The work of six OCA photography students and graduates features in a new exhibition at Sheffield's Bank Street Arts
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Explorations and collaborations

Six OCA photography students and graduates hosted a private view of their joint work this week at independent arts centre Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. [( 6 )] : Personal Explorations in Photography is the culmination of over six months of collaboration between Tanya Ahmed, Dewald Botha, Rob TM, Keith Greenough, Nigel Haworth and Pete Mansell and brings together images from the UK, France, China, Japan and the US in a single gallery space in South Yorkshire.The photographers’ collective work explores social themes through differing genres of photography: landscape, portraiture and documentary.
40 people strolling on a summer evening round a series of white galleries exchanging views about the work in front of them is the stuff of which private views are made. For OCA, though, the evening marked a milestone as the show is the first opportunity since Michael Young set up OCA in 1987 for members of the public to see the creative output of students in a show they have organised themselves.
[( 6 )] : Personal Explorations in Photography began life as an online collaboration when Rob posted on one of OCA’s online forums inviting fellow photography students to join him in submitting work to photography review Source, which runs an annual online show case for photographers graduating from university and art college-based photography courses. Then, six months ago, he came up with the idea of extending the collaboration further by putting on a joint exhibition of the work they had submitted to Source.
Tanya’s work is inspired by her encounters with the built environment of New York City, where she lives. As a Western onlooker living inside a culture different from the West, Dewald is an outsider looking from within at a landscape shaped by a fast-paced and constantly changing society. ‘Ironman’ Keith’s portraits invite speculation about the nature of people who take part in endurance sports. Nigel’s work explores transience through a series of images taken on the north-east coast of Japan after the 2011 tsunami. Pete’s work explores issues of physical disability. Rob’s images focus on man’s interactions with the landscape and with others.
‘Working on the show has been a great example of how distance learning can bring people together. Until the weekend before the private view, none of us had met one another,’ explains Nigel. ‘Dewald lives in China and Tanya in New York, so we knew from the beginning that they weren’t free to come to the UK to see the exhibition for themselves. In the end, Pete wasn’t with us either as his car broke down as he set off to drive north from Surrey – a disappointment to us all.’
Rob said: ‘Being 9,000 miles apart could have been a logistical nightmare, but after years of communicating with one another electronically, the time difference proved to be the only real issue. What we’ve tried to do is to cross those borders of time and space to create something coherent yet oppositional – tranquillity and chaos, disability and athleticism, near and far, being lost and found. Personal explorations, bound together using a common visual language.’
[( 6 )] : Personal Explorations in Photography continues until 1 August. Rob will be at Bank Street Arts on Saturday 12 July and Saturday 19 July for OCA students and members of the public who want to talk about the images on show and the experience of virtual collaboration. Talk online about the exhibition using #6scapes.

Posted by author: Elizabeth Underwood
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19 thoughts on “Explorations and collaborations

  • Big thanks to everyone that made it out yesterday – please let us know what you (really) think!
    And yes, I will be there on the 12th and 19th so do come in and say hi.

  • Thanks! 9000 miles apart but a gallery full of our spirit 🙂 Much thanks to our UK photography brothers who made it possible for Dewald and I to join in. We might not have met each other physically but we’re all friends now- ah the power of photography and generous people! I hope that many of you will take advantage of going to Bank Street Arts when Rob is there and Pete too (19th) and that you enjoy seeing the work on view.

  • I really wish I could have been there to see it yesterday. It is a great inspiration to see what the 6 of you have managed to put together despite the constraints, the distance. I have ordered the catalog online and I am really looking forward to receiving it now…

    • Hopefully there will be some good photos coming from the exhibition – unfortunately my designated snapper (Mrs TM) for the PV evening managed to get a finger print over her lens and things are all blurred. Ah well, that’s what you get when you leave it to amateurs!
      Anyway, thanks for ordering the book Stephanie – we had a couple available at the PV as well and one was sold, the other went missing. I’m sure it will turn up, but if anyone else wants a copy, it’s available from
      As for the learning experience – I have blogged some bits and pieces on what will become my MA blog – It’s not the most comprehensive, and there was lots of other stuff going on, but it gives a flavour of things I think.
      And yes, must reiterate I’ll be there on the 12th and 19th, with Pete up for the 19th as well, so please do come on up, say hi, look at the photos and ask me (us) questions about the whole experience.

  • This is wonderful! I’ve been following Dewald Botha’s work on his bogs and Flickr, loving it, and love hearing that students like him are successfully showing in galleries now. Congratulations to all of you!

  • I would urge everyone who has a chance to visit Bank Street Arts while the exhibition is running. As Elizabeth has already pointed out this is an entirely student-led initiative and shows what can be achieved by students working together to get their work out there.

    • Thank you Gareth.
      Yes, it was student led, Rob being the head student ever since Source, not sure if its the right time / place to give a nod to the financial supporters of the exhibition (Business Vector, Paul Graham Imaging) and private view (OCA), but also Elizabeth being truly indispensible.
      Thank you Jennifer! 🙂

  • Congratulations on your border breaking venture which has opened up new paths to distant-learning students. Good luck.

    • Dewald, it really has been a privilege to be a part of the creative journey of the [( 6 )] of you. Together, you are showing that people who are reluctant that distance learning may be too isolating are worrying unnecessarily. Rewards come proportionate to the investment of time and energy – with studying as with so many things!

  • For me it was well-worth the effort to travel to Sheffield to the Exhibition as (apart from paying respects to my home town memories) I really wanted to see the culmination of all those years of creative work distilled into this collaborative effort. I’ve followed the blogs, met and/or corresponded with these 6 and been impressed by their individual commitment and determination to create an Exhibition that can be a tribute to all those years of study and practice, together with the support provided by the OCA to achieve this.
    It was great to see those images on the wall! Well-done all of you. What role models!

  • I’ve seen a few shows at Bank Street and this is one of the best presented. Not overloaded with work and beautifully produced. Congratulations to all of you.

  • Thanks Bryan!!
    Would you care to add anything extra? I’ve just spent a day there to meet and greet/discuss with no-one turning up and my ego needs feeding… (well, my sister and a friend came over, but I knew they were turning up, and one of the guys with a studio chatted for 20 minutes or so)

  • Don’t forget Rob and Pete will be at Bank Street Arts – Saturday 19th July 11am- why not stop by and let them walk you through the exhibition.

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