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Andrea on Skype

Andrea Gruetzner won the $1,000 second prize in last year's Source-Cord Prize. In anticipation of this year's Solas Prize John Duncan spoke to Andrea by Skype about what the Prize has allowed her to do and how her work has developed over the year.

John Duncan: What is your background in photography, where did you study?

Andrea Gruetzner: I first studied Communication Design at Konstanz, in the south of Germany. I learned a lot about Swiss graphic design and art, concepts that are very broad – how we design our environment, how we do things in cities – and there we also had photography studios where we could rent the cameras. I got on well with my photography professor and I wanted to learn more about how we deal with pictures in society so I decided to study on the masters course in Bielefeld. I studied under Katharina Bosse and Kirsten Wagner.

And was there someone that you’d say has been a big influence on your work?

I would say my surroundings and where I come from are a big influence on me; I am from the eastern part of Germany. Also my friends, the ones who were with me through my studies, professors and fellow students, they all had some kind of influence on me. Katharina Bosse taught about single images and with her I learned a lot about seeing the different parts of an image and colour. Professor Kirsten Wagner was really into space theory and this was very important for me to develop my thinking and I’m still reading a lot about memory spaces, about cultural spaces, so this has had a lot of influence on my work.

You were one of our winners last year, can you tell us what you have been up to since last September in particular in terms of the work we had selected, the Erbgericht work. Did it go on to be exhibited?

It was really great to win the prize. It gave me the chance to work more on the project and to go back to the house and have some money for materials, this was the first thing that was really good for me, some encouragement to work on it.

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What were the new pictures like? Did you develop the work in a new direction?

That’s a good question, I think there are more colours in each picture now, they are more colourful. I want to make a publication but we'll have to see.

Where did the work go on to be shown?

It all came together, there was the Source-Cord prize and then I won another prize in Germany - Gute Aussichten 2014/15 – and the work was exhibited at different venues, also at the Brighton Photo Fringe and in South Korea. I have also had some people contacting me after the prize from England for example, this has been really great.

And how did the work end up in South Korea?

I have a friend who was with me on my Masters and she wanted to show young German photography in South Korea, she does themed exhibitions and this one was about spaces. I had sent her the essay by Gavin Murphy [that was published with Andrea's work in Source], this is a really great text I think, with some insights about my work. I have sent it to other people to read because I think he wrote really well about my work.

I’m sure he’ll be really interested to hear that. I’m curious, what do the people in your village make of the photographs or of the work?

The people who own the house have seen the pictures. They have their whole world inside this house and they don’t know a lot of things outside of it. So it was something that came into their environment that they had never thought about before. They said that they liked that there was someone who was working with their building and thinking about it for a long time, but also of course they thought ‘its strange to us, but if you like it and can work with it then go on, we support you.’ They also have a son and he is more understanding of what I am doing there and why exactly I am doing it. When some images were ready I showed them to some other villagers and my family and they could see their environment in another way and I really liked this. They could view pictures of an environment they have known all their lives, but now maybe it is a little bit different.

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When you first approached them to take the photographs did you know the people who owned the house? Was it easy to convince them initially to let you come and make pictures?

We had almost every family activity there – weddings, our children go to the school, then we go to the cemetery – so I already know the people there from activities and events. But then I came back and said I want to make a portrait/project about your house, and they reacted by saying ‘we don’t really mind just go into our house and take pictures’. They were really relaxed and I was surprised by that.

You mention you’ve been back in the house and making some new pictures but I notice on your website the Tanztee and Melange projects. Are either of those a direct follow on from the Erbgericht work?

Tanztee is a project which comes out of the house, because it is an event which takes place there. The old women go, and some men (maybe two thirds women to one third men), they go in the afternoon on a Sunday and dance together. They all wear special clothes, special textiles with wild patterns. I was looking for shots that showed some tenderness and sweetness between them and also the strangeness of it. So pictures of the hands coming together and the patterns.

from Tanztee

That’s two projects based in the village where you live, is that your preferred way to work – to work somewhere repeatedly in a place you are familiar with?

