Review: Betty Kajajian on starting a photography business

The National Photography Symposium 2014 organised by Redeye, in collaboration with Grain, consisted of three days of interesting panel discussions and talks. While the first day was dedicated to discussing the different routes into photography, and the second day to organisations and institutions, the third was solely dedicated to photographers and revolved around the topics of integrity, business models, pricing and licensing. As an MA Photography student at London College of Communication graduating this year, I was particularly interested in the last day’s talks, as a way to equip myself for life after art school and in planning for my own photography business.

Having that in mind, I was keen on hearing Stephen Mayes discuss new business models for photographers. He noted that in recent years there has been a shift in values from the photograph to the photographer, and stated that people nowadays are paying for integrity, values and credibility rather than just the person’s ability to take photographs. He urged the audience to create value for themselves, adding that failure is an essential part of a photographer’s practice and growth and should not be feared.

He also highlighted the practicality of the internet and online social media channels in measuring effectiveness of a photographer’s work and reach. His reasoning was that quantity (number of views and social media interactions) is a good metric system to see what quality to work on.

Fiona Rogers of Magnum Photos also stated the importance of the internet and social media in generating work and funding projects. She gave the project Postcards from America as an example of building a large online audience and subsequently turning that audience into paying customers.

After also hearing from Jonathan Shaw and Nathan Tromans on the same topic, Adrian West and Sophie Brown of Company of Mind took the stage and lead a thrilling active session on business model generation. They started by stating the importance of getting and keeping the right customers, providing them with what they need and building an advantage that would later convert the value being provided into income.  To get the idea across they divided us, the audience, into small groups of 5 to 6 people and asked us to come up with interesting business ideas. Each group then filled out a business model canvas thinking of all the different components that went into having a solid and functional business plan. It really hit home for me the importance of knowing who my customers are and to develop a relationship with them to have a successful business.

On top of all the fascinating talks, Michal Dybowski a Manchester based wedding photographer gave a pop-up session on pricing in photography, explaining his pricing model and stressing on the importance of holding monthly, quarterly and annual price and product evaluations to gauge the growth of his company and the changes that should be made to it.

All in all, the day was a complete success and I left the Symposium feeling content in my gained knowledge, and confident that I’d gained the right tools to start my own business.

Betty Kajajian is a photographer and MA student at London College of Communication

Stephen Clarke: I’m not a real photographer

In his seminal artwork ‘Trouser – Word Piece’ (1972), the artist Keith Arnatt wore a placard that announced ‘I’m a real artist’. This declaration was modified to ‘I’m a real photographer’ for the retrospective of Arnatt’s photographic works in 2007 at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. This change of designation reflected the apparent defection of Arnatt from art to photography in the mid 1970s. His friend David Hurn, one of the curators of this exhibition, had effectively repositioned Arnatt by the re-wording of the earlier artwork. In Britain the struggle between art and photography has a history that begins in the nineteenth century, but reached a climax during the 1970s and 1980s. Arnatt and Hurn had their parts to play, as did Paul Hill and Val Williams, two of the speakers at Redeye’s 6th National Photography Symposium. Hill and Williams spoke about one skirmish in this battle for the recognition of photography as an artform, the work of a group of photographers who exhibited at The Midland Group Gallery. Hill spoke from the position of a participant in this group, while Williams shared her findings as an historian. To some extent the opposing faction in the struggle for recognition was the art establishment and, perhaps, artists protecting their turf. Consequently, it is as an artist rather than a photographer proper that I sometimes feel like a trespasser when attending photography events.

Photography has now established its presence in the art gallery and this was underlined by the opening panel discussion at this year’s NPS which addressed the pathways that photographers could take to becoming successful artists. Richard West, co-editor of Source: The Photographic Review, considered the importance of portfolio reviews. He referred to a recent article in the magazine that investigated the value of paying to have your work reviewed (see Source, Issue 77, Winter 2014 ‘Portfolio Reviews, Who Benefits?’ p.5). David Drake, the director of Ffotogallery in Cardiff, expanded upon this relationship between curators, artists, and galleries as he took the audience through a number of scenarios for a photographer to gain exposure as an exhibiting artist. His discussion was illustrated by the work of several photographers who had exhibited at Ffotogallery. Preparation for this process starts in colleges and universities. The input from a degree course was mapped out by panel member Nathan Tromans of Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. Jon Levy advocated a more independent stance, putting forward the alternatives to both the art gallery and academia. The main issue for the panel was how could different organisations, magazines, galleries, and colleges, support students and emerging artists. David Drake made an important observation that students studying at institutions within close proximity to Ffotogallery might hardly ever visit the gallery during their course of study. The point is that the relationship between curators, artists, and organisations is interdependent. Maybe it is then pertinent to reverse the question and ask what can students and emerging artists do to support these organisations?

