Personal Professional Development

So we had a visitor from Grain who was a really nice lady and she had done a MA in art history and now works for Grain. This talk was originally for the third years but I thought it would be helpful for me to get some confidence in knowing more about the job opportunities that excite me as well as events happening in the summer which I can attend.

Grain basically supports photography and photographers in such a helpful and supportive way that really lets their work be viewed. Some of the ways they do this is making artists work as collaborations; they build relationships with private sectors and work regionally, nationally and internationally. They are mainly based in Birmingham library, which has a national collection of photography, including three and a half million items archived in the library and online. They also do frequent pop up events, that are new ways of exhibiting and showcasing work in a way that invites new and a bigger audience to look at, overall increasing support.

They have worked with Magnum, for example ‘take to the streets’ and Magnum sport in 2012,which celebrated sporting legends and sport in the everyday life. They also did a huge project, which was working with the old, central library and the civic pride and the gratitude people have for the old library and working with the new library and what it meant to the people of Birmingham. Grain are heavily interested in opening archives, looking at different themes in history and the idea of appropriation.

Grain have also completed the largest photographic survey in Birmingham in which they worked with different charities to find out the needs of photography, such as the opportunities that are wanted and more exhibitions of artists work. They have worked with well known photographers such as Tom Hunter who was commissioned the project ‘Findings’, and he basically worked in placed within Birmingham that are restricted to certain people and places the public haven’t been. He created sixty images using a pinhole camera with a digital back. Grain have put artists together in collaborations like Sophy Rickket and Bettina Von Zwehl who did ‘Album 31’, which was an archival response. They also look find new and exciting work such as Mat Collishaw who produced a body of work looking at West Midlands crime evidence that they have, this is really exciting and will work with my current project.

Some of Grains most prestigious works include The Photographers Wall, which is a place where photographers who have already created a secure audience can showcase their work. This has a faster turn around, and now they use a mixture of community photography and graduate imagery, and change it every two to three months. They also work with surprising concepts and bodies of work. One of these is Broomberg and Chanarin who look at archivist being visual memories. They look at the fact you have to be a trained archivists, have a medical examination and they work in low level oxygen, and the images that are shown really made me think about the importance of photography and that we still have this strong professional photography community. Some other artists that Grain have been involved with helping them fulfil there concepts are Paul Gaffney and Lucy Hutchinson.

Then our guest speaker went on to talk about opportunities and events that are open to us, and it really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of events and celebrations of photography. Birmingham University is really appropriate for artists who are interested in mass community projects that are full of creative people and places. There is Unseen which is an art event in Amsterdam that is affordable, friendly and super informal compared to art events like Paris. It has a festival approach and really exciting if you have an interested in photo books, as they look at the trends, self-publishing and limited edition. This is somewhere that I know have a huge urge to visit and I will aim to go within my lifetime. There is Brighton Photo Biennel, 5plus5 (which is an exhibition exchange with Madrid), Look Festival in Liverpool, and Format festival that is based in derby and is considered the most important art festival in the UK.

Grain run a series of open courses as well as portfolio reviews and developments. They also have a business development programme that works with small photography businesses such as Square magazine. They run symposiums such as the National Photography symposium, and Grain have published three incredibly important publications; the importance of photography festivals, photography today and how to grow your photography business. They really support our region, like Jonathan Shaw in Newfotoscapes.

They look at women in photography and explore why in Magnum out of 85 workers, 8 are women and they work closely with universities, as they are excited to hear new ideas. Our speaker gave us some really good advice, and even though I’m not leaving university for another two years, it was still great to think about these in advance. Her top tips are; Entrepreneurship, a plan, experience, attending events and classes, going to see work, developing your own portfolio career and knowing your practice. She says you must work long hours, have a strong interest and be dedicated. She also gave us places that might help us in the future such as the Arts Council Funding, New Art West Midlands and looking for your twinned city or town place for easy access to new doors and opportunities.


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