On the one hand this is very familiar, on the other hand they have a very different life compared to my life. This comes together and it creates a tension between the two things. I think I develop my art from this tension. This is where I come from but it is really another life. But I would still say that my working method is to go to a place and stay there for a long time and take a lot of pictures.

In terms of your working process, do you have a studio or do you work from home?

Last year, it was this village and this house, it was my part-time studio. In Berlin in my apartment I have a special room for that so I also do some shoots there.

What have you got coming up in the future?

Right now I have some sponsorship from another town in Germany to develop a photography project about the city. I am working on this until next year and then it will get exhibited and there will be a little publication.

A city is a pretty big place - how far have you got into that?

I only got involved a few weeks ago so I have begun to think about the urban space but I have really still got to dive into it! I’m fascinated by the fact it is a very old city in Germany, one of the oldest. There was also a lot of it destroyed during the war so it also has this mixture of contemporary architecture, and the 50s and these really old things. So I’m thinking about combining fragments of the city and bringing them together in a new way.

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A Dummy Hits the Big Time

Jan Dummy cover

Jan McCullough is one of the three artists featured in the current issue of Source. Her work 'Home Instruction Manual' records her efforts in arranging a house following the advice of people in online chatrooms. She has also just won a prize so we thought we'd talk to her about it.

John Duncan: So you've just won the Kassel Book dummy Award, what do you get when you win that?

Jan McCullough: I will publish my book in time for the 2016 Awards, but at the moment the book dummy is travelling round with the other 49 shortlisted books at festivals and events all over the place – Madrid, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Dublin, Istanbul etc. Soon I’ll start to work closely with the publisher on how we want to make my DIY version into an actual book.

So it works that you win the dummy award and then you get into a conversation with the publisher and there's a decision made if that will go through with that publisher?

Yes, and even though there is a book dummy it'll probably change quite a bit by the time it’s printed. We'll have that conversation next month I would say. For now it was just brief introductions and we'll get more in depth about what we want it to be like later.

How did you go about deciding the design, layout, content of this particular dummy?

Well the dummy is blue and it is the exact colour you get when you highlight text or a picture on your computer browser. So that's a reference to the internet. And then being in a book form and having instructions through it is a reference to the manual. In the first draft of the dummy I had a much more straightforward title, 'how to plan the home you want' – this one is called 'home instruction manual'.

Did you have a set of prints made out that you shuffled around, or stuck on a wall? What's your working process?

I had a wooden board (from B&Q) and Blu-tacked prints up that's how I edited it, with little 2x3 inch prints. Then I hand made the book at home, just as cheaply as I could. A lot of the dummies I had seen before in various competitions were very finished. They looked like they could be published. I knew that if I aimed for that the book would never get made because firstly, I couldn't afford it and secondly, it would take forever to do. So it's a handmade and messy dummy, all stuck in with tape and Blu-tac.

Jan inside 2

What is the structure of the book? Does it take you through room by room?

Yes, and the conversation is ordered the same way. The conversation within the internet forum starts in the hall and then living room, kitchen, up the stairs and the bedroom and then out to the garden. So the way they pictures are sequenced is very simple. It hasn't really got a narrative it's more how you would see estate agent pictures for a rental house. I was also really attracted to amateur manuals made by people doing their own DIY. Like how they stick pictures into the book, that's something I want to think about for when it’s published.

Book that inspired work

Have you worked on book dummies or book projects before?

Just small artist books. I've never worked with publishers before. This is my first big body of work really.

You were over for the awards ceremony, what was that like? Did you get to talk to any of the other short-listed photographers?

It was funny because it was a bit like a tick sheet for all the faces in photography publishing, and all in the same room. There was a book market, as well as talks by Christian Patterson, John Gossage, Erik Kessels and Thomas Weski. It was a very relaxed environment and a really good weekend.

