Week 1 – Sustainable Prospects

The start of this module has mainly focussed on hints and tips on how to break into the photographic industry. I guess, having been a photographer’s assistant, studio manager, medical photographer, journalist, a communications manager and now owning my own part-time participatory photographic business ShutterPod this has felt more useful for those students on the course who have yet to get out into the world of employment. Much of the info/photographers mentioned have felt rather London-centric. That’s no bad thing, it is, it seems, still the place that many young photographers and established photographers want/need to be based.

Hints and tips are always useful but for me, my aim now is to solely develop my practice as an independent photo-artist, to build and develop ShutterPod, and to work towards making Cornwall a go-to place for alternative/traditional photography. In the UK, there are many pockets of great photography such as RedEye, based in Manchester and Ffotogallery in Cardiff, and Falmouth University’s Institute Of Photography described on its own website as having “a longstanding, international reputation”. Yet, considering Cornwall’s reputation for art and the creative industries, there are no photography-specific venues of a national/international standard outside of the education sector. The closest is probably Plymouth-based Fotonow.

Therefore, I am not looking to work for other photographers – I’m looking to work with other photographers. Collaboration is key for me. This may not be in terms of actually making work together but to build a stronger alternative/traditional photographic community in Cornwall that eventually creates something to rival other well-known photographic organisations/galleries/festivals.

What I need to do is find ways of attracting interest in this desire. Who will fund it, how will I get funding or raise money/investment. I already have a number of ideas/contacts and plan to continue to beaver away on the bigger picture, while still promoting my own practice and business.

For my personal practice, in Cornwall an alternative college offers opportunities for a number of their students to access free workshop space for a year within a major arts-related creative hub, Krowji. Knowing that I do not wish to move away from Cornwall, it is opportunities such as this that would be a huge boost for me as a practitioner as it provides the breathing space and the opportunity to grow your business and make it sustainable. I am hoping there may be similar support through Falmouth, and/or advice on bid funding, as this is what I feel will give me the time to take the leap into photographic self-sufficiency.

One of the most rewarding elements of this week’s opening was learning more about Rut Blees Luxembourg’s work. Her Silver Forest installation, made in collaboration with Lynch Architects is described on their website as “a series of photographs cast into concrete, with varying degrees of texture and focus, blur and sheen, that variously coalesce into a focussed image of a path in a forest; or fragment into parts of trees, becoming pure texture. The concrete surfaces echo and re-present the textures of the Birch bark depicted in the photographs, resonating strongly with the bark of the actual Acer trees in the courtyard. Nature, second nature, artifice, and decorum combine in a powerful spatial experience of illusionistic and actual depth, adding a layer of civic presence to the otherwise modest and somewhat mute City Hall.” It is beautiful but for me, given that concrete and the human demand for it is primarily the reason for the sand crisis, its quite a juxtaposition for my own MA project.

But it was Luxembourg’s comments about bringing in other disciplines such as philosophy and her expression that it is a ‘mistake’ to give up darkrooms that caught my attention the most in the Photo London ‘Schools: What’s Next?’ discussion. She mentioned that the darkroom is a place that gives students incredible pleasure,  and having wanted to champion the possibilities that alternative and traditional photo processes can provide for some time, and having seen the resurgence of interest in this element of photography in the past five or six years, this is music to my ears. Both digital and traditional photography can collide and collude to create amazing photography together and independently and it is wonderful to see how the resurgence in older techniques continues to bloom.

Some of my photos may physically be prone to fading but its good to know that the love for the magic of the ‘darkroom’ does not.