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Getting Out There

This is a post from the weareoca.com archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
Probably some of the most terrifying words you’ll ever hear as a photographer if you are anything like me.   What if no-one will like it, what if I get a bad review, what if they think I’m ridiculous?  Just a few of the thoughts that might arise at the idea of showing your work to outsiders.
My level one student Gill Golding is getting herself out there and it may not be as scary as it first appears.

Image by Gill Golding

Gill is passionate and enthusiastic about life and photography, if you have met her even once you will know what I mean.  She exudes joy for learning and for the advancement of others’ and her own photography.  This is why it’s so nice to see her move forward in her work and start to go places.  To take that literally, she is going to start the Goldsmith’s MA in Photography and Urban Culture this year after getting herself on a short course last summer, immersing herself completely and falling in love.  She has been developing her interest in Urban Regeneration and although it hasn’t all been plain-sailing, progression is what counts and the ability to recognise what works, what doesn’t and why.
Someone saw Gill’s work who is involved in iAVU (International Association of Visual Urbanists) where Gill is a member and featured her work in the first issue which you can see here (just scroll down a little).  Gill also presented her work to a group called Crossing Lines who meet to encourage each other and give critical feedback.  All this takes nerve and I asked Gill a couple of questions about the process.
How does it feel to be getting your work out there?  Is it as scary as it might first appear?

There are so many emotions involved in seeing my work out there.  When I was approached and asked if I would like my work to be included I was nervous because the work is so close to my heart and I still have so much to learn!  I wasn’t going to say no however!!  I was really worried that my work wouldn’t be good enough  and that everything would have to be changed.  That didn’t happen!!  Then there are the issues about once the work is out there, people will interpret and have their own opinions which is very strange.   When I saw my work there, the thrill and excitement was amazing matched with a sense of disbelief.    I had to keep looking to make sure it was still there!!!    I’ve been given such an incredible opportunity and I’m so grateful for it.

What advice would you give other students?

The advice I’d give other students is about getting out there and making things happen.  I think it’s really important to find out what is going on locally or in the nearest city and becoming involved.  I began by participating in local Brighton groups and then set up a Photo Projects group which I continue to run.  Last summer I decided to join and participate in groups and activities in London.  I’m a member of several organisations, go to workshops, talks and courses, visit exhibitions, talk to people and more recently am beginning some collaborations with other photographers.  Getting out there in this way has helped me to not just develop my skills, but also to engage with work that others are doing and that has been invaluable because my thinking has become wider and therefore my approaches are changing.
I’m forever amazed by it all!!!

With Gill’s critical eye and determination to produce coherent and interesting work the learning curve has been steep and now she is finding herself bypassing onto a Masters. Although we will be sad to lose her it’s really exciting to see students benefit so much from OCA and it encourages us all to see the potential of what might be…

What’s stopping you?

Posted by author: Sharon
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15 thoughts on “Getting Out There

  • “she is finding herself bypassing onto a Masters … ”
    I consider the BA quite helpful; it contains valid photographic procedure that help to develop practice. I did discuss the possibility of doing an MA with one university but would prefer to finish the OCA BA course first.
    Good Luck Gill! It has been good meeting you.

  • Go Gill! I hope you will keep in touch and let us know how you get on.
    It is very scary to put yourself and your work out there but potentially very rewarding as you have shown. Well done.

    • Yes, I think it takes a lot of pluck to step up like that – it really depends on what one wants to do as a photographer or with photography.
      I plan to do an MA after finishing the BA but sometimes just want to get on with it … forget schooling … one can learn a lot in the market place!

      • I also am considering an MA once I have the BA (touch wood), but like you I wonder whether it isn’t best sometimes to decide that you are no longer a student and just get on with making work (accepting of course that one is always learning and always needing to review work and seeking to progress). The question I think is what the benefits are of either approach (as well as practicalities around cost and time – OCA MAs seem to be less flexible on that front than BA modules).

        • ‘OCA MAs seem to be less flexible on that front than BA modules’

          This is a fair assessment Eileen, we run the Fine Art MA on a cohort basis. This does mean set start and finish times each year, but has the big advantage that the students in the cohort have a ready made peer group to share with. Once the pilot cohort have completed we will be evaluating the lessons learned and considering the model in the light of this.

        • The MA I am considering would mean attendance for 2 days a week – a different kind of learning experience! I could not manage anything more than 2 days unless it as on my doorstop.

  • Well done Gill, you’re certainly progressing and good luck too.
    I dream of doing an MA too, although I have level 2 and 3 to hit first! In response to the last line of the article- what’s stopping you? I know what’s stopping me and that’s time, but then I remember that without my time being filled by my job that I wouldn’t have the funds to pursue my photography. One day though…

  • First of all, I want to say a huge thank you to Sharon for being so supportive and taking the time to write this article and also for her guidance and support as I’ve been doing the assignments. I’ve appreciated her constructive feedback very much indeed.
    Thank you everyone for the positive and encouraging comments which are very much appreciated. I start the MA next Autumn so will be completing The Art of Photography in the meantime because there’s so much to learn and I’ve no intention of stopping that learning!!
    For me the point about doing an MA is all about where I want to go next. I already have a degree (not photography of course!) and have spent a lifetime teaching vulnerable young people with the majority of that time within inner city areas. I’ve worked extensively with families and feel very deeply about many of the issues I know families have faced and continue to do so. My aim with my photography is to research issues, raise questions and visually document urban life. By doing an MA I will gain vital skills with regards research and I hope to eventually gain access that will enable me to set up a participatory project. Having taken early retirement I want to use my time as constructively as possible and this seems the best route that will enable me to get on my feet slightly quicker than perhaps might have happened.
    I’m really thankful to the OCA because I’ve already learned so much and this has helped me to formulate my ideas. I’ve been quite staggered by the amount of learning I am doing and most certainly think that the OCA offers students a fantastic opportunity and is a superb route to go down. I certainly recommend the OCA to friends.
    I look forward to seeing some of you at Study Visits – I’m at the V&A on Saturday. I also look forward to continuing with some of the conversations I have with various students!

  • And back to the Sharon’s article, getting out there is such a big thing. For me, it was very scary and Sharon has commented well. When I asked for review and help at Crossing Lines which is a collaboration between London Independent Photography and Goldsmiths I was terrified. I was very rewarded however with so many constructive ideas. I’ve had subsequent emails and my presentation has led to some collaboration too.
    What I’m trying to say here is that getting out there is so worthwhile and if you can … do it. SarahG has hit the issue very well with regards time and the need to do a job and earn money … I know that in my teaching life it would have been much harder. So how do people get around that? Or perhaps they don’t? It’s a very interesting issue to think about.

  • Great going Gill! You have a passion, focus and know where your photographic interests lie. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts on it all and wish you every success in the future. Will miss your blog posts though and hope you’ll continue in a different guise when you begin the MA.

  • Thank you Catherine! No, you won’t miss my blog posts as dire as they are … I’m continuing til the end of the summer to complete TAOP and have Robert Frank to write up yet. I have The Americans in my hand and am thinking about the order of the images …!!! I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with you. I’ll be blogging when I start my MA when I have time – but we aint there yet!! 😉

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