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Show me you're committed to the work

Gierstberg

Frits Gierstberg is the Chief Exhibitions Curator at Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and one of the judges for this year's Solas Prize. Trish Lambe of Gallery of Photography Ireland asked him about his thoughts on contemporary photography and his advice for photographers submitting work.

Trish Lambe: What got you interested in photography?

Frits Gierstberg: When I was a student I saw photographs from the 19th century for the first time. I was very impressed by photography’s ability to create and evoke another world – and to draw you into that other world. That was the first time I was really emotionally touched by photography – but that was 25 years ago…

And what kind of photography interests you now?

I am interested in photography that tells me something I don’t already know. I’m interested in photography that provokes my intellect or that sparks my imagination or fantasy. The main thing, I guess, is if it makes me curious.

Are there particular themes that have consistently been of interest to you?

No, it doesn’t matter so much what the work is ‘about’. What is important to me is that the person is presenting it communicates a strong sense of personal involvement and experience – a strong personal commitment to the work. I don’t go for something if it was made as a so-called ‘important artwork’.

installation view of the show 'darkroom'What advice would you give to artists when presenting their work via online platforms such as The Solas Prize?

When submitting your work for prizes it is tempting for artists to show absolutely everything they have, to tell the whole story completely, but really, that doesn’t work. Just like a normal portfolio review situation, when submitting your work online you should try to keep it brief, try not to show too many images, 12 is fine. Editing is the most important thing. It’s like applying for a job – to compensate for the missing human factor you need to keep it simple, straightforward and easily understood.

For an accompanying text what advice would you give artists on this?

I think it is most important to explain why the work was made – for whom, and for what purpose. However I know that jury members can’t read a lot of text, so it is also important to be short – efficient, focused.

In an image saturated world what is your advice to artists for getting their work out there?

Use all the media platforms you can – share the work and get it out by submitting to prizes, like the Solas Prize. Work on your personal network – that is the most important thing to do to bring attention to your work. Young artists are particularly good at this. As curators we can’t know everything and we can’t see everything. We also listen to other people, ask them what they have seen and what they feel is important.

Can you tell us about your current curatorial projects – what are you working on?

I have been working on a number of projects. A big project, Portraiture in Europe since 1989 – a show with 32 artists – has just opened here in the Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. One of the most interesting in this context is the project I call Quick Scan – a quick scan of what is going on in photography in the Netherlands – I do it every 5 years. It is very intuitive process. First, I try to see a lot, but I’m also using my network – talking to other curators just to understand what is going on and how they think about it. We will make a show early next year here in the Fotomuseum.

What is your view of the general standard of contemporary photography?

The standard is definitely going up. Young artists nowadays know so much, They are very aware of what is going on, how to promote their work and where to position themselves. They don’t need to bother about technical skills because they don’t need them. More and more young people are working in collectives or working in collaboration with other artists across different medium, for example with graphic designers, writers, theatre people etc. They are letting go of the idea of the single unique personality as an artist and that old idea that you have to suffer alone in a garret for your art. Artists are using Facebook and other media in a really creative way. They are sharing their work at a very early stage – not keeping it secret until the project is finished. They are confident about working in a more fluid, less defined way. They are more open and easy with it – and that is a really good thing.

 

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How to Show me your Photographs

Museum

Natasha Egan is the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP). She has organised over fifty exhibitions with a focus on contemporary Asian art and artists concerned with societal topics. John Duncan, an editor of Source spoke to her about what she was looking for in work submitted to the Solas Prize.

John Duncan: When somebody shows you a new piece of work, how do you decide if it is interesting?

Natasha Egan: It has to ask a question in some ways. It has to hold me long enough for me to want to look deeper into the picture. That can either be through the content or more formally. If there is too little information I might pass it by but I won’t if it is more complicated, either visually or looking at the world from a different vantage point. I want to understand where the artist is coming from.

When I am doing portfolio reviews I often end up attempting to cross-referencing work against all the other bits of photography that I know. I am curious do you do that as well?

