Author Archives: AnnaTaylor

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

His article ‘Simon Roberts: Travelling with others’ can be read in Royal Photographic Society Contemporary Photography, Number 54, Winter 2014 on

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.