Most of my recent projects have been based on my curiosity about matters going on in the world around me. For some time, I have been intrigued to know that a significant number of women choose voluntarily to participate in the sex industry. Many of them are well educated with university degrees. My curiosity is aroused by questions, such as: Why? What are their lives like? How much do they earn? How does their future appear to them compared with mine as a fine-art photographer eyeing them critically from the other end of the lens? They risk social stigma and the disapproval of their family. Why? To me, it seems an extreme choice to make, to exploit your body sexually to earn money, especially voluntarily. The result of my curiosity is ‘The Act’, an in-depth insight into the lives and careers of fifteen women who work willingly in the UK sex industry. I have recently self-published ‘The Act’ as a high quality, large-sized, limited edition book.
I didn’t know many women engaged in the sex business so I had two casting agents source the girls. During the casting stage, I must have viewed nearly one hundred women. We met and chatted about their careers, experiences, and private lives before I took nude photos of them for making my selection later in the process. I finally selected fifteen women as subjects. It was important for me in planning the project that that the girls were engaged voluntarily in the sex industry, so I excluded street-walkers and prostitutes from consideration as I didn’t feel confident that these girls could be involved voluntarily in what they were doing. Among those who I chose were nude aerial artistes, a ping-pong girl, a dominatrix, an escort, and webcam and porn stars. One girl even performs striptease when hanging by her hair quite a few metres above ground.
During our early conversations, I found the girls’ stories so fascinating that I decided to video Q&A sessions with them during the photo shoot. These also form part of the book both in transposed text ‘stories’ of their lives and as an accompanying DVD.
How much do you direct, in terms of the staging and facial expressions?
When chatting with the girls during the casting procedure, I realised how much they lived their lives, both privately and at work, in the limelight, as if exposed on a stage. Obviously, the jobs of some of the fifteen entails performing on a stage, but the way they described their private lives revealed that they were all unable to behave completely freely as most ‘vanilla’ women can, that they performed on the stage of life, as it were. This insight gave me the idea to create stage sets for each model relevant to the girl’s act. I worked with the girls on the idea and subsequently closely with a set designer. Each stage setting exposes the girls performing their individual ‘acts’. Hence the project title ‘The Act’.
In addition to setting the scene I felt that photographing the girls in this way would reduce the risk of being accused of merely shooting mundane erotic, even pornographic images. At the same time, it gave a purposeful, almost sociological-philosophical meaning to the project.
My girls are used to performing - that is their livelihood. There was very little need for me to provide any direction regarding facial expression. Yes, I did occasionally suggest poses, but my subjects were fully in command of that aspect of the shoot as well, frequently volunteering poses of their own that I might have hesitated to suggest to them myself.
The shoots took place in a huge Sound Stage, a whole 875 m2. It took me some time to find a suitable one, as I needed not only plenty of space for the sets but also good headroom as two of my artistes needed at least 5 metres height above floor level to perform their acts. They were hung from state of the art chain hoists. I was finally successful with a studio in Essex, which had the added benefit of having black painted walls, which provided a superb background for the customised stage sets.
They were long shoot days, from 8am till about 2am for 5 consecutive days. Many of the crew ended up staying in the local IBIS hotel.
How do you hope the audience will respond to these images?
As with all my other fine-art images I hope that a viewer will respond not only favourably to the images, but analyse them for their content; that they will look beyond the nudity and provocative poses and see the reality of my models’ lives. The images may be erotic to one degree or another, but I hope they provoke more reaction than that occasioned by other erotic images.
I personally hope that the audience would appreciate the images as works of art.
You have a very distinctive style of photography; how does this project sit with your other work?
My involvement with the design and manufacture of the sets, combined with the engagement in interviewing a surprisingly high number of applicants wishing to be involved in the project, then videoing the interviews with the fifteen selected models, means that The Act is the most extensive project that I have done to-date, even more so than ‘Feral Children’.
Although the preparative work and execution of the staged settings was considerable, they created a new space within an existing studio space and was the perfect idea for this project. The idea resulted partially as a by-product from a couple of commercial assignments that I’d completed just as I was about to start ‘The Act’. An instance of cross-fertilisation of ideas from one genre to another. The final act of my own doing, adding to the significance of the project, is the self-publication of the book that has just been printed.
