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.
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.
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.