Welcome to my OCA learning blog:

Dear Assessors,

Thank you for taking the time to look at my learning blog.  The main headings are:

Assignments – for each of the five assignments you will find posts relating to preparatory work, the assignment itself, tutor feedback with my response and reworks as required.

Coursework – here are all my completed coursework exercises.

Learning log – this is a mixture of topics surrounding my learning and experience including self evaluations and research points. Some of the posts in here are duplicated elsewhere but I have gathered them here for your use, as representative of posts that illustrate my learning and reflection. Here is a link to my  learning log for your convenience.

Photo Practice – this is a self directed practice.

Practitioners – these posts show my research surrounding the practitioners covered in the course content as well as those that my tutor has recommended as part of his feedback.

Exhibitions – these posts show all the exhibitions and galleries that I have visited.

Books – here are summaries of my learning from essential texts.

Physical submissions

  • I have submitted a clam shell box with my final printed images for all five assignments.
  • I have submitted a sketchbook that I have used to collect ideas for inspiration, to consolidate my learning and jot down my thoughts; including mind maps and projects that may interest me in the future .


Below is a little bit about me, written when I started this course twelve months ago, in May 2016.

I am very new to photography and very excited to be part of the Open College of the Arts Photography Degree.

I work as a Management Accountant and am educated to degree level having gained a BA (Hons) degree in Literature in 2006 as a mature student. I studied for six years with the Open University, so am familiar with distance learning.

I have a job with ‘numbers’ so my creative side has been rather neglected but I really want to do something more artistic. I bought a Sony A6000 very recently, my first proper camera, and I have taught myself the basics about aperture and shutter and ISO etc. and have used ‘Photoshop’ a little, but now have an appetite to learn as much as I can.

I love to study and I love to go out with my camera. I hope to become more creative and imaginative, and I hope to improve my technical and observational skills.

Thank you




July 2017

I received an email to say my results were ready and there was a mark sheet attached with my percentage mark. It really surprised me as I wasn’t expecting result until mid August so 25th July was a bit of a surprise. I read the email while I was at work and looked at the final mark but didn’t have chance to read any of the comments so I had to wait until I got home to see what the assessors had said.

There was some not so good points like ‘some of your decisions were a little questionable and technically the work can be slightly uneven’ but I am encouraged by the fact that my fifth assignment had ‘a very definite mood and points to an emerging voice’ and if I ‘continue to work with the same dedication, we could be looking at some really interesting work in the forthcoming year’


Ok, I admit, I was a tad disappointed at first but I quickly felt better and then quite proud of myself. Percentage wise it only sounds just over half but in degree terms it is a good 2.2 so yes, I am pleased with how the year has gone and how much I have learned

My tutor acknowledged that I had gone from not even owning a camera 12 months ago to getting 57% on a degree programme and said that it ‘was quite a start!’ and was very encouraging.

For my next years blog (Context and Narrative) see the link below



Final Assessment physical presentation

Physical submission

I am including this post in the hope that it may help other students. I don’t know if I have got it right or wrong but I am pleased with my submission. If it helps you in any way then I will be pleased as it took me quite a while to determine the way forward with regards to physical presentation.

It took me a while to determine exactly what was required at assessment and I visited many stationers to source suitable presentation materials. In the end I decided on a black clam shell box A4 size and not too deep as I didn’t want my images to look lost in the bottom of a too deep box.

Below is my clam shell box and my sketchbook.

I had my images printed by Loxley Colour with a one inch border. The images were all 9″x 6″ which, with the border, took the finished size to 11″x 8″ which fitted nicely in the box. I separated the images into the five assignments and grouped each set together in a plastic folder. The folder was only closed on one long side as I didn’t want to cause the assessors the trouble of having to take them out of an envelope style folder. At the front of each set I produced a short statement of my work.

Each image was labelled on the back with my details, the course name and the image number ( 1 of 8, 2 of 8 etc).

I also submitted the sketchbook that I have been working on all year.

Below is another example of a page of my sketchbook work.

I combined the clam shell box and my sketchbook in a bag that I made with a sewn on plastic covered label to ensure that the two items were secured together as one package.