The future of organisations was the theme for the second day of the NPS. The new Library of Birmingham was a well-chosen venue to address this issue as it houses significant photography collections including the archives of Paul Hill and Val Williams. The speakers discussed how their own individual organisations operate. At the core of this discussion was the relationship between the organisation and its audience. BOM (Birmingham Open Media) is an interesting example of the interactive relationship between the different groups that use a space and the fluidity of media boundaries. Karen Newman, formerly the curator at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, introduced her initiative, which will provide a new space for art and technology in the centre of Birmingham. The complex infrastructure of science, heritage and cultural institutions was further elaborated in a lively discussion between the critic Frances Hodgson, Peter James (Library of Birmingham), and Michael Terwey (National Media Museum). Hodgson is a passionate advocate for the appointment of a champion for photography who would lead a national strategic policy for the medium. While agreeing on many of the key issues, Peter James argues for a less singular approach that would involve a collaborative network (this discussion was reported in the current Issue 78 of Source magazine ‘How to Manage the National Photographic Collections?’ p. 7). One of the problems facing either the individual or the group is that photography is to be found in many different kinds of institutions. It is clear that photography is not a hermetic practice belonging to a defined group.

The problems of containing a diverse community became apparent with the presentations concerned with standards in photography. Roger Reynolds (Royal Photographic Society) and Denise Swanson (British Institute of Professional Photography) introduced their guidelines for professional standards and conduct within the photography industry, a theme that would be expanded upon in the third day of the symposium as delegates considered business and ethics. The attempt to define good practice is designed to differentiate the photographer from the man with a camera, but could mean the difference between the photographer and the artist. The distinction between technique and aesthetic was highlighted by Reynolds, and to this was added critical or historical awareness (something provided by academia); while one seems measurable the other is, perhaps, determined by preference.  A conflict of interests lie with the desire to delineate borders but at the same time recognise the diversity of practice. These stresses between definition and expansion are not specific to photography, in fact, they became a driving force in Fine Art practice during the late twentieth century.

Simon Roberts, We English

Image: Fountains Fell, Yorkshire Dales, 3rd August 2008 (Simon Roberts: We English, 2009)

A speaker whose practice balances this schism between definition and expansion is Simon Roberts. Roberts’ talk demonstrated the links that his work has with geography, social history, and politics, as well as engaging with both the history of photography and the history of landscape painting. Roberts works with the tradition of large format plate cameras to make his landscape photographs but he also makes full use of social media to develop his projects. An intelligent practitioner, Roberts’ generosity and layered work touched on most of the issues raised at this NPS.

The strength of Redeye is as an organisation that offers a breadth of viewpoints. The mixture of photojournalism, professional issues for working photographers, independent art photography, and photographic history gives a place to everyone. Redeye, like any good organisation, survives through the input of its members and volunteers – it is not a one-way transaction where a customer is given good service, but a community that shares its resources. Photographic practice is diverse, largely unrestrained by internal regulation. As a medium that suffered prejudice by an art establishment, photography in turn should be wary of the urge to police expression and defend its own borders. In this more inclusive photography community I can, as a student of Keith Arnatt, also openly assert that ‘I’m a real artist’ … who works with photographs.

 

Stephen Clarke is an artist, writer and lecturer based in the North West.

‘Ocean Beach, Rhyl’ by Stephen Clarke is available from Café Royal Books http://www.caferoyalbooks.com/index.php/shop/ocean-beach-rhyl/

His article ‘Simon Roberts: Travelling with others’ can be read in Royal Photographic Society Contemporary Photography, Number 54, Winter 2014 on http://issuu.com/bjsdesign/docs/winter_journal_2014_for_issuu

Pioneering Days: Paul Hill on Photography at the Midland Group Gallery

At the Symposium Val Williams and Paul Hill spoke about photography networking though the Midland Group Gallery in Nottingham in the 1970s and 80s. Here, Paul Hill outlines his personal experience and involvement with the movement.

My own involvement with the Midland Group Photography came about because in 1973 I was teaching photography part-time at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham. I had been a photo-journalist since 1965, but was always interested in doing my own personal work. Through my teaching, and particularly through my friendship with Bill Jay – editor of Creative Camera and later Album – I was aware of how powerful the medium could be for expressing rather than describing.

But where could you show such ‘personal’ work in the late 60s – early 70s? Personal work for ‘thinking photographers’ was something you did ‘on the side’, whilst working in journalism, advertising, industry, fashion, or teaching.

Val mentioned in her presentation The Photographers’ Gallery in London. I had an exhibition there in 1971 of mostly personal documentary work, which was great as the gallery was ‘the only show in town’ then.

My teaching at the poly and Derby College of Art meant that I was working with lecturers and students who wanted their creative, non-applied work to get to a wider audience. So a grass roots group called Exposure, made up mostly of these lecturers approached the Midland Group, and the result was Midlands Seen. John Blakemore and Richard Sadler were members of Exposure and may have shown work at the Midland Group before, I think, but probably in a group show.

As Val mentioned the head of photography at the poly, Bill Gaskins, was most influential and, as well as participating in this first show, he asked some London-based high profile photographers, like David Hurn, David Montgomery, and John Benton Harris to exhibit with us. This showed we were serious and could vie with even The Photographers’ Gallery!

There was quite a lot of media attention as it was novel to see photographs in art galleries in those days. Even the Guardian reviewed. The formalistic approach taken by some of the participants, including me, was innovative in the reviewer’s eyes:

… to examine a portion of something in detail … is how the majority of people are teaching themselves to see now. If any popular art form or style is going to develop from this popular method of looking, Nottingham may inadvertently be the place to start it.

The first issue of the East Midlands Arts Association tabloid Artefact wanted to feature Midland Seen and they asked me to write a piece, which they entitled Photography – A Non-Art? It was also commissioned in response to a recently published interview with Lord Snowdon, who was then the public face of photography after his marriage to Princess Margaret in the 60s.

