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.
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