I then physically delivered my pack to the Barnsley Head Office, as I live only about ten miles from it and I wanted to see it safely delivered.

I really don’t know if I have got it right but I am pleased with my work and am hoping for the best. In a way though, I hope that I can look back in a few years time and be aware of my amateurishness as it will prove how far I have come.

The Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition 159

The Civic, Barnsley was host to the 159th Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition.  The display included work by 75 different photographers, both amateur and professional, from sixteen different countries. See the link below for more details.


There was a huge range of images and genres on display but I was particularly drawn to the images of twins. These images are by Peter Zelewski from his Alike but not alike series. With one exception all his images show twins identically dressed and, as a twin myself, this has always made me question why. Sometimes it is the parents’ choice, sometime the twins themselves, or perhaps just for the photograph. My twin and I are at pains to dress differently at all times.

Zelewski’s series of images focuses on the ‘similarities and differences between sets of identical twins’.  The series ‘highlights society’s universal fascination with identical twins and the bonds between them’  and ‘although dressed similar in all the photographs the subtle obvious differences can be seen in their expressions and stance proving that no sets twins (sic) are truly identical.” (Cowan, 2017)

I can’t begin to explain what these phrases sound like to an identical twin, or at least to me, as an identical twin. I hope to articulate my experience of being a twin, using photography, at some time in the future.

The images below were taken with my camera phone at The Civic, Barnsley and though I have issues with the presentation of twins generally, I did love these images. Please see the website for a much better experience of these pictures.


I do feel that twins provide interesting subject matter for photographers and that there is usually a curiosity from viewers. I can relate to ‘being looked at’ and I am guilty myself of scanning the faces in the photographs above searching for similarities and differences between the two people. I  do hope to be able to work in this area in the future, but from a twin’s perspective.


Cowan, K. (2017). Alike But Not Alike: Peter Zelewski explores the similarities & differences between twins. [online] Creative Boom. Available at: http://www.creativeboom.com/inspiration/alike-but-not-alike-peter-zelewski-explores-the-similarities-differences-between-twins/ [Accessed 21 May 2017].

Adrian Ashworth

I have recently been to The Civic, Barnsley to see an exhibition by Adrian Ashworth Somewhere in Time. Ashworth’s series of images show the relationship between a sufferer of dementia and his or her loved ones.

I found myself looking at the images trying to determine which of the people had dementia and assuming, I suppose, that the older ones were suffering but of course this is not necessarily the case. All the photographs were black and white and without frames; nothing to detract from the people in the image. The plain black backgrounds further ensure that we focus on the people and the positioning of people holding each other, kissing show their pain but also their love.

Below are a few images that I took with my camera phone to show the exhibition which flowed up the stairs and into a gallery on the first floor.

Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time

The exhibition on the staircase

One of Ashworth’s images on display

More images can be seen here http://www.adrianashworth.co.uk/


Civic, T. (2017). Adrian Ashworth: Somewhere in Time | The Civic. [online] Barnsleycivic.co.uk. Available at: http://www.barnsleycivic.co.uk/events/adrian-ashworth-somewhere-in-time [Accessed 17 May 2017].

Gregory Crewdson, Twilight series

Gregory Crewdson

As part of his feedback on my final assignment my tutor, Chris, suggested that I look at the work of Gregory Crewdson (Twilight)

In Crewdson’s photographs a collision between the normal and the paranormal exists which serves to transform the familiar suburban landscape into a place of wonder and anxiety (Cube, 2017)

Crewdson is  a New York photographer who has used traditional suburban settings. He says that he has:

always been fascinated by the poetic condition of twilight. By its transformative quality. Its power of turning the ordinary into something magical and otherworldly.   (Vam.ac.uk, 2017)

Crewdson focuses on twilight and its association with ‘uncanny events’ (Vam.ac.uk, 2017)  and how the apparently ‘usual’ security of suburbia can be seen as strange and unsettling. The image below reminded me of the idea that I was trying to articulate in my final assignment.

and I see similarities with one of my images, below:

 The concept of adding mystery and suspense to an ordinary scene interests me and makes me ask questions about the presentation of reality and what life is really like under the facades of normality. 


