While my tutor is looking at my Assignment 2 submission, my mind has already turned to Assignment 3, the case study on industry roles.

For clarity: the assignment brief as written in the course handbook has two options: a write-up of an actual work placement shadowing someone in photography in person, or a case study of a particular role including primary research (i.e. direct interview/s). Given the state of the world right now I have selected the latter.

The full text of assignment brief option 2 is:

If it’s not possible to conduct a work placement, write a 2,000-word analytical text that discusses a particular role, either one of those discussed in Part Three or another role related to the photographic industry. This task should be informed by primary research (i.e. direct contact with practitioners) as well as other resources.

The roles discussed in the chapter in question are:

  • Curator
  • Studio manager
  • Photography writer
  • Magazine editor
  • Online publisher
  • Picture editor
  • Freelance photographer
  • Commercial photographer
  • Employed photographer
  • Commissioner
  • Gallery director
  • Exhibitions Officer

Defining scope

Personally I am most interested in the actual photographer role. I want to use this assignment to dig into what being a practicing photographer can look like. This interests me more than the ancillary roles that form most of the list above.

As the job title ‘photographer’ covers a huge range of roles, from wedding photographer to photojournalist to advertising photographer to fine art photographer to portrait photographer (and all the hybrid variations), I think it’s worth pinning down what kind of photographer I want to examine.

Oddly, the three actual photographer roles in the middle at the list above don’t include what I would have thought would be the most obvious area of interest for someone doing an art photography degree: what I would call the practicing photographic artist.

By this I mean someone who:

  • Spends most of their working time on their photographic practice
    • Or activities related to their photographic practice
  • Expresses themselves through their photography
    • So predominantly self-driven rather than commissioned work
  • Present or publish their work to a public audience via:
    • Exhibitions
    • Printed publications
    • Online
    • Print sales
  • Makes money (to varying degrees!) from their photographic art practice
    • And/or photography knowledge-based services e.g. workshops, tours, writing, mentoring

So even though I appreciate there is are multiple hybrid variations, and not everyone fits into a neat photography category, I do think it’s possible to draw a line on who would or would not fall into the ‘practicing photographic artist’ category for the purposes of this assignment:

  • An advertising photographer who has occasional side-projects of personal work – not included
  • A documentary photographer working mainly on personally-driven projects but does the occasional wedding – is included

By the way, they will remain anonymous but all my examples so far are based on real people I know.

Potential interviewees

I have in mind six or seven people to approach for a discussion that could provide me with case study material. They work in a range of genres and have different combinations of photographic activities in their everyday work lives. I may not get a response from all of them but I am casting my net sufficiently wide that I should get at least a few different perspectives.

I want this variety of interviewees as one of my core assumptions is that there is no such thing as an ‘average’ practicing photographic artist; it strikes me as being a ‘role’ that is inherently unique to the individual. I am however interested in whatever common threads might appear from listening to multiple characters talking about their work.

Question areas

From my initial self-brainstorm / mind-map I have found a bunch of subjects that I would like to explore with the interviewees. This is a rough draft and will no doubt evolve as I go along.

  • brief bio: how got into photography, how long ago, other career if any
  • how do you describe what you do
  • describe an approximate split of your time:
    • taking/making photographs
    • promotion
    • admin
    • managing photographic projects (exhibitions, books, prints etc)
    • other photography-related activities
  • which of the following methods have you used to make a living from photography?
    • print sales
    • exhibitions
    • book sales
    • educating e.g. workshops
    • other
  • do you take on paid commissions?
    • if so, do you consider them part of your photographic practice?
    • or keep it separate?
  • do you do anything non-photography related to make money?
  • what are the upsides of the job?
    • what do you love about what you do?
    • would you recommend it to others?
  • what are the downsides?
    • do you ever feel like chucking it all in?
    • if so, what kind of thing prompts this?
  • advice you’d give your younger self, starting out
  • who else should I try to speak to on this?

Next steps

Start making contact with potential interviewees