As part of our ongoing Professional Development talks programme, Shutter Hub have been visiting Universities and other organisations throughout the UK, and on the way we've had a chance to get some insights from emerging photographers as they take their work beyond the academic context. It's an exciting prospect, but also maybe a little overwhelming. So, it made sense to invite one such graduate to share her first hand experiences here – Anneleen Lindsay will be bringing us regular updates from the front line of new photography in her Graduate Diary…
Hello, I'm Anneleen Lindsay, an Edinburgh based photographer with a particular interest in creative editorial and conceptual portraiture.
I've recently joined the Shutter Hub community, following a timely talk on making the transition from student to professional photographer by Karen Harvey at Edinburgh Napier University. I attended the talk the week after my own final university hand-ins and have since graduated with a distinction from my BA in Professional Photography at Edinburgh College.
Karen's talk helped me to consider where I wanted to go next with my photography career, having worked part-time as freelance photographer for 4 years whilst honing my craft at college, I'm now looking to make photography my career. Shutter Hub have asked me to write a blog column documenting my experience of leaving full-time education and entering the big (I'm sure not bad!) world of full-time professional photography. One of Karen's main pieces of advice was to keep on working through the summer – not to take a big break straight after graduating, but to keep your drive and momentum going. I have taken that to heart – so much so it has taken me longer than planned to write this blog post!
It's been a busy few weeks since my final hand-ins – our class had two graduate exhibitions, Exposed 15 at Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Edinburgh and participating in Free Range at the Old Truman Brewery down in Brick Lane, London – my Free Range portfolio can be seen here. Both were fantastic experiences, allowing us to show our work to industry professionals and also bringing a closure to a very full-on, intensive few years of learning. I hadn't anticipated feeling quite so excited when I unwrapped my prints down in London and we hung them on the wall. Seeing the physical prints (printed much larger than I'd ever done before) in the exhibition space felt very different to looking at my images on screen. Watching people's reactions to them in 'real time' was a slightly nerve-wracking but also fulfilling experience. A highlight was a little four year old boy who seemed to connect with my style of imagery and kept pulling his parents back to have another look at them. This genuine interaction with my work meant more to me than facebook likes and instagram hearts (though I'm a keen social media user!) as I could speak to the people viewing my images in person and have more in-depth conversations about my inspirations and process when they asked me questions about my work.
That said, I think it is important / useful to have a strong online presence as a professional photographer and I'm on Facebook, Twitter (@anneleenphoto), Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and have just started dabbling in Behance! I actually did an in-depth study into how people engage with Instagram as part of my critical studies class this year and have been running the Twitter account for Retina Photography Festival (@RetinaFestival) over the last year. It is fascinating how different aspects of the photographic community approach different social media platforms and how social media is influencing themes of photographic projects. All social media platforms are increasingly encouraging users to embed imagery within their posts and as a professional photographer this provides both a new broad spectrum of opportunities and a minefield of copyright issues… but that's a whole other blog post!
Online exhibitions are another way of getting your work in front of new audiences. In the week following Karen's talk I had some encouraging news – one of my images was selected for inclusion in Feature Shoot's group show on redheads. The image I submitted was from an ongoing personal project inspired by Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which often feature extravagantly long-haired, daydreaming redheads. As a (reasonably long-haired, often daydreaming) redhead myself, I'm interested in the ways that red hair has been perceived throughout history and the assumptions that are made about the characteristics and identity of we gingers; theres's nothing like the term 'fiery redhead' to get me riled!
Following the Feature Shoot group show, I was then contacted by a picture editor at The New York Times to ask if they could use my image in this article on their Women in the World blog – 'The Rise of the Redhead – How 10 Photographers Are Seeing Red in Unconventional Ways'.
It has been amazing to see my work starting to reach and be appreciated by a wider audience – and that my personal projects are also of interest to other people.
Whilst studying, our tutors encouraged us to enter lots of photography competitions. Putting your work out there and waiting for feedback that never comes can be a bit disillusioning and feel a bit pointless; I've lost count of the number of competitions I have entered this year and the amount of money I have spent on entry fees! However, as my tutors said, if you don't put your work out there then how will anyone ever see it? Some competitions seem to be more beneficial to entrants than others – I think it is worth considering who the judges are and how well suited the competition theme is to the type of area you plan to work in. It can be tempting to enter every competition going or to give up when you don't hear back, but I think – as with many aspects of photographic practice – discernment, planning and persistence pays off!
I recently found out that I am a finalist in the AOP's Student Awards, and my work will be exhibited at the Print Space in London from 30th July – 11th August. For the competition, the AOP selected four different photographers as judges and asked them to each set professional briefs in their different areas of expertise. The category I entered was judged by Richard Maxted and required entrants to photograph props bought from a charity shop, with the brief: 'The resulting image should be striking, graphic and beautiful. The aim is that the viewer is surprised when they learn that the props came from a charity shop.'
I wanted to create a high-fashion, theatrical image in keeping with my photographic style that would be both eye-catching in itself, but also communicate the element of surprise that it was using charity shop finds, as the brief required. I worked with a fantastic stylist, Rachael Forbes, who fortuitously sourced an incredibly beautiful Amanda Wakeley wedding dress from a local charity shop for us to use for the shoot. The silk of the dress flows beautifully, so to highlight the quality of the cut and the movement of the fabric, I found a dancer, Hannah Beal, to model the dress. Hannah's poise and ability to move elegantly made my job as the photographer a lot easier, allowing me to concentrate on composition and lighting without having to constantly repeat my directions. Working with a team who understand my vision and who I can bounce around ideas with helps me to create images that I would not be able to create alone. Whilst I also love styling simpler shoots by myself, for grander more conceptual shoots, working with a stylist or designer helps me to create the images that I have imagined but couldn't put together alone.
I'm heading down to London at the end of the month for the Student Awards; there will be a conference with talks on making the transition from student to professional photographer, followed by the Awards ceremony where the winners will be announced and the exhibition will be officially opened. I'm looking forward to seeing my work on the wall down in London again and to visiting the Print Space Gallery, which I've been meaning to visit for a while. I'm hoping that I might be able to get a last minute ticket for the Alexander McQueen show at the V&A whilst I'm down there too!
In the meantime, I'm busy working for Retina Scottish International Photography Festival, which I'll be writing another post on soon; exhibitions run until 30th July, so if you happen to be in the Edinburgh area, come and say hello!
Follow Anneleen Lindsay's story further on this blog and keep up to date with other Shutter Hub news and events by subscribing to our fortnightly newsletter (below right).