I do. I am not interested in work that I feel like I have seen over and over so I want artists to show me something new. Both of us look at a lot of pictures for a living and it is hard to do something new. Some people want to know, ‘what is on trend?’ and I say ‘if there is a trend, run the other way’. You can create something new but it is very common for me to say, ‘have you seen the work of this person because it reminds me of that’. Sometimes that’s a good thing because it seems that they are joining the conversation. At other times this other artist owns that style.

Do you have a mental map of contemporary photography?

My map is more of a network. There are a few galleries that I work closely with. Not necessarily buying work from them but sharing an understanding of what would be good for their gallery and then they look at what we are showing, and maybe pick that person up. Once a month we look at everything that is being submitted to us, but when one of those galleries writes to me and says, ‘we have started work with these new artists’ I will go the extra step in learning more about them.

Egan

Is there anything you like to see in an artist's statement or text introducing the work.

My biggest advice in an artist's statement is to be clear and direct about the project. Many people think that because you are looking at a picture that you understand it. They leave out important information that they think you should be able to see. Be very descriptive, be very clear, do not include a bunch of art theory unless it is super relevant. Just be real about what it is, like you are speaking ‘this work is about this’. When I am teaching, I always say, if we were to throw all the statements up in the air we should be able to match the statements to the work. It is amazing how hard that is. If there is a metaphor, tell us why you use that metaphor. Don’t think, ‘of course they are going to understand the metaphor’, we don’t.

For anybody entering the Solas prize, what is the most important thing you think somebody should consider?

I want to look at work where I can tell that the intent is serious, where I can tell that the artist has spent a lot of time thinking about the subject. Whether it is a personal issue, or a political or social issue. That it is well informed.

What shows do you have coming up?

I am working with the guest curator Marc Prüst on an exhibition that explores how we see North Korea and how North Korea projects itself though its propaganda imagery. He sent me a proposal of some ideas and I sent him a list of some artists and we grew that show together. The next show after that is Grace of Intention: Photography, Architecture and the Monument which is being curated by my colleague Karen Irvine. Because I am the Director of The Museum I am involved in all the shows so if there is an artist I see – like during this prize – that will fit one of our future shows, collections or education projects then I will suggest them. I look at a lot of work for a lot of different reasons.

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Tanya Kiang, Solas Judge

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The Solas Prize has five judges and we plan to speak to each of them to find out what they are looking for in the submissions. We start with Tanya Kiang who has been the Director of the Gallery of Photography in Dublin since 1998. Prior to that she was Editor of Circa Art Magazine. She has curated exhibitions by many leading contemporary photographers. Recent work includes projects for Irish Museum of Modern Art, New York Photo Festival, Three Shadows Gallery, Beijing and the inaugural Chongqing International Photography & Video Biennale.

The Gallery of Photography will be putting on an exhibition of the winning work from the Solas Prize. This will include the The Solas Awards Exhibition and the Solas Ireland Awards, a special award for work made by Irish photographers or made in Ireland.

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Solas Prize

Takashi Arai 2

We are pleased to announce the Solas prize. This is an international award for contemporary photography and includes prizes of $11,500. This is a new collaboration between Source and the Gallery of Photography Ireland.

The Prize will be judged by a panel of five curators / editors from leading photography institutions in Chicago, Salzburg, Rotterdam, Dublin and Belfast. The deadline for submissions is 19 July. The winner will be announced at the beginning of December.

The prizes consist of an individual first prize of $10,000, a second prize of $1,000 and a third prize of $500. The work selected for prizes will be exhibited in The Solas Awards Exhibition at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin and published and distributed worldwide in Source magazine with a commissioned essay. Additionally, 22 artists will be selected for an online exhibition and everyone submitting work will receive a free one-year digital subscription to Source.

Furthermore, work by Irish photographers, or work that was substantially made in Ireland is eligible for the Solas Ireland Awards. Three winners’ work will be included in The Solas Awards Exhibition and will each receive a 3-month artist’s residency at Gallery of Photography Ireland. Their work will be exhibited in a curated three-person show at Fotohof, Salzburg in 2016 for which they will receive a production and travel bursary.

