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Category : Section 1 – Networking and Feedback

My Biography

The course notes suggest looking at an article by Michael Margolis entitled The Resume Is Dead, The Bio Is King.  Looking at the site there’s another interesting article entitled How To Write an “About Me” Page That Gets You Hired. The way that Margolis describes things there’s a lot of overlap between the “About Page” and the Bio so let’s start by looking at some About Pages that might be relevant.

Sharon Boothroyd was my previous tutor who I admired before she left to concentrate on her other roles and undertake a PhD. Her about page is simple, consisting of four brief paragraphs :-

  1. what she’s doing now (her PhD)
  2. her approach to art/photography
  3. her professional role
  4. her publication history

It’s very simple and effective but has much more academic and professional detail than I would be able to include and could be considered a CV/Bio crossover.

Gill Aspel is a local photographer, one of Windsor’s “official photographers”. Her about page is similar in size and format to Sharon’s but describes more about her and her background than it does about her historic work. This is much more in keeping with my idea of how my Bio should look.

Andy Skillen is a wildlife photographer that I’ve long admired, especially after meeting him at a show where he took the time to advise me on printing and other bits and pieces. His website includes a very personal about page which glosses over his vast array of publications and awards, preferring to concentrate on the personal details – why he does what he does and why he enjoys it. Incidentally, he describes how he’s always on foot and as close to his subjects as possible. The photo on his web page certainly reflects this !

Ingun Alette Mæhlum’s about page is very simple but I like it. It’s simply her photograph followed by

Ingun Alette Mæhlum is a documentary photographer based in Tromsø in Northern Norway. She does most of her work above the Arctic circle, and luckily she loves working in rough weather.

As well as working on her own documentary projects, she takes on various assignments for magazines and newspapers. She has received several national prizes for her photographs.

Then four small tiles showing her commercial endeavours. I like it but it wouldn’t work for me.

Tom Hunter’s Info page is similar to Sharon’s above which isn’t to surprising given his status and his CV. Interestingly he has a link to his CV underneath the four paragraphs of his Bio which might well be the way to go forward.

Rather than go on through a few hundred pages I think that Andy Skillen’s is the way that I’d move forward with some of the local elements that Gill Aspel introduces.

From everything that I’ve read and thought about , the Bio and the About Page are pretty well the same thing in the sense they’re telling my story, what drives, me, what interests me. In many ways they could hold the same information but phrased slightly differently given their use.

I feel as though I’m making heavy weather of this and over-thinking it but it’s something that I want to get right before looking for the formal feedback. Let’s start with an About Page and see if that converts easily to a Bio.

I felt very strange writing this About Page, basically talking about myself in the third person while making the best of my limited experience. I’m sure that it will change as I tweak it, move things around, but I’m happy with it for a start.

To save people going to that page I’ll put it in the next blog entry so that the story of my website etc flows in sequence through the blog.

Gaz

 

CV & Bio

I have a pretty good idea how I want to finish this module with an exhibition, backed up by a book and website which might seem to be a scattergun approach, just doing everything possible, but I can see the three working together in this, a local project with local interest. Much of the work will be in the practicalities such as ensuring that all the building blocks are in place and that will determine how I approach this module.

Part of this section of the module looks at the personal information required by an artist to show to prospective clients or audiences in form of a CV, Bio and Artist Statement. Since the main part of this section involves making contact with external professionals it seems a sensible time to get them ready before I need them – a very rare method of working for me – but it allows me to break the module into manageable chunks.

Taking the personal documents in order:

CV

The notes suggest that a CV should include

  • Your name and contact details
  • Website/blog
  • Education
  • Awards
  • Publications
  • Exhibitions
  • Work experience
  • Commissions
  • Charity work
  • Residencies
  • Teaching experience
  • Gallery experience
  • Assisting
  • Writing

When I was working in the real world my role as an IT consultant required that I had a CV ready at all times and this CV would be tweaked according to the requirements of the client. I had a library of sections or paragraphs that could be put together to emphasise particular experiences that might be of particular interest but I’m not sure how much of that would be of any interest to a curator or magazine picture editor. Nor am I sure how my education qualifications would hold any interest, after all, what use is a maths degree to a photographer?

As far as publications are concerned I’ve had images used by travel companies as full page spreads in the Guardian, Observer, Country Life, Amateur Photographer and Simple Things magazine as well as being the cover image for their brochures but those are for a specific  market. In my experience a CV needs to be targeted for the audience so I’m not sure that experience in that area would be relevant for obtaining exhibition space.

