As I’m still in my ‘regroup and refocus’ mode following the feedback from Assignment 4, alongside following the advice to get out and take a lot more pictures I am spending time reflecting on how I work and what implications this has for the outputs I produce.

I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of why I find Level 3 so uncomfortable compared to Levels 1 and 2. A big part of it is undoubtedly the old cliché of ‘getting out of your comfort zone’, which I do feel like I have been doing a lot over the last couple of years.

However, it feels to me that there is a deeper underlying tension between the way in which I work creatively and the way in which the Body of Work module is structured. This isn’t a criticism of the BoW course itself but more of a concern I have about the extent to which I follow or deviate from the expected BoW journey, and what impact this may or may not have on final assessment.

My BoW journey so far

In anticipation of needing to write about the whole BoW experience at the end of this course, I’ve been collecting my thoughts on my experience so far.

The general direction of BoW, from both my reading of the course notes and from my knowledge of other L3 students’ experiences, seems to be one of starting wide, taking lots of pictures, seeing what emerges and honing this into a ‘final’ piece of work over five assignments.

I know there are variations on this: I know students who didn’t know what their work was ‘about’ until Assignment 4. I know one student who progressed two very different ideas in parallel before opting for one approach at the end of the module. I know another who knew exactly what the work was about all the way through, and used the assignments to incrementally deliver the planned work. But generally speaking I think the norm is to find a theme earlier than I did and develop it for longer.

My four assignments so far can be summarised as:

  • 1 and 2: searching for the idea
  • 3 and 4: refining the idea

… with a view to hopefully:

  • 5: executing the idea

I’ll come back to this…

My ‘creative type’

A lightbulb went off after I took a ‘Creative Type’ test from Adobe.

I know not to take this kind of thing too seriously so am considering the outcome of the test more of a jumping-off point for reflection rather than an incisive, personalised insight into my brain.

The test result had me down as “The Thinker” (for reference, the alternatives were Artist, Adventurer, Maker, Producer, Dreamer, Innovator and Visionary).

A few pertinent statements about Thinkers, with my responses:

  • For the Thinker, the examined life is truly the only one worth living. Ever the perpetual student, you experience the world as an endless opportunity for learning, discovery, and truth-seeking.
    • I see this in myself; I enjoy the learning part of the degree a lot, possibly even more so than the actual practice of making work!
  • Few things satisfy your inquisitive mind more than a well-formulated question or an elegant solution, and you’re content to spend much of your time alone, studying topics that fascinate you and engaging with your inner world of ideas.
    • Again I recognise this; I do spend a lot of time ‘engaging with my inner world of ideas’
    • In terms of subject matter I have since Level 2 found myself drawn to what one might call the ‘interior landscape’ of concepts, thoughts and emotions (loss, grief, identity, tribalism, now memory)  – much more so than ‘real’ subjects in the outside world
  • Your biggest challenges? Getting out of your head and learning to balance theory with practice. Try not to get too caught up in concepts and abstractions, dear Thinker. Great ideas are meant to be brought to life.
    • Yes! Despite having realised this before, I still spend too much time in my own mind and not enough time ‘making stuff’

Episodic attention span

As an aside, and not part of the Thinker analysis, I have also realised that I have what you might call an ‘episodic attention span’ – as in I am more interested in trying new ideas than I am developing existing ones. Whilst this approach served me well in Levels 1 and 2, where each assignment is standalone, it runs into difficulty in Level 3, where an extended development of a longer-term project is required.

With hindsight this preference is partly explicable by my pre-photography career; I was an IT project manager, latterly as a freelance consultant. My focus for much of my career was on delivering relatively short (six-month) projects with clearly identifiable beginnings and ends.

Articulate problem – define solution – deliver solution – hand over – move on.

Without meaning to, I approached Level 3 in this episodic way. I delivered the first two assignments having already considered them ‘done’ and wanting to move onto another idea.

For both Assignments 3 and 4 I produced book dummies. With hindsight this was premature, as it implies a level of ‘completion’ that the work didn’t merit. I should have been delivering loose prints, contact sheets, rough sequencing etc.

Applying this to my BoW journey so far

I have, as noted above, been working very much with “The Idea” (or the notion, the concept of the idealised idea) at the foundational construct of my BoW. I’ve venerated “The Idea”, allowing it to be my primary focus – and the execution of it to be oddly secondary.

Other creative types ‘think through making’ – I increasingly realise that I ‘think then make’.

Put another way, some people start creating lots of work without necessarily knowing why, then discern the ‘meaning’ over time – whereas I prefer to crystallise an intended meaning in my mind first, then seek ways of turning my visualisation into reality.

As an extreme example, for one of my Level 2 assignments I planned out everything in my head and then on paper before I took a single photograph, then shot the whole assignment in the space of an hour.

Reading the blurb on how a ‘Thinker’ operates has shed some light on how my approach might be slightly different to that expected or implied in the BoW structure – but not in an insurmountable way.

It’s not all doom and gloom!

This whole thought process has made me critically examine my BoW journey. There are certainly things I’d have done differently, but in the end this has been my journey, and I am now better able to articulate how the path from Assignment 1 to Assignment 5 represents a learning and development experience, albeit a slightly unorthodox one perhaps.

One of the things I need to do when I sit down to write about my experience of the whole course in a few months time is to identify how aspects of the earlier assignments informed the end result – how I synthesised elements between and across the seemingly disparate assignments to produce the end result.

Right, back to taking lots of pictures…


Sources

My Creative Type by Adobe https://mycreativetype.com (accessed 16/05/2019)