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






Thinking and Planning Ahead

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 12.31.08Figure 1

Reflection and Anticipation

As this module, with its absorbed learning and practice draws to a conclusion, I am considering these six things as look to new horizons.

Methodology and Strategy

I was able to share my work in progress with a photographer and he made these comments;

“Moving forwards l feel something else needs to be brought into the project. I know you “Don’t do people!” but l feel a human presence may need to be introduced. I felt that in the last module where you introduced the Priest and the guide to The Freemasons Hall, it really worked… people who had a real connection to the building. 

Also, a little context may help in that you could introduce an image of the outside of the buildings to each subject matter.. as you have done with the “Icknield Port Loop” series… but with something from a little distance? Something that may help in this regard is Donovan Wylie’s work on “British Watchtowers” in Northern Ireland…. not sure whether you are familiar with his work but well worth seeking out”.

This was useful and progressive advice.  My strategy of applying the opportunities that are emerging as part of my residency in an architect’s practice will reveal people in the studio as well as on site, thus ‘personifying’ a number of the images.  The ‘Pause’ methodology prevails. Figure 2 shows work that includes a Mason, from my previous shoot.

DSC_5427 copy

Figure 2

I have started to look at references to Wylie’s work, see figure 1 taken from the Guardian (accessed 17/8/17).  He shows strong consistency in terms of viewpoints, colour and exposure and expresses the context for the watchtowers globally.

Figures 3 + 4

I also met with the photographer Stephen Morgan who has exhibited at the Wapping Project and he explained in detail his strength for shooting and presenting his work and his very thorough method of editing (figures 3, 4).  Of my portfolio he said “Really loved the work, it had a real print quality to it, and I think you are right not to do wider shots of the outside. You get the feeling you are viewing something that has not been seen in a long time and is about to disappear, very intimate” So I am deciding how to arbitrate ‘outside views’ without diluting the intimacy of my work.  Morgan’s website

Making a Return

I am considering approaching the developers of Icknield Port Loop and seeking a commission.  I am pondering how to do this with the intention that I make imagery that is worthwhile for them to use in their development work.

Printing and colour

I am researching an uplift in self-printing technique to create archival prints of my work under my own control which is likely to necessitate investment in screen and printer.

Workshops and public engagement

I have written a blog here about the Developed in Birmingham Collective and there is a plan to deliver another photo walk around Birmingham city centre, expanding on the successful delivery of the workshop as part of this programme.

Figures  5, 6, 7, 8

Exhibition : Phase Two

I have surveyed the walls and hanging system at Bar Opus (figures 5, 6, 7, 8) and we have a PR meeting imminently to plan the launch event on 19th September 2017.  I anticipate delivering 18 new prints, framed, plus a large A1+ printed sheet of one image to act as a divider between the existing set and new sets of frames.


Taking a long view of future book making,  I am reading through these 4 photobooks (figure 9) for lessons on binding, narrative, editing, margins, fonts, length and paper quality.


Figure 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

I choose these for their diversity of scale, quality and subject matter.

On The Night Bus (figure 12) is published by Hoxton Mini Press 2016 features  the work of Nick Turpin.  It is a singular theme – views from outside buses through the, often steamed up, moisture running, windows to people in various states of melancholic and dreamy states.  It feels like a quality object to handle.  There are margins to each image and there is a mix of an image per page with many double spreads, working across the binding. A foreword by Will Self helps seal the profile of the book. It is created in a ‘portrait’ format.

Topologies (figure 11) is published by Aperture 2008. It covers a breadth of work by Edgar Martins.  The paper used has quite a slippery sheen and images (there are 111) are placed consistency on each page with an identical margin throughout.  It is a ‘landscape’ format.  There is an interview with Martins by David Campany at the rear of the book.

Ming Jue. Photographs of Longbridge and Nanjing by Stuart Whipps (figure 10) is published by New Art Gallery, Walsall 2008.  It accompanied the exhibition of the work 4th April to 1st June 2008.  It documents the fall of MGRover (2005) and the subsequent transfer of production to Nanjing Automotive, China.  The photobook is square format throughout and each image is also square, making for consistent margins. Two essays conclude the book.  The paper has a matt feel which is very pleasant to touch and turn. The cover too has a grain about it.

Zones of Exclusion Pripyat and Chernobyl (figure 13) is published by Steidl 2003. It contains the work of Robert Polidori and records access to the aftermath of the nuclear fallout.  Its ‘landscape’ format is strident in scale, creating space on successive pages of consistently scaled images of schools, homes and other buildings all vacated for a long period (since the disaster struck in April 1986). There is an exception to the editing rule where 14 pages are devoted to a series of detached homes amongst the chaotic landscape. There are over 100 pages containing images.  The paper is glossy.  The lack of narrative leaves a space for one to translate what is seen, with the exception of a list of captions (a notable point of debate; captions per page or not?).