Vision 09, an event aimed at aspiring and early career photographers, was again held at the Business Design Centre, Islington. The speakers at these events are always inspirational luminaries of the photographic world and this year was no exception.
The trade show element of the event may have dwindled, owing to the recession, but the quality of speakers most definitely had not. In fact, they were a key draw for all attendees I encountered.
Two male students who had visited for the first time last year had so enthused a friend that he had been inspired to come along this year. They explained the draw thus:
"I’m here because of the subject - photography - obviously but also the books really. You can see all the books and actually feel them. That’s the main draw I suppose, and the talks - to hear people talk about it and to find out stuff you didn’t know was going to be here
"This year we came to see what was going on. Obviously Martin Parr was here so wanted to see him and Steve Bloom who we saw last year. So just seeing his new project – things like that
Martin Parr, Magnum photographer and endless (humorous) critic of the British way(s) of life, through his colourful images of the rich, the poor and the middle classes, amongst other subjects, delivered a lively, amusing and thought-provoking talk in the main hall in the morning, which was filled to the rafters with eager photographers.
The main hall was filled to the rafters with photographers eager to hear Martin Parr speak.
Before he went on, I managed to catch up with him for a brief chat. I asked him what advice he would give to any photographer at the start of their career, and his sage words were:
Martin Parr, speaking at Vision 09.
"There’s no question that the world of photography is completely oversubscribed with photographers, but the great thing is, if you’ve got something original, if you’ve got something passionate, you’re very likely still to succeed. The danger is that many of the photographs that we see are very similar to other photographs that have been taken before. So here’s a good tip. If you look at your viewfinder and you think you’ve seen it before, don’t bother.
If you think you’re doing something original then you might be onto something. If you do that with some stamina, and some passion, then you could come up with something good. So there’s always the opportunity – there is the constant need for new photographers but remember that there are a lot of them out there.
Contained within an answer to an audience member’s question was a real call to arms, if ever I heard one. Martin Parr felt that society’s increasingly adverse reactions to photography in public places may bring about a shift in legislation eventually and urged everyone to get out there now and engage in street photography while they still could.
In five years time it may be too late to document the life of the British street. What will historians of the future make of this?
Eugene Richards, presenting his most recent work entitled "War is Personal" which is concerned with Americans whose lives have been changed for good by the war in Iraq, spoke after lunch and provoked deep thought about the nature and the multitude of consequences of war.
Steve Bloom, who ended the day’s speaker events, offered a vibrant and uplifting view of Nairobi with his street vendor work entitled “Trading Places: The Merchants of Nairobi” (Thames and Hudson).
Of the suppliers who were brave enough to take stands at this event aimed at the more skint end of the photography career ladder, several stood out. Nikon and Sony were enthusiastically demonstrating their wares. As a Nikon user, I was particularly keen to get my hands on the D3S though could not put it through its paces as the man behind the stand was reluctant to let me disappear under the table with it to try out the uber-high ISO settings. Besides, I would have had to take the card out of my own camera to try it and I was understandably reluctant to do that, given I had precious frames of Mr Parr and did not want to erase them by mistake! My notoriously creaky knees were also complaining so I gave it a miss.
Nikon compare the length of their lenses at Vision 09.
Both Blurb and Photobox were keen to show off their photo books and I, for one, was pleased to be able to do a hands on, side by side (almost) comparison of paperstock feel and quality, printing and bindings. Having been inspired by Martin Parr’s books on eclectic subjects, I am rather keen to get to work on a book project of my own.
The BJP stand was swamped from early doors...and then deserted not much later. I discovered later, to my dismay, that the photo paper that was acting like honey to bees had run out.
Jim Ryan (right) explains the range of courses available at City & Islington College, Holloway, London.
RPS, SWPP and AOP also had a presence, as did Kenro, Rhubarb Rhubarb, theprintspace, Epson and others. Notable by their absence, however, were Adobe and OnOne, who were both running training workshops last year.
Also absent were most of the Universities and colleges who were trying to tempt students through their doors in 08. The notable exception was the innovative City & Islington College, based not far from the venue in North London.
Something I wish I had been brave enough to sign up for this year was the portfolio review which was, again, oversubscribed. Having professional, external eyes cast over one’s pride and joy can be both nerve-wracking and productive in equal measure.
All in all, it was an enlightening and worthwhile event, the highlights of which were definitely the speakers. I heartily recommend visiting next year to all at the start of a career in photography, whether just considering it, studying it or having got a wee way in.
Next year I might actually pluck up the courage and book for a portfolio review. Yikes!
Words and pictures by Jane Hobson