The new Photographer
From 19 to 21 June I have participated – in representation of QUAD Derby and Intellect Books Bristol, at the first UK National Photography Symposium in Manchester, organized by Redeye – The Photography Network, in collaboration with the University of Bolton and Arts Council England.
Paul Herrman, the Director of Redeye who brainchild the symposium, held an interesting session in relation to the figure of the ‘contemporary photographer’. First, he highlighted the big changes in relation to photography occurred in the last decade:
– camera ownership – digital imaging
– photography in the art world
Along these changes, a transition happened also in terms of old photographer / new photographer:
The old practitioner: The new practitioner:
– primacy of technique – primacy of ideas
– specialization – complementary range of works
– selected audience/circles of admirers – international audience/virtual circles
Today’s ‘top photographers’ present therefore the following features:
1. Interest, knowledge and reading in relation of the photographic economy and the world at large: ‘if your picture are not good enough, you don’t read enough.’
2. Marketing, talking and writing
3. Development of ‘the voice’, that is, differentiate oneself (the famous line ‘I can/can’t see you in these pictures…’ often heard in portfolio reviews)
4. Building relationships in time with curators, buyers and other professionals
5. Work ethic and good business (with the right balance of copyright and free licence use)
6. Long terms commitment (minimum of five-six years of practice before ‘getting’ anywhere), and motivation: both clients and professionals need to know that a photographer is going to be there in ten years time
7. Craft and ideas – research opportunities and deliver results.
Furthermore, Herrman listed ’twenty things one can do to get closer to be a top photographer’ (besides talent and commitment, I guess):
1. Going to openings – where people want to hear your ideas
2. Going to festivals (only three or four in the UK, but many abroad)
3. Business link (GVA – Great Value Added is not the only criteria)
4. Gettting some trading (agencies, galleries, etc)
5. Social media (internet at large helps to know people)
6. Metadata, absolute crucial to caption and keyword the work
7. Project making: a strong enough project to get teeth onto, something that resonates with people
8. Partnerships/collectives such as getting together with a writer, or a musician, etc. to realize a project
9. Website/blog, using to get ideas out and update regularly
10. Slideshow; collaborating with someone else, like sound people and through a narrative structure, to create a slideshow and show in programmes and venues such as BBC Big Screens around the UK (desperate to get good content)
11. Preparing portfolio
12. Marketing material such cards, etc.
13. Writing, important aspect
14. Giving a talk; it helps to get your ideas together
15. Applying for a grant; criteria to assess proposal are published on the Arts Council website; core matter is the audience development and which bits of work will accomplish that. Writing a good grant application is part of the job as photographers
16. Print sales
17. Exhibiting wherever one can (not whenever, I’d say…); getting used to the idea of exhibit
18. Entry and checking competition
19. Email/newsletter every 6 months, to let the network know what one has been done, etc.
20. ‘You have to be burning and you have to have your shit together’
In photography, but possibly in all arts disciplines (and non-disciplines), if one has to say something, it’s got to be said in a manner that is a) accessible b) that matters and c) that adds something to what have been said before. Question, transform, exchange. To be interested in photography, one has to be interested in the world.