Student stories: Anna Goodchild, Photography. | The Open College of the Arts
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Student stories: Anna Goodchild, Photography.

I had dared to open a chink in my creative self and think differently.”

Anna, a retired teacher of modern languages living in Devon, was instrumental in setting up the OCA South West regional group in 2016 and has just completed her BA(Hons) in Photography with OCA. We caught up about her educational journey with OCA and explored which parts of studying for a degree at a distance had been particularly challenging and rewarding.

Tell us a bit about yourself and previous educational background.

Having studied 4 languages at university, my dream was to study comparative literature post-grad but life and changing continents aged 36 with three children brought enriching cultural challenges. I taught History, and languages to 11 – 18 year olds until I retired in 2011.

At school I studied Latin instead of Art because my parents thought I would have a better chance of earning a living that way. 

In 2004 I completed an MA in the history of 20th Century art, architecture and design in Falmouth. I started with OCA because my aim was to complete a PhD on the role of photography in urban development. 

Can you describe the journey you’ve been on at OCA? 

I started in 2011, a week after having retired and was pleasantly surprised to get a 2:1 for my first photography module. When I attended my first study day in Cardiff, I remember being totally petrified, expecting everybody else to be really good.

My history with cameras was sad: what I hadn’t broken I had lost or left out in the rain. I knew nothing about the technicalities of taking photos. A big disappointment was a slow dropping of grades the respective Level 1 modules. I called the OCA Principal and asked if I should give up. Obviously I didn’t but I was very close – it was his reassurance and my PhD dream that kept me going.

Was there a particular moment when it clicked (pardon the pun)?

Yes! Assignment 5 of my Documentary unit in Level 2. It was here that I used what makes me who and what I am. I love literature, particularly Italian literature, so I decided to use a certain novella, to carry the story of a disused railway line I was documenting. It felt weird but right – I had dared to open a chink in my creative self and think differently. 

Can you say a bit about the tutor and peer support you received whilst on the course?

Having dipped a toe in the creative pond, I was suddenly afraid that it had been an aberration, that the literature-loving me did not really have a place in photography. Clive White was my tutor for the briefest time and was exactly what my puny self-confidence needed. He was patient, quick to understand what I was trying to do, & made suggestions; succinct in his praise / guidance, and far quicker than any other tutor with his feedback. With Clive, I experienced what it felt like to fly for the first time ever.

‘Anna made a creative breakthrough with the freedoms designed into Digital Image and Culture, which allowed her to discover herself within her work, unleashing a flow of creative innovation, from animation and QR codes to inventive, experimental methods of physical presentation; which were all so apposite. Her final outcome has been hard won and thoroughly deserved.’ Clive White, Tutor

Online, the same generous, un-competitive spirit prevails. I have been meeting up with peers in Switzerland and Australia for 2 years during which time we have challenged, encouraged and critiqued one another’s work.

What does getting a degree in photography mean to you?

Practically, it expands my technical skills base and I realise how much I love curating exhibitions which I had not considered before. Philosophically it has opened up new ways of seeing. The success at degree level for me did not materialize in photographic isolation. Fresh from my newly found self-confidence after DI&C where literature again played a part, I set up the OCA South West cross-discipline student meetings. I did not know then how deeply that would affect my thinking, my interaction with other artists, my attendance at the Art and Environment study days, and my music collaborations. I cannot understate how much we have all grown through the critical feedback, sharing of ideas and encouragement we all give and get at our gatherings.  

What’s next?

I have started doing some print making and shall continue making bodies of work which, in all likelihood, will be cross-disciplinary but photography-based.

Anna’s graduating body of work “One Year”  stems from a prisoner’s extraordinary letters which show how ordinary prison life can be.  

The images are diptychs featuring, through a representation of inside and outside prison walls, the paradox of how something which separates people also unites them

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Posted by author: Gina Lundy
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18 thoughts on “Student stories: Anna Goodchild, Photography.