His view was that luck plays too great a part in photography for it to be considered an art. It was a craft, and he loathed the idea of signing a photographic print. An accountant doesn’t sign your accounts, he said, so why should a photographer sign his photographs?

I trenchantly argued in the piece that photography was a stand-alone art form, and concluded a pretty long piece thus:

In this country it is not very surprising therefore that even people who are deeply appreciative of the conventionally accepted creative arts – people, one supposes, like Lord Snowdon – do not put photography alongside painting, sculpture, music etc..

It is because they do not understand it; and like most things people do not understand, they are frightened of it.

Among those frightened of photography at that time were most fine artists. Vic Burgin was a lecturer in the Fine Art Department at Trent Poly then, and wrote in Camerawork that those photographers who sought to establish photography’s credibility as an art were like rats swimming towards a sinking ship.

It was a philosophical and ideological battleground then, but I think we know now who won!

Anyway, back to the Midland Group…

Some members of Exposure were asked to become Midland Group Photography charged with creating a programme of photographic exhibitions. These included Thomas Joshua Cooper’s first British show, and John Davies (a Trent Poly student) showed with 2 other Trent students later. But our ‘big idea’ was the annual Midland Group Open. We decided that if we wanted good work we needed the magnet of well-known selectors. Val has mentioned Jean Claud Lemagny and Aaron Scharf. They were followed by John Szarkowski, R.J.Kitaj, and many more over the ensuing years. Robert Mapplethorpe – wanting to impress selector John Szarkowski, no doubt – sent in 2 pictures, which guaranteed media interest and persuaded many more photographers to submit work in future years.

For a period the Midlands, and particularly the East Midlands, became – I do not think it is an exaggeration to say – the epicentre of British photography. It was because a group of photographers wanted to change things and the Midland Group offered them that opportunity which they eagerly grasped. I do not think it is too fanciful to say that if the photography networks and initiatives of the early 1970s, Val has alluded to – and is researching into – hadn’t succeeded, we probably wouldn’t be in this room today….

Paul Hill, June 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Natalie Myra reflects on the options presented for emerging art photographers

The National Photography Symposium 2014 began with a collection of talks from a variety of speakers. The panel included Richard West (co-editor of Source magazine), David Drake (director of Ffoto Gallery), John Levy (curator of Foto8) and Nathan Tromans (Birmingham City University). These were of particular interest to me due to the subject that the speakers focused on; routes into photography. As an MFA student currently studying photography at Falmouth University, I was keen to hear what the speakers suggested in terms of possibilities for new artists.

Richard West began by suggesting a variety of galleries that exhibit photography and demonstrated which galleries were most likely to consider emerging artists’ works. Portfolio review opportunities were mentioned in conjunction with cost and possible rewards, which raised the question of finance and ethics. Photographers creating art face a continual challenge of financing their creative practice; working part-time jobs, applying for funding, taking out a loan; the list goes on. This is not a new situation for artist photographers, however the changes in the medium are new. The rise of digital photography and technical advances that have allowed mobile phones to become cameras has allowed everyone to be a photographer. This has changed the photography industry in part by transforming photography in to an accessible medium for all. Therefore the number of photographers now grappling for the same number of exhibited and published positions has grown exponentially.

David Drake raised the notion of self-publishing and suggested  that although this can be a successful route in to the business of photography it can be a very expensive unsuccessful route as well.

John Levy questioned the motivations and aspirations of the emerging photographers and suggested that questioning and reflecting was a massively import aspect of success in the business. Believe in the work and be persistent were key terms. What all the speakers agreed upon was that there is no substitute for quality. Quality work is an elastic term which could be defined in several ways; technique, subject matter, artistic style, etc. The debate raised the notion of who is deciding what is quality work and what is not.

The men on the panel (the entire panel) were referred to as ‘gate keepers’. This term got discussed at some length suggesting that the photography industry was in fact a business and that the people in power (curators and directors alike), much like politics, decide who and what will be held up as quality photography. Crowd funding, self-funding, internships, self-publishing and even working for free were suggested as possible ways to broach the world of art for photographers, all of which work for some.

Confidence was a key idea that was mentioned; having confidence in your work, and yourself. Without belief in the work, the work will remain hidden. Without people seeing your portfolio, it won’t be exhibited or published. I found the discussion beneficial as it pertains to my current situation; my work has not been given much exposure in terms of my pushing it to be seen and if I take anything away from the debate it will be that in order for my work to have a chance of being discovered; it needs to be visible.

Natalie Myra is a photographer and MFA student at Falmouth University. She attended NPS6 on one of the bursary places offered to photography students. 

Routes in for the photo artist

David Drake, Director of Ffotogallery, Cardiff, spoke at the Symposium in 2014 and here outlines his concerns for the starting photographer.

I set out three different routes to establishing yourself in the art/documentary photography world, which are somewhat stereotypical but based on real experience:

1) the exceptional graduate who comes to the attention of the local gallery/arts centre, receives a small grant from the Arts Council and develops a strong portfolio, pays to attend a number of UK and European portfolio reviews, leading to an offer from a European photography publisher to make and distribute a book of the work for a fee of £15-20K. The photographer raises the money and the book gets good reviews and an editorial feature, leading to exhibition opportunities.

