Careers – a Wide Reach

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week One

During week one of the sustainable prospects module we discussed the roles of photographically qualified people around us and the roles that we note people play in this ‘media industry’.  There are many facets to the creation, presentation, debate and application of lens based or indeed light based work. We learnt about assistants, agents, editors, researchers and set designers.

It is a useful insight to explore those around our own work arena to delve a lilt deeper into the world of variety.

We are fortunate in the city I work in to have an array of strong, highly experienced people practicing the art and science of photography, here are a few;

The Producer


Figure 1

Nicola Shipley (fig 1) describes herself as ‘Producer, Curator, Project Manager, Commissioner, Mentor and Consultant specialising in photography, commissioning, exhibitions and the public realm’.  I have been aware of Nicola’s work over the last two years.  She draws on a wide and well established network of people, organisations and institutions and delivers events such as seminars and portfolio review sessions both of which I am booked to attend, given pervious events such as  national symposia which have proved vitally important to my growing appreciation of image making that is debated with a national audience. Commissions with photographers such as the emerging Sam Irvin and the established Edgar Martins with communities and establishments draws in the creativity of the individual and an intersect with people and places to create new work.  Nicola has also produced work in the public realm which has been highly acclaimed and attracts a high level of public engagement by its very nature, she speak of linking many skills, such as fundraising through a commitment to an idea, managing the process of approval for public work, curating content and liaising with artists and gathering feedback which informs both her future practice and provides critical feedback to funders and stakeholders.

As the director of Grain Photography Hub which is the vehicle for much of the work described here.  Grain is described as ‘an arts organisation dedicated to commissioning, facilitating and delivering ambitious, engaging and high quality photography projects, commissions, events and exhibitions.  We commission and produce new work in collaboration with artists and photographers and collaborate with major partners here and internationally to reach and inspire new audiences and participants’. 

The Historian


Figure 2

Pete James (fig 2) is a photographic historian who for over 26 years was the Curator of Photography at Birmingham Library.  His work has been recognised by his fellow membership of the RPS.  Pete has an encyclopaedic knowledge of imagery archived in Birmingham from 1839.  As a fellow member of the collective Developed in Birmingham I witnessed first hand Pete’s knowledge and experience brought to bear on the programme of work across the summer 2017 which engaged the citizens of the city in history, image making, traditional techniques, photo-walks and presentations all along side Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds show.


figure 3

Pete oversaw the transfer of the enormous and precious collection of images from the existing library to the new Library of Birmingham and commissioned a body of work to capture this significant occasion which was known as ‘Reference Works’ (fig 3) and this became the inaugural exhibition at the new library, as a tribute of both the old and new libraries. The exhibition featured commissioned works by Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps.

The Printer


Figure 4

Steve Palm of Palm Laboratories (fig 3);Steve was a practicing photographer and now runs a large photo-lab in Digbeth, Birmingham. I have found that the relationship with Steve has been critical to the print output for my practice.  I began my links with him in 2016 when the ‘over the counter’, front of house was about simple transactional orders; it has now matured into my being able to sit alongside him at his Mac and talk about the difference of images from the screen to the paper and work with a series of individual images to maximise their appearance on Kodak Endura C-type prints.  This collaborative working has improved my knowledge of printing but also cemented the ongoing relationship where my practice can draw true value from the skills of an image factory.


Nicola Shipley

Personal web site 

Grain web site

LinkedIn Profile

Sam Irvin

Edgar Martins

Pete James

Developed in Birmingham Programme page

LinkedIn Profile

Interview with Pete James

Steve Palm

Company web site

Photo Credits

Figure 1 Copyright Jas Sansi

Figure 2

Figure 4 Philip Singleton






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