor’s viewpoint on how she sees the group working. I feel pleased that Jayne is so positive about the value of students meeting and supporting each other in this way.


Gersht, O (2012   ) Artist Book, UK, Photoworks,
McLaren, S & Formhals, B (2014) Photographers Sketchbooks, UK, Thames & Hudson
West, E (1973) the Daybooks of Edward Weston, NY, Aperture