“The digital world is full of noise, and that cacophony of noise makes it hard to be heard. It makes it hard to stand out and make your point, express your opinions, build a client base, and tell your personal stories. Adding to that cacophony without a distinctive voice is therefore pointless. It is better to be quiet while you define what you have to say and how you want to say it. Listen to those who are speaking clearly and observe how they disseminate what they have to say so that it can inform your own language.”
Professional Photography, Grant Scott, p16.
“"I am a photographer, I take photographs,” that is and has always been the spine of any photographer’s professional practice. But is that enough today? You may, of course, perceive that as being a rhetorical question based on what I have written so far in this book. But it is not. It’s a challenge to any professional photographer to take up and address, no more or less than that. Only you will know if your answer to this question is convincing and honest.”
Professional Photography, Grant Scott, p176.
I have just finished reading the book ‘Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained’ by Grant Scott (2015).
This book perfectly amplifies the work we’ve been covering in the Sustainable Prospects module and has given me much food for thought, as well as a number of avenues to pursue in my own practice moving forward.
Scott makes a very compelling argument for the existence of what he describes as a new and ever-changing landscape of professional photographic practice. He states repeatedly that the practitioners who will be best-placed to exploit this changing landscape to create opportunities and survive the economic squeeze that has affected the entire photographic industry are those who accept that the old norms are no longer given and who are open to adopting new skills and developing familiarity with new media. This will allow them to create and disseminate their work as well as engage with a potential audience who are no longer to be found in the traditional places.
These messages are of course very similar to those we have been presented with throughout the MA and more particularly during this module, where the focus has been squarely on positioning oneself and defining our own space in the professional landscape. The questions that must be answered by all of us are similar to those which are alluded to in the quotes above – what are you trying to say, how are you going to say it, and how are you going to define your practice?
As Scott also argues, without a clear appreciation of and willingness to tailor one’s efforts towards the needs of the client, it is not possible to consider oneself to be a professional practitioner. As such, as the client’s demands change thus must the photographer adapt their offering in order to remain relevant, and economically viable.
As I have written elsewhere, I’ve had a continuous internal discussion going on during this module in particular, trying to articulate to myself and subsequently to potential clients and collaborators, what sort of photographer I am and how I plan to engage with the professional world. This book has really helped to make certain elements of this challenge very clear and has also helpfully provided some clear and practical advice as to how to proceed, that I can take forward.
This also comes at a time when I have been trying to reconsider my project in light of advice given to me by tutor Krishna Sheth about the direction my project should take. This has left everything somewhat open to question and I am unable to progress without heeding the very pertinent advice that I have been given and which is echoed in Scott’s excellent book.
As such I am planning the following over the next few weeks, including the module break over Christmas/New Year:
1. Explore how to gain some basic skills shooting video
2. Get some basic audio recording equipment
3. Shoot a trailer for my project using these skills gained (I already have a broad outline)
4. Promote the trailer via current social media channels
5. Commence research for a new personal project
SCOTT, Grant. 2015. Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained. New York & London: Focal Press.
"For me, I think the heart of making art is about trying to make some sense of a world that is so utterly chaotic and inexplicable. I'm not necessarily coming up with answers, but I'm looking. There's a kind of freedom in relying on our imagination to try and make something out of the chaos. But I don't think it's the job of art to entertain or offer reassurance. There are hard truths without easy answers. Maybe discomfort, in some way, can actually lead to illumination."
Katy Grannan, 2017
I'm not necessarily coming up with answers, but I'm looking.
Continuing the theme this week, we’ve been looking at the practicalities of getting a photography business off the ground – business plans, accountants and taxes, handling the realities of life as a freelancer etc. This is all new information to me and it’s been really valuable hearing the insights of working professionals in their respective fields.
This ongoing focus on professional practice has coincided with my own struggle to eke out a routine that accommodates my current photographic activities whilst also allowing room to develop them further, both creatively and professionally. One of my key personal objectives for this module is developing a method of approaching my work that isn’t hampered by the demands of my full-time job or other life events that may occur. I feel that developing a certain dogged relentlessness is a vital ingredient to becoming a better photographer and gives me the best chance of being a professional practitioner moving forward.
To this end, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about where the pressure points are in my weekly schedule that have made it so difficult for me to switch between my day job and the night photography in the past. Heading out on a shoot this week, I was struck by an incredible fatigue that didn’t allow me to stay focused or be creative at all. After being out an hour or so I returned home with a valuable lesson learned, about the importance of preparing the shoot properly, the importance of preparation of myself and my equipment etc. This isn’t a revelatory idea, but it’s more about the importance of standardising this into a routine that optimises the limited time I have and maximises the chances of me being productive when I’m out and about. I’m looking forward to taking the lessons forward into this week. One of my main frustrations with doing this MA while working full-time is the feeling that I could be doing so much better if I had more time and more energy to focus exclusively on the course. I often feel like my day job takes so much out of me that I have very little left to give to studying and shooting. Emily Stein’s quote from this week’s reading certainly resonated with me in this regard:
"After I finished college I worked part-time in a photo studio and assisting various photographers to make enough money. I think it’s really important that whatever work you get to support you, it will benefit or inspire your own work in some way. It is really easy to take on too much other work to make money, but this can end up taking up so much time that our own practice drops further and further into the background. So, I guess it’s about finding a balance between making money and making your own work so you can build a portfolio and start getting it out there."
Emily Stein, 2017
I’ve always struggled with the fact that my work overshadows my practice, sometimes just because of how involved and time-demanding it is. But as Stein states, it’s about finding a balance and that’s an absolutely key objective for me in this module.
As the research continues, I’ve been repeatedly fascinated by the experiences of various practitioners. As well as an underlying passion that fuels the pursuit of creative objectives (which I discussed last week) it’s been interesting to hear about other elements that are deemed to be vital to success. I’d say there’s an essential doggedness that’s required, to keep pursuing your dreams regardless of the repeated setbacks and rejections that one may encounter. This determination has to be allied to a self-confidence that you have something worthwhile and interesting to say with your work, that justifies the battle to ensure that others can see, and hopefully appreciate, it. This quote by Sister Arrow captures that idea for me, of believing in yourself and working to prove your point:
"Tell yourself how great you are, and how great you are going to be. Even if the evidence doesn’t quite match up yet. It will ;-)"
Sister Arrow, 2017
In the following week I will continue working on the development of this resilient and productive professional mindset that will allow me a chance at a sustainable practice moving forward.
- MILLER, Sarah. 2017. ‘Katy Grannan Central Valley: A Conversation with Sarah M. Miller.’ Aperture, Spring2017, Issue 226, p80-89.
- IT’S NICE THAT. 2017. ‘How to go freelance: need-to-know advice from creatives who made it.’ itsnicethat.com [online]. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/the-graduates-2017-advice-how-to-go-freelance-170517 [accessed 5 october 2017].
This week the word that I can’t seem to escape is ‘passion’. It’s the thing that got this all started, the unquenchable desire to take photos, to keep striving to capture something interesting, to challenge myself to be more creative, more technically competent, just better!Read More