354MC Professional Photographic Portfolio – Lecture 3

On Tuesday 14th April 2015, I attended my first day of lectures after the Easter Break that was dedicated to the 345MC Professional Photographic Portfolio module. To start off the day, we had a presentation from Nicola Shipley, the co-director of GRAIN, who then stayed behind for individual tutorials where we could discuss the development of our professional portfolio with her. We then had an hour-long discussion surrounding our Easter Networking Task with both Caroline Molloy and Emma Lambert, before moving on to having a “Life After University” talk with both Oli Sharp and Jodie Thomas. All of the notes from today’s sessions can be found below:


Presentation from Nicola Shipley (Co-Director of GRAIN):

  • http://grainphotographyhub.co.uk
  • Grain is a project based in Birmingham that works regionally and nationally
  • Works with both professional photographs and graduates
  • Nicola Shipley
    • Studied History of Art and majored in History of Photography
    • It’s been her ambition to work with photographers, rather than be one
  • There are now more photographs produced in 12 months than there has ever been throughout the whole of Photography
  • GRAIN works closely with The Library of Birmingham
    • It has one of the national collections of Photography – along with the Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Media Museum in London
  • Also worked with Magnum a number of times
  • Prior to setting up GRAIN, they were a part of the “Take to The Streets” exhibition/festival
  • Reference Works
    • A project they worked on and designed to look at the transition between the Old Central Library and the New Library in Birmingham

Reference Works

  • Very interested in opening up the archives to be inspired and to open up old and new ideas
  • Conducted the largest photography survey across the region to find out what the needs and demands where for the photographic industry
    • This helped them to fit demand
    • Some of the demands included:
      • More opportunities to exhibit and publish their work
      • The opportunity to learn how to edit their work
      • Opportunities to meet collectors and byers – as they are a major part of the photographic industry
    • “Unseen Photo Fair” is a festival type event, held in Amsterdam, and it is split into sections (including an Art Gallery)


The Photographers' Wall

  • GRAIN also runs artist and practitioner talks, as well as holding artist residencies
  • GRAIN also invest in talent in a number of ways, including:
    • Continuing professional development
    • Bursaries
    • Mentoring
    • Internships
    • Advice sessions (including portfolio workshops)
  • They also have national and international collaborations, including festivals like the “Format International Photography Festival” and the “Brighton Photo Biennial”
  • They also run Open Courses and Portfolio Development and Review Sessions
    • Tend to do two or three a year depending on the resources
  • They also do Business Development Progamme’s for small photographic businesses
  • GRAIN also runs photographic events like Symposiums
  • They also run different Research Partnerships with different Universities
  • GRAIN have an online publication that talks about their concepts and projects which has been included in a PDF version: GRAIN Publication
  • But what do GRAIN think is important now?
    • Have a look for opportunities where you can have an internship or assistant experience in the industry that you want to go into
  • Internships and voluntary work will help you to:
    • Build your experience
    • Expand your CV
    • Develop your contacts and network
    • Develop your skills
    • Get a head start in your career
    • Learn about different opportunities/work in your chosen Industry
    • Increases your confidence and self-esteem


Discussion about Portfolio with Nicola Shipley:

Within the one-to-one session that I had with Nicola Shipley, where we discussed the development of my Professional Portfolio, I started off the session by explaining my Career Path change (into Wedding Planning), and suggested that I’ve previously been told to simply create a portfolio that shows what I have done over the last three years, rather than one that is tailored to a specific photographic opportunity. After explaining this, I then decided to show her a contact sheet that I had made from some of my photographs from the past three years (included as a PDF below), where she provided me with advice about the creation of my portfolio. All of these notes can be found below:


  • You should definitely try and include photographs from each of the experiences that you mention on your CV
  • Focus your attention on the second and third years of your degree (and only include work from your first year if you think it’s REALLY good)
  • You need to include photographs that would create conversation – this could include some of the “place” images as it would strike up interest regarding your experiences there
    • Some of the “place” images are also beautifully lit which also makes them a lot more intriguing to look at
    • The beach photographs that you have are also very atmospheric
  • However, I’m not really a fan of the sports images, in particular the action shots (but do I still need to include them if I mentioned them on my CV?)
  • You also need to cut out some of the definite “no-no’s” and print the images out larger so that you can have a better look
  • I also think that you need consider the use of a portfolio box, rather than the a portfolio book
    • As you’re including a variety of different photographic types and projects, I don’t really think they’ll work well as a series (which is essentially why a portfolio book is used)
    • Could I possibly incorporate some Wedding confetti into my portfolio box, in order to make it more appropriate for my career path?


