Aims and goals of Understanding Visual Culture

I begin ‘Understanding Visual Culture’ with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. This is my third course with OCA and my previous modules ‘The Art of Photography’ and ‘Digital Photographic Practice’ were not plain sailing as I found myself overrunning the allotted two years to complete and spending far too much time worrying about what I was doing rather than just getting on with the course. The last six months of DPP have seen me change my outlook quite significantly – partly this was due to necessity as I was given a definite amount of time to complete the course otherwise I would fail but also something seems to have clicked inside me. I am beginning to understand that it is often the journey rather than the destination that matters and failing is not necessarily such a bad thing – providing learning has taking place.

As I embark on UVC I thought it would be useful to make a note of some aims and goals I would like to achieve through the course. Completing a purely academic rather than practical course is something of a departure from what I am used to but I am hoping that a broader understanding of art and art theory will be a huge benefit when I move onto levels 2 and 3. I do anticipate a period of adjustment however.

Have an activity plan and stick to it

I have done this for each course but have never stuck to the activities I set myself. Instead of thinking about my activity planner as being immovably set in stone I intend to use it as a working document. It is likely that I will be faced with many obstacles to progressing with the course; this could be things outside of my control such as work or family commitments or it could be that I need to allow myself a little more time to complete a project or assignment.

Complete within 1 year (max)

I am hoping to complete a project each week – with 28 projects and 5 assignments this should be achievable. Of course this does not account for the fact I will probably spend longer on the assignments than the projects and other work I will put into the course such as further reading, reflection and exhibition visits will also be factors. I also have some work to do to get my submission for DPP ready which will also impact on time. I plan to take stock every week, reflect and understand whether I have put the work into the course or not.

Do NOT procrastinate!!

By applying a structure to my approach I will hopefully be able to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination that have dogged my efforts in the first two modules. Perhaps complacency rather than procrastination is a more apt way of describing my attitude – two years seems like an awfully long time to complete the course and it is often tempting to put off study for other activities. Twice now I have ended up in a place where I am way behind which then makes it so much harder to get going again. There are key times in my week that I plan to dedicate to study – my philosophy is that little and often will help keep the momentum up rather than short, extended bursts of activity.

Find a way to put the theory into practice through my photography

The main reason I embarked on study with the OCA toward a photography degree was that I wanted to gain some structure to my work and develop my ‘photographic voice’. A risk with studying UVC is that I do not invest the time to keep pushing my photographic boundaries forward. This is unknown territory as I will need to balance taking photographs and pursuing personal projects with the goals I have  set myself for completing the course. It is important that I learn to become self motivated and able to sustain my photography as I progress through the levels however.

Learn more about the history of art and art theory

My knowledge of art is limited and I am sure further study will help me to appreciate new work when I see it. Too long now I have also only been focused on photography and I need to broaden my horizons.

Streamline my note taking

Too often through my previous courses I have not been able to refer adequately or acknowledge fully books I have been studying because I either do not have any notes or the notes I have taken are of little use. Hopefully the academic nature of UVC will help me be more analytical and less random in my approach to reading about a subject and study.

Use the books I buy

I am far too guilty (and guilt is probably an accurate emotion to use) of buying books and keeping them on the shelf, or starting to read something and not completing it. At the end of DPP I was encouraged by my tutor to read Roland Barthes ‘Camera Lucida’, this is a book that has sat on my shelf for ages because it is renowned as an extremely important work in photographic thinking. I had not read it  because I knew it would be difficult, but on my tutors insistence I decided to take plunge. I do not pretend to have absorbed everything Barthes asserts but I did gain a lot from my initial read through – more importantly I realise that it is a work I will go back to many times. Reassuringly the initial parts of the course notes discuss the importance of reading academic texts a number of times to ascertain meaning and not to be worried if little is understood on the first read through. Timely advice indeed.

Use the course as a catalyst to become my active on the OCA forums

I simply do not interact as much as I should on the OCA student and OCA Flickr forums and over my time studying with OCA I have noticed many fellow students develop much faster than me using the support network available. I intend to make much more comment myself and hope to have the same outcome.

Go to see as many exhibitions as possible

I do visit a lot of exhibitions but I recognise I could also do more when I think back over the past year and shows I have missed. I believe looking at work in a gallery setting  is massively important and the experience can not be replicated through looking at work on the web or in books. I will incorporate current exhibitions into my activity planner as a reminder and hopefully a prompt.

Improve my way of approaching and disseminating an exhibition visit

Hopefully my approach to visiting exhibitions and therefore the output I gain from the visit will improve as my knowledge increases as I progress through the course. I realise however that I do not have a particular way of approaching viewing work and am probably missing out on a huge amount, I intend to review this in a similar way as approaching note taking.

These broad goals are not immovable and I am sure during the course their importance will ebb and flow. I hope they will act as a reminder to me about what I want to achieve as I begin my studies – only time will tell how much I achieve them or how closely I stick to them!