“Get on with it before you blow it”!


Even with all the will in the world, getting started on anything major is easy to put off. No more clearly has this been illustrated than by Oswald “Ozzie” Henderson, who this week, submitted his first assignment for the Art of Photography; ‘Contrasts’. Submitting the first assignment is, as far as I can imagine, perhaps the most challenging hurdle to overcome with a distance-learning course. Two things stood out as particularly significant with Ozzie’s submission: Firstly, the quality of the work, and secondly; it’s taken 18 months since Ozzie enrolled on the module to submit this, which is in fact the second time he’s enrolled on the Art of Photography. After two years he ‘timed out’ without submitting any work at all. So when I opened up the parcel containing Ozzie’s first assignment (three-and-a-half years overdue!) I did so – to say the least – with trepidation.

(At this point, I’d like to say that these prints were stunning: Excellent choice of paper… very good print quality for inkjets… strong depth of tone. They were a bit bigger (A3) than strictly necessary, but they did much better justice to Ozzie’s images then seeing them on the screen.)

As Ozzie points out in the way he interpreted the brief, which is to respond photographically to pairs of opposing words, there are essentially two ways of approaching the exercise: One way is a graphic way of conveying the contrast and the other way is to convey the feeling of the contrast title in an image.” He continues: “It’s something that you probably understand when looking at a picture and could probably articulate it if discussing a picture with someone but, having to consciously find and describe visually in your own images what a title equates to, is difficult.”


‘Sweet / Sour’ (Buenos Aires) © Ozzie Henderson

I think Ozzie achieved that brilliantly within several of the images he submitted for this assignment. The most striking was this one, taken whilst he was working in Buenos Aires: There’s plenty I could waffle on about, but I’m confident the photograph articulates some of these contrasts for itself. In any case, I’d rather you read Ozzie’s own description of the circumstances surrounding this shot, and the rest, on his blog.

Ozzie’s assignment is by no means a ‘text book’ example of what the ‘Contrasts’ assignment should look like, and of course, no such thing exists; nor would I want one to. But his submission demonstrates experimentation, tenacity, intuition and attention to detail, which I think are really important qualities when exploring any brief, and which should be celebrated.

To see these things from such a long-awaited assignment was very encouraging, and I know that there will be other students out there who, at whatever stage in their studies, will struggle to get things moving from time to time. Ozzie points out some major challenges faced by distance learners within the arts, which I’m sure will strike a chord:

“Not knowing what a degree-level Photography student’s work should look like”. In this case Ozzie turned to the “great and the good” from the photography canon, and that shows within the visual qualities of his work, and it demonstrates that aspiring to challenging references can raise your standards. Finally:

“Isolation also plays a part as you can’t reference anything or ask questions to someone in the same position as you. But, you get to a point where you just have to get on with it before you blow it.”