Susan Carr, in her “The Assignment Photographer: understanding the value you provide”, defined Assignment Photography as “the visual representation of the concept” (Carr, 2008) that communicates the client’s message. Unfortunately, we live in the era of Stock Photography and this is why, as the author herself stated “sustaining an assignment business becomes very difficult” (Carr, 2008). This is why Assignments photographer must represent an added value for their customers, starting by having those necessary qualities to face this profession, such as: a unique and distinctive vision, the ability to interpret clients’ needs and to protect them and their products, the capability to tailor licensing, customer service’s abilities and digital expertise. Personally, I feel the urge to improve those skills related to the creation of a proper and correctly compiled documentation; this alongside those necessary business strategy and marketing-related abilities necessary to be a consistent professional.
My current project could be related to Assignment Photography, but with a slighty different meaning compared to the more general one because, even if I am the creator of the concept, my images must respect those standards and rules defined by my Professors and Tutors at Falmouth University. My images must have a defined quality and my work must be cohesive, coherent and its images must have a certain quality to pass each Module: my project must be sustained by clear argumentations and submitted following precise rules.
For sure, it would not fit into the category of Stock Photography because of its delicate subject matter: my photographs and videos do not follow commercial standards and are not created to be sold. For instance, even if my attention if often focused on facial expressions and body language, I always try to avoid any cliché in the creation of my imagery (often typical of Stock Photography) because they want to represent the inner world of those individuals I portray and not to create any form of generalization in what I represent.
I presume that I could identify potential customers for my work, but they would be realities like Fine Art Galleries, Charities working to sustain people with Mental Health-related and Social problems or, as previously stated, a potential sponsor for a future PhD: all realities very distant from the Commercial environment. My work could be considered as easily sustainable because it is not strictly connected to a “local Market”: thanks to its subject matter that represent the vast majority of individuals and Communities out there it can cross cultural and geographic boundaries, especially thanks to those Social Media that make Photography distribution easier, nowadays.
Even if in my current practice I am more a Generalist since I have also created Fashion and Documentary Photography projects, “I can hear you now” is more related to the world of Fine Art and Portraiture. Due to the artistic environment they are related to, during this module I realised that there are some challenges I will have to face to distribute my work: I must be careful in the way I share my images online in order to respect a higher standard that these fields require and the same thing is valid concerning printed materials. To be considered for a potential publication on Fine Art Magazines or to be exhibited in a Gallery, the quality of my printed images, as well as their digital equivalents, must be properly processed: to respect collectors and curators’ standards it is essential to face some “technical challenges which most Commercial photographers do not have to consider” (Kauffman, 2008), to use Kim Kauffman’s words. The American Photographer also emphasized those differences in pricing Fine Art works and in the creation of the related contracts. Suggesting, of course, always to create written documents to protect our work, he pointed out interesting facts I will have to consider when I will decide to distribute my photographs or videos. While if I will involve Charities into my project I will have to consider usage as one of the terms to establish a price, if my printed photographs will be sold for display only (galleries or private collectors), this should not be considered, but to raise the value of my imagery I will have to keep an eye on the costs of realization (considering those mentioned high-quality standards) and I will have to consider the creation of a limited edition only, since it is commonly considered as an added value. Of course, not all the images I am currently creating can be sold since, as said, the subject matter of my project is quite delicate; but in those “protected environment” I mentioned above I might consider it: in that case my sitters would be fully respected and my work would become more sustainable at the same time. Its sustainability is very important since I am working to support my sitters using Photography as a tool and to enhance empathy among people: a financially sustainable project would mean the possibility to photograph more and more, expanding it in the future and potentially helping more individuals.
In my specific case Networking and Reviews could be crucial for a future potential distribution of my work, this is why I am currently examining all available possibilities for Portfolio reviews, also outside Falmouth like the ones periodically organized and managed by LensCulture, and to join Specialty Groups and Specialized Listervs at the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). These last two networking-related “platforms” do not only provide discussions’ opportunities, but also the chance to exhibit, obtain resources also for students and emerging photographers: definitely something to carefully consider at this stage of my project. Applying for Photographic Contests is also essential to generate interest in our work because, as Francesca Genovese, the Director of Francesca Maffeo Gallery, pointed out while discussing the Gallerist’s perspective in her interview managed by our Professor Anna-Maria Pfab “As an established space, you have very different rules and you have much more fluid relationships with other photographers and other contacts and recommendations. In the beginning, it’s very much about looking, researching, seeing what is going on. Social media as well as print. Going into lots of exhibitions, graduate shows everything. You need to look at who is winning awards, who is getting a lot of press and air time” (Genovese, 2017).
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Specialty Groups www.asmp.org/community/specialty.php
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Specialized Listervs www.asmp.org/community/online_comm.php
Carr Susan, The Assignment Photographer: understanding the value you provide, in Professional Business Practice in Photography, Chapter 12, ASMP, 7th edition, 2008, USA. pp. 97-98.
Genovese Francesca, in Anna-Maria Pfab’s PHO704: Week 10 Photography and its Fine Art Markets, Francesca Genovese Interview, released by Professor Anna-Maria Pfab on Canvas online Platform, “Sustainable Prospects” Module, Week 10, MA Photography, Falmouth Flexible, Falmouth University, Cornwall, UK. PDF transcription, pp.1.
Kauffman Kim, Fine Art in Susan Carr’s The Assignment Photographer: understanding the value you provide, in Professional Business Practice in Photography, Chapter 12, ASMP, 7th edition, 2008, USA. pp. 107-108.