The course handbook has a section on writing the text that will help viewers (or reviewers) to understand the artist and the art. They are:

  • CV
  • Bio
  • Artist’s statement
  • Introduction to the project

The notes do try to explain the distinction between the four types of textual information mentioned in the title above, but don’t quite succeed 100% for me. It blurs the boundaries between some of them a little…

However, I still need to have a go at drafting all these, even if they overlap and if I will sometimes use only one of them in a given situation. The key thing is that they are consistent, not contradictory, and that each one meets the objective of the particular piece of text in question (this is of course also a function of how clearly the question has been asked by the person or organisation requesting such text).

CV

The notes make clear that the CV should be focused around my photography work rather than my general career. At first I thought that I wouldn’t have much to include on a photography CV, but after the exercise of looking back through my prior publications and exhibitions I realised that I had more than I thought.

The course notes suggest headings (publications, awards etc) but also warn that if some sections look a little sparse it may be better to organise the whole thing chronologically. This is the approach I took.

My draft CV, to be included in the Assignment 1 PDF and on my portfolio website, is as follows.

Photography CV

[EDIT: I have reversed the chronology after feedback from a commenter below]

  • Lives in Nice, France and Pickering, North Yorkshire, UK
  • April 2020: Project Remembering Forgetting selected as finalist in Zealous Portfolio Challenge contest
  • March 2020: Project Two Kinds of People? selected for Harvard College Library Digital Archive section on Brexit
  • March 2020: Single image Prom Scene selected for exhibition at Feature Shoot’s Print Swap exhibition, BBA Circle Gallery, Berlin
  • July 2019: Collaborative photobook Brand New Day; six images including cover image; alongside five other photographers
  • June 2019: Project Two Kinds of People? plus interview published on Photograd photography blog
  • July 2018: six images in Dog Week group exhibition at Joe Cornish Gallery, Northallerton
  • May 2018: Pop-up exhibition Memory Waves in Kirkbymoorside as part of Dementia Action Week
  • April 2018: Project In Search of Lost Gloves plus interview published on Fable & Folk photography blog
  • March 2018: Book dummy In Search of Lost Gloves selected for Print Stuff / Lens Think photobook fair, York
  • 2016 to date: charity commissions for Ryedale Foodbank and Musical Memories CIC
  • 2015–16: up to 20 framed images exhibited in local community hub as part of local artist support initiative; 13 sales made
  • 2013 to date: studying for BA (Hons) Photography with the Open College of the Arts (distance learning arm of the University for the Creative Arts)

Bio

The course handbook describes the difference between the Bio and the CV pretty well:

The difference between a biography and a CV is the length and the style. A CV is achievement-based; a bio is written in prose and is about presenting yourself as a person – your interests, what connects you to the person reading it, how you connect to photography. It’s the difference between telling a story and writing a list of credentials.

It goes on to say that a bio is usually a couple of paragraphs. That said, it also lists a set of prompt questions that I think would, if all answered, produce a bio that is quite a bit longer. So I guess it’s about deciding what you think is important information to impart.

My existing ‘bio’ to use as a starting point would be the text on my ‘About’ page on my portfolio site. However, this has generally been a little too informal in its wording. I am tweaking it on an ongoing basis, trying to keep in mind the advice from the course notes:

The main things you’re trying to communicate in a bio are who you are, what your work is about and why you would be a good person to work with.

The prompt questions mentioned above have been useful in helping me redraft the bio, albeit with some overlap with the advice directly above:

  • Where are you from? Has it influenced who you are today?
  • How has your creative life evolved?
  • What is your primary interest in life? What is important to you?
  • What is your work about?
  • What issues do you care about?
  • What achievements are you proud of?
  • What impression do you hope people will have of you in the first five minutes of meeting you?
  • How would you like to work with people/connect with them?

So the current version is as follows:

Rob Townsend Bio

I’m an English photographer dividing my time between the North of England and the South of France. I enrolled on an art photography degree in my forties and immersed myself in a new world of visual creativity.