The Judges are: Natasha Egan, the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP); Frits Gierstberg, the chief exhibitions curator at Nederlands Fotomuseum; Herman Seidl, a photographer and curator at Fotohof in Austria; Tanya Kiang, a curator and director of the Gallery of Photography in Dublin; and John Duncan, an artist and editor of Source magazine.

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The objective of the award is to discover new work. Submissions are welcome from anywhere in the world and can include up to 12 images. The Solas Prize brings together two formerly separate photography awards: the Source-Cord prize and the Gallery of Photography Artist's Award. Previous Source-Cord judges have included Charlotte Cotton, Diana Edkins, Kate Bush, Stephanie Grebe and Mariko Takeuchi. The first Cord Prize was won by Eva Stenram for her work 'Drape'. In 2014 Takashi Arai won the award with his project 'Exposed in a Hundred Suns'. The Gallery of Photography Artist's Award was established in 2002. Previous winners include John Gerrard, Mark Curran, Noel Bowler, Suzanne Mooney, Eoin O Conaill, Stephen Ahern, and Patrick Hogan. The 2013 Award ran in collaboration with the Copper House Gallery and was won by Richard Gilligan.

To find out more visit the Solas Prize website.

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The new issue was printed at the weekend

I was on press on Sunday with the new issue of Source which will be with subscribers later this week. I was there to help fine tune the colour as each section came of the presses.

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The 'Editing Issue' features Mark Holborn the editor responsible for The Democratic Forest, a role he is reprising in the production of a new expanded edition of that work. David Evans has been looking at the exhibition and publication history of Wolfgang Tillmans. Portfolios of work by Jan McCullough, Imogen Freeland (cover image) and Gemma Marmalade. As well as reviews of recent key photography exhibitions and books. Make sure you get a copy by subscribing to the Digital or Print edition. http://bit.ly/vhvG0N

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Degree shows and Beyond : Finding an audience for your work.

It's that time of the year when students are starting to gear up for their final degree show exhibitions. We are going through a similar process preparing for Graduate Photography Online 2015. This online platform lets graduating students promote their work to Source's readership. If you are going to graduate from a BA or MA course this is the time to sign up to take part.

What your page will look like

What your page will look like

In addition to publishing all the submitted work on our web site, each year, we ask a number of people working in the photography sector to make some introductory selections. These selections appear online and in our two printed supplements ( BA and MA) that go out with the magazine.

Supplement Distributed with Source

Supplement Distributed with Source

This year's selectors come from a mix of professional backgrounds showing and publishing work of all kinds, from art to editorial. For the BA students we have Emma Bowkett, Picture Editor - Financial Times, FT Weekend Magazine, Malcolm Dickson Director and Curator for Street Level Gallery in Glasgow. Lu Bowan Head of Talent/Marketing - Making Pictures.

We have also teamed up with Making Pictures for The Making Pictures Award. The new MP Award offers three months' representation, showcasing and promotion of an emerging artist, offering portfolio, professional and creative development alongside an introduction to the commercial world. All graduate submissions will be considered for this award. You can read about last years winner Marco Kesseler and how the award helped him.

For the MA students we have Fiona Shields Picture Editor - The Guardian, Gordon MacDonald - Co-Director of GOST Books and John Duncan Editor - Source Photographic Review.

We have interviewed each of this year’s selectors about what they do and how they decide what makes and interesting project. You can read this in full here. Here is a flavour of these interviews.

Emma Bowkett, Picture Editor

Emma Bowkett, Picture Editor

How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project? Emma Bowkett ‘In the magazine we use both series, with narrative and story telling properties, and groups of individual pictures which are not at all co-dependent, but are linked by theme.’ Gordon MacDonald ‘It just has to make sense, be believable and appeal both visually and conceptually’

As regards the artist's statement, what is important for you to know about the work? Fiona Shields ‘On a very basic level it's hugely important for the photographer to supply a note of what, when and where as it can be difficult to decipher an image without context. Often we may publish a photographer's personal experience of making their work, giving an insight into the challenges of or inspirations behind a project can really add value to the piece.’

