Reflections on Context and Narrative

The Context and Narrative module has been an excellent course and a highly enjoyable period of learning and development. Realising just how critical the elements of context and narrative are allowed my photography to become increasingly more specific and refined as I progressed through the course.

Initially important milestones were assignments 2 and 3 which prompted a deeper level of thinking along with a number of key exhibitions I attended; William Eggleston at NPG, an OCA study day Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970s at TPG exhibition and the UAL Graduate exhibition Black Blossoms were all very influential. 

Another turning point was the Performing for the Camera exhibition at Tate Modern; what was significant here was an annoyance at myself for not gaining more from the experience. I rushed the morning as I also had work commitments but from that point onwards I became much more intense in prioritising the course.

From this point onwards my research and photographic work in general found a much clearer direction and I began to feel that I was building on a solid foundation.

I was now adding layers of knowledge, research, experience and my personal perspectives were developing and I really enjoyed this; I seemed to be able to work for longer and the course became a part of my everyday routine.

I worked hard to improve my technical output so that I could articulate ideas and begin to genuinely communicate visually through my photographic practice.

I have enjoyed the beginnings of being able to make visual images that work and make sense.

I think most of all I have enjoyed finding out that I have my own interpretation of reality whilst learning to question the interpretation of others’.    

Another major change has been to participate more actively with other people and groups such as the OCA forum, study days, external galleries and artists. This has helped my confidence and knowledge grow and has also engendered a comfort in seeking out critical feedback that is now an invaluable part of my creative process.

Equally I have also grown in confidence in my ability to make artistic decisions and to be fully committed to my best intuitive instincts.

The highpoint was concluding assignment 5 and then being able to show the work in a members exhibition at the Ort Gallery in Birmingham (see next post). This experience opened up a whole new perspective for my work.

The thought of making photography and art for people to see, think about and consider is genuinely exhilarating.

I also reached out to Susan Gardiner the author of the book “The Wanderer – the story of Frank Soo” (2016) (my original inspiration for assignment 5) who returned with the following message to myself,

“Allan, apologies for not replying before but I’ve only just spotted your message. Thanks for sending it. It’s wonderful that Frank is inspiring other people in this way. You can get in touch with me by email, history and football are my great interests so more than happy to help with your future projects. Regards, Susan”

I want to leave as many doors open as is possible and just keep soaking up new ideas and information to see where this takes me. I have also learned the benefits of true reflection and how thoughts and ideas develop and change over time.

I am again taking lots of images, making pictures and practising my photography and I am really enjoying that and working hard to recognise the balance between reading and practical development.

I now feel much more capable and confident in my photographic practice but I maybe still need to work to really understand how to structure the learning log so that it perhaps becomes more of a journal than a textbook, and properly reflects the broad development which actually takes place.

I am perhaps more than ever motivated and enthusiastic about progressing forward with this OCA photography degree course.

Thank you

Allan O’Neill

PS: I would like to make a personal thank you to my tutor Wendy McMurdo who has been a fantastic mentor throughout and her professionalism and approachability have ensured that I have remained challenged throughout whilst having the confidence to progress and enjoy the course.

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