Finding the right pond for the right fish

RPS exhibition at The Grant Bradley Gallery
RPS exhibition at The Grant Bradley Gallery

This week I went to two events with an eye to scouting the scope of my practice at the beginning of the year. Two local events: the first a networking event for freelance women in Bristol (Freelance Mum), and the second the Royal Photographic Society’s biennial exhibition at The Grant Bradley Gallery in Bedminster.

I first heard of Freelance Mum when Faye Dicker contacted me via Facebook a few months ago, with interest in my appearance on One Born Every Minute. She interviewed me for one of her regular podcasts (see here), and I was delighted to be able to share the aspects of my work, faith and ambition that weren’t entirely reflected in the programme. This week’s networking event had the high profile attraction of Rob Law, founder of Trunki, who spoke briefly about his journey in business. But the aim of the event was primarily for mums in freelance work to have a forum in a relaxed environment where kids are welcome too – a forum where business stays on the agenda, and common experiences are shared.

When this finished I took the opportunity to pop into the nearby art gallery for its photography exhibition, which in fact I’d already been able to scan online at the RPS website. I knew what I was getting: a row of same-sized same-framed prints, no detail nor explanations of concept except the accounts given by the 3 winners. Somehow the singularity of the entries and their presentation made everything homogenous overall, and I left feeling entirely uninspired, bar a few background questions about undeclared manipulation of the prints.

Both these events were good in themselves, but at neither did I feel at home. Despite the number of interesting events/exhibitions I go to in Bristol, there’s never quite that sense of joining the dots for the development of my practice, and I’m only just beginning to reflect on why. The way I work, and what I produce, doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. I’m not a business in the same way that a studio photographer or wedding photographer is, and it’s not really a commercial reproducible product that I sell. Neither am I interested in photography for photography’s sake, in the gear, the print, the membership of a society. It’s more that I’ve got something to communicate, something that seeks to prompt rethinking and concepts and perceptions. I haven’t got any full-stops, but I’ve got lots of commas and colons and questions. Where’s the pond for my work? Who else looks like my fish?

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