3 February 2013

Aiming for an 'A' - Part 1. Warning Flags.

As I wrote a series of posts about my path to obtaining my 'L' (or more properly my 'LRPS', meaning Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society) it seems to make sense to do the same again, now that I am aiming for my 'A'.  The 'A' in this case stands for Associateship, and is the next step up from the L.  When I say next step, I don't mean a tidy little couple-of-inches-high step, I mean a whacking great giant sized step.  The RPS says that the A is a big step up from the L, and they really mean it.  I suppose the up side is that this means that obtaining it will be some achievement.  The down side is that it is a jolly sight tougher than the L was, and THAT was not exactly a walkover.  However, I passed my L in 2010 - nearly three years ago, yikes - so now feels like the time to aim for the next level.  

So, last autumn I duly filled out the ARPS application form, and promptly ran into my first difficulty.  I didn't know which category my chosen subject matter fitted in.  So after quite a bit of um-ing and ah-ing, and several emailed conversations with Ben at RPS (who has the patience of a saint), I decided that I would be applying within the Professional and Applied rather than the Visual Arts category.  But I should've taken heed of the uncertainty I felt in trying to decide, as it was a big warning flag.  It showed I didn't know how I was going to approach the actual photographing of my topic as far as the finished style was concerned.

I had decided to submit a panel of images of doors and windows, as I have enjoyed photographing these for a long time.  I started working on this, but a niggly voice in my head was muttering that this was not the right decision.  I should've listened to that, too.  Another warning flag.  It showed I wasn't confident of my subject.

When I worked for my L I was very nervous, but I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, how I wanted it to look, and what my end objective was.  I was discovering that for my A, I was increasingly unsure of what I wanted to do, was confused about how I wanted it to look, and had no real idea of where I was going in terms of the final panel.  

And most discouraging of all, I didn't feel that the panel I was working on reflected who I am becoming as a photographer.  This was probably the biggest warning flag of all.  It showed I wasn't brave enough to reach forward out of my 'comfort zone'.

I finally took notice.  I booked to attend an Advisory Day.  

I attended an Advisory Day for my L too, and it was extremely useful.  So I was hopeful of some helpful insights this time.  As I walked from my car to the RPS HQ in Bath, I felt even more strongly that the panel I was working on wasn't the right one, and I already had an idea of what I wanted to do.  Before it even got to the point in the day when my prints were put up for comment, I knew for sure that my earlier uncertainties were well founded.  It was obvious that my partial panel was nowhere near strong enough.  The comments just confirmed it.

I came away knowing I needed to start again from scratch.  Although it meant discarding all the work I'd already done I was excited about my new idea.  If the advisory day had gone well I would probably have carried on with the same project, but the fact that it hadn't gone well gave me the chance to change my mind and start again.   It meant postponing my assessment date, but it also meant I was now working on a project I am passionate about, which I think is a bit unusual for a Distinctions panel, and which I have a clear objective for.

At last.

So now, here I am moving away from a panel of doors and windows (though I still enjoy photographing them), and I am busily putting together an offering on church bells instead.  Ah yes, church bells.  An obvious choice for a Distinctions panel...  This is going to be an even bigger challenge, but this time I'm loving it!  I KNOW this is the panel I want to present, and it will reflect who I am as a person as well as a photographer. 

The moral of this particular chapter of the story is:  If you're going to aim for an A, you need to know exactly what you are going to shoot, why you want to shoot it, and how you are going to approach it.

And you need a clear 'Statement of Intent'.  At the beginning.  More on that to come...

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