2) the Internet-savvy graduate who crowd-funds a self-published book, and with the enthusiastic community of interest around the book, it receives positive feedback on various influential blogs and comes to the attention of an influential ‘taste-maker’ like Martin Parr, who buys 25 copies of the book and declares it the most exciting self-published photo book of the year, leading to several European photo book awards and the entire first edition selling out. Second hand copies of the book change hands for silly prices, and subsequently there is an offer from a leading German publisher to produce a second edition.

3) the graduate who has produced a strong and coherent body of work, and responding to an open call from a European photography festival gets her work selected for a thematic group show. The photographer is required to supply digital files and inkjet prints are made by the festival for exhibition purposes. Exposure at the festival leads to interest from a UK gallery and that organisation offers a first solo exhibition. However, Arts Council cuts have left the gallery with no money for artist fees, and they can only meet half of the production and presentation costs so the onus is on the photographer to find significant funds to produce the work for the exhibition, which appears to be an important opportunity for increased exposure.

Whereas it is positive that there are many different routes to success in the photography world, it does concern me that the above three examples place almost all the responsibility for financing their early career development on the emergent photographer, who has already borne the financial cost of getting through higher education. I would like to see more equity between the individual photographer/artist and the commissioning gallery/publisher, with a fairer sharing of the financial cost and risk, and a commitment to work together over a period of time to achieve the best possible outcome, artistically and professionally, for both parties. Galleries and publishers should not act as privileged ‘gate-keepers’ who hold the keys to success; they should utilise their professional judgement and influence to help the most talented individual photographers to maximise their creative potential, and build sustainable careers.

I believe that good work will generally find its audience, one way or another. However, I feel the photography world is currently structured in a way that inhibits opportunities for the many thousand emergent photographers and protects the interests of the already established ‘names’ – a somewhat exclusive group of mostly male photographers and photo book publishers operating on a New York-London-Paris-Berlin axis of power. There are signs of change in the way that social media and artist-led initiatives have opened new routes for producing, publishing, exhibiting and distributing work, and through increased artist mobility in the form of residencies, commissions, international networks and collaborative working.

Finally, it pays to remember that immediate success is very rare, and photographers who want exposure and recognition need to strategically plan their career progression route, alongside building networks and supporters, producing excellent work and seizing good opportunities as they arise.

Innovative Business Models

Here’s the list Paul Herrmann quoted at the NPS of photographers with interesting and innovative business models. Some of them are on the edge of what might be considered a “professional photographer”, but others have only made a few changes to how they do things – enough to bring in new business and stand out.

In many cases they have explained their business models at Redeye (or other) events, or interviews, and the links below might not give the full story. As always, if you are interested in any of them, it’s worth seeking them out at public talks and events for a chat. The comments are Paul’s brief interpretation, not the photographers’ own.

Karen McBride – independent, web-based, defines her own terms

Andy Sewell – establishing a network for pre-selling limited edition books

Rob Hornstra  - The Sochi Project – loyalty scheme, crowd funding plus

Stephen Gill – web shop for limited edition prints and self-made books

Esther Teichmann – cross-fertilising balance of artistic work, commissions and teaching

Christian Payne – Photojournalism -> YouTube -> AudioBoo -> social media & tech pioneer

Liz Hingley – seeking out the right clients – awards, competitions, submissions, commissions

Daniel Meadows – online connecting stories and thinking about his archive

Susan Meiselas – towards collaboration (AKA Kurdistan, Postcards from America, Re-framing history)

Chromasia – Blogging -> commercial work -> training -> web skills and SEO

The Caravan Gallery – touring, workshops, engagement – a hook for public projects

Broomberg & Chanarin – photography as the end-product of a conversation, smart subversion

Sebastian Junger and James Brabazon – broadening the documentary form with a multifaceted approach to storytelling: video, photography, writing

In-Public – genre-focussed collective

Piece of Cake – a collective with quarterly group development workshops often linked to festivals

Daniel Arnold – decided one day to sell prints via Instagram

2014 Programme

Integrity and new business models

Symposium Chairs throughout:
Paul Herrmann, Redeye
Nicola Shipley, GRAIN

Thursday 12 June 2014 – Routes into photography

From 14:00: Registration

15:00–17:00 Room 104
Routes in – panel discussion
What’s on offer for students and emerging artists to help establish themselves in photography, and who benefits from these multiplying possibilities? Which of the many competitions, reviews, courses, opportunities and online services are worth signing up for, and how can photographers navigate this ocean?
Introduction: Paul Herrmann, Redeye
Presenters:
Jon Levy, Foto8
Richard West, Source
David Drake, Ffotogallery
Nathan Tromans, Birmingham City University

17:00-17:30 Room 103
The role of the curator
Nathaniel Pitt received a GRAIN Curator’s Bursary and will explore the appeal and possibilities of curatorial practice.

17:30-18:00 DIY Session, Room 104
Arts Council funding – practical advice with Denise Fahmy, Arts Council England

19:30-21:00 Room 104
Keynote talks:
Val Williams, curator, with Paul Hill, photographer: Making Networks in British Photography in the 70s and 80s: The Midland Group Gallery
Simon Roberts, photographer

Friday 13 June 2014 – Organisations and institutions

The second day concentrates on key issues of integrity for organisations and institutions. How can they preserve their public service or members’ remit whilst improving commercial income? What new kinds of ventures are working for organisations, and what are the new types of fundraising and finance being tried? How do the larger institutions and museums deal with conflicting demands for acquisitions, collections and archives? What are the “standards” in the new photographic landscape? What’s on the horizon for some of photography’s leading organisations?