Cube, W. (2017). Gregory Crewdson: Twilight | White Cube. [online] Whitecube.com. Available at: http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/gregory_crewdson_twilight_hoxton_square_2002/ [Accessed 13 May 2017].

Gagosian.com. (2017). Gregory Crewdson at Gagosian – Gagosian. [online] Available at: https://www.gagosian.com/artists/gregory-crewdson [Accessed 13 May 2017].

Vam.ac.uk. (2017). Photographs by Gregory Crewdson – Victoria and Albert Museum. [online] Available at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/gregory-crewson/ [Accessed 13 May 2017].

Todd Hido, Homes at Night

As part of his feedback on my final assignment, my tutor suggested that I look at the work of Todd Hido and his series Homes at Night. This is a reminder of my final assignment where I took images of suburban housing that had a feel of isolation and unease.


Todd Hido

An American photographer based in California. His ‘Homes at Night’ series focuses on

the dark underside of suburbia (Artnet.com, 2017).

‘Homes at Night’ focuses on urban housing and isolated spaces. The scenes are ordinary enough but the feel is uncomfortable and uneasy with a sense of mystery. His approach of documenting the ordinariness and conformity of the housing whilst at the same time suggesting a less ordinary or unsettling interior was what I was trying to portray in my assignment. All is ‘not as it seems’ was partly my intention along with trying to document the generic character of my neighbours.

Below are four of Hido’s images and I can see why Chris has suggested that I look at them.





Hido has photographed suburbia in a  ‘haunting’ way where his  eerie exteriors project feelings of unease and isolation (Davies, 2017). Hido has used long exposures and available light, which is what I used in my assignment.
I am motivated by researching Todd Hido. I like his images and I can feel that this sense of desolation in suburbia may be something that I could pursue and develop in my studies in the future. I have enjoyed low light photography and the sense of residential mystery. 



Artnet.com. (2017). Todd Hido | artnet. [online] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/todd-hido/ [Accessed 13 May 2017].

Brucesilverstein.com. (2017). Todd Hido, Bruce Silverstein Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.brucesilverstein.com/artists/todd-hido [Accessed 13 May 2017].

Davies, L. (2017). Talking to Todd Hido. [online] Dazed. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/article/8087/1/talking-to-todd-hido [Accessed 13 May 2017].

Learning through visiting exhibitions

During the last twelve months I have been to see ten exhibitions and have documented  my visits in individual posts under my ‘exhibitions’ menu.

The Exhibitions

  • Les Monaghan, The Desire Project (Frenchgate Shopping Centre, Doncaster)
  • Martin Parr, The Rhubarb Triangle and Other Stories and The Last Resort (The Hepworth, Wakefield)
  • Charlotte Graham, The End of an Era: Big K (National Coal Mining Museum)
  • Sharon Boothroyd, They all Say Please (White Cloth Gallery, Leeds)
  • Peter Mitchell, Planet Yorkshire (Impressions Gallery, Bradford)
  • Street View (Graves Gallery, Sheffield)
  • Adrian Ashworth, Somewhere in Time (The Civic, Barnsley)
  • The Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition 159 (The Civic, Barnsley)
  • Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers (Manchester Art Gallery)
  • Anton Want, The Crossing: Remnants of Change (Cooper Gallery, Barnsley)

I feel that visiting exhibitions has enhanced my learning. I have seen a  variety of work and visited several galleries. Please see my posts for further details of my experiences.

Exhibitions visited during EYV

The Galleries

Regarding the galleries themselves, I am a bit biased in favour of the Hepworth, Wakefield as it is very local to me and I have grown to love it after seeing it under construction and being a bit unsure about the architecture at first. I was most pleased however to ‘find’ the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds as this is also local to me but I never knew about it.

Assignment two (second rework)

Crowds (second rework)

When preparing final printed images for assessment I was concerned about the break in consistency regarding this image. The image below, though it shows a ‘crowd’, it does not fit with the concept of people in a crowd and their individual daily lives that I intended.

