“Uncertain States have an ongoing open call for submissions and if your work is selected it is printed in a broadsheet which is distributed throughout the UK. It’s a quarterly publication with about 10 artists and you can get the paper for free at the V&A, Baltic, Tate etc. I initially submitted when I was still at uni, that was two years ago and then about 18 months later they contacted me and asked if they could print my work. Then every year they have a show of all the artists who have been published so that’s how I got here.
As part of one of the modules at uni we had to research how we would make it after we graduated. I just found all of these opportunities and applied to everything, this was one of them. I still do it now, every Wednesday evening I look through all of the opportunities, shoots, residencies, everything even if I can’t do it I apply because it was 18 months before Uncertain States got back to me. They’re not the only ones, I’ve heard nothing for months and someone will get back to me. I also do some commercial work and I emailed this lady at uni and about a year later she asked if I could be her assistant on a shoot, so just because you don’t hear back immediately doesn’t mean you won’t get work.
I’m an Artist in Residence at The Purcell School. So, I live in the school, and I am an art assistant within the art department, I work in the boarding house, I do photography workshops and I run the photo club for everyone. They have a darkroom and amazing facilities so I get involved in that way but I am also time-tabled hours to do my own work and I am allowed to use the facilities to do this. In the application for the position they asked for a proposal for a project you would undertake. The previous year I did a documentary project at a National Trust site and I really enjoyed it. My favourite thing is the research part, I do a project to learn something. For me the reason to take photos is because of the research I have done, a quote I have read or a reference to the place. So when I started researching The Purcell School I found out there it had been in five previous locations and there were staff working there who had been with the school for a long time. So I was able to go to those buildings and locations and ask people there about the history of those places as well. So I photographed all five locations and each photograph has a meaning.
I was really worried about getting a job after uni. I started looking in January and then I thought, this is ridiculous I still have 5 months to do. I was so scared, so terrified that I wouldn’t get a job and that I would have to move back home – not that it would be unpleasant but I just didn’t want to waste the opportunity. With this job it was quite funny because when I saw it the deadline had passed so I rang up and they said that the applications had just been given to the Head of Art but if I sent mine in before 5pm they would pass mine on. So this was 4 o’clock and I was working at the florist, serving people and desperately trying to write the proposal at the same time. Then a few days later they asked me to come for interview which was on the day we were putting up our final show. I was so relieved when I got the job, and I always said as long as I was working in photography or something creative I didn’t mind what job I did, so to get a job I really wanted and to get it so quickly it was like a huge weight off my shoulders.
Initially it was for one year but they extended the contract for a second year but that will be it then. It’s given me a chance to find my way. It seems to be the perfect job for a graduate, the pressure is off and I have the time to develop my work. I had a year were there was nothing really happening with my artwork, if I had have been at home and not had a job, that would have been really tough. In my last year of uni I lived with six girls and five of us were on the same course and I think they were more ‘on it’ than I was. Any opportunities and exhibitions we went to it all and doing the degree show just inspired me to do stuff, seeing them make stuff happen I thought I have to make the most of it. Also the technicians at uni used to send us loads of opportunities and it wasn’t until second year I realised that I wasn’t always going to have someone passing on opportunities and I need to make the most of it.
I find being an artist is like running your own business. At half term we had two weeks off so two other alumni and I put together a show for the Bournemouth fringe. I decided that the second week I was going to chill out but it didn’t work like that because I had applied for things and people were asking me for follow ups and it can just take up so much time. An application can take a solid 4 hours.”
What’s your One Piece of Advice?
“Well I always think the smaller, independent or artist led galleries have the most exciting work, and they are usually free too. Like looking around here there are so many approaches to making a photograph and presenting it. Just go to everything, you don’t know what you like until you’ve tried it.”