Posts tagged ‘oca’

February 21, 2015

Drawn by light – Study Visit

by Suzy Walker-Toye


It’s taken me a while to write up my visit at the end of last year to the Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the Science Museum. The visit was hosted by two OCA tutors, Rob Bloomfield and Wendy McMurdo. Wendy’s excellent review is written up here. I was very impressed that she had previewed the exhibition and really done her homework so she could show us around the exhibition and talk a little about selected pieces which was very interesting and added a lot to the visit. On other study visits I’ve been on its often the first time the tutors have seen the work so there is an obvious element of them winging it (which is also fine because you get their unfiltered responses).

drawn by light exhibition media space

I don’t have a great deal to add that that review really, apart from my own impression of how contemporary some of the images seemed to be. Especially the images of Christina, above, by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman. This was part of a set of images which were amazingly from 1913. It looks like she’s wearing a red hoodie! In fact I was surprised at how early the colour photographic processes had crept in. I was always under the impression it was much much later. I enjoyed seeing the range of classic images all together in one collection (although a few more sitting down places from which to enjoy the images would have been nice, its a largish sized exhibition across several rooms but in my pregnant state I found it quite tiring to do all at once including the tutor talks). This trailer from the science museum shows some more of the pictures that were on display (no photos inside the exhibition so I didn’t make as many notes on my phone as usual).

I love this quote from the timeout review I read because it sort of sums up the exhibition for me.

Got to love a pun in the name of a serious exhibition. ‘Drawn by Light’ could refer to the pull of the nascent technology of photography in the early nineteenth century, which drew scientists, artists and wealthy dilettantes, mothlike, to this incredible new way of recording the world on light-sensitive plates. But it also reflects the ‘artistic’ tack of a lot of early photography. This was drawing with light: a noble creative calling, whereby the treasures of the earth and the human soul might be delineated, analysed, catalogued. A path to enlightenment, if you will.

I enjoyed the 1850’s Salon style layout of one of the walls of images too, it gave the modern audience an appreciation of how these images may have been viewed when first exhibited.

DrawnByLight wall of images

In the little exhibition booklet it explains that they used images from the V&A (such as the one below) depicting an Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society 1858 to recreate this typical Salon curation. Its amazing to think of all that great work stuffed into such a small space.


After an hour or so around the exhibition we all convened for a chat over coffee, unfortunately there was much of it I couldn’t hear because the group was very large and I was somewhat on the edge. I think there was mention of the many gaps in topics of the images, since the RPS are “quite conservative” about what topics constitute art (which was quite cheeky I thought coming from the OCA tutors considering that even today academia frowns upon certain genres (namely wildlife photography which I find can be just as artistic as landscape or anything else, just go see the WPOTY exhibition if you need convincing of that).

The one image that really stuck with me was this one of London in the twenties: The Heart of Empire, c.1923, Alfred George Buckham.

The Heart of Empire, c.1923, Alfred George Buckham

It has so many elements that make me love it. The light. The subject (I’m a proud Londoner so any lovely London views, especially around the thames hold a special place in my heart). The point of view, even today aerial views are not as common and mundane as many other view points for photographs so in those days – to take this photo – wow! The plane as the focal point and the shafts of light and the Thames leading the eye through the photo. Its amazing. The reproduction here looks a little newspaper-clippingish but its well worth going to see in person.

With the exception of that one image (and some of the colour ones), overall I think I agree with other OCA student, Sarah-Jane, that I was glad to see it but I wasn’t as excited as I should have been about this exhibition. A lot of these images were amazing for their time-period, and certainly very interesting as an academic collection of historical images however, as a modern audience, people have seen hundreds of images of a similar nature (sure, its good to see where we came from) but I think I prefer seeing the contemporary shows of where photography is now. The modern exhibitions seem to have a trend of showing images super blown up. Does it make me shallow that it’s more impressive? Perhaps. Maybe its just that I’m tired of seeing millions of tiny photos of mediocre things (on a computer screen, mobile phone, or in fact printed as these are) I want to see something that wows me in some new way, something I can get excited about. I’d still recommend going to see it though, its on at the science museum media space until 1st March 2015 (so you don’t have long).

