Volunteering Update

Now that the final results are out, it feels a little odd getting out and about exploring job and experience opportunities for real. Although job hunting skills were part of my third year final unit, there was always something else to balance and break up the hypothetical research. Yet between the searching I think I’m making myself useful for a couple of days a week at the Proud Photographic Gallery in Camden.

For the last 2 weeks I have been travelling up to London on Fridays and Saturdays to assist the gallery manager in the daily running of the exhibition space. While this might not be strictly design work and therefore be considered a sideways (if not backwards) move, the opportunity presented itself as did my curiosity, for the experience of working in other creative environments. Running errands, presenting a friendly, customer face (becoming the occasional human tourist information point) and tending shop has kept me busy most days, but today was rather different. Today played host to the book signing and Q&A with the photographer Kevin Cummins. Due to the importance of the occasion and possibility of increased numbers, smart dress was a must which was fortunate given that I was to be put on the door and become keeper of the guest-list.I found myself negotiating the crowds of Camden at speeds unachievable in the heels I had luckily spurned until later, in order to fetch all of the required list of drinks, pens, etc that I had been charged with finding. When the event got underway it proved to be very enlightening and our guest was an engaging and humorous speaker, full of anecdotes that could be teased out by questions from Morrissey and photographic admirers alike. Perhaps what was most poignant to hear as a photographer of the digital age, was the way in which he takes great lengths to point out that his work involved detailed crafting of each image. With expensive, limited film and changing conditions, each image had to be justified and sure to work in its own right- a skill that I do not think is so common in digital photography these days. Maybe because it is not required? Take enough shots and you’re sure to get a decent one in there somewhere. Take about 200 and review them 10 minutes later. Yet Kevin argued that even if it means waiting for longer, getting that one brilliant shot is equal in worth to 3 mediocre ones.

The idea of patience and skill in your craft is one that I have often associated specifically (but not solely) with photography- especially in the use of film. My owning a DSLR has not stopped me from already engaging with this principle, however. When I see something, I do try and quash that little voice that says ‘keep snapping’, until it is ‘just so’ and the image feels right. I’m sure this is not news to any photographer out there, but as Kevin went on to highlight during a gripe about the treatment of photographers these days, it does seem that respect for these skills has diminished rapidly.

So today not only gave me something to chew on but a cheeky unexpected bonus too- I finished just in time to watch the rugby in the wonderful converted stables. Whoever said there weren’t any benefits to unpaid work was clearly mistaken!

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