Independant Reflection – Week 4 – Who Buys Photography (Part I)

This week has been about developing my work in progress portfolio for my project The Truth & Beauty of Me, developing further a business proposition around coaching/photography concept of The Truth & Beauty of You, reading up on and listening to podcasts on the commercial realities of photography and moving our Oxfam brief forward.

I prepared my WIP portfolio and first reviewed it with Karen my wife. In the photobook Survivor by Harry Borden each survivor (of the holocaust) is photographed by Borden and given a sheet of paper to write something on to go with the image.

I found this powerfully moving and beautifully simple. I took the idea with Karen and noted down the words she used as she considered each image. The result is an early dummy link. I then shared this book with a number of people. A number of observations arose.

  • Karen enjoyed the process and was able to stand back and comment on photographs of me and herself as an observer.
  • I found it fascinating to see what she saw. For example she consistently disliked any images that covered part of me whether that be shadow or object.
  • The words Karen used then influenced the way other viewers considered and commented on the images.

I reviewed the images with Clare Bottomley in our tutorial. As with other commentators they do appear to work as a set of images. We discussed sizing of images, how I might put a number of images on a page and the impact of sequencing. We agreed three actions to work on leading to the next tutorial.

  • Play with the sequencing of the images and question what the message is. Clare and I had a good conversation about whether a dead bird well composed in an image is a beautiful comment on a life lived or dark, miserable and depressing.
  • Create an artist statement to go with the project.
  • Keep upping skills in photoshop and lightroom for the powerful presentation of images.

Great discussion with Anna this week on the Truth & Beauty of You. This is taking shape and we both believe there is a significant market for it. Lots of work to do on this which is covered within the project section of the CRJ. Clare asked me if this is going to be my project. I said I think not but I will develop it in to a robust product during the time frame of the MA.

Over the last couple of weeks I have listened to a number of Small Voice interviews by Ben Smith. Laura Pannack, Irina Rozovsky, Mimi Mollica, Harry Borden, Bruce Gilden, Alixandra Fazzina, Jillian Edelstone and Martin Parr. What I am left with is a feeling of how hard it is to make a living in the traditional channels of photography. It reminds me of having dinner with Clare Short in Madrid this year after seeing her show and her telling me she just about breaks even. This seems to be a common theme and even those who are famous are often struggling.

The Simon Norfolk Small Voice interview is thought provoking and very entertaining. Simon does not see photography as art, believes his wife’s job as a hand surgeon to be way more important than anything a photographer ever does and is very cynical about MA courses in photography. I sent the podcast to a friend who believes academic consideration of photography to be pseudo intellectual clap trap by a small number of specialists who can’t take photographs. I said he might hurt his neck from nodding his head in agreement too much with Simon.

However, Simon does point out that the gallery space, photobook and print sales do not make much money for most photographers. He referenced a friend in Shoreditch who wanted to break away from his studio work to do real photography. The friend was in a ‘gilded cage’ as he put it as he needed to turn over £200,000 a year doing things he did not enjoy to scrape £40-50,000 a year living. Simon refers to You Tube stars like Thomas Heaton as examples of the real photographers out there. He thinks Thomas Heaton is unlikely to appear in the posh galleries but will earn more from his brand than those who do. Simon had also carried out a laboratory to build up a big instagram following. He cites people with following of up to 1 million then being able to monetise that following with quite banal stuff like printing images on beach towels. He got up to 150,000 followers but has yet to find a way to monetise that.

References

Borden, H. Survivor. Cassell Illustrated. Kindle Edition. (2017)

Smith, Ben. a Small Voice. Podcast Simon Norfolk link https://bensmithphoto.com/asmallvoice/simon-norfolk accessed 15th October, 2019.

Categories: Coursework SP, Sustainable Prospects

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.