Tyro Exhibition / Panel Discussion / Personal v Commercial work

Last week Lisa was invited by Graham Wills, the photography (FdA) degree course leader at New College Stamford, to take part in a panel discussion at the Strand Gallery in London. Also on the panel were renowned photographers Laura Pannack, Venetia Dearden and Nigel Shafran. The event was to coincide with the final year show from the photography graduates, and the overall theme was the significance of personal projects in the development of commercial practice.

Here’s what Lisa had to say...

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon of lively debate. As the only agent on the panel, I was coming from a slightly different standpoint to the photographers. It was really fascinating to hear the various perspectives. One of the students commented at the end that they wanted to ask more questions but were enjoying listening to us debating so much they didn’t want to interrupt!

My comment about tweaking your work to fit with commercial demand was initially met with mild alarm, for example. Things calmed down however when I explained I meant simple nods not a drastic departure from what you are known for, like shooting more people if you don't have any in your book or shooting in more UK locations if you just have overseas shots.

A few things I think it's fair to say we did agree on however were:

• The main difference in personal and commissioned work is that one is paid for and often a collaboration and one isn't paid for and a self generated idea. Ideally, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two, they should be interlinked.

• Commissioners want to see personal work not just other agencies ideas.

• Ignore the negativity about how hard the industry is these days. You’ll succeed if you are passionate and instinctive about your photography, your work is good, you work hard, are driven and get on well with people.

I’d also like to say it was a pleasure to meet and talk to the students. I saw some impressive work considering they are right at the beginning of their photography careers and they were a very affable bunch. Graham, the course leader is doing a great job.'

From left to right: Nigel Shafran, Lisa Pritchard, Graham Willis, Venetia Dearden, Laura Pannack.

Here’s some other comments from the day and some images from the students.

‘The discussion aimed to explore the significance of personal projects in the development of commercial photographic practice. The talk generated a variety of responses from the professionals involved with significant debate centered around the impact of commerce on creative practice. The event proved a valuable opportunity for students to engage with leading industry professionals on a topic highly relevant to their own creative futures.’

Graham Wills, Course Leader

‘It was great to hear from different people involved in the photography industry. The discussion about personal work was interesting I came away from the talk feeling confident that while getting work in the industry is not easy, it is possible.’’

Kat Burkinshaw. Photography Student

‘I found it really useful to hear the views of a varied panel, an agent’s opinion mixed with practitioners. I thoroughly enjoyed the event.’

Christopher Day. Photography Student

'I found the panel discussion really insightful exploring the relationship between commercial and personal projects. It was great to hear the views of key industry practitioners. The panel raised many interesting points particularly the relationship between agencies and photographers, something I knew little about. Overall the discussion process clearly demonstrated the very different views held by those in the industry in relation to developing creative practice.'

Robert Jackson. Photography Student

© Jacquelyn Harris

© Kat Burkinshaw

© Nathan Ashurst

© Ryan Overson

© Christopher Day

© Robert Jackson