I have been reading a number of threads on the OCA Site recently which, have really brought home to me what I should be thinking about when making photographs for exercises and assignments and how I should consider my developmental pathway.  Much of the enlightenment has come from comments made by CliveW for which I am very thankful and would like to document his comments and some of other contributors here.

The following are found on the thread:

The first relates to development as one progresses through the course:

CliveW: “One of my personal rough models is that at Level 1 you’re discovering that you can have a ‘voice’, at Level 2 you’re looking for it, at Level 3 you’re using it.”

This makes sense to me and I will bear it in mind as I go on.  However, more importantly is:

Peterjh: (
”The best way to go about all the assignments is to find a way of using the technical requirements to enhance the content/meaning or whatever of the images rather than simply look around for some images to illustrate the techniques.”

CliveW:  ‘
I was thinking that by the end of the module you understood landscape as metaphor, even if you didn’t exactly think of it in those terms. But you’d journeyed to a more sophisticated understanding than ‘hello clouds, hello trees, hello sky!’

The difficult part, the quest of discovery, is finding out what you want to photograph…’ ‘…and, crucially, asking yourself why?’

A fellow student (Michael Millmore) summarises his thoughts well in a subsequent comment.  My thoughts are VERY similar.

As mentioned at the start of this note, these comments have made me realise what is required.  Previously I had in mind to use flowers for my colour assignment where I could find the appropriate colour combinations.  This is not enough.  I need to look for instances where the photograph stands on its own and the colour or combinations of colours enhances it.  Now the big question is can I do this?  I am not so sure at the moment.  I understand the concept, have reasonably mastered the technical aspects of making a photograph, but can I implement these aesthetic elements successfully?

These are the challenges ahead and I hope that I can progress through this and other courses conquering them and progressing.


About Doug Bell

Having recently retired I am now undertaking some studies in photography through the OCA which, I hope will lead to a degree in photography.
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1 Response to Clarity

  1. CliveW says:

    ‘Previously I had in mind to use flowers for my colour assignment where I could find the appropriate colour combinations. This is not enough. I need to look for instances where the photograph stands on its own and the colour or combinations of colours enhances it.’

    Good thinking Doug. I actually suggested to Michael Freeman, half joking, that flowers should be specifically banned from this assignment. There’s nothing more dreary as a tutor to have to review picture after picture of, ‘this is a blue flower with a yellow flower, this is a red flower with green leaves’, etc etc,

    It does little to advance the student’s image making abilities and as a tutor there’s not a lot one can say about them, apart from pick up on technical failures, because they have no message, other than describing the flowers in a very generic way that doesn’t express the photographer at all. The exact equivalent of such pictures can easily be found on Google many times over, making them redundant for any purpose other than meeting an assignment criteria.

    To my way of thinking not all photographs deserve the epithet of image. To be elevated to that status the photograph needs to represent something more than it describes; in other words it needs to stand as a metaphor for ideas and/or emotions that are superior to what is physically described.

    You see slick, highly, polished photographs on Flickr that are ultimately hollow because they lack that transcendent metaphorical quality. They’re genre pictures that the vox populi celebrate, the equivalent of easy listening lift music, but we are aiming for sophistication of meaning not execution.

    The only way to truly achieve an understanding of this, to properly harness the potential power of imagery, is to keep shooting, reviewing and thinking. The answer can’t be found in books because every photographer discovers their own answer.

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