  • Congratulations to Anna on her pursuing her journey with the OCA and completing her degree. Any chance of seeing her final work online!?
    Just like to clarify one point; the intro states that Anna “was instrumental in setting up the OCA South West regional group in 2016” Actually, the OCA South West was set up in about 2010 by a woman called Theresa from Torquay who later dropped out (a couple of teenage kids I think was the reason). We had a number of OCA sponsored study events with Robin Ravilious (widow of photographer James Ravilious who was the son of Eric Ravilious), Jem Southam (V&A recognised photographer from Plymouth University) and Stephen Moss (former Springwatch director and professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University). Since Anna took over events have been OCASA sponsored. Eddy who went on to start the OCA Thames Valley Group had also been an SW member. The SW OCA was the first regional group, an attempt to encourage more OCA activity in the region as events were mostly focused in the South East, Midlands and further North.

  • I have followed Anna’s work for several years and been inspired by her inventiveness and creativity in her approach to both her Body of Work itself and also how it was presented in her Exhibition.
    Many congratulations on such a brilliant result Anna.

    • Thank you very much, Catherine. You and your very positive approach to your studies and collaboration have been inspirational. I know we will stay in touch.

  • I should like to endorse the mention of Anna’s generous spirit. We met on a Level 3 hangout about a year or so ago and I was much taken by the manner Anna shared her experience and knowledge. Later when I contacted her separately for her thoughts (at a low point of my own CS) she responded with insightful references and advice for which I was most grateful. This not only demonstrates the benefit of student hangouts but the encouragement which can come from small gestures to fellow students along their developmental path. Thank you and well done, Anna, hope we meet up again.

    • Veronica, I can’t wait t see how your work has progressed and its final resolution – you’ve got terrific ideas! Thank you very much for your kind words & I am very glad you have persevered with your investigations. I know we will keep in touch.

  • That’s a fantastic result Anna and much deserved! As far as everything else goes it’s been a genuine pleasure in getting to know you through the various study visits / student initiatives, your contribution to OCA (especially in the SW) has clearly been beyond enormous! All the very best and looking forward to staying in touch!

    • Of course we will stay in touch, Allan, I want to see how your super ideas develop! Thanks for all you did to facilitate the portfolio reviews in Bradford and Birmingham, I would not have been where I am now without them. All the best with all that you are doing for students in the West Midlands too!

  • Congratulations Anna. I was interested to see your work at the St Ives study weekend last year, a really fascinating project. Best wishes for all further study you might undertake.

    • Thank you Tanya for your words of very useful wisdom last May! You helped me sneak out of a potential pothole! All the best for your studies too.

  • It was an inspiration to meet Anna at a SW gig. I am a CA student studying drawing, printmaking and anything else I can shoehorn in. There is so much to be learnt by meeting students from other practices, and seeing Anna’s work and other’s from the SW group has extended my horizons. Where next Anna? Power to your elbow!

    • I was so taken by your efforts to get to our meetings knowing how far away from our venues you live, Stevie! I would love to see more of your work as the groups have been so big recently that I have not had a chance to catch up with you. Where next, you ask? I am trying to organise an exhibition for those ’emerging artists’ who are women, over 50 and who have graduated since January 2019. By doing so, I hope to open up the term ’emerging artist’ to include women over 50. Instead of restricting it to photographers, I am opening it up to all artists. Wish me luck!

  • The degree result and positive comments for Anna are very much deserved. It was my pleasure to meet her via the South West Group – which would not be the success it is without her. She has been consistently encouraging, a delight to spend time with and diplomatic since I have known her, which has certainly helped me during my own challenging journey. Good luck with your future projects Anna.

    • You are one of a kind, Sharon, because you have the gift of lifting spirits where ever you are! Who, having spent time with you, does not come away happier? I hope you can infuse your quirkiness into your course as you wind your way through it. We will keep in touch. & thank you for your kind words.

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