Saturday, June 23, 2012

Surviving degree show season and a little advice for graduates



Going to degree shows is sort of like subjecting yourself to a school play when you don't know any of the kids. It's just a load of noise and if you're lucky there'll be one kid who manages to stand out above all the squeaky singing and sound like a song bird. The key is knowing how to be that wonderfully singing song bird. I find it helps to have some criteria in mind whether you're a soon to be graduate putting on your first exhibition or trying to take in the visual cacophony of photographs every summer at degree shows such as Free Range.

I've named it C.AM.P.

Content
Additional Material
Presentation

So let's break this down.

Content.
This is probably the most important thing because if you don't have this, you have nothing. Everything else can be refined but if your content's not great, there's no point really. Think of what you're trying to communicate and how you're going to sell it - after all it's not just your friends and family who'll be looking around the show, there'll be magazines, advertising companies and all manner of other industry people looking around for the next big thing.

When someone walks up to you in the exhibition and says "so what's your project about?" what are you going to tell them? You'll have about 30 seconds to hook them into the idea and make them understand it. With shows like Free Range there's a lot to see and it can be a bit overwhelming for people visiting with so much to take in so make it clear and concise.

Tell them how you started the project - what initially interested you? Then tell them how you arrived at the final idea.

This will give them a good starting point to ask you more questions about it and you can fill in the gaps and explain more if they're looking interested.

Additional Material.
If I like your work, I want something to take away with me. Despite this digital world, paper still means something. You don't have to have fancy business cards or custom postcards - team up with your friends or get your course to produce a cleanly designed book or newspaper. That way when a prospective employer takes it away because of one photographer, they get everyone else's work as well. They might not think they need you now, but you've made it into their office and 2-3 months later, your work may jump out at them.

I find it ridiculous that some courses do not produce any additional material to accompany their shows. If there's nothing to take away, how are we going to remember you even existed?

Presentation.
It doesn't matter whether you use frames, foam board or just pin your prints to the wall, just make sure it's clean, tidy and brilliantly finished. Do this and it will show your attention to detail and how much you care, not only about this project, but what attention you'll give projects in the future.

So that's C.AM.P.

Get these three things right and you've given yourself a head start over the crowd who haven't. You've probably made 5 or 6 people know your name and you've planted the first seeds of your career, whether it's to be as a photographer or something (anything) else within the industry. Well done.
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