09:00 onwards: Registration

10:00-10:55 Room 104
Welcome from Brian Gambles, Director of the Library of Birmingham.
New finance and business strategies for cultural organisations
Frankie Mullen, Dovetail, The Change-Making Agency
Simon Borkin, Community Shares Unit

10:55-11:15 Break

11:15-11:25 Room 104
Karen Newman: Introduction to BOM – Birmingham Open Media

11:25-12:50 Room 104
The successful and resilient arts and photography organisation
Emma Chetcuti, Multistory
Peta Murphy-Burke, Arts Council England
Lara Ratnaraja, CidaCo West Midlands Director
(Edit: Stephen Snoddy was indisposed for this session)

12:50-14:00 lunch break (includes session below)

13:00-13:45 Room 103
Some Cities – a photographic platform that enables everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities, to share and submit their images to a growing interactive photographic archive of the City of Birmingham.
Andrew Jackson and Dan Burwood

14:00-15:15 Room 104
Discussion: opening the nation’s photographic collections.
Ways forward for managing the national collections of photography. What can we do to show more of the UK’s wonderful but seldom-seen photographic collections? How can the existing institutions communicate and co-ordinate better around issues such as acquisitions, exhibitions and conservation, and how can we share knowledge and skills with smaller and private archives and bring them into the conversation? How would it be best to develop skills in photographic history, curating and conservation? What is the future for photographic archives in a digital age? How do we raise investment in our collections? How should all these matters be championed at strategic and government policy level?
Francis Hodgson, University of Brighton / Financial Times
Pete James, Library of Birmingham
Michael Terwey, National Media Museum

15:15-15:45 Room 103
Jenny Duffin introduces work from Birmingham Loves Photographers

15:45-17:00 Room 104
Standards – who decides what standards are applied in photography? Where are they still relevant and needed, if at all? Is there a place for a defined standard of imagery, and how can standards of professional practice be applied?
Roger Reynolds from the Royal Photographic Society will explain the Society’s commitment to distinctions;
Denise Swanson of the British Institute of Professional Photography explores professional standards

17:05-17:45 Room 103
Mining the Archive: The Intentional and Unintentional Archive
Jason DaPonte, The Swarm

Saturday 14 June 2014 – Photographers

The final day of the Symposium explores key issues around ethics, authenticity and business for all photographers. The discussions, like the Symposium as a whole, take a lead from Stephen Mayes’ assertion that photographers need to redefine their product to create new value for their work. It explores new kinds of business models and collaborations that allow photographers to retain creative integrity while still making a living in a dramatically different economy. How can they deal with the pressures on copyright from new licensing models and digital distribution?

09:00-10:00: registration

10:00-10:50 Room 104
Integrity
Edmund Clark has grappled with issues of artistic integrity in the face of restricted access, censorship and political resistance to his work, which concerns state subjugation, confinement and the aftermath of terrorism.

10:50-11:20 BREAK

11:20-13:00 Room 104
New Business Models for Photographers
Stephen Mayes, strategy and application for visual communication (remote contribution)
Fiona Rogers, Magnum and Firecracker
Jonathan Shaw, Centre for Disruptive Media
Nathan Tromans, Birmingham City University

13:00-14:00 lunch break including the session below

13:10 to 13:55 Room 103, DIY Session:
Pricing photography with Michal Dybowski

14:00-15:00 Room 104
Thinking and Doing – active session on business model generation
Adrian West and Sophie Brown, Company of Mind

15:00-15:30 break

15:30-16:30 Room 104
Licensing without tears – Creative Commons and the alternatives. Licensing is one of the key drivers of the digital economy; this session guides photographers and users through the often complex options.
Serena Tierney, Bircham Dyson Bell, law firm
Christian Payne, Documentally, mobile media maker

16:45 CLOSE

2014 date and venue announced

The sixth National Photography Symposium explores integrity in photography, considering:

  • Ethical routes into photography (who benefits from the many courses, competitions and opportunities on offer);
  • New business models for photographers that take account of changes in the economy;
  • Fairness in licensing and copyright;
  • The future for photo organisations – commercial cleverness and public service;
  • Sustainability, both as a photographic subject and in terms of best practice.

Plus special presentations on the Midlands school of photography; new thinking on archives; scans of the horizon by leading companies and institutions; and much more.

Dates and times: 2pm on 12 June to 5pm on 14 June 2014

Venue: The Library of Birmingham

Tickets on sale from 10 April 2014

2013 Symposium Report

Here’s a full report on the 2013 National Photography Symposium – NPS5 – by writer Vicky Anderson. A summary is followed by more detail on each individual contribution.

SUMMARY

A fascinating mix of speakers across the fields of academia, journalism, science and technology and the arts took to the Bluecoat to address the fifth National Photography Symposium.

Taking place on the same day as the launch of Look 13, the symposium was inspired by the festival theme ‘who do you think you are’, and examined a range of issues relevant to current theory and practice in photography, as well as considering the future of the profession.

With a format adapted from last year’s event, NPS5 had been programmed to take into account the broad interests and concerns of Redeye members of all backgrounds, including working professionals, keen amateurs, students and teachers.

