Six OCA photography students and graduates hosted a private view of their joint work this week at independent arts centre Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. [( 6 )] : Personal Explorations in Photography is the culmination of over six months of collaboration between Tanya Ahmed, Dewald Botha, Rob TM, Keith Greenough, Nigel Haworth and Pete Mansell and brings together images from the UK, France, China, Japan and the US in a single gallery space in South Yorkshire.The photographers’ collective work explores social themes through differing genres of photography: landscape, portraiture and documentary.
40 people strolling on a summer evening round a series of white galleries exchanging views about the work in front of them is the stuff of which private views are made. For OCA, though, the evening marked a milestone as the show is the first opportunity since Michael Young set up OCA in 1987 for members of the public to see the creative output of students in a show they have organised themselves.
[( 6 )] : Personal Explorations in Photography began life as an online collaboration when Rob posted on one of OCA’s online forums inviting fellow photography students to join him in submitting work to photography review Source, which runs an annual online show case for photographers graduating from university and art college-based photography courses. Then, six months ago, he came up with the idea of extending the collaboration further by putting on a joint exhibition of the work they had submitted to Source.
Tanya’s work is inspired by her encounters with the built environment of New York City, where she lives. As a Western onlooker living inside a culture different from the West, Dewald is an outsider looking from within at a landscape shaped by a fast-paced and constantly changing society. ‘Ironman’ Keith’s portraits invite speculation about the nature of people who take part in endurance sports. Nigel’s work explores transience through a series of images taken on the north-east coast of Japan after the 2011 tsunami. Pete’s work explores issues of physical disability. Rob’s images focus on man’s interactions with the landscape and with others.
‘Working on the show has been a great example of how distance learning can bring people together. Until the weekend before the private view, none of us had met one another,’ explains Nigel. ‘Dewald lives in China and Tanya in New York, so we knew from the beginning that they weren’t free to come to the UK to see the exhibition for themselves. In the end, Pete wasn’t with us either as his car broke down as he set off to drive north from Surrey – a disappointment to us all.’
Rob said: ‘Being 9,000 miles apart could have been a logistical nightmare, but after years of communicating with one another electronically, the time difference proved to be the only real issue. What we’ve tried to do is to cross those borders of time and space to create something coherent yet oppositional – tranquillity and chaos, disability and athleticism, near and far, being lost and found. Personal explorations, bound together using a common visual language.’
[( 6 )] : Personal Explorations in Photography continues until 1 August. Rob will be at Bank Street Arts on Saturday 12 July and Saturday 19 July for OCA students and members of the public who want to talk about the images on show and the experience of virtual collaboration. Talk online about the exhibition using #6scapes.