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Study event review: Energy: Sparks from the Collection



Whether generated by sunlight passing through a camera lens, triggered by the burst of a flash bulb, or forged by electricity coursing through a microchip, all photographs need some form of energy to exist.


This display shines a light on the diverse kinds of energy in photography, from the hidden processes intrinsic to creating a picture, to the subjects in front of the camera.


There were six students, which was a good turnout for a wet windy day with trains disrupted by industrial action.


This was my first visit to V&A Photography Centre since its revamp- it is now a world-class centre to see and research photography. As well as the highlights shown above, there was a huge selection of well-known images from the beginning of photography up to now.


As usual, we walked around independently, but sharing thoughts as we bumped into each other in front of the same picture. OCA tutor Jayne Taylor was also available to comment or add insights. I recognise that Zoom and other video-sharing apps have made viewing and discussing pictures more convenient, but it takes a gallery like this to realise how much we miss by restricting our viewing of so much art to a digital experience. These images were made to be printed, framed and looked at. The backlighting of the computer monitor does them no service. Looking at a portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron in print form is to see a thing of beauty, not a “TV image”.


The other great value of this sort of visit is always the post-view discussions. Jayne had managed to agree we could use space with a table and chairs in the Photography Library, which was ideal- quiet and comfortable! We each introduced an image or two we had found particularly interesting and shared our reactions to them. I was particularly interested in the extent of curatorial direction of what images meant. They seemed to leave very little scope for me to decide what I was seeing. On the other hand, it can be important to be given some context, to help me make my own assessment and find my own understanding.


I will go back again soon to look in more detail at some of the pictures mentioned by other students, which I had not really looked at adequately and can now approach with new insights.


An excellent day out!


Read Barry's full blog post review here https://barryoca.wordpress.com/2023/08/05/va-study-visit/ .


Find out more about the exhibition here https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/energy-sparks-from-the-collection and join the OCA London & Thames Valley Study Group here https://www.ocasa.org.uk/group/london-thames-valley-study-group/discussion .


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