Also published was this image after it came second in a competition. It became my most copied image ever with over a thousand hits in Google at the time. Most of the hits were on blogs or it was being used as an avatar but a couple of sites were printing it onto mugs, place mats, towels etc!! By the time I found out both sites had already been closed down by other disgruntled photographers whose work had been pinched but it was an interesting learning experience.

The course notes suggest that we should include details of any prizes won or any images bought, both of which I can include but again, I’m not sure of the relevance to a CV.

Charity work is a possibility but the only relevant experience that I can conceive of is taking pictures while working on a cheetah conservation project in Namibia, again, not too relevant!

Perhaps a Bio will be easier!

Bio

Again the notes suggest

Some good questions to base your biography around could be:
• 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?

Although I have far less experience of writing a Bio this seems far more applicable to the way that I want to move forward in photography. Most of my CV details would be wasted in an arts environment but I can understand how it would be relevant for a curator to understand where I get my inspiration from or why I want to create a particular portfolio. In actual fact, answering some of the questions above is interesting for myself to understand where I’m going with this.

For example, I was brought up in North Wales, on the coast but with ready access to the wilds of Snowdonia so wildlife and the rugged countryside still resonate with me and drive my photography – or at least it would if I lived near rugged countryside ! As it is I have to make do with exploring my local area but looking at it in ways that a “typical” tourist might not.

I’ve been looking at a few examples of Bios on the websites of some photographers that have influenced or intrigued me so I’ll look at them in the next post

Gaz

 

 

 

Almost there

So now it’s onto the final module. It’s taken me a long time to get through all of the OCA Photography Degree course simply because I’ve been treating as a hobby, something to give me some focus in my retirement. That’s meant that I’ve been happy to do it in my own time, enjoying the journey without getting too stressed by deadlines and objectives. However, despite my best efforts at slowing things down, I’ve arrived at the final module, Sustaining Your Practice (SyP).

I actually got the module notes a few months ago and have been vaguely working at it while finishing Body of Work and Contextual Studies. I didn’t start writing things up or start following the course notes until those modules were complete, partly because I didn’t want to confuse things also, because I wanted to see how I did in those two courses. This was largely due to a slight lack of confidence in my work, if it was rubbish how could I face taking it out to a wider audience? However, I had read the notes and begun preparing for the module by creating contacts etc.

As it happened both modules were graded at middle/high 2:1s so, when I take the work out, I will at least know that the assessors didn’t think that it was rubbish irrespective of the views of the audience which will give me some confidence.

It’s seems a sensible place to look at the aims of the module so …

The aims of this course are to:

support you in developing a detailed knowledge of the photography market and photographic industry
develop your awareness of ethical considerations in relation to professional codes of conduct.
develop the interpersonal, professional and business skills necessary to operate successfully in a commercial photographic environment within ethical boundaries
help you publish and disseminate your body of work by developing professional relationships with markets and audiences
further develop your critical, analytical and evaluative skills so that you can identify and develop opportunities in your professional practice

On successful completion of the course you’ll be able to:

demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the photography market and the commercial dimensions that underpin a successful photographic practice
fully evaluate the ethical considerations of professional codes of conduct
operate in complex commercial contexts requiring the application of specific interpersonal, professional and business skills
disseminate your body of work by establishing relationships with audiences, clients and markets with minimum guidance
analyse, review and evaluate information relevant to your professional practice and identify opportunities for professional development.

Having said that, the main objective of the module would seem to be the publication of my portfolio from Body of Work, the previous module, or a modified version of that based on feedback. Months ago I asked my tutor on a couple of occasions whether it had to the the portfolio of Body of Work but I still haven’t had a response so I’m going ahead with the assumption that I can include other portfolios, i.e. I may present two or even three portfolios to the outside world.

The reason for this is simply that my favourite genre has always been wildlife with Andy Skillen and David Yarrow being two of the wildlife photographers that I most admire. I’d quite like to get feedback on, and present, my own wildlife portfolio at the same time as I progress with SyP though I appreciate that it might have to be outside of the main assessment process. Still, if the objective is to get my work “out there” I don’t suppose that anybody could complain if I attempted a multi-pronged approach.

The first part of this module concentrates on building a network of contacts in the industry and obtaining feedback from said contacts. In the next post I’ll recap how I’ve been doing this already, albeit on an informal basis, before I build a more formal network and look for more formal or professional feedback