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Working under restrictions – Student examples - The Open College of the Arts

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Working under restrictions – Student examples

For those currently producing work under lockdown conditions, it may feel like a strange period adjusting to this new normal.  However, taking a look through student work all produced prior to the start of Covid-19, it is clear that OCA students have always worked in a domestic or localised space.

Some students have found this period of restriction to be very creative, the lockdown forcing new ways of working which has been invigorating.  For others it has been very challenging, and possibly downright frustrating if you were part way or near completion of a project.

Below are a few examples from students who submitted for the March 2020 assessment.  All the students have produced work which responds creatively to the assignment briefs.  Hopefully this will give some reassurance and inspiration of how you can respond to course material and keep within any government restrictions.

What can be seen, is that OCA assignments are open to a wide interpretation.  The examples of images show what is possible working from a very localised area.

Context and Narrative

Debra Flynn – Assignment 2 – Photographing the Unseen

Debra’s work for this assignment gives a clear example of how objects can be taken and transformed through her interpretation of how they can be represented.

Using a range of objects which Debra only felt, she created each image in response to her feelings.  

Image Credit: Helen’s Object by Debra Flynn, for Assignment 2, Context and Narrative

In her blog, Debra takes the viewer through her response to the images and how she created each image.  The use of her improvised home studio shows how much can be achieved within a domestic setting. 

Read Debra’s blog here: https://debraflynnphotography.co.uk/OCA/can-blog/assignment-2-photographing-the-unseen/

Image Credit: The set up and lighting for Image No 1 by Debra Flynn for Assignment 2, Context and Narrative


Anna Dranitzke – Assignment 1 Local Communities and Assignment 5 

For this course many students would often be thinking of producing work in the wider community, but Anna very successfully turned her attention to her immediate home environment.

In assignment 1, we see glimpses of people in her apartment block.

Image Caption: Three Images from Assignment 1, Local Communities, Documentary Course by Anna Dranitzke

For assignment 5, Anna develops a series of images around family life.  These are successful in being much more than snapshots and capture that balance between crazy family life and stillness in a moment. [Link to project – https://annasphotoblog.wordpress.com/category/assignment-5/]

“Ever since I became a mother I’ve found my biggest source of inspiration at home, photographing what’s close to my heart, what I know best, my family. My work with family documentary has had a therapeutic effect on me. It has helped me to step back and see the humour in situations that would normally drive me crazy. 

I want to promote a healthy image of reality, in contrast to the perfectly constructed lives on social media. A reality that everyone can relate to and that encourages seeing the beauty in our everyday life.” Anna Dranitzke 

Image Caption: Wednesday, 06:30 by Anna Dranitzke
Image Caption: Saturday, 18:35 by Anna Dranitzke


During this period many people have been spending time either in their own gardens or by walking to nearby places.  The two students below have explored their immediate locality over an extended time period for assignment 6 of the Landscape course which focuses on Transitions.

Sue Greenfield – Assignment 6 Transitions – Landscape

Sue’s work focuses on a constant view from an upstairs window.  The resulting series can be seen on her blog here:  https://suegreenfieldphotographylandscape.wordpress.com/

Image Credit: Figure 35 by Sue Greenfield, Assignment 6, Landscape

Over the series we can see changes in emerge in the view. In this image, details are picked up from the view.  These are details of our everyday lives, a washing line, a garden chair, a child’s toy.  So often overlooked when we are busy travelling to other places.  Sue’s work brings us back to the here and now of our lives.

Image Credit: Figure 37 by Sue Greenfield, Assignment 6, Landscape

Nicola South – Assignment 6 Transitions – Landscape
For the Transitions assignment for the Landscape course, Nicola South photographed a very small area in a woodland.  As she writes below, over time her area photographed decreased in size during the project.

The work can be viewed on her blog here: https://nkssite4.wordpress.com/2019/12/28/assignemnt-6-submission-transitions/

Image credit: Transition #1 by Nicola South for Assignment 6, Landscape

“I found as I photographed over time, and frequently, that I naturally worked further and further into the space; my working area decreased from about 10 square metres to 2 square metres. As that happened my concentration, focus and what I what I saw heightened, and my photography had more purpose and strength.” Nicola South

Nicola’s work shows that by reducing the area we can really focus in on small changes and we can become absorbed in portraying a discrete area rather than a large expanse.


These are just a few examples, there are many, many more.  Please do share ideas or your own work.  Be inspired by ideas from other students, and see how you can turn them into your own interpretation.  Good photographs can be taken anywhere, small corners of our homes or gardens or revisiting a site that has become familiar on regularl walks from home.

The limit is only your imagination on how to interpret the visual world around us.

Many thanks to the students who gave permission for their work to be shared.

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Posted by author: Andrea Norrington

4 thoughts on “Working under restrictions – Student examples

  • Thanks Andrea, really fascinating to see these student examples of how constraints can enable creativity

  • I am increasingly concerned at some of the ‘newspeak’ I see OCA using. I feel I am living in Orwell’s 1984. Words/phrases to be critical of include: ‘new normal’, ‘lockdown’, ‘keep safe’, ‘frontline’, ‘safe distance’. Etc Artists should challenge convention and manipulation – surely this an important part of their role.

    • Thanks for the comment Susan, I am guilty as charged with using the language you describe above. The initial idea was to respond to a number of photography students that were finding their planned or partially completed projects were now not feasible whilst sticking to government guidelines. Several of my tutees were finding themselves in the shielding category and having to rethink completely how to produce work. I am already seeing innovative responses to producing work in assignment submissions and long may the subversive nature of artists continue.

  • Agree Susan we should be keeping a keen critical eye on language in the media, any of the terms you mention could be good starting points for an unravelling / unpacking blog post if any takers…

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