Discussion about Holiday Homework:

Within this particular session, our course was split into two groups and were either given Caroline Molloy or Emma Lambert as our discussion leader. The group that I was in was with Emma Lambert, and we simply took it in turns to describe our career paths, what we did for the Easter Task (including what we’d learned from it), and answered any questions that Emma or the group gave us. Below you will be able to find a quick set of notes that I took regarding the session (please note, my responses to the discussion can be found in regular font, and any questions asked by Emma are written in italics):

  • Change in Career Path
    • The big goal for me is to go into wedding planning
    • However, before I get to that stage, I have decided that I want to work in Bridal Stores as this is another part of the Industry that I am very much interested in
      • This will also let me gain some money that I can put towards a Wedding Planning (and Events Management) course and qualification
    • And, in order to enhance the Wedding aspect of my CV, I have also been offered the opportunity to assist Kat Alcock at some of the Wedding’s that she is shooting in the future


  • Easter Task
    • I know we have to do three and I have managed to complete one, but have two lined up
    • First Networking Session – Kleinfelds:
      • The first networking session I did was in New York, when we were out there for a photography trip, where I went into Kleinfelds which is a famous bridal Store that hosts my favourite show “Say Yes to the Dress”
      • When I was there, I got chatting to the receptionist and ask here how she got into the industry
        • She then said that she simply applied, and that they mainly look for someone that has at least two years retail experience and a lot of passion for the industry
      • Was also able to have a look round the store which is when I met a number of consultants, the Head of Alterations, and the designer for the jewelry
        • (The designer of the jewelry told me that she worked in London quite a lot as well, which has therefore provided me with a contact over here, back in the UK)
      • What did I learn from this networking opportunity?
        • Just experiencing the different sections of the store has allowed me to gain an understanding as to what actually goes into bridal stores and the exceptional service that is expected – I have therefore improved my understanding with regards to this part of the industry
    •  Second Networking Session – The Alternative Wedding Fair:
      • The second networking session that I have lined up for this Saturday (18th April) is The Alternative Wedding Fair that is being held at Fargo Village in Coventry
      • I am planning on talking to different people about how they got into the industry and why they got into it
      • And also, thinking about the big picture (Wedding Planning), Wedding Planners tend to have a selection of vendors that they can count on, and this will hopefully build up my contacts for that
    • Third Networking Session – Claire (Wedding Planner):
      • The third networking session that I have planned (but need to arrange) is and interview with a contact (called Claire) that Caroline kindly put me in touch with prior to the Easter break
      • Claire runs a business surrounding wedding planning in association to the barn that she owns (I think), and I am therefore planning on interviewing her regarding the Wedding Planning business and the industry in general
      • However, as she was busy over Easter, Caroline said that we would need to arrange something after Easter and I therefore just need to send her another email to organize it
    • So what inspired this big career change?
      • After studying Photography, quite intensely, for three years, I decided that I needed a break from it – but I obviously want to continue with it in my spare time
      • I had no idea what I wanted to do and after looking into some photography related industries like Marketing, I just found that I wasn’t really interested in it
      • Then, one day, my boyfriend said that I should consider going into Wedding Planning (because I’m obsessed with Weddings and am really organized), and it just really sparked an idea
      • Emma then said that she had a friend who was a really good wedding photographer and that she could give me her details so that I could get in contact with he


Life After University Talk with Graduates Oli Sharp and Jodie Thomas:

  • Both recent graduates that are currently working for DuckRabbit
    • http://www.duckrabbit.info
    • DuckRabbit started off with two people in 2008
    • DuckRabbit are so successful because they know what their customers need
  • If you want to do something and work for someone, find out how they work and do similar work (if you can)
  • You need to identify what is needed and be able to move with that
  • Networking is really important – “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”
    • Go to networking conventions and appropriate conferences
  • You become comfortable in the area that you’ve come from and then you’re thrown into a real business where you’re mistakes can affect individuals and the business
  • You need to push through the criticism and hard-work – you will struggle but you’ll get there
  • It’s still stressful a lot of the time, but if you’re passionate about it, you’ll stick with it
  • You learn other things that you weren’t expecting to