A recent article in Source made me think about my own reasons for studying at masters level.
I think the main reason was to give me the time and space to be able to make new work I had been thinking about. In the working world and in my case working as a corporate photographer, its difficult to get into the mind set of making personal work. The corporate commissions I was getting had in some ways sucked all the life out of me as a creative photographer. Everything had to be pin sharp, the depth of field correct for the University Media output guidelines. If photographing an event I had to leave a certain amount of space around an image so that it could be cropped square for web and also I had to shoot over the shoulder if photographing someones face at an event to create depth in the images. How can there be a set of guidelines that are so strict for a creative subject such as photography. No event was the same, and it was not always possible to adhere to. All these kind of things made the process almost painful and I really spent a period of time disliking photography altogether.
To get out of this bubble I chose to do an MA. The funding aspect came just at the right time really as previously it wasn't possible to get a student loan for postgraduate education.
Now onto the research aspect. At the start of the course I decided to have a recap of some of the titles I had read through during my BA studies 8 years previous. The main title I was drawn towards was Photography as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton. I remember at BA level I had just been diagnosed with severe dyslexia and really struggled to read books. Cottons chapter which she had titled "Intimate Life" really grabbed my attention. I read it over and over again and thought yes I get this and I really want to make work like this. I didn't really feel however, like I had much of an intimate life to photograph. I loved the descriptions of the family album and the snapshot aesthetic and it made me go out and buy a little point and shoot camera so I could start experimenting with this aesthetic myself.
This area of photography has been of interest to me ever since. Perhaps not just the aesthetic ( which is actually very popular in publications at the moment) but the idea that we take these photographs to remember things. It is this aspect which really intrigues me and was the start of my first module project [My Grandmother's] Cabinet of Curiosities
Without the time I have allowed myself for studying this MA, the tutors, and especially my peers I don't think I would have thought about this work or in that fact made it.
Lucy Soutter wrote a very good article titled "Should I do a photography MA" which is really where this sudden splurge of words has come from. She mentioned that MA Photography students should write about photography so I decided to write this reflection on what it was that drew me to an MA.
Soutter talks about "creating the right sized umbrella for your practise". This is where the peer input I mentioned earlier comes into play. Without other students and staff members giving me feedback on my work both critically and personally, I would only have had the feedback from my family and in particular my girlfriend. This familial feedback isn't always the best place to go for some words of wisdom about how to move forward with my work because the answer is always along the lines of praise. Not that this is a bad thing and on the occasion where I feel like I'm not getting anywhere with a specific body of work a bit of praise from my loved ones goes down a treat.
The area I find most tricky and is something I want to improve during this process is creating parameters for my practise. Its a fine line between defining the work so much that one is stuck in a rut of only one subject matter or one technical style, or having such broad goal posts anything fits into the brief. Its important however not to limit yourself too much as a project or body of work needs to breathe and there needs to be further options for research. I feel with my work on memory and the family album I am giving myself the breadth to look at this work closely but also leaving enough options open within which direction I can take the work. I'm excited by the ongoing development of my style which has already started to come to the surface and I look forward to where it goes next. It was difficult to get out of the mind set of sharp images and focusing where the guidelines told me too. I went through a phase of not really knowing where my work is going so stopped photographing all together. This MA is encouraging in terms of experimentation, research and developement.
More on this to follow as I think about it...