As such, it incorporated everything from talks by veteran photographers to the awarding of the second Rob Sara Bursary, highlighting some exciting up-and-coming talent; and looked at techniques and approaches across the industry from to the impact of Instagram to the enduring appeal of black and white film.

The day began with a talk from Carol McKay, a lecturer from the Northern Centre of Photography at the University of Sunderland. Posing the question “are we all photographers now?”, she examined the rise of social media and photosharing websites such as Flickr and Instagram, and their impact on professional photographers.

Exploring how arts organisations and individual projects are increasingly seeing the value in crowdsourcing amateur photography through competitions and open calls, not only as a way to engage with audiences but also help as a marketing tool and with funding applications, McKay observed that professional photographers will need to respond to the change in perception of the practice that this democratisation has brought about.

The academic theory of performatism was introduced by second speaker Dr Raoul Eshelman, who discussed his ideas of the post postmodern movement in photography and the arts. Turning away from the hyper-artificial, faux-amateur style of postmodernism, performatism instead considers a higher sense of order and transcendence that reaches beyond the photograph.

The final speaker of the morning was Howard Hopwood, chairman of Harman Technology, the UK’s largest photographic manufacturer. Giving an insight into the history of the company, which incorporates the long-established Ilford Photo, he talked about the science behind some of its most popular products including multigrade paper and developer – and how you might even be wearing some of their technology in your socks. Hopwood revealed that to ensure the company’s future as “the best in black and white”, it has most recently diversified to employ the same silver halide compound used in its photography products as an active ingredient in odour control footwear.

After a question and answer session and lunch, the talks resumed with photojournalist David Hoffman, who has spent four decades taking pictures of protests, riots and demonstrations – with the scars, missing teeth and court cases behind him to prove it. Hoffman spoke of his mistreatment at the hands of the police over the years, and what he perceived to be the failure of the Met to view journalists at the scene of protests to be impartial observers, instead treating them as troublemakers and keeping files on their movements. From the Brixton riots in 1981 to the G20 demonstrations of recent years, he has seen it all – and told of his fear of the powers of police surveillance in the future.

This was followed by Susan Jones, the director of a-n, the Artists Information Company, who discussed problems in funding for artists. A recent survey by a-n highlighted the increasing trend of artists being expected to exhibit their work for nothing, even by flagship galleries. “Where has all the money gone?” she asked, suggesting that the artists’ lack of motivation for profit may see many taken advantage of, settling for much less than their time and creative efforts are worth, while others benefit.

Finally, some of the new legal issues facing professional photographers were addressed in a practical session by Gwen Thomas, the legal and business director of the Association of Photographers, and Nick Dunmur, a non-executive director of the AOP and chair of the British Photographic Council.

With changes to come in copyright and licencing legislation that will affect working photographers, they warned that although a great deal of speculation and scaremongering abounds, it still pays to protect your work for the future, and gave practical tips for copyrighting work and displaying online.

The day concluded with the awarding of the Redeye Printing Bursary with Rob Sara, now in its second year. After a showcase of work by the shortlisted photographers, the winner was named as Gillian Gilbert, a final year student at the University of Cumbria. Sara is one of the most respected printers in the UK, and offers two days of directed hand printing in his studio to produce a series of prints for the winner’s portfolio.

The theme of Look 13 – ‘who do you think you are’ – by accident or design may have inspired NPS5 to look inwardly at the practice of photography as well seeing the bigger picture. As the variety of speakers showed, the industry faces its own challenges in a rapidly changing climate, but as always there is common ground and support to be found in all sorts of different places; and its champions are as passionate as ever, whatever the future may bring.

 

CAROL McKAY

In the first talk of the day, Carol McKay posed the question ‘Are We All Photographers Now?’ and shared her thoughts on the pros and cons of sharing and exhibiting photography online.

Illustrating her talk with work by her colleague Arabella Plouviez, McKay, a photography lecturer at the University of Sunderland, discussed modern photosharing platforms including Flickr, their impact on professional photographers and the democratisation of the practice.

Crowdsourcing of images has become a source of fascination for professionals and amateurs alike in recent years, and social media has become a powerful tool. More than just sharing a quick snap on Pinterest or Instagram, these sites have become a key way for cultural organisations to engage with potential audiences, even spawning exhibitions in their own right.

Photography competitions open to all are a prime example, increasing in popularity and easier to participate in than ever in the age of digital photography and smartphones.

Such methods are as much a savvy marketing ploy as a commitment to art – and in some cases have become a useful device in supporting funding applications; one of the most successful examples being the Street Photography Now project, that saw 20,000 images uploaded to Flickr in a year.

McKay said photographers need to think how to respond to the changes social media has brought about.

“What has become clear is photographers’ interface with social media and online platforms is of great importance,” she said. “The changing expectations of photographic audiences is a challenge, as audiences are likely to engage in complex and varied practice of photography in a way that might be different to audiences of other practices.”

To highlight the impact of social media photography and how it has changed the landscape of the practice, McKay cited the work of two artists who have tried to contextualise this: Erik Kessell, in his 2011 installation Photography in Abundance, where he printed off all pictures uploaded to Flickr in a 24 hour period to fill a physical gallery space, and Ekke Vasli’s piece Watch Flickr Downloading Live, a fast-changing screen that can barely seem to keep up with the onslaught of new content.