What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your area of photography? John Duncan ‘Don't get too fixated on the final exhibition. Who are you going to show the work to afterwards? Start thinking ahead. Make sure you have a smaller set of prints that you can bring to show people. Make some installation images of the final work to show scale and framing. Which open submissions, residencies or other opportunities are you aware of, or looking at?’

To read more from our selectors and to book a place read the guidelines. The DEADLINE is 5th MAY for the BA phase and 25th August for the MA phase.

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Marco Kesseler, Life After University

Kiev Protests

Entrants to Graduate Photography Online this year will also be able to win the Making Pictures Award. Marco Kesseler won the Award in 2014. We spoke to him to find out how his career has developed since leaving college and the contribution the Award has made to the continuing development of his work.

John Duncan: You graduated with a Degree in Press & Editorial Photography from University College Falmouth. What was the most useful thing you learnt at college?

Marco Kesseler: My approach to photography, the way I wanted to deal with taking images. I am quite a quiet person so I may have let things pass by being shy. I guess you realise that you regret all the occasions that you miss taking photographs, so that was something that I learnt very quickly on the course and something I took away with me afterwards and the importance of being with a very close knit group of peers who I have been able to work with since leaving. We have been able to talk to each other about projects, edits, about contact bases and to get genuine opinions.

John Duncan: What do you wish someone had told you at college?

I was very focused on things I wanted to do which was purely documentary so I didn’t spend time learning, say, studio techniques, and other things that I could apply to photography today.

John Duncan: You won the MP award in 2014, can you tell me how that helped you?

Making Pictures were great in helping me to find a way to translate my style of documentary approach into a more commercial style of photography. They are very good at finding ways to tailor my portfolio, or highlight certain images that cross over between documentary and commercial work. They have continually given me support whenever I needed to speak to someone, or going to show work to different agencies.

John Duncan: What type of commercial work do you do, have you established parameters for this?

Photography where you can apply a documentary approach, or that visual style, to a commercial commission. For example, I was working last summer with Greater London Authority for their campaign for the Summer of high streets where they were regenerating high streets. That gave me the freedom to go to all these different events they were holding but to work in a documentary way.

Kiev Protests

John Duncan: I wanted to ask you about your work in the Ukraine which won you the award. Where did your interest in the Ukraine come from?

I had been reading quite a lot of foreign news in the lead up to the revolution. The year before I had been doing some work in Belarus that was part of the Magnum Ideas Tap Award. That project was looking at the people who were trying to stand up to the dictatorship but there is seemingly nothing going on. On the surface things were very quiet. The Ukraine was the flip side of this, it was a very visible process. So it led on from the work in Belarus.

John Duncan: Did you have any run in’s with the police?

I wasn’t interested in taking photographs of conflict. We had a few slightly hairy days where you would hear rumours and lots of people would mobilise to front lines and there would be protests and shouting, but it would lead to nothing. For me it was more interesting seeing how people would go about their daily lives and how people would react to the changing situation.

John Duncan: Was that an idea that evolved as you were there?

It wasn’t my approach before I left. That is partly how I work but also, we arrived and had seen all these visually explosive images in the news and so I felt like that had already been covered in a sense. I spent the first day getting to grips, finding the area and shooting on a digital camera. I put that aside by the end of the day and felt that I had done my ‘news’ images. Then it gave me more space to think about the wider situation. I wanted to create images that weren’t just short-term news. I wanted to contribute more to the longevity of the historical situation.

Kiev Protests

John Duncan: You have worked on the short film ‘Fieldwork’, how important do you think it is to be able to shoot still and moving images?

It is important in terms of getting jobs but also in a visual sense. It is a slightly different way of shooting, it keeps you on your toes. For me I really enjoy it, I find it quite exciting having a different way of shooting. It broadens your reach, for example I am doing other film projects with another filmmaker and it is an interesting way of working.

