Photographer’s Guide to the Future

Manchester Art gallery Paul Herrmann of RedEye asked me to speak at their annual symposium at the Manchester Art Gallery…. “oh and by the way, you’re first on as the warm-up act!” …so no pressure then. The line up was, myself, Paul Wombell – was director of the Photographers Gallery, Hugh Hamilton – lecturer from Trent University, Pippa Walkley – Skillset a govt/industry group charged with setting the agenda for training in various industry sectors, and Rod Varely – who was on the course at Derby at the same time as me and more recently was MD of the AOP.

It was a bit nerve racking, not having done a long presentation for about two years. But I did see quite a few people taking notes, so maybe I was saying something of interest. I talked about the issues photographers have raised with me in personal chats, emails in and around Prodig, SUN and the AOP, and consulting for their web sites… usage, digital sales, pricing, diversifying, best practice… how are things changing, what are the challenges and how to meet them… to mention but a few.

Listening to what the others had to say did throw some light on areas I really hadn’t had a chance to give much thought to. It sounds like the Fine Art Photography market has been gathering a lot of momentum and is more commonplace in traditional gallery venues, although on the other hand specialist photographic galleries are disappearing. And the gains in pricing levels are the responsibility of a handful of none UK buyers…. it seems the native UK market is still lagging behind the rest of the world.

The word on Education is that photography courses are more about training in visual literacy, rather than telling students they would be guaranteed a job at the end… that was always the case, thank goodness that’s now what’s being said.

The training agenda is a worry though. It seems to lag too far behind what’s needed, moving with the speed of a juggernaut when what’s really needed is a speedboat. And part of the equation is that quite often photographers don’t need more training, after all they are already visually literate and usually experienced in business, they need ‘solutions’ which they can employ to advance their business into the new areas.
Sadly I couldn’t stay to hear Rod’s presentation, or to sit on the panel discussion.

A few kicks into reality came from the discussions and the audience… that photography is going through a similar cycle to that which affected type setters and graphic design when they went digital… that photographs are now not just everywhere for us to be bombarded with, but now everyone with a mobile phone is a photographer too, making photographs is now a part of daily life not something to record a special occasion…. that photographers now need to have a whole raft of skills to augment their core product.

I still feel there is no concise overview available for the photographic industry. But after today maybe we are a bit closer to forming one.

Manchester Art Gallery

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