 

RAOUL ESHELMAN

In his talk Performatism: Photography After Postmodernism, Dr Raoul Eshelman approached NPS5 as a cultural critic, to explain the concept of his term for post postmodernism. Performatism, he argued, is applicable to all strands of the arts and represents a new type of photography in itself, as opposed to a “warmed over modernism”.

To highlight his theory he used examples of work from photographers including Thomas Demand, Kurt Tong, Andreas Gursky and Mike Perry.

He explained that postmodernism in photography is recognised through its hyper-artificiality or amateurish, ironic style. This anti-aesthetic, superficial attitude can be seen in the type of photographs that are made to look random and taken off the cuff but belying great complexity and skill, such as Lee Friedlander’s Las Vegas (2002).

Alternatively, performatism uses space in an affirmative way to create a dynamic sense of order, and the viewer can assume an aesthetic attitude – suggesting a higher sense of order, a transcendence that reaches beyond the photograph.

Motifs include urban and industrial landscapes with a hint of spirituality, such as the ‘non-ironic Americana’ of the work of Mike Sinclair; nature and culture; people, placed in settings to suggest transcendence (for example, Nikita Pirogov’s The Other Shore series); interiors, opening out into other worlds (eg Kurt Tong’s People’s Park series); objects that have been made to transcend; and natural order overcoming chaos.

Dr Eshelman is a lecturer in Slavic literature at the Maximilian University, Munich.

 

HOWARD HOPWOOD 

Harman Technology is the UK’s largest photographic manufacturer, and its chairman and new business director Howard Hopwood gave an insight into the company in his talk Inspired by Imagination… Shaped by Science.

Mr Hopwood gave a short history of Harman Technology, as well as explaining what goes on behind the scenes in the firm’s plant and discussing the challenges faced by manufacturers in the photographic industry today.

Harman Technology, formerly ILFORD, is named after Alfred Harman who founded the company in 1879. It was put on the map in 1940 with the invention of multigrade paper, which revolutionised black and white photography. In the 1980s, the firm decided to specialise and concentrate solely on developing this product and becoming “the best in black and white”.

With the rise and rise of digital photography, Mr Hopwood maintains there will always be a market for film. “I try to maintain the view that film is the best way to capture an image”, he said. “I believe that not just because it is my livelihood but because you can have the confidence that if you capture something on film it is going to last.”

As well as longevity, another advantage to using silver gelatin prints is that it is valued by collectors as the format makes it difficult to replicate originals.

But as the market for physical photographs – and the support structure around it – gets smaller, Herman Technology faces problems including the volatile price of silver and raw materials becoming more difficult to source.

The firm continues to introduce new products, and one way of diversifying has been finding an alternative use for its silver halide compound – as the active ingredient in odour control socks.

Mr Hopwood says: “The Alfred Harman legacy is still alive. We are still there and still working on it. We will be the best in black and white and I think we are about there. We will be the last man standing in traditional photography – we have committed ourselves to that. It is a valuable business, and we are keeping it going. Through socks!”

 

DAVID HOFFMAN

David Hoffman was introduced to the symposium as “the second most arrested photographer in the UK”, and went on to give a short history of his 35 year career as a radical photographer, capturing images of civil unrest around the country.

His first-hand accounts of riots, demonstrations and protests – and the price he has paid to be at the scene over the years – gave a rare insight into the policing of these events and how it has changed, including an increasing wariness of on-the-spot photographers, who are now just as likely to be watched as any criminal.

From the 1981 Brixton Riots to the more recent G20 protests, Hoffman’s experiences of aggressive policing and what he claims to be tactics including the deliberate provocation of protesters and crowds by police – as well as the court cases he himself has won after being assaulted and arrested by officers under false pretences – not only told of threats to journalists but the danger of the UK “sleepwalking into a surveillance society”.

Hoffman’s photographs have on occasion captured images that illustrated aggressive police behaviour against photographers and civilians, from pictures of officers appearing to strangle a colleague in the 1980s (for which damages were awarded), to photographic evidence of his own bloodied and bandaged head after an assault.

“Attacks on working journalists are attacks on democracy,” says Mr Hoffman, who has won a number of court cases against the police thanks to the legal support of the National Union of Journalists.

Photographers working on these demonstrations have been followed, filmed and treated as protesters by police. Their details are on police databases part of a move, says Hoffman, to create “a perfect storm of surveillance” in order to deter people from involvement in protests.

“The police are determined to oppress dissent,” he says. “I’m not a protester or activist. I’ve never been a member of a political party. I’m a journalist, and have been for 37 years. Yet [the police] have filmed me dozens of times – there is even a file on me on the national register of violent extremists.”

 

SUSAN JONES

“The millennium was a golden age for the arts, which really flourished at that time. So where has all the money gone?” asked Susan Jones, director of a-n, the Artists Information Company.

In her talk, she revealed some of the more telling results of her organisation’s 2013 artists’ survey, in which half of those who responded said it had become too expensive to exhibit work – with less than a third saying they had not received any fee whatsoever to exhibit, and earning less than £200 was to be expected. In addition to this, increasingly artists are being expected to pay a fee to exhibit or enter into competition.

Jones argued that the altruistic nature of creatives –  those freelancers not motivated by profit, yet making the work on which the jobs those more securely employed in galleries depends – not only risks them being taken advantage of, but also devaluing their work and that of others as well.

