I finished Art of Photography about two months ago and straight away got stuck into People & Place. I always meant to write this final AOP post to summarise and reflect on my learning experience over the course, and this week I’ve taken some time out to tidy up my AOP assignments ready for submission, and printed out the representative prints to send in the post. So it seems like a good time to sit down and get this ‘final thoughts’ post written…
My overwhelming feeling about Art of Photography is 100% positive! I’m SO glad I made the decision to get started on it. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was going to lead to continuing to the degree, I was very much taking it as a first step with no preconceptions. Now I am absolutely sure I want to take it all the way to degree, no matter how long it takes. I’ve really loved having new things to learn, and it’s re-opened a part of my mind that has lain dormant for far too long. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to find the time, but it’s never been a chore. A challenge sometimes, but never a chore.
Part 1: the Frame
It’s interesting looking back at my early photos from the start of the course. To be uncharacteristically immodest: my photography has most definitely improved! This section was very much about the real basics of composition and looking back, I was tentatively trying out new concepts without a huge amount of confidence or technical skill. It’s testament to how far I believe I’ve come that I’m actually faintly embarrassed by some of the images I published for the exercises and assignment in this section!
My favourite image from this section is the one below of the ducks on the riverboat.
Part 2: Elements of Design
This is the section that had the most profound impact on my developing photographic style. From this point on I started seeing the world divided into lines, shapes, points, patterns… I saw how positioning focal points on key diagonals could make a picture more impactful, and so on. I shot the whole section black and white as suggested, in order to focus on the design elements and composition, and this too helped my visual development – I now find it easier to ‘see’ in black and white. In fact sometimes I shoot in b/w JPG in camera for compositional purposes but actually use the colour image that I can develop from the Raw file. This section also introduced me in more detail to the work of a few very significant photographers, most notably Henri Cartier-Bresson. I love how he refers to the innate geometry of the world and the role of the photographer in ordering it in the frame.
There are lots of images from this section that I am proud of, but the one that I have printed out and is hanging above my head as I type is the exterior shot of York railway station.
Part 3: Colour
After the deep immersion into b/w for section 2, seeing the world in colour again was a bit of a jolt. I enjoyed all the colour theory aspects of this part of the course, how colours work together for harmony and dissonance. I had been vaguely aware of such rules but hadn’t really investigated or understood them until this section. The big general learning point for me on this section was about pre-visualisation: particularly for the assignment, I found myself imagining what images I wanted to achieve well before I saw them in real life. This is something I have continued to do ever since.
The image that always comes to mind when I think of the colour section of the course is the most ‘experimental’ one that I included in the assignment, which was singled out for praise by my tutor: the London nightscape from OXO Tower.
Part 4: Light
I confess I found this to be hardest section for me, especially when it needed artificial (photographic) light. There were a lot of exercises too, with very specific requirements (equipment and/or weather conditions) which made this section feel like a bit of hard slog. BUT! I’m very glad I persevered, as light is of course such an important aspect of photography that one MUST study it in order to better understand and harness it. The exercises and the assignment reinforced a view that I’d held for a long time, that I much prefer natural light to photographic light.
The best image I think I took over this section is probably the ‘texture’ one from the assignment – I like the eyes…
Part 5: Narrative & Illustration
I enjoyed this part of the course a lot actually, it let me develop my creative side a little bit! And the assignment was a pure joy to work on – lots of work, much more preparation and follow-up (selection, sequencing etc) than before, but totally worth it. What really came home to me in this section was how you can evoke an emotion, or spread a message, through the photographic choices you make. Until starting this course I was unsure of to what extent the photographer’s intent was really present, and to what extent the interpretations placed on photographic works were more in the mind of the viewer than the creator… but this section is where I began to realise the power of the deliberate intent behind a photo or a series of photos. I’m not saying I’ve mastered such a ‘storytelling’ skill myself at all yet, but just to be aware of the possibilities is powerful indeed.
My favourite shot of this last section is definitely the costumed dancing girl image from the assignment.
I loved it! I learnt loads, I really fell in love with photography (more than I already was) and as a bonus, became better at it.
Anyway, that’s my Art of Photography experience over now (until I get the Assessment result – eek!)