Current Thinking on Theme for Advanced Study

Posted on August 30, 2011


My thinking has been evolving around my Advanced course for the OCA. I intend to enrol around October – holidays and the need to tidy up my Landscape work for accreditation come first. I wonder if I am doing too much thinking before I have the course materials in front of me…..maybe but I am enjoying my researches in any event!!

My key idea  is to produce an extended portrait typology of Ironman Triathletes. These people are endurance athletes who compete in day long events involving swimming, biking and running. The distance covered is 140 miles and this has to be completed in under 17 hours. I am interested in documenting and exploring this group of people. There are likely to be lots of similarities: fit, skinny(mostly), tanned(except the British), muscular, dressed in lycra, ironman tattoos etc. But there will also be lots of differences – age, sex, nationality, body shape, able-bodied/disabled, ethnicity etc. A typology will draw out these similarities and differences. It may reinforce stereotypical views of endurance athletes or it may surprise  – I know an 80 year old nun who competes! The work may also raise issues of identity, both individual – why do these people do it? – and group – conformance to codes of dress etc.

In moving towards this aim I would first like to study the genre of photographic typology more widely, taking in fields outside of just portraiture, e.g. industrial, urban, interiors and landscape. My thinking here is to provide a broader base of learning in the field and to continue to produce work across several genres. As an ‘aunt sally’ my study programme could look something like this:

  • extended study of photographic typologies with particular reference to urban landscapes, interiors and portraiture
  • projects involving producing typological series for each of the above areas viz urban landscapes, interiors and portraiture
  • a final major project to produce my Ironman typology
My reference points for urban landscapes would be photographers such as Gabriele Basilico, the New Topographics photographers and Thomas Struth. For interiors I am particularly interested in the work of Candida Hofer and Robert Polidori. And for portraiture Rineke Dijkstra, Richard Avedon, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Irving Penn are photographers who I particularly admire.
Studying typologies across the three disciplines would also enable me to run the projects for each genre in parallel maintaining a more even workload throughout a year of study and hopefully distinct benefits in broadening my base of knowledge.
The major question I have is ‘am I taking on too much??”. I need to enrol and start discussing my ideas with my appointed tutor.