“Artists increasingly hear ‘there’s no budget’. There is – but what that means is that the budget has gone somewhere else. That doesn’t stop there being good practice,” she said.

This was illustrated with a quote from fine art lecturer Pavel Büschler, who puts it thus: “The artist’s ‘old’ job is taken over by the intermediaries who ‘deliver’ the art to the public, who facilitate public access to art - curators, critics, arts administrators – and whose role it is to negotiate the practical and ideological terms and conditions of the ’services’ provided by artists in society.”

As such, the artist remains in a precarious position, subject to market preferences and trends and vulnerable to all kinds of uncertainty when working on projects.

Ultimately, Jones asks, we have to ask: Art feeds the soul, but who feeds the artists?

 

GWEN THOMAS AND NICK DUNMUR 

In the final talk of the afternoon, Gwen Thomas and Nick Dunmur discussed new legislation for photographers to be aware of and ways for professionals to protect their livelihoods in The Photographer of the Future.

Ms Thomas, the legal and business director of the Association of Photographers, and Mr Dunmur, a non-executive director of the AOP and chair of the British Photography Council, began with an overview of new legislation to copyright reform soon coming into effect. Issues include the way orphan works – images that cannot be traced back to their owner – will be made available for anyone to use; and the introduction of extended collective licensing, that will allow organisations to collect money on behalf of non-members as well as members unless they take steps to opt out.

They offered the following advice for photographers in the face of new legislation:

● Keep yourself informed – scaremongery abounds.

● Join a trade association or union, to provide a balanced view

● If your work is in a library or you sell online, consider registering with a copyright office in the US

● Join a registry, eg PLUS.

● Metadata is strippable, despite this being a criminal offence – make incorporating it in all your images part of your workflow.

● Be clear about what your photographs can be used for. Build in licences as part of your paperwork trail – this can also be built into your metadata.

● Consider adding a watermark to all online photographs.

● You can also consider extending the canvas of your image and add information as part of the image itself.

● Make sure all paperwork is watertight – incorporate standard terms and conditions, and include these again in your invoices.

● Be careful using social media – some sites will strip metadata. Only post photographs of little or no value, and nothing with an exclusive licence.

● Get out and meet people. Networking face to face still the best way to find work.

Not all of these steps will be relevant to everybody but choose the steps that are most appropriate to your particular work.

If you need to provide information about licensing and copyright to your clients, look at the Copyright4Clients section of the AOP website.

LOOK/13 Festival Guide

LOOK/13 is one of the UK’s most important photography festivals, and is supported by Redeye. Here’s a short summary of what’s happening, in particular around the opening weekend of 16-19 May 2013.


View LOOK/13 Venues in a larger map. If it doesn’t load, refresh the page
Key to map: Turquoise = Festival venue // Yellow = Redeye Lighbox venue
Red = Parallel venue // Pink = Party

Redeye’s activities at LOOK/13:

Events at The Bluecoat – don’t miss:
The National Photography Symposium; 17 May
Tom Wood talk; 18 May
John Davies and Laura Pannack talks; 16 May
The Perfect Portfolio; 16 May

Portfolio reviews, Photo Activist Boot Camp and Editing workshop are now sold out.

Other festival opening weekend events:

Kurt Tong talk // Lightnight // Made in Liverpool // Launch Party; 17 May
Photo Pulse // Fabricate // Caravan Gallery talk; 18 May
Eva Stenram & Lucy Soutter; 19 May

Tours:
Museum of Liverpool; 18 May
Exhibition Research Centre // The Bluecoat; 19 May

Main Festival Exhibitions:

Sander // Weegee // Adam Lee // I Exist (in Some Way) at The Bluecoat
Charles Fréger // Eva Stenram at Open Eye Gallery
Rankin // Keith Medley // Martin Parr // Tom Wood at Walker Art Gallery
Kurt Tong at Victoria Gallery
Rob Bremner at Wolstenholme Creative Space
Blackout at Exhibition Research Centre
Caravan Gallery at Museum of Liverpool

Redeye’s Lightbox exhibitions (group and collective shows from our workshop programme; part of parallel programme):

Fabricate Collective at Fallout Factory
Lamp Post Collective at The Brink
* Possessed at 81 Renshaw Street
Stranded on The Strand (Merseyside Planet Vessel and next to Travelodge)

Parallel Programme (official fringe):

Art of Pop Video at FACT
Barbara Kruger // Moyra Davey at Tate Liverpool
* Caravan Gallery at 79 Renshaw St and on the Wirral
E Chambre Hardman at The Hardmans House
Emotive Matters // Lawrence Giles at The Bluecoat
* Fab Collective at The Domino Gallery
In Parallel (Marc Beaussart, Peter Mearns, Tabitha Jussa) at St George’s Hall
Ken Grant at Beaconsfield Community Centre
Mark McNulty at Bold St Coffee
Nick Danziger at The Brindley
Pete Carr at Leaf
Processing (Kevin Casey, Stephen King, McCoy Wynne) at Cornerstone
Tom Wood at CASC Chester
3+2=1 Collective at 81 Renshaw Street

* Exhibitions with an opportunity to submit your work

Publications:

Ilives – Tony Mallon and Crisis Skylight
Searching – Marc Provins

Opening times:

Some venues are closed Sundays or other days. Please click on the specific date you want to visit on the festival calendar.
Some venues are by appointment: Beaconsfield Community Centre and The Hardman’s House.

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