© Joanna Ornowska
Picbod - an abbreviation for Picture-and-Body - is a class run by Jonathan Worth and Jonathan Shaw as a part of BA (Hons) Photography at Coventry University. The ten-week module has been designed to address the complex aesthetic and technical issues associated with photographic depiction of the body.
It sounds like your usual photography course, but, says Worth, at a time when the "old business model no longer exists, it would be fundamentally wrong to continue teaching photography in the way it has been taught before." So, in an unusual move, both coordinators have taken a bold step and opened the classroom to the global online community.
Online visitors, which Worth calls non-paying attendees, have been invited to visit the Picbod website to listen to lectures, view seminar notes and participate in the overall learning process by joining discussions as well as submitting their work for critique.
Following the success of Phonar, which stands for Photography-and-Narrative - a class that attracted 1800 participants from around the world - Picbod coordinators have also introduced a free iPhone app, which takes the form of a Twitter-like feed aimed to provide an undergraduate degree class experience by delivering photos, lecture podcasts and tips from the industry professionals.
The Picbod class sits midway through the second year of the degree course and plays a crucial role in students' experience of the broader photographic community. Explaining the structure of the course, Worth says that the first year is very "enclosed" and provides a save environment for early photographic experiments. However, as students progress to the second level, they "get introduced to the open ways of learning and working." By the time undergraduates reach the final year of studies, they are encouraged not only to work confidently within this open community, but also leave it and explore the outer world.
Worth adds that "students are keen to engage with other creatives and the only way to achieve this was by inviting the global photo community to the classroom." The experience started without the university's permission, but it had a great impact, says Worth, raising the school's profile and putting its students on an international platform.
Worth recalls monitoring the Picbod site statistics and "watching the world waking up and coming online to look at the blog and then disappearing off to look at the students' work." He says Picbod has reached 45,000 people that night - an impressive number of views students would not be able to attract otherwise - linking the young photographers to that coveted global audience.
Nonetheless, the number of students on the BA course is deliberately kept low, as Worth says that making the learning process more "boutique" helps to "increases the perceived value of analogue experience."
Currently in its third year, the degree programme is in constant development, and Worth admits, "we are learning and making mistakes very openly." Instead of repeating the same curriculum year after year, he prefers to adjust the content, responding to the latest trends. He says, "the beauty of this is that by having a lot of different people contributing to the class it can evolve in real time." Worth also describes his role of a lecturer as that of a curator, defining "the experience students have on the course by inviting different people to contribute."
And Picbod concept is already creating new opportunities, as the university is now developing plans to launch a new MA course in January to deal with "the challenges of the new media economy."
Most Popular Articles
Updating your subscription status
We have a vacancy for a Key Account Manager working on The British Journal of Photography
Magnet Harlequin, one of the UK's leading Creative Production Agencies is seeking a new Head of Photography.
Bonhams is looking for a full-time photographer for its sale catalogues