My father was, and still is, a keen amateur photographer. He started his hobby when my elder sister and I were born, so I grew up accustomed to seeing my father carrying a camera wherever he went and seeing the results of his shoots, both family and street photos. When he finally decided to buy a semi-automatic Minolta SLR camera, he didn’t take to very well to losing total control and passed it on to me as I’d begun to express an interest in photography. After finishing school I decided to study photography at college. After graduating from college, I assisted professional photographers for five years, covering a wide range of advertising and editorial work. At the same time, I constantly developed my portfolio and submitted my best work to competitions. One year I was particularly successful in the AOP Assistants Awards competition. This was noticed by a German agent and they took me on board. Within a few weeks I had my first professional job – a large one, shot in Australia. A couple of years later I shot ‘Teenage Stories’, my first fine-art project. This was quite a hit and established my reputation, and also resulted in my first book.
What’s next for you?
I am already working on my next project, ‘The River Thames’. Although a relatively insignificant river in any measurements of length, breadth, etc – the importance of the River Thames in national and international history is possibly greater than any other river in the world. From Roman to recent times, it has been the leading port in the UK with deep water, tidal docks in the heart of London. Throughout the centuries, the river has been the fulcrum for an unlimited number of episodes of great importance on the world stage, and is full of traditions, pastimes and other matters of interest and interest. These are the motives for my new project.
It's unique in many ways, but the power the photographer wields in how the subject is represented should not be underestimated and is what makes the stories of those behind the lens so fascinating.
Photographer Peter Dench, known for his powerful and humorous take on the human condition, has recently published a collection of interviews he has conducted with a number of leading photographers.
Delving behind the camera to see what makes them tick, Dench reveals how they have made an impact on the photographic world.
"All of the photographers featured have shaped me in some way; sometimes professionally, more often personally," said Dench.
Dench writes that photography has always been a solitary profession, but once digital took hold there was no need to head to the laboratory where photographers would often meet, hanging around for their prints to come off the line.
To combat that loss, Dench sought out other photographers, sometimes staying with them in their homes, other times just chatting over a pint.
The resulting interviews are more a discussion, a collaboration between the two of them.
Beautiful, energetic black and white pictures that brought together a random selection of people all linked through the photographer, both socially on Twitter, and now visually.
Floyd began as an assistant photographer before setting out to follow a new path that would help shape the look of a generation through the pages of Loaded and GQ.
Since then, his images have appeared in many major magazines, from the New Yorker to Harpers Bazaar, and he has shot advertising campaigns for British Airways, Apple and Sony to name a few.
Another featured photographer, Harry Borden, the recipient of numerous awards as well as a solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, should need little introduction to anyone with an interest in portrait photography.
Whatever the subject, his ability to connect the viewer and the subject in that split second is a gift few manage time and time again.
Dench stayed with Borden at his home in Devon and writes: "Borden likes to win; not only win, but to out-skill, out-think, out-manoeuvre, out-earn and out-photograph his competitors."
That's a lofty aim, yet one backed up by the pictures.
His first commission, for NME back in 1989, was of Craig Gannon, guitarist with The Smiths, for which he was paid £25.
Borden tells Dench that he said yes to everything, producing work for a range of magazines, ensuring he was first-choice photographer and in the early days utilising a number of technical tricks, from cross-processing to ring flash.
Other photographers included in the book range from Martin Parr to Laura Pannack and Marcus Bleasdale to Anastasia Taylor-Lind.
What ties all of the photographers together is that long-term vision, whereby the individual pictures build into cohesive bodies of work over time, each with their own unique stamp.
An exhibition of Great Britons of Photography Vol.1: The Dench Dozen, published by Hungry Eye magazine can be seen at Project-Space in London 14-24 February.
AOP Awards exhibition at The Fleet Street Press
If you find yourself in the City of London do pop into The Fleet Street Press where a selection of winning images from the 2016 AOP Awards are being exhibited downstairs among the many cosy armchairs. The selection of images will change every three months to showcase more of the staggering images from last year's awards, so remember to pop back to see more later in the year.
Winners of the 2017 Junior Assistant Photo Competition announced
Huge congratulations to our five winners: George Baxter, Graeme Cunningham, Christopher Lanaway, Anneleen Lindsay and Virginie Petorin.
To illustrate our commitment to encouraging and developing photographic talent, the AOP in association with Fixation launched our very first photography competition exclusively for AOP Junior Assistant members. We wanted to give a platform to showcase their brilliant work, and support them in making the great leap forward into careers as professional photographers. There were no themes or restrictions for this competition and entry was free. Each of the 5 winners wins a Fixation Assistant Bag worth over £400, a year’s free Junior Assistant membership and their work will be exhibited for one week in an online AOP Exhibition as well as being featured on the Fixation website.