Here are some more reviews not linked to already above
Design week
The Guardian
The Telegraph
BBC Radio 4

April 5, 2014

Exercise: Spaces

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Project 6 – Mise-en-scène

The term mise-en-scène can be literally translated as ‘putting in the scene’. It refers to the placement of objects, and the arrangement of space within a frame. The term originates in the theatre where all perceived space has to be represented in a fixed frame, ie the stage. The arrangement of items and actors may produce a cosy living room or a battle raging over a mountain range, both contained in the same absolute physical space.

The mise-en-scène can also affect the overall atmosphere and meaning of a shot. A cluttered crowded space has a different feel to an open exposed place. The placing of different items within the space can change the emphasis placed on them. Items in the centre and foreground are likely to be more noticeable than items at the back or edges of the frame.

(source: p35 of course notes)

This exercise (p37) is about the atmosphere of a space.

Capture four shots that have the following feel about them:
• An oppressive, cluttered space
• An open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item
• A stark, empty hostile space
• A warm, friendly, cosy space

Cluttered space

Above is my cluttered, oppressive space. It feels oppressive to me because there is so much stuff crowding in and a sense of disorganisation. This is amplified by the clock ticking away – so much stuff to do and time is running out. (This is my desk btw which is why I mostly sit on the couch with my laptop).

Open space

Above is my open, honest, simple space containing one intriguing item. After I took it I thought the mix of lighting was a bit weird, I was originally thinking that the daylight would make it look more open (which I think it does) but it sort of clashes a bit with the colour temp of the halogens (despite my trying to even them a little in Lightroom).

Stark space

This is my A stark, empty hostile space, I thought of waiting rooms and institutional spaces. The cat box got me thinking about the vets (although I didn’t tell my model that). I’ve make the colour temp a bit colder to give it a more institutional, strip-lit look.

Warm comfy space

This is my warm, friendly, cosy space. I left the book where it was rather than remove it to give the impression the owner has just stepped out for a moment. The soft cushions and sprawling cat look pretty comfy and inviting to me. I pushed the colour temp a little warmer to over egg the feeling.

November 4, 2013

Exercise: Visualisation

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p21 is about subjective visualisation (first person views that is).
We were to imagine the situations described below, Place ourselves in the scene and then (badly) sketch out what we’d imagined. Then answer a few questions on the scene. I espceially liked this bit:
Don’t worry if you are not an illustrator. These are to aid you own memory not win art prizes.

You are talking to someone in a shop
The person is facing you talking in an animated way, using their hands.


Photo I imagined is in a coffee shop where the baristas are often quite demonstrative when asking if you want whipped cream on your coffee & which sized cup etc. The counter where you pay is always squashed in between sections for cakes & sandwiches etc.

• What was left out at the edges?
The rest of the counter was left out and the credit card machine is cut off as a small square in the bottom left.

• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The stuff behind the barista, you are aware of stuff but not what. The exact details of the menu & adverts are also muddy

• Why did you leave them out?
I wasn’t focusing on them, I was looking at the guy

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
I left an impression of them so yes.

Knocking on a door
You knock on the door. You wait.
The door is opened.


You may have conjured up some images of things you looked at while you were waiting. Nope, our door has frosted glass and I always try to discern what all the blurry shapes are as someone comes up the hall to answer the door.

• What was left out at the edges?
Most of the door
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The pattern of the glass

• Why did you leave them out?
Couldn’t remember the exact pattern

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Yes because my drawings are so great people will immediately know what all the swirly grey smush is 😉

In the next scenario you may imagine several images to cover the action described.
You are having an illicit affair
You are alone having a passionate conversation with your loved one. A sudden sound in the background causes you to glance round.



This one was the hardest because I couldn’t really imagine having an affair. If I was having a passionate conversation with my loved one then I’d be totally focused on them (although they’d obviously be much more handsome in person). If a noise made me glance around I think I’d guiltily look at the door.

• What was left out at the edges?
Only the thing of focus was in the two drawings, the person and then the door area

• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The room behind the person

• Why did you leave them out?
Not relevant to the scene

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Yes because there is ways some background

Some questions posed on the next page are:
• Which sequences are the most effective and why?
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Subjective scenes are best for when the viewers are supposed to take on the persona of the character so you see what they see. So in this case the mid range view of the shop keeper or where his face & hands are really close in.

