Student stories: Alan Fletcher, Photography.
Alan is in Stage 1 of the Photography degree, he is in his late 40’s and has lived in Derby all his life. He works full time has a Healthcare Assistant within an acute clinical setting and has done so for the past fifteen years. He has a very supportive wife, two children, two cats and a dog.
Tell us a bit about yourself and previous educational background.
My previous educational experience wasn’t a positive one and to be honest has had an impact in my adult life in terms of low self-esteem. Being a child in the mid/ late 70’s and into the 80’s dyslexia wasn’t really accepted I was often told I was slow, thick, stupid and lazy. Everybody knew what I was and it wasn’t called dyslexia, I wasn’t going to amount to anything. As I grew up things improved but I was never officially diagnosed and has an adult it is quite expensive to get a diagnosis. I left school with no qualifications and went down a vocational route rather than an academic path.
Throughout my life I have avoided anything academic however I got to a point in my photography where my images lacked context and I wanted to develop a deeper understanding. I knew that I didn’t have the qualifications to enter a photography degree at a traditional university but in my search for a course I came across the OCA’s ethos of open access and inclusion it gave me a path into a level of education I would otherwise have been denied. With my academic angst it took me a year or so to pluck up the courage to enter the course.
Can you describe the journey you’ve been on at OCA?
My journey so far has been a mix of surprise, enjoyment, frustration, academic angst, feelings of positivity, negativity and general sense of personal contradiction. At the core is an ongoing personal development of not just my photographic and dare I say artistic practice but also my self which at times can feel like treading through mud, however slow it seems it is holistically progressing in a positive direction. Much of the frustration is rooted in the desire to move quicker, understand everything and to produce perfection, all of which is impossible. Enjoyment because I have taken creative risks, enjoyed pushing boundaries and freedom of experimental play the framework of the course has given me. Surprise of the assessment result received for Express Your Vision which was unexpectedly strong.
Was there a particular moment when it clicked (pardon the pun)?
The moment when the penny dropped for me was receiving a high score at assessment. It was an indicator of what I described has “Me – Ness” rather than a score of good or bad, right or wrong and that this indicator will fluctuate from assignment to assignment, assessment to assessment as my developing personal voice grows. Even if I have little self belief or confidence in it, all I can do is make what I make and have confidence that this is a starting point for investigation and enquiry.
Can you say a bit about the tutor and peer support you received whilst on the course?
The tutor support and feedback I that have received throughout my journey so far has been challenging, balanced, at times confusing and frustrating, overall it has been positive in challenging me to think again. Garry Clarkson my tutor on EVY has been very supportive and has encouraged me to continue to investigate archive, family albums, memory and found images. We continue to remain in contact from time to time which is beyond his duty has a tutor. The OCA Forum I feel has been instrumental in my development from the start, a place of mutual peer support, request feedback, to ask questions, bat around ideas and grow in confidence when talk about not just my own work but others too. Tutor Clive White who has been extremely active on the forum has and continues provides excellent guidance not just on the forum but more so on the student led OCA Forum Live which provides an open and friendly setting where peers discuss our own work and receive feedback and support from each other with Clive overseeing guiding and providing supportive feedback.
What does getting a degree in photography mean to you?
Self-validation, personal growth and my ability to complete a creative and academic educational course at degree level. To attain a deeper understanding of not just the photographic world around me but also myself and my creative practice on a personal level.
Once I finally complete the degree? I am unsure, maybe get one more exhibition beyond the degree, who knows maybe move onto a masters. We can all dream.