Josh Redman and his portrait of Frances. Picture: Jorge Herrera
Holloway snapper Josh Redman’s clients include international businesses – but Islington is still his inspiration, he tells the Gazette.
A curtain upstairs at Paradise Beauty Centre, opposite Paradise Park. Photographer Josh Redman: 'I was picking up a parcel from the Post Office when I saw this. I spent a few minutes lying on my back photographing the curtain as it moved uncontrollably in the wind.'
A curtain blowing in the breeze. A teddy bear changing hands under a bridge. An elderly woman leaning down to pick up a cake from a shop shelf.
These are just a few of the moments Josh Redman, 32, captures around town.
All these photos were taken in Islington after Josh moved to Holloway a little over three years ago.
“As soon as I visited Holloway it felt like home, and it’s been a constant source of interest to me,” he told the Gazette.
But there’s at least one piece of Josh’s work you might have seen outside Holloway.
Two people exchanging a teddy bear under a bridge by the Emirates Stadium. Photographer Josh Redman: 'It was a bizarre scenario. I saw the lady half-running with this teddy in her hand, and as she disappeared under the bridge I thought I'd dash to the other side and catch her as she re-appeared. But as she did so, this man was running in the opposite direction, and they did this relay of the teddy bear like they were in some kind of athletic competition. I'll never know the story behind what happened.'
In November, his portrait of Frances Dunscombe won the John Kobal New Work Award at the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016 – the National Portrait Gallery’s annual prize ceremony for photos.
His winnings include £5,000 to produce a portrait that will be in the gallery’s permanent collection.
And it isn’t only the judges he’s impressed.
Some of his well-known clients are Adidas, GQ, Wired, Nationwide and The British Museum.
His approach ranges from brightly lit wide shots to dim but detailed portraits.
"As soon as I visited Holloway it felt like home, and it’s been a constant source of interest to me"
“Taking a good shot is a bit of a mystery,” Josh told the Gazette.
“It’s about having lots of interests and ideas in your head, and then letting all of that settle into your gut so it becomes an intelligent and responsive person in its own right.”
Many of his photos were taken within a few hundred yards of his flat in Holloway.
“You feed your gut with ideas and compositions and colour combinations, and then after your gut takes the photo, you’re able to see what it was trying to tell you,” Josh said.
A sheer blue polka-dotted curtain blowing out of a window and into the breeze is Redman’s favourite photo and the winner of the 2014 Association of Photographers Award.
A woman in Morrisons, Holloway. Photographer Josh Redman: 'She was picking up each cake and looking carefully at them all to see which was the best'.
It was taken outside the Parkside Beauty Centre in Paradise Park.
After winning the award, he was picked up by advertising agent Mark George. That led to commissioned work.
“I have the local area to thank for getting my start in photography,” he said.
Nick Dunmur's article for Professional Photo magazine: Has your Business caught a cold?
Has your business caught a cold…?
The end of each year tends to be a time of self-reflection for many of us, but there’s no reason why that reflection shouldn’t extend to your own business practice too.
Speaking as someone who has been self-employed all their working life, I appreciate that it is very easy to become detached from an overview of what your business actually looks like and how well it functions. Dealing with day-to-day minutiae, fighting fires, actually doing the work and regenerating your creative mojo leaves very little in the tank for business planning or even business evaluation.
Whilst the term, ‘business plan’ tends to suggest something we might associate with a start-up or a business in its first flush of youth, it remains a useful tool for evaluation and planning no matter how established your business. I’d be prepared to bet that only a handful of people could claim to have an up-to-date business plan in the form of a few pages, printed out or parked somewhere on a computer, so if you are one of those who doesn’t have one to hand, how do you know whether things are moving in the right direction? Of course, you’ll know from the state of your finances and general sense of what your disposable income ‘feels’ like as to whether you need to worry or not, but if you wanted to, say, plan growth of 15% over the next year, for example, how would you start to put that into practice in a managed and meaningful way?
All business should have a current business plan – the reality is very different, of course. Assuming that you haven’t got one, and not one that’s been gathering dust for the last ten years, the first step is going to be to prepare one. Not such a daunting task as one might think – it doesn’t have to be a huge document, just a decent profit & loss (P & L), cash-flow forecast for the next 12 months maybe, analysis of your market sector (who are your competitors and what do you actually know about them), details of your own creative practice, details of your client-base (repeat business, one-offs and so on), an overview of the investment(s) you have in the business (property, capital) and detail of what your marketing strategy entails (could be really simple, but useful to note down). Oh, and last but not least, a set of objectives for you/your business (where do you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years…? You might not wish to change things much, that’s fine, but note it down, because our opinions of who and what we are, shift gradually and you might surprise yourself when looking back in a year or so). This last parenthetical point is important – if you’re the only person seeing this document, what’s the point of expending time and energy on it? Well, it’s a way of detaching yourself and creating space between you, your thoughts at the time of writing, and the place you find yourself in 12,24 months down the line.
