Student stories: Richard Down, Photography. - The Open College of the Arts
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Student stories: Richard Down, Photography.

Richard is a retired former dairy production manager, and later civil servant, who worked for the Ministry of Defence. He has a lifelong interest in photography, walking, travel, and sailing historic ships. He enjoys a very active life and plans to continue his activities for many years to come.

Richard enrolled intending to complete the degree, he later decided to exit the course with a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) on completion of Stage 2 of the programme. Here Richard reflects on some of the challenges and rewards of studying photography at a distance. 

“Ruins of the Presidente Pedro Aguirre Cerda Research Station (Chile) – Deception Island – January 2017” © Richard Down, 2017.
Tell us a bit about yourself and previous educational background.

I was educated in a large Secondary Modern School in the south of England. I liked the sciences and while I also enjoyed drawing and painting, I was encouraged follow a technical education. I pursued my interest in food production with a Diploma course in the science and practice of Dairy Production at Agricultural College in South Wales. At the end of a 30 year career which included production management and product development, I retrained with IT skills and worked for the Army Education Service as an Electronic Learning Centre advisor. I retired from that career in 2013. The CO of the Education Centre encouraged me to pursue a personal development goal. I was keen to continue my photographic studies, and I enrolled on the BA (Hons) Photography course in 2010.

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

I started very well as I was familiar with many of the ideas and techniques taught in the first level courses. I studied Digital Film Production rather than portraiture because I wanted to study something completely new. While I found it difficult at times, I learned a lot of useful skills. 

The second stage was more of a challenge, with Documentary stretching my self confidence, while I felt very much at home with Landscape and the environment which is where my main interest lies. The third stage gave me a new challenge; Contextual Studies. While I enjoyed putting together my Body of Work, Contextual Studies became more of a trial which eventually made me realise that I was no longer enjoying my studies. After several weeks of careful consideration, I decided to withdraw from the degree pathway and exit the course with a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE).

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

I am fortunate to have been involved with one of the first OCA Study groups almost since its inception. Being member of the Thames Valley Group has been invaluable, both in terms of motivation, peer encouragement and tutor support. While tutors Sharon Boothroyd and Jayne Taylor have helped me a lot, I think it is my fellow students that have made the biggest contribution to my successful outcome, not only with individual support but by attending meetings regularly they are keeping the network alive. That is an essential part of successful distance learning. 

What does getting a degree in photography mean to you?

When I started out at the end of 2010 it meant quite a lot and I was confident that I could achieve that goal. I was hoping that I could have taken less time to reach this point but now I am here, the Degree means less than it did. The ‘piece of paper’ would have been nice to have but what is more important is that I have enjoyed the journey, I have met some talented people, created some interesting projects and am continuing to work at creating unique pieces which express how I see the world.

What’s next?

I am continuing my studies at OCA studying Creative Book Design. I am keen to learn practical skills and have produced hand made books for three of my assignments in Documentary and Landscape. I am practising to improve these skills and am working on a book to present my Body of Work project ‘Turning Point’ I shall continue as a landscape and environmental photographer for as long as I can find the time and the motivation.

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Posted by author: Gina Lundy
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2 thoughts on “Student stories: Richard Down, Photography.

  • What I particularly enjoyed about Richard’s story is the point he makes that it’s the journey that counts and not the outcome. Pleased as well Richard to know that you enjoyed studying enough with OCA to continue studying but on a different path.

  • That was an admirable analysis of where you were and a brave decision when you had gone so far. All the best with the illustration course.

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