As per my last blog post, while I am still interested in getting ongoing feedback on my body of work, I need to draw a li and crack on with Assignment 2, the publication proposal.

Assignment purpose

This blog post is to note some particular aspects of this part of the course handbook that I found interesting, useful and/or enlightening. It is not intended to be a summary or review of the entire handbook section, more my response to it.

To help me keep in mind what the purpose of this assignment is, I have noted this extract in the handbook (my emphasis):

The purpose of this exercise is to communicate to your tutor the details of how you’ll resolve your final project and to outline exactly how you’ll engage with a public audience.

The following sentence also clarifies the point of this assignment concisely:

In summary, this part of the course gives you the opportunity to think about yourself as an independent professional and explore the business side of your practice as well as further your understanding of how artists and their projects are supported.

Learning outcomes

I also want to keep at the forefront of my mind which of the (revised 2020) Learning Outcomes match most closely with this assignment. I believe that the following are the best fit and the ones I should keep in mind:

  • LO1 demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the professional context(s) relevant to your practice and have an understanding of the professional dimensions that underpin a successful photographic practice
  • LO2 coherently present a body of work, making creative presentation decisions that complement your subject and/or your artistic strategies
  • LO3 operate in complex commercial contexts requiring the application of specific interpersonal, professional and business skills within an ethical framework

LO1 and LO3 in particular seem relevant to the publication proposal, but there is inevitably an element of LO2 (the presentation of the work itself) that also falls into this phase.

Sources of funding

The first part of this course handbook chapter discusses potential funding sources.

It includes information on:

  • National Arts Councils
  • Regional Development Agencies
  • Partnership funding
  • Foundations, awards and grants
  • Crowdfunding

Interestingly the notes don’t have much to say about pure self-funding; I know not everyone can do this, but if the publication is relatively inexpensive to produce, and the artist has financial resources available, there may not be a need for external funding sources. However, I do understand that the purpose of having an (or assuming a hypothetical) external funding source is the more commercial way of approaching this stage, and that it makes one articulate and justify ones work in a robust manner. Therefore, although I suspect that I could fund the publication privately, I am going to seek external assistance.

I have considered the pros and cons of the funding sources suggested by the course handbook.

The first two, National Arts Councils and Regional Development Agencies, would seem to be more problematic for me than most, as I have recently moved from one country to another! I am no longer eligible for Arts Council England or regional arts body funding in the UK, and I suspect (but have not definitively confirmed) that as I have not yet gained French residency status that I would not be able to take advantage of equivalent French arts organisations.

I considered partnership funding for a while. I was trying to work out what kind of organisation might be interested in supporting work related to memory. The obvious answer would be charities related to cognitive decline such as dementia. However, this really isn’t the focus of my work (an early Body of Work idea was very closely aligned to this concept, but I changed tack shortly after…). In the end I decided that my work is too personal / introspective to have a suitable ‘angle’ to appeal to an existing organisation.

Foundations, awards and grants: the key to success here is summarised in the course notes:

[A]wards often relate quite specifically to particular subject matter or approaches […] The key to successfully securing funding is to identify a source that has a particular resonance with your subject matter, practical approach or ethos.

This makes it similar to partnership funding, in that one needs to find an external party whose interests align closely with one’s own work. This might be tricky in terms of timing if nothing else. I have found a photography competition that had a suitably broad theme (‘conceptual photography’) that my work could align to, but there are a couple of elements of this that make it less than idea. First of all, the competition is open until November 2020, and I would like to confirm my publication proposal before then; I cannot wait so long to find out whether I have been successful before moving on through the course. secondly, the publication format of the winning entry is specific and quite limited (an online exhibition gallery). I do intend to enter the awards but if successful would see it as a promotional side-project rather than the core publication.

Crowdfunding is something that I am definitely interested in trying. The personal, intimate nature of my work seems to me to lend itself more to appealing directly to individuals than funding organisations, if that makes sense. I am online-literate and happy to use a crowdfunding platform to raise the money I need to present the work. And the funding required for what I currently have in mind (more details to follow) is of a modest enough level that I think it would be more successful as a small crowdfunding campaign than a big ‘grant’ type award from an arts organisation application process.

Completing a proposal

The next section in the course notes looks at how to pull together a proposal. I have had some experience of this both in a previous career as a management consultant and as a professional photographer in more recent times. Costing up the various aspects of the work required and coming up with a budget is something I am quite comfortable with.

Audience engagement and outreach

Even though I am, for the reasons outlined above. not pursuing funding from arts organisations, I am intending to follow the advice on audience engagement and outreach covered in the handbook, as it feeds directly into the later assignments and in particular the last Learning Outcome:

LO5 confidently engage a public audience with your practice and analyse, review and evaluate information relevant to your practice, identifying opportunities for professional development

So although I intend to fund the publication through a combination of personal funds and crowdfunding, I will set myself objectives for audience engagement and will build appropriate features into the publication.

Creative strategy and timeline

For reasons I will explain in a subsequent post, I am planning the publication to be a combination of two presentation approaches:

  • A virtual online exhibition (navigating through a virtual three-dimensional space on screen, rather than just a photo gallery on a flat web page)
  • A printed publication (zine or digitally-printed newspaper) to be sent directly to interested parties

One of the advantages of this approach is that I can have more direct control over many of the aspects of the presentation, and fewer external ‘moving parts’ to align together from a time planning point of view (such as gallery space etc). Having been a project manager in a previous life, I do not shy away from complex and interconnected sets of tasks, or timeline dependencies; it’s more that the presentation method I have chosen is simpler and more controllable. I didn’t choose the presentation method purely to avoid complexity is what I am trying to say :-)

There will of course still be a timeline to plan and a project to manage, and I will dust off my old project management skills to make sure everything is documented and that the plan is either followed or adapted, but never ignored!


Summary

Poring over the course notes has been a very useful exercise, partly for how it reassured me that I had already been doing the right things, partly for making me aware of things I needed to think about that I hadn’t considered before, and partly for helping me rule out activities that are not relevant enough for my current work.

It has clarified certain things in my mind:

  • The publication will be funded by a small crowdfunding campaign, augmented as necessary with personal funds
  • I will write a proposal, above and beyond what it required for the crowdfunding platform, that covers the objectives, budget, presentation strategy and audience engagement aspects of the work – such that I can ascertain how successful the proposal was when compared to the actual publication in the final assignments
  • I will manage the publication and associated promotional campaign like a ‘proper project’, even though I am taking on much of the task-level work myself; I think the discipline of managing myself like a project team member will help me to make sure I don’t miss anything important

Next steps

I have three main threads of work to progress for this assignment, pretty much in this priority order (although there are some interdependencies):

  • Document the actual publication proposal in terms of presentation methods
    • And research platforms/suppliers for each component
  • Research crowdfunding platforms
  • Re-edit the body of work to a size more suitable for publication
    • The core series is only 15 images; I envisage more like 20 images for publication