Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A year ends...

And what a year, zero progress as a student with the OCA, getting preciously close to giving it all in.  The death of someone very close to me at the end of 2012 was followed by a dramatic change in my working circumstances.  Somehow these combined to knock me off my photographic feet and I never managed to get up again.

In this blog I have documented a few plans, false dawns that ultimately led nowhere, I could never gather the necessary momentum to restart my work.  The fundamental challenge is time, through 2013 worked an average 60 hour week, 12 hours a day sitting opposite a computer keyboard - I start around 7am and work until 7pm, or later if I am foolish enough to take a lunch break.  The work is highly pressured and intellectually demanding, there is little left in me at the end of the day and the weekends have become an alcohol assisted recovery (assuming I am not working over the weekend to catch up on something).  In December work finally eased off and I was able to plan a 3 week break over Christmas, time to catch up (and consume unused vacation time).  A trapped nerve in my neck ended any hope of using the time for photography - my work still had the last laugh, with the parting gift of an RSI typical for a keyboard based worker.  The steroid injection in my spine was less painful than the condition, grrr....  I have to be careful not to complain too much, it is a good job and well paid, there is simply too much of it.

The net is that once again I am writing a blog entry trying to make sense of where I am and where to go next.  My blog is becoming a diary of angst and stress rather than a celebration of my learning, however, it is therapeutic and writing this stuff down helps me to organize my thoughts. So, with the end of the year and the start of a new one I arrive at a decision point, I must find a way to re-incorporate the OCA into my life or be honest with myself and accept that my attempt at an arts degree has failed.  This is within my control, it is my choice.

As I reflect on 2013, it was not all bad, I have had two photos published in the Big Issue in the North,this was in the 1-7 July issue:

I also photographed two weddings, one in the North of Ireland, another in Denmark (not blogged yet), plus the engagement of a Turkish couple here in Munich.  Note to self - start asking for money:)

A super trip to the Philippines yielded some great underwater imagery.

What came as more of a surprise was the use by the OCA of two of my photographs.  I came across these by accident, browsing the new OCA web site and spotting them.  Both are images from my final assignment for People and Place and show scenes of Munich subway stations.  The first adorns the cover of the newly rewritten DPP course:

The other is an illustration on a web page outlining the Writing Skills course in the Creative Writing degree pathway on Oca-uk.com

It might have been nice to be informed of their use, but no problem really, I am just delighted that my work is held in high enough regard to be used by the OCA in their own material.  This cheered me up immensely and reinforced the link that I feel to the college.

This brings me back to where I am and where I am going.

I have written to the OCA office to ask about my options.  I have two years to complete Social Documentary, that time runs out in June.  I asked for extra time, answer was no, my reasons are not good enough. I also have until Sept 2016 to complete my year 2 studies.  This leaves me with three options:

  1. Quit the OCA
  2. Complete Soc Doc in the next 6 months.  I have 3 assignments to complete, although most of the photographic work is done, so not an impossible hurdle.
  3. Quit Soc Doc and start a new course - Documentary. 
OK, I am not going to quit OCA, it might happen by default if I run out of time, but I will not consciously make that decision.  That leaves options 2 and 3.  The new course is attractive as it would provide a good stepping stone to Level 3.  I am concerned that I have recently gone backwards rather than progressing.  However, I have some good material for the current course and I feel I should try and complete.  If I fail to make the deadline then I will have to do option 3.  So my decision is to continue with SD and try and make the June deadline for the 3 remaining assignments - going to need to start on the essay pretty soon...

All of this can only happen if I get my life in order and find a way to get out from under my current workload.  the good thing is that my managers are all aware that we cannot keep up this workload without something breaking (in my case my neck was the indicator that the break was coming).  I also need to start getting out of the house more often and reduce my reliance on alcohol to relax on the weekends.  

3 weeks ago I had my 50th birthday, so now is a time to start thinking about the rest of my life, what I want to do with it, and most importantly how long it is going to be.  Changes are needed and I plan to use the OCA as a vehicle to make those changes.  I must make time for my course and that can only come from a reduction in my working week, so here is where I must start.  Will not be easy even with the law in Germany making a working week of more than 48 hours illegal.  However, I must find a way to say no and work smarter to avoid our perennial fire drill exercises.  Alcohol, well that one is easy enough to manage, just needs some will power and the realization that I am no longer 20. Exercise, camera in hand a long walk can be a journey of discovery.

Thinking back on my photographic work, I think this year long break might actually help, it has allowed me to reflect on what I am interested in.  While I have done little real work, I have spent many nights awake thinking about it.  The corporate world and its collision with society is a theme that I would like to explore further.  

Next stop a pile of books about Robert Frank.