Getting Started

Following a rather mad clamber to get my ‘The Art of Photography’ (TAOP) coursework (online and offline blog) compiled and ready to be shipped to assessors by the end of September, my intention was always to enjoy a relaxing couple of week’s time off from OCA work at the beginning of October.  A few days of thumb twiddling later however, it didn’t take long for me to start chomping at the bit to begin my next course again so delivery of ‘Context and Narrative’ made it through my letterbox in the second week of October.

I’ve now spoken to my tutor on the telephone (who sounds great!), read the ‘Introduction’ section of the course materials, set up this new on-line blog, and planned some provisional assignment submission dates. I’m determined that after the rather pressurised end to TAOP, this course will be all about good study planning, allowing plenty of time for reading and research, and gradually building up my blog so it appears completed as if by magic in 12 months’ time. I shall look forward to reviewing this early reflection (hopefully without snorting in a ‘yeah right, that was bound to happen !!!’ kind of way too much).

Provisional submission dates are:-

  1. Assignment One – 16 November 2015
  2. Assignment Two – 1 February 2016
  3. Assignment Three – 4 April 2016
  4. Assignment Four – 6 June 2016
  5. Assignment Five – 8 August 2016

Reading through the course introduction, I noticed there was a lot more emphasis on preparation and planning than in TAOP which I think is a real improvement. I took some time to read the OCA Study Guide ‘Introduction to Studying HE’ which was very comprehensive and covered almost every aspect designed to help students. The key messages I’ve taken from reading this are:-

  1. Time Management : ‘Make use of short periods when they become available, such as waiting at the doctors/dentist, commuting, tea breaks’; ‘Consider loading any useful audio files or e-books onto your portable digital devices (e.g. mobile phones) so you can access them when you have a spare moment’;
  2. Reduce Stress : ‘Look around you – Consider what you can do to change or control the situation’; ‘Set realistic goals – Can you reduce the number of events going on in your life?’; and ‘Work at stress reduction – Increase your efforts at time and project management’. Like every other OCA student working full-time, this is incredibly valuable advice;
  3. Reading guidance :- ‘Discover the best time of the day for reading. Experiment to see which time suits you best’; ‘Be realistic about how long you can concentrate for and tell yourself you’ll stop at a certain time’; and ‘Avoid surrounding yourself with too many books, magazine or articles and putting yourself under pressure’. (I really suffered from the latter in TAOP – for this course I want to attempt to be methodical and focus first and foremost on links from the course materials this year rather than cram everything I spot in any magazine into my blog, just for the purposes of including it.)
  4. Critical reading checklist :- When reading texts you should take into account details of the source in order to take a suitable level of influence from it, in particular the publisher, the author, the context (‘When was the text written and for what audience?’), the main argument, how well the argument has been constructed; and are the conclusions justified. (I have kept a separate copy of this list handy to refer to when looking at different sources).
I also looked at Bridgeman Education and Oxford Art Online libraries. The Bridgeman site was extremely frustrating in terms of speed and it didn’t seem to bring back many articles or photographs even when adding fairly popular photographer names into the search engine. Oxford Art on the other hand looks to be a resource I will use frequently, especially to look for summary biographies for photographers; it seemed very comprehensive (and much quicker!).
One of the best pieces of advice I have gleaned from this introductory material is the video review by a tutor of a photography student’s notebook learning log. The student was Rob Brisco and some images of his notebook are shown above. The tutor loved the ‘physicality’ of his notebook – the attached excepts, postcards, pull-outs, which gave him a real pleasure in reading and handling the log. He also highlighted that the blog contained a number of short reactions to images spotted or ideas thought up by the student, which indicated to him that this was a notebook that was carried everywhere and effectively contained all his thoughts through the course. I also was really impressed by the layout and as such plan to start my own in addition to this on-line blog.

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