Week 7 Reflections

Two highlights for me this week: the Amy Simmonds lecture and the podcast interview with Jane Hilton.

Let me start with Amy Simmonds. I really need to watch this again with a notebook in hand. There was such a wealth of information about how the business works and what terms mean. She emphasised the value of demonstrating your strengths through personal projects. This is an idea that has appeared constantly through the course and makes so much sense. Consider your strengths, create work to show what you can do, get noticed (hopefully).

I encountered Jane Hilton’s work at PhotoLondon this year. Her agent was very keen to sell me a large print of the image that appears at the top of this page for several thousand pounds. Alas, my funds were not up to the task …

Jane’s work from the USA reflects her love for, and fascination with the place. I identify with this. Since 1993 I have been to the USA more than 40 times and on every visit find new stimulation. The idea of the roaming photographer, visiting new places, being entranced and coming home with a portfolio of images is as old as photography itself. Yet it still works. There is something about new sights and places that emboldens creativity. This shows so clearly in Jane’s work.

When talking about her pictures made in Nevada brothels, she speaks at length about the women who work there. She tells the story of one woman whose mother was murdered. She now works in the brothel to raise money to start a charity to assist people who have suffered similar trauma. Jane is in awe of this woman and felt that her own work paled into insignificance by comparison.

It’s easy to see why she might think this. Working hard in a difficult job to try and help people in very painful circumstances is laudable. But artists also have a role in the world. They can inform and illuminate. They can encourage change that benefits everyone. A picture or series of pictures can have an impact that draws the viewer into a story.

This is an idea that is becoming more and more important to me. It’s my intention that the MA should be a turning point for me, but I’m not sure where I am turning to. I am developing the idea that my practice should have an activist, campaigning component to it. I am deeply concerned about the climate crisis and being in the position to help drive action on this, feels right to me.

So I shall be looking for photographers whose work is engaged with activism in order to better understand their strategies and working methods.