Why have I started this blog?

Over the past couple of months I have been studying for a post graduate certificate in teaching and learning in higher education. Unit one of the course concludes tomorrow when I will hand in my 3000 word essay. When I started to write this essay I simply picked the areas of teaching and learning that I found most interesting and started to list the basic topics that I could cover. I then began filling out these topics with my thoughts. A couple of weeks later I was gazing at about 20,000 words, wondering how on earth to cut it down to 3000.Now I’m not saying I had 20,000 words of clear, succinct essay! No; it was a jumble of thoughts, ideas, references and phrases that I had jotted down as and when they occurred to me.

To cut a long story short, I spent several more weeks trying to edit down, without success. Though I shut down several areas of interest, I was still generating thousands of words on the topics I was going for, as I explored them at the kind of depth that is required of masters level work. In the end, after a lot of stress, I realised I was never going to be able to produce a satisfactory essay on these topics within the permitted word count. They were just too big.

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People at work

This is a slightly unusual blog entry. I actually wrote the following for an organisation I have recently been working for, after being asked by them to give my opinion on the way they manage their staff. Given that many organisations in the creative sector utilise a mix of employee and freelance staff, I thought it would be worth posting this, incase it is of use to anyone else out there:-

Managing People at Work
An organisation’s staff members are its most valuable assets and so should be looked after above everything else. Working long days or unsociable hours should be balanced with a very high basic salary, overtime payments or time off in lieu; usually time off in lieu is the better option. Overtired people do not work at maximum productivity; whereas a person who is given generous time off in lieu of arduous activities will return to work eager to move onto the next task, refreshed and efficient.

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An artist management question

I frequently receive questions from students. Here’s one, followed by my answer, that I thought was worth sharing:

“Dear Sir

My name is *****. I am currently in my third year at the University of Bedfordshire studying Dance and Professional Practice. I am currently engaged in a group project which looks into the starting up and maintaining of businesses within the dance and performing arts sector. As a group we have decided to look into starting up a dance management business. It would be of great help to our study if you could possibly find the time to answer a few questions about your service.

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Less luck, more creativity

I recently downloaded Hipstamatic onto my iPhone, after having heard people raving about how great it is. It’s an app that, when you take a photo with the phone, applies a crop and various filter effects to the image. You get to select the processing broadly by choosing what “film”, “lens” etc to use, but fundamentally you don’t really have any control of how the image will turn out other than what you point and shoot at.

I got quite into it, at first. I spent about half an hour pottering about, gleefully taking pictures. It was fun. The results were cool. I took the picture on the right. I thought “hmmm that’s quite interesting, quite cool, I’ve created a nice image there…”

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There’s so much stuff out there these days; photos, video, “digital art”, whatever that is; and it’s production seems to be increasing at an exponential rate. Along with this outpouring of creativity comes an equally vast amount of critique about what’s good and what’s not. I use the word ‘critique’ in it’s loosest possible sense, as so much of it takes the form of the very briefest of comment, “that’s cool” or “that’s crap”; which suggests to me an equally brief amount of thought has gone into the assessment. With so much media to look at, I suppose it’s inevitable that rapid assessments become compulsory, but I think it’s important to regularly take some time to really figure out what makes a piece of work good or not. I also think it’s more beneficial to establish the good bits rather than pick out the bad. Identifying ‘good bits’ can form inspiration and ideas on which directions to explore with one’s own work.

So, watch this video from director Jack Henry James and inspiring company ‘Really Creative Media’, and I’ll pick out just a few of the things which I think make it fantastic.

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The camera never lies

What is it about photographs? No matter how many news stories break about faked photographs or how many magazine covers feature ludicrously thinned down celebrities, people still believe photographs are “real”. Isn’t it strange that an attitude which evolved in the 19th century, at the dawn of photography, still garners such strong attitudes; “The camera never lies”. Nonsense. A photograph is never a true depiction of reality because 2D static images are not how we, as human beings, experience reality, so they are always interpretive.

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Copyright law should be changed

I am fed up with the copyright laws in this country. Yet again, a national newspaper (who I cannot currently name for legal reasons) has published several of my photographs without permission or payment. Why have the done this? Simple, because with the law as it is, it is in their best interest to do so.

The core of the problem, I believe, is that there is no penalty in of itself for breach of copyright. In this instance for example, all I can legally do is ask the paper for fair payment for the images they have used. What’s fair payment? The going market rate, which ultimately is decided by the purchaser, as something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. So the images are only worth whatever the paper would be willing to pay for them. I could ask for £500 and they could merrily refuse and say they will give me £5.

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The value of art: scarcity over merit

An interesting article from the Guardian: Britain’s photographic revolution

It reports that the big art institutions in Britain are finally embracing photography as a legitimate art form. It discusses how America embraced photography so enthusiastically in the mid 20th century with the social and economic reasons why. It also cites examples of private London galleries having held photography exhibitions for several years and that the ‘big guns’, like the Tate, are only now catching up with contemporary art photography.

The article also touches on the value of art photography and how sale prices have risen, citing this as evidence that photography is now being taken seriously. This makes me sad.

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