• What makes a convincing subjective sequence?
Sequences where you focus on what the person would see without turning their heads or pan & scanning are effectively because that is what you’d see in real life.

• What gives the sequence a sense of atmosphere or tension?
Probably for a subjective scene probably leaning forward close into the action would give tension.

• What information is conveyed in each frame?
This first one (A mid shot taking in the shopkeeper and his immediate surroundings. The hands are centre frame) conveys the shopkeeper in his surroundings. It provides context to the scene.
The second one (A medium close-up of the person you are talking to. The face and hands.) conveys just the action of the shop keeper talking
The last one, the objective view (shows both characters, ‘you’ and the person you are talking to.) conveys both characters so you are in the scene as a fly on the wall, there but not involved.

November 2, 2013

Exercise: Building a Story

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p19 is about exploring the function of a frame. One large, complex scene can be captured in one frame but also, you can break out some details from that which could be frames in their own right. You could even use these new frames to tell a new a different story without the original context.

Here is a famous painting by Dutch painter Joachim Wtewael:

Kitchen Scene by Joachim Wtewael

It depicts a kitchen scene where the main action is the man cutting up the fish and the woman putting creatures onto a large stick.

These three smaller scenes have been taken out as frames from this painting but they could spawn off other stories.
In this scene a young boy is trying to feed his dog from the bucket but the dog is disobedient and wants to eat the mangy left over fish lying on the floor of where he lives.


In this scene the new story could be that they are two lovers having an illicit affair, cozying up by the fire but the woman is hearing her husband coming home.


In this frame the woman could be mixing up paints for the mad one-legged artist behind her.

November 1, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story – Part 3

by Suzy Walker-Toye

So in part one of this exercise I told a familiar story in 5 frames only (Jack the beanstalk), In part two I commented on other students familiar stories and here in part 3 we get to make up out own story, only five frames again though. Please excuse the horrible drawings, trust me that the story looks much better in my minds eye, the course notes do point out that these sketches are only supposed to be a personal aide memoire storyboard 😉



This is based on a true story, which has happened to me and many other photographers, however here wildly exaggerated for comedic effect & with an alternative ending. Its essentially the vilification of DSLR users by the police and other security officials.

  • Frame 1: Nice scenic view of Big Ben & Westminster from across the thames – the sort which might make a nice photograph.
  • Frame 2: The view point draws back and you see the gaggle of tourists all snapping away at the view with compact cameras and phones, eyeballed by many CCTV cameras of London. A bored policeman stands by taking no interest in them.
  • Frame 3: The tourists have moved on and a photographer appears. You can tell he’s a photographer by the big camera, tripod in hand and backpack full of gear
  • Frame 4: The policeman is on high alert, its clearly very suspicious behaviour to be taking photos with a big camera, the policeman accosts the photographer to find out what he’s really up to.
  • Frame 5: Not satisfied with the answer (or more likely the backchat) the policeman chases the photographer away with threat of violence (thats supposed to be a truncheon and not a sword in the sketch, not too many policemen have swords as standard issue these days).

Before I get hate comments from the po po – I’d just like to point out that I think this would in no way happen in real life! Apart from a documented propensity to judge people by the size of their camera gear I know the police would never do this. When I was asked (in this very scenic spot) what I was doing they seemed satisfied I wasn’t a terrorist and left me in peace to take my photos.

Other comments/reflection:

As I mentioned in part 2, I really liked the depth to the scenes I noticed in the other students storyboards so I tried to include that here. You know you’re in the same place because of the background. In frame one I included the boat on the thames so I could show it in frame two to be a middle ground because you don’t see big ben in the second frame. The backgrounds and CCTV poles serve to provide continuity between frames as the story unfolds.