Anyway, the above list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea.
To take each of the points above and explore in a little more detail, firstly, every business-owner should know what their break-even is, and if one has been in business for a while, noting down overheads for the P & L should be easy. My choice for a P & L and a cash-flow forecast is a spreadsheet, complete with some simply formulae to auto-add and auto-calculate totals – makes life simple if you wanted to try out the financial effects of adding £400 per month, say, to your overhead in a particular area. At the risk of over-stating things, your cash-flow needs to reflect the actual timings of cash in and out of your business, whereas your P & L is more an indication of your annual income and expenditure divided up on a month-by-month basis. Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious.
Knowledge of your competitors is useful if you can find it out - what are their rates? How do they charge? What are their main selling points? (What are yours…?), but I appreciate that commercially sensitive information such as rates and fees is hard to come by.
You might have an idea of the kind of photographer you think you are, but does this match up with the actual commissions you work on? Do you perceive yourself to be a still-life photographer, yet you shoot more location industrial work than anything, for example? Does your yearning for fashion work constantly go unfulfilled at the expense of catalogue photography? Be honest in your appraisal – after all, no-one’s assessing you on this, and no-one but you will see the results, unless you wish otherwise.
What do you spend on marketing and how do you monitor what comes back from it? I find it very useful to allocate specific email addresses to specific marketing avenues, that way, if I get an email sent to me at ‘email@example.com’ (example) I know the source has been Yell. Sounds obvious, but it makes keeping tabs on all the variety of marketing opportunities much more straightforward for all types of marketing, online as well as physical.
Lastly, in this series of points, having your business objectives written down, forces you to put into black & white, some often vague, fuzzy, ill-defined ideas about what might happen in the future and gives you a yardstick to use later. You might not achieve those objectives, in which case you can ask why not?...or perhaps, does it matter…? There’s no right or wrong, but getting a better understanding of your business (& perhaps yourself in the process) is what this exercise is about.
It’s worth remembering that any additional string(s) to your business bow can have their own, individual business plan, particularly if you wish to see how a new piece of activity could work, financially, for you. Thinking of getting into drone image-making? Then write a plan that details your investment and activity over a three-year period, including all the training and overhead that comes with that type of operation, to see if it’s (a), profitable but equally, (b), whether the amount of potential profits legitimise the endeavour.
It’s why an interactive plan is really useful, particularly the ability to change the numbers and see what happens to the bottom line.
I believe the success of all the above is dependent on being honest with yourself. Self-employment as a small business can be a lonely endeavour, professional photography even more so, and being a part of a network of like-minded professionals can be really useful in terms of sharing discussion about this kind of activity, as well as obtaining advice to address any symptoms of illness you may have identified in your own practice.
No business plan? Then here’s your check-list:
Know your numbers – P & L and cash-flow. Make sure you get accurate figures for annual/monthly costs of you doing business. Include everything. Don’t forget to work out how much it costs you personally to exist too (all your domestic expenditure like rent/mortgage, food, clothing, holidays, family expenditure, etc.) as you will need to ensure that your profits cover this and leave spare to reinvest. It goes without saying you need to know your income figures accurately too.
Set your objectives – 1, 3 and/or 5-years is plenty. It’s difficult to look further much ahead with any accuracy or veracity. You could put in a ten-year objective, but so much can change, it might be better to keep in mind overall and break it down into separate elements and enter those as individual objectives (that become more achievable by dint of being smaller).
Identify yourself – make sure you understand your market position. It’s about being straight with yourself and putting down on paper what your business is, not what you’d like to think it is (that may well be part of your objectives, see above). That truism of the SWOT analysis can play a part here, as elsewhere.
Identify your market – know your clients and competitors. You run a business first, you’re a photographer second. Important distinction if you want to be able use a business plan effectively.
Be honest – If it doesn’t stack up on paper, don’t do it. Change things around until it does.
We will be at The Photography Show again this year, which runs from the 18th to 21st March 2017 at the NEC, Birmingham on Stand G42. Registration for tickets is now open here. Watch this space for more details coming soon!