As encouraged by my tutor I revisited my contact sheets in order to source alternative images that would convey my intention more accurately.

Final (reworked) images

These eight images are more cohesive as a set and show individuals with their own daily business, whether singing to a crowd, queuing for a bus, working on a market stall or competing in a boxing ring.

Overall evaluation

A year has passed and what a year. The camera I didn’t know how to turn on is now a way to communicate.

Overall learning journey

I have engaged with all the course exercises and submitted images for all five assignments and I have presented a coherent learning blog to document my development. I have read relevant texts, visited galleries, researched practitioners, watched a professional photographer, practiced camera techniques with personal projects, learned from my mistakes and lived and breathed photography for twelve months. I still have an awful lot to learn but I feel that I am in it for the long haul and look forward to the day when I can call myself a photographer.

At the outset I said that a motivation for me starting this degree was to ‘become more creative’. I feel that I am on the edge of something clicking in to place regarding this. I have worked hard at the creativity element and feel that I have expanded my comfort zone and am working towards improving in this respect all the time.

All in all it has been a fabulous year. The workload has been challenging but rewarding and the work that I have produced has amazed and motivated me. Many thanks to my tutor, Chris, for his feedback and encouragement.

Tutor feedback

I have always responded to constructive feedback from my tutor and have reworked as necessary in order to progress my learning. I have researched all the practitioners that Chris has introduced me to and have started to build up a knowledge of the canon of photographers to inform my learning. I have reworked assignments and learned from looking at the work of other practitioners, their images and concepts, and feel that I have gained a foundation of knowledge to allow me to move forward in my learning.  Assignment three was disappointing for me but I reworked this twice and feel that my learning was significant as a result.

My strengths

I have found it relatively easy to produce a blog of my learning, to set up a workflow and to research and reflect. I have gained an average mastery of my camera and have produced images that I hope have illustrated my desired concept each time. I do realise that creatively, I have a long way to go and I have to think outside the box in order to progress.

What I would like to develop further

I have several ideas of how I would like to progress. I would like to develop work surrounding ‘a portrait without a face’ as the research that I did around this has inspired me and interested me.  Assignment five was inspired by this interest where I took images of a local housing estate intending to learn about its residents’ personalities without meeting any of them. In addition I have an idea around ‘twin’ photography. I have seen images taken by Beesley and Daniels surrounding twins but I hope to be able to twist this around somehow, being an identical twin myself. It would be nice to work with my twin from a twin’s viewpoint and not from the viewpoint of a non-twin who is curious about ‘us’.

How I have felt about my experiences

I have had an incredible year and have learned a great deal, not only regarding technical and practical skills but in relation to concepts and practitioners. I have spent time with my camera taking images to fulfil briefs, I have spent time researching and practicing and visiting galleries to see exhibitions. In addition I have kept a sketchbook of ideas, have read essential texts and have completed all the coursework in order to progress my learning. I am not the same person regarding photography that I was. I have a long way to go but already within the first twelve months I can see how I have developed and how my learning has fueled a desire to  learn more.

Assignment five (reworked)

Assignment five images reworked

Of the ten images in my original submission, two interrupted the flow of the series as they were too obvious and had little of the element of mystery that the other eight had. For this rework I have changed images four (the window) and six (the pub) and replaced them with alternatives that capture the voyeuristic uneasiness of the project that I intended.

Image 1   f/9 20 secs ISO125 22mm

Image 2   f/9 4 secs ISO125 30mm

Image 3   f/9 4 secs ISO125 50mm

REPLACED Image 4   f/9 8 secs ISO125 50mm

Image 5   f/9 6 secs ISO125 50mm

REPLACED Image 6   f/8 6 secs ISO125 18mm

Image 7   f/9 20secs ISO125 25mm

Image 8   f/5.6 4secs ISO125 50mm

Image 9   f/9 4secs ISO125 16mm

Image 10   f/9  5secs ISO125 16mm

I can see now how the previous two images were not consistent in this series as they included interior scenes and lacked the mystery that the deserted street scenes portray. I can see an improved cohesion now that works well as a set.

Contact sheets

Assignment 5 contact sheets (final)