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"Get on with it before you blow it"!

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Even with all the will in the world, getting started on anything major is easy to put off. No more clearly has this been illustrated than by Oswald “Ozzie” Henderson, who this week, submitted his first assignment for the Art of Photography; ‘Contrasts’. Submitting the first assignment is, as far as I can imagine, perhaps the most challenging hurdle to overcome with a distance-learning course. Two things stood out as particularly significant with Ozzie’s submission: Firstly, the quality of the work, and secondly; it’s taken 18 months since Ozzie enrolled on the module to submit this, which is in fact the second time he’s enrolled on the Art of Photography. After two years he ‘timed out’ without submitting any work at all. So when I opened up the parcel containing Ozzie’s first assignment (three-and-a-half years overdue!) I did so – to say the least – with trepidation.
(At this point, I’d like to say that these prints were stunning: Excellent choice of paper… very good print quality for inkjets… strong depth of tone. They were a bit bigger (A3) than strictly necessary, but they did much better justice to Ozzie’s images then seeing them on the screen.)
As Ozzie points out in the way he interpreted the brief, which is to respond photographically to pairs of opposing words, there are essentially two ways of approaching the exercise: One way is a graphic way of conveying the contrast and the other way is to convey the feeling of the contrast title in an image.” He continues: “It’s something that you probably understand when looking at a picture and could probably articulate it if discussing a picture with someone but, having to consciously find and describe visually in your own images what a title equates to, is difficult.”

‘Sweet Sour’ (Buenos Aires) © Ozzie Henderson

I think Ozzie achieved that brilliantly within several of the images he submitted for this assignment. The most striking was this one, taken whilst he was working in Buenos Aires: There’s plenty I could waffle on about, but I’m confident the photograph articulates some of these contrasts for itself. In any case, I’d rather you read Ozzie’s own description of the circumstances surrounding this shot, and the rest, on his blog.
Ozzie’s assignment is by no means a ‘text book’ example of what the ‘Contrasts’ assignment should look like, and of course, no such thing exists; nor would I want one to. But his submission demonstrates experimentation, tenacity, intuition and attention to detail, which I think are really important qualities when exploring any brief, and which should be celebrated.
To see these things from such a long-awaited assignment was very encouraging, and I know that there will be other students out there who, at whatever stage in their studies, will struggle to get things moving from time to time. Ozzie points out some major challenges faced by distance learners within the arts, which I’m sure will strike a chord:
“Not knowing what a degree-level Photography student’s work should look like”. In this case Ozzie turned to the “great and the good” from the photography canon, and that shows within the visual qualities of his work, and it demonstrates that aspiring to challenging references can raise your standards. Finally:
“Isolation also plays a part as you can’t reference anything or ask questions to someone in the same position as you. But, you get to a point where you just have to get on with it before you blow it.”  

Posted by author: Jesse
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43 thoughts on “"Get on with it before you blow it"!

  • ‘Get on with it, before you blow it’—sensible words indeed! It took me a year before I submitted my first; and there’s been a nine month gap between assignment 3 and 4. like Ozzie, I ‘timed out’ and have re-registered. It’s really difficult to get going when you are unsure of what to do—Ozzie’s finding inspiration from researching the approach of others—wish I had done that!
    The comment about being in isolation is true—but there are ways around that—I only found them after that first year. Go to OCA meets, comment on the blogs of others, interact with them. The support and encouragement that I’ve received from a number of students—both at my level and above—has been so important in keeping me going.
    BTW—some really interesting images on the blog—well done!

  • Fabulous images and blog, Ozzie. Reading Jesse’s blog about the process, there is a visceral sense of relief and release! I certainly know the struggle it can take to get something out there. I am sure ithere will now be enough momentum for the next set of work to come more easily.

    • Thank you Alison!
      I do feel I now have process to get things done and momentum gained for completing the assessment. There was considerable relief from the positive feedback from Jesse. The next stage / step is to keep that going.

  • Great start Ozzie, I like it.
    Can only echo that the first is the hurdle. I took a year with the first assignment, now I’m on track for three months for the second.
    Tricky if you’re working away to take advance of the meets etc but on line is worth using. I’m in NZ so do know I’m pretty much on my god but even being relatively passive on the forums etc am reassured/informed by many of the threads.
    Thanks for showing the work

  • Well done Ozzie and some great pictures on your blog. I did an engineering degree with the Open University, so I came to this course with an understanding of the difficulties of distance learning. As you say, there comes a point when you just have to get on with it. As well as the forums, I find it helpful to feel connected to look at other people’s blogs. It also gives an idea of what other people are doing and how your work compares. Be nice to meet you at a study visit.