What advice would you have for students who are about to graduate?

When graduating, you become obsessed or overrun by your final project. It is very easy for that to take over and not look at the wider picture. I think it is really important to have a one year plan, a two year plan, a five year plan and to realise that not everything is going to come to you straight away in the first year after graduating. You have to be optimistic but you have to be realistic and realise that for the majority of people, myself included, you are not going to have people coming straight to you offering you every job under the sun.

John Duncan: What are you working on next?

I am working on a couple of personal projects that are still in early stages. I think we are in a really interesting time for photography. You hear a lot of old timers talking about a crisis for photography, but as someone who has never experienced that before I think it is a really interesting time for photography. People are taking more pictures, people are looking at photography more than ever before and there are a hundred and one more platforms to look at it. So I am motivated to look at different approaches of telling narrative through photography that isn’t necessarily the set formula that we have come to rely on.

See more of Marco's work on his website.

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The Making Pictures Award

We're coming up to the first deadline for submissions to Graduate Photography Online, (5 May) so we are delighted to announce a new opportunity for graduate photographers that take part this year. Source has teamed up with a leading photographic agency to offer the Making Pictures Award.

The award is open to all students taking part in Source Graduate Photography Online. It offers three months' representation and mentoring: showcasing and promoting an emerging artist, offering portfolio, professional and creative development alongside an introduction to the commercial world.

Making Pictures is an important agency representing a number of photographers and working with many well known brands. The current issue of Source includes a portfolio by Niall O'Brien (image above from images for Simone Rocha collection).

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To find out more about the award we spoke to Lu Bowan from Making Pictures.

John Duncan: why does Making Pictures do the MP award?

Lu Bowan: it’s about bridging that gap between graduating and professional photographic practice. Whilst the degree courses are absolutely fantastic, in my experience there is a grey area and many photographers that I meet finish their courses without the essential knowledge of  what they can do next – or an awareness of the commercial field, what the options are or how to approach agents and to market themselves. A driven individual can have a successful commercial career which allows them to create photographic works and explore ideas on an ongoing basis without having to rely simply on external funding or grants.

We wanted to create a resource which  partners with varying organisations each year, which allowed us to share our collective knowledge and expertise. Through mentoring we hope to support the winners as we would any of our represented artists – this includes starting off with the creation of a portfolio, understanding briefs and how to create treatments, production and the process involved in the creation of commercial work. The end goal is for each individual to leave with strong foundations to kick start a fruitful career. We stay in touch with all of our award winners, the aftercare is there too.

John Duncan: What does commercial representation mean?

To have an agent in many ways isn't dissimilar to the having a gallery but with a different market. We sell photography. When you have commercial representation you enter a partnership with your agent/agency – we want to connect our photographers to the commercial field with industry creatives, share incredible imagery, find creative opportunities to pursue and plant the seeds for our talent to be considered for future projects. We market, we promote, we sell, we negotiate, we produce, we support, we develop, we translate, we edit.

It is a very close relationship between agent and photographer, to be a support isn’t just about getting commercial work and making money. It’s about growing together over the years and trying to get them really interesting projects and collaborations. It is an industry of collaboration. The right representation can help enrich an artist's career, the development from my side is very much about constantly moving forwards and evolving.

John Duncan: What will you be looking for when you go through the graduate work, in terms of trying to find somebody you can work with?

Initially it will be somebody that really jumps out. Somebody that is distinctive.  They may be exploring something that I haven’t seen, or in a different way. Storytelling and narrative translate very well in this industry so it is really good to see people present this. Is there an energy to the work? Interaction and portraiture are also very interesting to me, there are many areas in the commercial field in terms of photographic styles – I will have this in the back of my mind – the main thing is to see strong ideas and visual aesthetic and narrative.

Look out for more information in the coming days when we speak to Marco Kesseler, who won the Award last year, about the development of his career since leaving college.

[post updated 18/4/15]

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