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


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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






Opening Party; a first!

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects

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The press release from the interview I did with the Bar’s PR company was taken up by one on-line media channel.  The guest list ran to 80 people.  On the night some 70 arrived and once the drinks and canapés had worked their way around the space we embarked on three speeches; the bar owner, then Pete James FRPS ASICI, who introduced the work in the context of the built environment history of Birmingham then I talked about the project and its purpose to capture the pause between use and death or reconfiguration of buildings in the city that was familiar to the whole audience.  The postcard printed at A6 explained the project and cited the printing and framing process. 

I took advice from a number of quarters on edition sizing and recalled a talk given by Gerry Badger in Krakow earlier this year about keeping edition numbers small.  I decided on three, plus two artist’s proofs. This appeared to be a good decision as I was asked by the representative of the head of office of an international bank located in Birmingham what the edition was and they decided to make a purchase on the night of one of my Municipal Bank print.  I was utterly delighted with this news. 

I have taken some advice on certification and will issue a paper with the sale and keep records of edition sales on my secure server to ensure proper transaction administration.


A Network: Developed in Birmingham

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects

Summer 2017

Having hung my work at Opus Restaurant  on 11th August for my first exhibition I was asked by the local collective ‘Developed in Birmingham’ whether I would like to host a ‘meet the artist’ evening to present my work.  This was a brand new concept for me – being defined as an artist; talking about my work and approach was a more natural objective.  I was flattered to be termed an artist.

It was attended by seven people attended, including my work colleagues, Pete James the photographic historian and the local gallery owner along with the artist that I have previously interviewed.  I formatted the evening to talk about my learning over the last year at Falmouth University, then walk around the four hung images and placed these in the context of my ‘pause’ project.  We then talked through my portfolio box of images and discussed the merits of various images as submitted at the end of my module three work in progress.  I had printed a box of postcard sized images and invited people to take one home with them.


There is a real benefit in being open to present one’s work, its developing role and listening to comments and critical feedback from people who are knowledgable and novices.  This assisted me in making a selection from within my work in progress images when I edited to a reduced number to hand at my forthcoming exhibition.

The additional benefit of being integrated into a city network on photography was a call I received the following day from the local gallery owner inviting me to discuss a proposal she was looking to make to a large legal practice that was relocating within Birmingham city centre who had commissioned ere to select and propose work to be hung on their meeting room walls.  I created a powerpoint for that purpose and the meeting helped me understand the brief, to some degree the spaces (though obviously not visible to me) and the budget.  I have since redrafted my artists’s statement and submitted a proposal that includes printing (Kodak Endura C-type) at both A2 and A1 sizes, framing using museum quality glass.  Postscript: I met up with the gallery owner at Unseen Amsterdam and we were able to update each other on the discussions with the client.  The final selection has yet to be made so I remain optimistic.

Figure 1 – some of the social media in advance of the event.


Figure 1