Last month Sarah took part in CONNECT FOR Photography Graduates at Stills, a day of talks focussed on supporting graduate and emerging photographers. As well as insightful talks by Melanie Letore, Mat Hay, Morwenna Kearsley and others, the event included a presentation by Christina Webber, Zoe Hamill and Erin Semple on a new initiative being run out of Stills, Fresh Focus. Work in progress by the three artists was shown at Stills in September as part of Working Title, which aimed ‘to bridge the gap between concept and finished product by exposing the process behind the pictures.’ Sarah speaks to Christina, Erin and Zoe here.
SAF: Hi everyone and thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Can you tell me about yourselves, and how Fresh Focus came about?
ES: Fresh Focus came about from feedback from the Stills 2016 Connect For event. Feedback from recent graduates called for opportunities to discuss work with others – as after college/university you are often left without a support network. As recent graduates ourselves, we agreed that after university it becomes increasingly more difficult to stay motivated especially if you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. We want Fresh Focus to emulate the peer group that many people are now missing but to also connect people from different institutions and year groups.
SAF: What do you perceive as being the main issues facing emerging photographers in Scotland today?
CW: Emerging photographers are immediately faced with a lack of opportunities. There is no grad scheme waiting, no easy career ladder to jump on and climb rung by rung. More often than not they are working part or full-time to support their practice and still have to compete within an over-saturated industry for the few jobs/internships/competitions that are there. Leaving a creative institution, you also lose access to the facilities you have been taught to work with. Equipment is expensive, space is expensive, time is expensive. There is a distinct difference between being taught how to use specialist facilities and being taught how to source/ finance them for yourself. The consistent nag of self-doubt and money trouble, the isolation incurred from free time spent on personal work or applications, and the day-to-day stresses of a day job do not (without some effort) lend themselves to a productive creative environment.
SAF: How does the initiative address some of the challenges you’ve identified?
CW: What we aim to do with Fresh Focus is to make the bridge between education and industry easier by creating a space for discussion, collaboration and support. This environment is a catalyst to help establish critical confidence in project work by receiving feedback and engaging in a wider photo community. The monthly meet-ups and online space will also serve as a resource pool – a way of using individual networks to each-other’s benefit. Building a career is difficult – but we believe it gets easier when we support each other!
SAF: I can see there being a lot interest in this kind of peer-led discussion. How can people who’re interested in taking part get in touch with you?
ZH: If you’re interested in joining the group, we ask that you visit the website and fill in a brief application form. This is so you can tell us a little about yourself and why you think joining the group would benefit your practice. If you have any questions about the process or would like to find out more about the group, you can email [email protected]. You can also follow us on Instagram @freshfocusatstills to give you an idea of what we’ve been up to so far, and keep up to date with our plans for the future.
SAF: Thanks all for chatting to me. We’re excited to see what comes next!