October 23, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story – Part 2

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The second (and as it turns out, more challenging part) of this exercise is to look at other students websites to see what they did on their version of the exercise. Its surprising how difficult it is to find other students blogs for this course. Most of the profiles of my classmates on the OCA student website are either not filled in or dont provide a blog link. A google search provided me with a couple – so here goes:

Emily’s OCA blog:

  • What is the story?
    • Cinderella
  • What information is conveyed within each frame?
    1. Ugly sisters with the invite to the ball and Cinderella unhappy with the broom
    2. Fairy making Cinderella ball-going worthy
    3. Cinderella dancing at the ball
    4. Cinderella leaving her shoe behind for the Prince to find
    5. The ugly sister left barefooted while the Prince finds the shoe fits on Cinderella
  • What information is necessary to understand the story?
    • Its a well known story and was easily identified by those 5 frames
  • What essential information has been left out and is anything included unnecessarily?
    • Nothing essential has been left out, I think Emily was wise to leave out the pumpkin & mice etc, too many details wouldn’t have fit into 5 frames. She probably should have been wearing the yellow shoes in the dancing frame since they are so integral to the story later. I really like how Emily has got the relationships in and use of depth within the frames.

Richard J Down’s Blog:

  • What is the story?
    • Jack & The beanstalk
  • What information is conveyed within each frame?
    1. Jack has swapped Magic beans for a cow on the way to market
    2. Jack is being told off and the beans being chucked out of the window
    3. Jack climbing the beanstalk
    4. The giant with the goose that lays the golden egg
    5. Jack chopping down the beanstalk and keeping the goose for himself
  • What information is necessary to understand the story?
    • Its a well known story and was easily identified by those 5 frames
  • What essential information has been left out and is anything included unnecessarily?
    • I think is first frame is way better than mine, its more obvious what went on with the magic beans. In the second frame I love that you don’t actually see that Jack is being told off by his mum but the frame really gets that sense of family squabble over because you can hear it from all the way outside in the street! You don’t get to find out that Jack kills the giant though. and I wasn’t quite sure at first the distinction between jacks house and the giants house – I thought that it was Jack with the goose in frame 4 at first.

Heidi’s Blog

  • What is the story?
    • Santa coming at Christmas
  • What information is conveyed within each frame?
    1. Person hanging stocking up
    2. Person going to bed
    3. Boots coming down the chimney
    4. Santa closeup
    5. Happy person with presents
  • What information is necessary to understand the story?
    • Its a well known scenario and was easily identified by those 5 frames
  • What essential information has been left out and is anything included unnecessarily?
    • Nothing is left out – I wish I’d thought of this one 😉

Part 3 of the exercise involves me coming up with my own story and drawing it out… wil get back to you all on that one.

October 23, 2013

Video Interview: Reuben Irving from the OCA

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Found this on the WeArOCA website (while looking for other students blogs of the course for part two of the first exercise):

Reuben Irving, the author of the OCA’s film course was in the OCA office for an interview about it.

October 19, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story

by Suzy Walker-Toye

A film can be split into acts, then scenes, then shots, and finally frames. We can actually tell a story with only frames (a bit like a photo essay). In the course materials they told the story of little red riding hood in 5 frames:

  • Ms Hood in the woods
  • Ms Hood meets the wolf
  • The wolf attacks Grandma at her house
  • Ms Hood tending to grandma (who is clearly the wolf dressed up)
  • The wolf chowing down on Ms Hood.

The challenge for this exercise is to tell another story in 5 frames & sketch it out. I have chosen to continue with the fairytale theme, and will be telling you the story of Jack & the Beanstalk. Here are my five frames (no sniggering at my sketching abilities please)!

Jack & the Beanstalk

I found it useful to write out the story and underline my 5 salient points plot so I could pre-visualise them before putting pencil to paper.

Jack & The Beanstalk:

Jack is broke. He gets sent off to market to sell his cow but swaps her for magic beans with a stranger he meets along the way. His mother is furious and throws out the beans. Overnight the beanstalk grows and Jack climbs up it to a giants house. Jack befriends the giants wife and managed to steal a goose that lays golden eggs. Shamelessly, he goes back again. He steals a magic harp and this time the giant almost catches him. The giant chases Jack down the stalk but Jack cuts it down and kills the giant. Jack and his mum live happily ever after with their ill-gotten gains.


Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Would you have chosen different scenes for your 5 frames? I think it would been nice to show a frame of the giants house, or maybe the goose. Or perhaps a closeup of jack with the axe cutting down the stalk? However, then I would have gone over the allowed limit of 5 frames. My husband said my cow looked like she was rolling her eyes, “Oh no, not these bloody beans again”.