  • Thanks Chris!
    Look forward to meeting you. I’ll be at the Tom Hunter and Ben Uri Gallery visits. If your going to either one, I’ll meet you there.

  • Very impressive work Ozzie. You must be so relieved you’ve taken the first step. I’ve been struggling with this 1st step of TAOP myself for nearly as long (16 months) but this week I’ve finally cracked it, coincidentally, and feel a heavy burden has been lifted.
    Are you a professional photographer, or planning to be one? I would be interested to hear about that. I hope you manage to keep going, and I hope I manage to as well. If you would like to chat and compare notes via email if you get stuck again, my address is stephaniehollis at cooptel dot net.
    With best wishes.

    • Thank you Stephanie!
      I understand the weight of that burden! I thought I had blown it for a second time. I really am relived that I am moving, have momentum and liking what I’m doing now.
      I’m not professional, I really just love photography and want to get better at it. I do like the idea of it being a way of earning a living at some point but my focus at this point is to complete this course.
      I will email you now.

      • PS I made a mistake, it’s been 17 months…
        What finally pushed me was an email from OCA the day before yesterday saying that I was about to be filed “dormant student”, and what further helped was trying THE 5 MINUTE PRINCIPLE mentioned amongst helpful hints about how to get started included in the email, and half an hour later I had assembled 8 pairs !!! And by the end of the weekend I think I will have completed the text to go with it.
        It’s interesting that there has been such a response to this blog. Thanks Ozzie and Jesse.

  • The images are great Ozzie. It just shows what determination to keep with it can produce. Look forward to meeting you at Tom Hunter. This blog post also shows what a difference can be made by tutor’s recognition and support.

    • Yes, I have felt the need for recognition too. Though I have berated myself, thinking I should be able to carry on regardless. But I think that is wrong now. I’m not an island and I need to know I exist, as an observer, to other human beings.

    • Wow! Thanks Catherine!!
      I’m really blown away with the response from Jesse and everyone who has viewed and commented on the images.
      It definitely helps receiving details of other peoples experience and also there encouragement and support.
      Looking forward to meeting you at Tom Hunter!

  • A great image Ozzie and a really refreshing take on ‘Contrasts’, What gives this image a real edge along with seeing and content is precision, precision with your camera. Well done!

  • I like your interpretation of the brief here … contrasts can be understood literally in graphic terms yet they can also be conveyed cognitively … as you point out! This is not an easy way to approach the assignment but it is surely an intelligent one.
    Is there a hurry to complete the course work? I guess if one takes too long one might loose track but there is a lot one can consider and to hurry might be to ignore this.
    It took me almost 5 years to complete Level 1

    • These days there is a time limit of, I think, four years per level as well as the two years per module (yes I know there are three modules in level one so that means you can no longer take the full two years for each one). That is assuming you are following a degree path. But even that is pretty generous and does not invalidate you good question about hurry.

      • Can I just add that I was initially really attracted by the idea of no deadlines on oca courses.as a working mother it allowed me to be available for my kids when they needed me and push ahead when they didnt. From an artistic point of view I felt that it offered the potential to go into a particular project more deeply if it was engrossing you ie to develop your own pace as opposed to marching to omeone elses drun. I still think that both of these points are true but another part of the artistic process is never quite being satisfied with the last painting and always hoping the next piece will get closer to ‘it’. This is what makes it interesting and dives us to make more work. therefore when submiting it you can feel like holding out for ‘it’ before you send an assignment in.
        Ifound the idea of formative and summative assessment useful. Formative assessment is when we send stuff to our tutors for feedback, its not the final word on a project but advice along the way, better to keep a flow of work going and get this advice rather than stew in your own creative juices. The end of module assessments are to some extent summative particularly those at the end of level 3 modules that count for degree grades. After 17th months on painting level 1 I am about to send my tutor the penultimate assignment. I could feel myself slowing down and losing my mojo as the end is in sight and a summative assessment looms.
        So reading this has encouraged me to get on with it. And I find the loose deadlines around modules the perfect balance.

    • Thank you Amano!!
      I feel that, now that I have started, by that I include handing in an assignment, finding a workflow to develop the image from raw file to print and the work needed to find an image in the first place, I feel i can move quicker now as these elements are not something you may think of if you haven’t been on a creative course before. I also see how the thing I have just learnt affects the next picture.

