Friday, 29 November 2013

Photography in a Connected Age - Study Day

I recently attended Photography in a Connected Age. A workshop consisting of lectures from practitioners of photography relating to photography in the digital age.

This event was attended by a number of OCA students as part of an official study day. We had a presentation from Roger Hargreaves who talked about the controlled use of social media by the Obama campaign using small compact cameras. He argued that it was an awareness of the importance of social media that helped Obama to win the election. The images shown during the talk gave an interesting behind the scenes insight into how much effort goes into American politics.

One of the lectures by Alexandra Moschovi seemed to revolve mostly around the use of the forthcoming Google Glass, a technology that intrigues me a little - but only a little...

Dr Loplop spoke about the spread of cat images across social media sites - illustrating how an image can begin life online quite innocuously as someones pet photo and evolve into more and more bizarrely manipulated combinations. I learnt a new word, 'lolcats' which seems to stand for cat images with funny text written across them. The talk was a strange and surreal experience but as a past frequenter of the website cats in sinks I'll think leave it there.

Jason Evans gave, for me, the standout talk - mostly about his practice. His determined energy for his work really brought his lecture to life. He seemed almost passionate and frustrated with photography in equal measure. I had always wondered what the coloured dots in many of his images were as he explained about the conceptual interpretation of the visual sparkles on water and light in a room at a certain time of day - How he liked to catch the essence of the things he photographs. His style of photography looks very fresh to my eyes and when studying other photographers (and my own) work afterwards, it can look staid by comparison. In my own work I am often drawn to this kind of image making and then frequently pull away in favour of more formal compositions. I've mentioned this before and I need to work through this and come to some sort of conclusion. As my tutor, Keith, once said, 'less is often more.'

Snippets of Evans politics and social conscience came through during the talk - he appears to have no time for the big corporations and money grabbing institutions. The teaching of photography in academia came under fire too. Being a student of photography this was very interesting to listen to obviously.

Evans spoke about the curriculum being far too narrow in its teaching. That all the universities and colleges were teaching from a set of academic ideas and theories arising from the 1970s and 80s. That they are outdated and have not moved on in their thinking. Which appears to be true to some extent. Certainly most of the critical theory for my current PWDP course contains these texts. I would argue though that as he was presumably once a student himself, then Evans has had this same foundation from which to build upon. A place is needed from which to strike out and question the nature of photography in order to move forward. As a mature student I enjoy reading these texts - it's all new to me and I get a lot out of them. Evans also admitted that he finds himself not suited to teaching in academia. That he has no interest in teaching photography using their narrow disciplines but rather prefers to help students find a way of learning a visual language in which to view the world. I think that's what he said, I was so engrossed in his lecture I didn't take any notes.

I feel I am learning a new visual language as I progress with this degree course. So, to be honest I'm not sure what he meant by that. Maybe the teaching is very different at other places. He gave a very interesting talk.

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