SP Week One Reflections

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Sarah Leen, Director of Photography, National Geographic (from ‘Why We Do it‘), said:

‘I have spent my entire professional life creating, editing, critiquing or teaching photography and working with photographers. It has been the way that I have
experienced much of the world. In a deeply personal way I feel an image is a poem about time, about “staying the moment.”

Photography can defeat time. Images can keep the memory of a loved one alive, hold a moment in history for future generations, be a witness to tragedy or joy. They can also change behavior, stimulate understanding and create a sense of urgency that will move people to action. Photography is the universal language that speaks to the heart’.

The end of the first week of a module is always an interesting time for reflection – both first impressions and seeing how it might fit with both other modules and my photographic goals.

In retrospect, in the previous modules the content was described well – but each would have benefitted from clearer statements of ‘what we would get out of it’ at the end. In business that is a prerequisite today for any training work. So, in the module leader’s office hours, I asked the question. Anna-Maria said that the module was largely about ‘monetizing’ our photography, and bringing people up to a common understanding of all aspects of the business. She also acknowledged that some of the early work might not be totally applicable to experienced professionals.

Now, I am not a professional photographer, though I do occasional commissioned work. But I do have significant business experience.

This prompted me to step back and reflect, once more, why I am doing this MA. I have had three overall goals from the start, and a project in mind (Unfinished Stories in Cambodia).

First, I am here to learn how to take better photographs. I am a life long learner, hopefully with an open mind. Trying to practise Beginner’s Mind, in fact, has been a principle of mine for quite some time. I have tried all kinds of photography over the decades, and attended many courses, Still everyone can always do better!

I believe my practise has already started to shift, thanks to the MA so far, and as reflected in Gary and Cemre’s feedback. It is, however, just the start of the journey.

In that regard, it was gratifying to hear Krishna’s response (as a new audience for my work) to the S&S WIP and then the Landings essay. She remarked that she hadn’t seen that ‘negative’ treatment for a while and that it was very well suited to the subject. The title and edit were also appreciated. “Unless you get me to turn a page, it’s out. This is great”.

On the WIP, Krishna commented that, whilst it was a good essay, as an editor she would have liked to see more ‘resolution’ at the end between Mother and Son. Interestingly I did have that but took it out for the final submission. On the overall project, Krishna did caution me to be sure to focus the parts required for the MA, even if I am experimenting with a much broader range of work.

Second, I want to understand more about the history and theory of photography. I have been a teacher for a very long time, first as a business leader, then a consultant and now also as a part time academic. Understanding the basis for things is fundamental to my approach in whatever activity I am pursuing. I am already doing photo workshops and seem to have a burgeoning list of talks to give.

Third, I want to understand the photography business a little better, including latest trends, to decide to what extent I want to do more professionally. But business is not the core driver as to why I am on this MA.

I have a pretty solid online presence, having been creating websites since the 1990s, which in the leadership arena, in particular, are very well regarded and very active today. I also have several photography related websites. The main one, mick yates photography, is a combination of personal online archive and professional space. If I do go more whole heartedly into the business, I will need a more focused approach.

If anything, I put too much time against social media, already! The header is a screen grab from my Instagram.

As a data geek, some years back I did an analysis of likes on Facebook in one of the groups I am a member of. It’s fair to say the analysis got a mixed response from etc admins, not least as it did show some biases, which, whilst quite human, were annoying to members. The upside, though, is that out of habit I routinely track my social profiles, and how different images (and genres) that I post are viewed. Of course, one should not be driven by ‘likes’. But then we all post to be appreciated and to test new ideas …

On the business side of things, I have had my own consulting company for many years, a Limited Company. So, I have accountants, HMRC, lawyers, and trademarks well in hand. Mostly this company is used for business consulting, though it is also useful occasionally in the photographic arena.

So, what are my overall impressions of week one, and the materials provided?

I enjoyed the seven day challenge, and the webinar with Krishna was both refreshing and thought provoking.

But, honestly most of the reading was pretty basic stuff, on which several of us tried to give constructive feedback. I’ll be keeping an open mind, going forward.


Laurent, Olivier. 2017. Time Magazine. Why We Do It: Photographers and Photo Editors on the Passion That Drives Their Work. Available at: http://time.com/4839246/photographers-passion/. (Accessed 22/09/218).

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