The number of artist photographers in the UK is growing and opportunities for photographers are increasing, but Anna Reid argues that challenges still remain.
This autumn, the UK has been graced with a plethora of photography shows, from the Brighton Photo Biennial and Derbys Format06 to Twilight at the V&A and the Barbicans epic survey of 20th Century work. Impressions, Bradford, Open Eye, Liverpool and the Photographers Gallery are all poised for expansion from 2007. Photo London will be running for its fourth year next year, announcing the fact that the UK can play host to a thriving art photography market. Audiences for photography are growing, to some extent aided by the inherent accessibility of the medium. All in all, photography is now enjoying a privileged position in the UKs museum/gallery space and market.
All of this is good news for practitioners, including the non-established. With the expansion of the sector comes new opportunity in the form of sales and commissions, and exhibitions. It makes for a livelier developmental discourse and a more confident, experimental sector. Of course, the challenges of the sector, even for the most talented of artist photographers, remain substantial. The route to success is by no means clear and it is characterised by the same lack of career development structure that affects artists and arts professionals in general.
Emerging artist photographers are often in need of practical training opportunities that offer advice on the many aspects of managing and developing ones career and business as an artist. Such issues include how to edition prints, how to navigate the ever-developing copyright law or how to get funding support for an exhibition. Photographers may also need guidance on dipping into the fashion, media or domestic sectors in order to make a living. As regards the market, photographers may seek support in brokering relationships with dealers, in marketing a body of work, or in the process of developing a profile. Of course, success is dependent on the deft handling of a range of these components, plus the ability to develop ones critical and creative engagement in tandem!
Based in Leeds, Pavilion is one of a number of regionally-based organisations that support emerging artist photographers. Pavilion offers open submission collaborative commission and exhibition opportunities. It also offers regular portfolio review sessions and for photographers from Yorkshire and the North East, the platform of the Pavilion Online Gallery. Pavilion is currently collaborating with artist photographer Andy Lock to curate an exhibition of a new body of work for exhibition in 2007 (pictured). He has recently returned from a residency at the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY. The works feature what seem to be trivial acts of staging in marginal settings. The images, a mixture of chromogenic prints and digital chromogenic prints, engage the viewer in the dilemmas that the protagonists face.
Working as a photographer is isolating. This was identified by Redeye, the Northwest photography network, which formed back in 1988 to offer advice and support to photographers but most importantly to assist photographers to listen and learn from one another. Redeye is a leader among a strengthening body of nationally significant photography-focused organisations that address career development for practitioners. n
Anna Reid is Director of Pavilion.
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