What I love most about photography is not its obvious ability to record what is in front of the camera, but its capacity to provoke thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories in the mind of the viewer. I use photography to express ideas; to show people not just what I have seen, but how I see the world.

In one way or another, most of my projects are concerned with memory, mainly sparked by self-reflection of my own failing middle-aged memory. I am increasingly curious about the invisible processes of remembering and forgetting.

I’d like people that see my work to think about their own memory, to ponder its unpredictability and fragility. I’m drawn to a suggested definition of the purpose of art from photographer Daniel Blaufuks: “To make people think and feel a bit differently than they did earlier that day”.

It’s possibly still too long; that last para could be cut.

And it doesn’t really address the third question (‘why you would be a good person to work with’).

Artist’s statement and project introduction

This is where it starts to get slightly blurry for me…

First of all the description of the artist’s statement seems to overlap with the bio:

When you come to write your artist’s statement, look at the major works you’ve made and identify the threads running between them. Ask yourself what drives you as a photographer and write about it in a short paragraph.

Write a statement that reflects your current practice. […] You may wish to include your influences, your techniques, your themes and ideas.

I think I discern the difference between the bio and the artist’s statement as follows: the latter is more focused on the work than the person (despite its name).

Secondly, the course notes say something that only confirms a confusion that I already had, namely the distinction between an artist’s statement and an introduction to a particular project:

Note that the term ‘artist’s statement’ is used both for general statements about an artist’s practice, as you’ve done here, and for statements about particular bodies of work. The latter type of statement might, for example, appear at the start of an exhibition; you produced a statement of this kind in Body of Work. Bear this distinction in mind so that you know what’s required in the circumstances.

I think my issues are:

  1. That my practice is pretty much my Body of Work and vice versa, so I find the distinction quite nuanced
  2. It’s not always clear which type of artist’s statement is being requested in any given situation

So far my attempts at writing an artist’s statement have ended up as kind of the latter half of my bio bolted to some more specific information about the particular project.

In the recent submission I made to the Revolv portfolio review open call I used the following text to introduce the project (plus a bio at the end of the doc):

I use photography to depict the unseen, the interior world, the landscape of the mind. I’m fascinated by the possibilities that images hold to provoke sensations, thoughts, feelings or memories.

Photography has always been inextricably linked to memory, and an abundance of photographic works have investigated aspects of memory. However, these generally tend to examine photography’s ability to contain or trigger significant memories; I am more interested in the continual process of everyday memory, the blend of remembering and forgetting that underpins our very existence.

With this series I use photography to investigate my own experiences of remembering and forgetting, and the interplay between the two. I aim to explore how human memory processes work – or sometimes don’t.

Remembering Forgetting emerged from a series of walks around my local area, noting memories that were triggered by what I observed. I became fascinated by the notion of memory slippage, that an abandoned chair could make me think about having missed someone’s birthday. The project evolved into a personal meditation on middle-aged memory, as I recalled the times my own memory has failed me. I became curious about the fine line between forgetting just enough and forgetting too much.

With this meander through my own remembered lapses I want to shine a light on the complexity and fragility of human memory. I’d like to encourage reflection on how a visual image or scene can trigger an unrelated memory, and of how forgetting is an invisible yet significant part of life.

It’s too long, I realise now. I will edit it down for the version of the PDF that forms Assignment 1.

What I realise I haven’t done anywhere yet is an artist’s statement about my overall practice, as defined in the course notes (before the confusing addendum about different kinds of artists’s statements, I mean).

Below is my first draft at doing so, taking into account all of the above (and reusing some extracts).

Artist’s statement

I use photography to depict the unseen, the interior world, the landscape of the mind. In my practice I aim to capture overlooked slices of the everyday world that to me hold an invisible power to express or provoke sensations, ideas, emotions or particularly memories.

My work is principally concerned with the complexity and fragility of human memory. I’d like my images to encourage reflection on how a visual image or scene can trigger an unrelated memory, and of how forgetting is an invisible yet significant part of life.

I am not altogether happy with this, but it is a draft to knock into better shape.