      • Ozzie, I think that workflow is something developed in Digital Photographic practice.
        Often submissions are made digitally so that one does not even need to think about the involved process of printing; however, the fact you have done will surely not go to waste.
        It seems to me that the digital print could be the subject of a module itself … !??

        • I think you’ll find the OCA much more personal, supportive and direct than Lynda.com which I have used in the past.
          Definitely no digital printing module yet with the OCA.

  • It is, I think, worth emphasising here that there is a limit of 12 years to complete the degree overall and level 3 has to be completed in four years. So, although at OCA we try to embrace the constraints that many of our students study within, to gain credit for your work, do be mindful of the clock ticking ….

    • Thank you ADMIN! I knew about the 12 year rule but hadn’t caught on about the FOUR YEARS PER LEVEL!!

  • Wow Ozzie, well worth waiting for. If it’s any consolation I think many of us were in the same position, doubting our own ability, not knowing what’s expected, worried about tutor’s reaction. I too spent ages getting in my first assignment and am by no means certain about the next one. Your blog shows some brilliant work and I bet you have enough material for the next three assignments.

  • Hi Marianne,
    Many thanks for you comments!!
    Finishing the first assignment and getting it in has been great for my confidence, in approaching the course and also my photographic decisions. It has been great finding out that the issues I had in getting things done are not unique to me.
    Your right, I have a lot of image files now. Some may be useful but firstly I’m thinking of investing in a drobo.

  • Well done Ozzie, that’s such a striking image. I’ve really enjoyed this thread. I’m glad it’s not just me who procrastinates. It has taken me almost a year to do assignment 2 of Textiles after enrolling on the course for the second time. Thought for a moment I was going to time out again at the same stage! However, I handed it in last week and also had really encouraging helpful feedback from my OCA tutor. We’ve finally broken through the wall!

    • It’s a good feeling isn’t it? I started my foundation year twice at art school and both times left after a term, but I finished it on my third attempt.

    • Thanks Lizzy!!
      We definitely have broken through!!
      And, it’s great when you also get positive feedback as this spurs you on, especially if you where unsure of the quality of your work.
      Well done you!!

  • Well done for getting it done.
    I’ve found that rushing the assignments can be bad, but taking too long means you might lose track and find it hard to pick up where you left off. Congratulations for having the motivation to keep at it and producing what looks to be a wonderful assignment.

    • Many thanks Barry!
      You right. Rushing is wrong and taking too long could mean you lose focus.
      Thanks you for your positive comments!!

  • I am so glad to have read about you Ozzie and the tread that follows.I thought I was the only one that found it difficult. Studying from home while trying to run a business, dealing with major traumas and living on another continent for several months of the year has meant that I took 11 months before submitting my first assignment. Not knowing what to expect, working on your own with constant distractions is making this more difficult than I thought. But realising that I am not on my own in this situation has certainly given me more courage to go on. And hopefully, once I get my tutors comments I will get more direction.
    Thank you Ozzie and everyone else for their positive, encouraging and helpful comments.

    • Thanks Monika!!
      I certainly understand. For the last few years I have spent more time in a plane than any other form of transport including walking!!! But, you just get to a point where have to move and move forward.

  • It’s so reassuring to read these comments! I, too, have been struggling to get assignments handed in. Life takes over, and I lose my momentum. I also received an email about the two year limit, which has kick started me back into action… I thought I was the only one! I wish everyone all the best with their courses.

  • Hi Joanne!
    It has been great for me to find out that I’m not the only one in my situation, it is reassuring. It’s also good to know that there is this virtual network of support and good will to be found within the OCA, I am guilty of not tuning in to this before.
    Good luck with your assignments!!

    • Hi Ozzie,
      Yes, this is the first time I’ve tapped into the support online too! I think it’s helpful instead of trying to struggle on, on our own. I live in Germany, so am unable to attend the study days. Reading about other people’s similar anxieties has given me a boost. I hate the feeling of rushing and then not having given my best. I am determined not to leave my next assignment so long!

  • Hi Ozzie and others,
    I must say it is great to hear that I am not alone in taking my time to get started with the assignments. It has almost taken me 18 months of life getting in the way, not to mention the thought about what I was going to do.
    But the first couple posted off and it is a relief, it has helped clarify and strengthen my ideas and focused my mind on the projects.
    Great Blog and images
    Good luck with the rest of the course

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