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a wee peek….

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
I thought it was about time I engaged in some light industrial espionage. The undergraduate students who work on the other side of the large sculpture court from us post grads in the centre of the Edinburgh College of Art are constantly required to put on  short pop-up exhibitions as a way to punctuate their learning, a little like your assignment deadlines I suppose.

In Scotland, artists do a four year degree with no foundation course beforehand so when the second year students put up a display of their work I thought that they would probably be the most interesting for OCA students to see as a potential peer group. OCA is an open access college which is a vitally important and hugely valuable aspect to its work. It does mean that we have perhaps a much wider variety of learning journeys running alongside one another. When you look at your fellow students’ work, or that of students on full time courses, you need to bear in mind your own trajectory as it were.
Having said that, ECA has quite a number of mature students and people from different walks of life. At the end of year two they have had a go at all the different disciplines and have spent their first year in their specialism and as such they present an interesting case study for you.
I was particularly interested in Irina Cucu’s Creatura, (above). I like the fact that the person appears to be a man, drawn by a woman and that the classical reference is nicely subverted by this rather elegant role reversal.

Hannah Ustun’s ‘Passport Control’ portraits of rather similar looking young men were covered in a thick slab of resin. Again she seems able to let the materials do the talking and leave the viewer free to make associations. This idea could easily have been overworked but hasn’t been.
Here are a few more of my photographs of the students’ work. I apologise for the quality – I am still waiting for the camera fairy to leave me two grand’s worth of kit plus an idiot’s guide.

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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24 thoughts on “a wee peek….

  • Emma you write … “I am still waiting for the camera fairy to leave me two grand’s worth of kit plus an idiot’s guide”
    As a photographer, I would like to point out that you don’t need “two grand’s worth of kit”, a suitable camera could be bought for much less. You might also need some kind of camera support.
    The Idiot’s Guide might help though you are obviously not an idiot. The completely accurate reproduction of colour and tone is virtually impossible if only because different media (i.e. print and screen) make things look different.
    It would also involve a certain amount of skill which artists often need in abundance and photographers can not do without.
    Apologies for any pedantry on my behalf but there is more than technique to photography!

  • thankyou Amano – that is interesting – I have been given several different opinions and it is so hard to know. I am psyching myself up to buy one. I had thought £350 as that is the amount I feel nervous about spending but not desperate, but I have had £650 suggested to me by a photography technician, and when I asked the professional photographer that took my recent exhibition catalogue photos what she had paid for hers she said £2.5k for a starter camera (apparently with a heavy enough body for pap lenses which I can tell is not relevant for me) which is where my flippant comment came from! I think what I liked about using the better cameras was the flexibility with depth of field to direct the eye and also the sharpness of the focus; it’s certainly a very exciting medium.

    • It really depends on what you want to use the photographs of the art work for!
      If they are going to be made into prints themselves, I would suggest scanning as this circumvents optical problems such as parallax.
      If it is primarily for web use or even catalogue use then digital compacts can do the job … and they also contain the necessary controls for depth of field although this is not likely to be much of an issue if photographing flat art work.

      • Hi Amano – yes it is documentation rather than printmaking, but my stuff is sometimes sculpture, installation or performance based – and these pieces in particular would benefit from being able to isolate things. You have inspired me to read the instructions for my compact just in case it does more than I have been giving it credit for.

        • With a compact camera you may not be able to get limited depth of field, which I think is what you are hoping for from the sculpture pictures, so that only the thing you are interested in is in clear focus. However it should be more than capable of most things.
          A year or so ago Mark (I think) made a post about how to photograph artwork. It was intended for student sending in work to tutors but should be helpful. If not on this site I am sure it will be on Vimeo.

    • yes Jereme – I should have said – the portraits are about a more high. A final year graduate at OCA just completed a body of work about russian gang tattoos. I can’t remember the name but it would be great for you to see. I have a feeling there will be a video coming out about him soonish.

        • that was supposed to be a metre high, not a more high. I agree it would be good to see some form of degree show or similar. The coursemates page can be frustrating for me as I find that everyone has an entry but almost no-one has uploaded a folder of their work. I feel it ought to be pretty much compulsory for level 3s to upload their work onto the website to encourage discussion. I have tried to encourage level 3s to upload before but if there are any our there reading this – please upload your work onto the oca website so we can all see what you are up to if you haven’t already!

        • Yes I have found level 3 is a bit of a desolate place.
          I would be happy just to see more blogs/ websites. I think people find the oca site tiresome for uploading images. Could be more user friendly with drag and drop features, etc, maybe.

  • I’m studying photography at OCA with a £350 camera and I seem to be doing OK with it!
    Mine’s a Lumix G3, you can buy different lenses for it as you go along.

    • that’s a great help Anned – I should have thought of picking the photography dept’s brains earlier!!!

  • I remember when I was a second year student at Edinburgh College of Art. It was very different then- 82-83. We had compulsory weekly life drawing, still life and life painting as well as time to do our own ideas. We were also encouraged to go to Head Life (portrait drawing) two sessions a week. On Fridays, it was second Subject- there were a range of subjects you could choose from for a year’s intensive study. I chose photography- it was obviously the pre- digital era and I learned a lot. We also had Humanities- basically Art History and related subjects. I spent six weeks in Montpellier, France on an exchange. The Head of School had a studio in the college and we would sometimes be invited into see his work and have a glass of wine. It all seems a bit dated now with the compulsory classes, but we were allowed to be quite free with our interpretations. I really enjoyed my year. I had one particularly good tutor who got me excited about possibilities. I only remember being in one pop up exhibition (more would have been good) and one we students organised ourselves, where I sold a watercolour of a fountain in Florence for £7- my first ever sale!

  • I’m just about to publish my first photography book (www.workingtheview.co.uk) and the majority of the pictures in it were taken with an SLR which retails at around £500 at the moment. The camera companies may say it’s all about the camera, but it is 90% about the composition in my opinion. Having said that, photographers do like their kit….

      • Thanks Emma, it has been a great one to do, if a bit stressful at times! Despite taking about 10 times longer than expected, I highly recommend embarking on a big project like this. I’ve learnt so much and it’s improved my work no end.

  • Thank you for showing these Emma, it is always interesting to see what others are doing. I’m struck by the diversity of approach. My trouble is I get interested in all of these different approaches and then have difficulty in deciding which way to go.

    • Hi Sue – I think if you just get stuck in eventually it will start to make sense, you may find you have your own take on these different ideas once you start doing them anyway and the work is more coherent than you thought.

  • great to see these – I do occasional classes at ECA. It would be really good to have the credits for the other pieces you’ve photographed. Very impressive!

  • you’re right Cathie – I must sort that out. I do have them on my camera – just forgot to credit.

  • There are at least two issues going in here: Emma’s camera and the ECA work, and, possibly, extended acccess to art acedemia.
    With regard to the camera, and possibly other areas, I’m with Lance Armstrong – It’s not about the bike. You need an adequate tool for the job, but the 20/80 rule applies, also known as the Pareto Principle. You get 80% of the result with 20% expenditure, and thereafter the payback gets exponentially less.
    With regard to the above, and the ECA show, it’s not about the camera, it’s all about the eye. Creatura (that’s not a bloke’s leg, surely?) and Passport Control are fascinating. It’s not what you’ve got – it’s what you do with it.
    As a mature learner coming from a maths backgound(how did you tell?) I am sure that the mature end-of-year-two students would present an interesting case study, but I can’t access it, and I would be disappointed if the college highlighted who were mature students and who weren’t.

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