Advice — What 15 emerging photographers learnt on a 5-week scheme supported by Magnum
How do you go about carving a career in photography? Working alongside sister companies Anyways and It’s Nice That, we partnered with Create Jobs and Magnum Photos’ Visual Storytelling course to explore just this. Inviting a group of 15 emerging photographers aged 18 to 24 to participate, they were asked to individually respond to a brief: What is your London? Over the course of five weeks, the group sought inspiration and advice from industry professionals, and participated in crit sessions and workshops to uncover what the city meant to them. A diverse range of themes arose as a result, covering everything from identity and home to belonging and memories. Collectively and individually, the images offer a unique view on the city.
But more than this, they are also reflective of all the lessons learnt during the intensive process – whether that be facing the fear to interview members of the public and learning about the power of social media to building their creative confidence. We asked each of the photographers to reflect on the learnings gained during the experience, and share any advice they might give to others thinking of pursuing a career in photography.
At the end of the programme, the group exhibited their work at Protein Studios in Shoreditch – putting on an impressive display and demonstrating all of the lessons they have learnt.
Since then, they have also started up a photography collective, Onefive. Together, they are currently working towards publishing a zine in answer to more upcoming bespoke briefs. In doing so, they hope to provide a platform where they can continue to support not only each other but also to inspire and share the work of other young artists.
You can read more about the group’s individual projects over on It’s Nice That, but without further ado, we’ll hand the mic over to the group as they reflect on the past five weeks...
Just get started
“The most valuable thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t spend forever worrying about your work. At some point, you have to get started – the intensive nature of this course really helped me do that. Don’t wait for anyone to validate your work. Just starting with the kernel of an idea – regardless of how confident I was in it – allowed me to make progress, which ultimately led me to make something that I am incredibly proud of.
“Try and take a photo everyday, for a year. It helps train your eye, and makes you less precious about taking photos.”
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
“I’ve learnt a lot during the project. Most importantly, that people are inclined to say ‘no’ and keep what’s usually private, private. This was particularly tricky for me, as my project heavily relied on the agreement of those that would give me the behind the scenes material I needed. But through persevering, I managed to build some all-important rapport.
“Don’t be afraid to draw outside the lines, even if everybody else is telling you otherwise. Constructive criticism is valuable, but stay true to your vision. If it doesn’t go to plan, it’s much better to learn from that mistake, than to be annoyed at yourself for making mistakes with your own work on behalf of somebody else. Your opinion matters.”
Focus on what you’re interested in
“From listening to Lua Ribeira on the course, I learnt that photography isn’t just taking pictures of what other people like. You don’t even necessarily have to know what you’re taking pictures of in the first place, you can learn on the way.
“Capture something you’re genuinely interested in. As a collective, people responded to our work well because we each explored something that had a level of personal experience in it – no two projects were similar.”
Photography by Timi, Shelby and Rachael
“To follow your dreams of becoming a photographer, you must be brave, adventurous and be able to step out of your comfort zone.
“During this project, I have learnt about being a professional photographer, and some of the important steps to take in order to enhance my skills, and progress within the industry. For example: meeting deadlines, advertising, networking and showcasing work.”
Explore different avenues
“Take lots and lots of pictures! If you’re still figuring out what style of photography you want to pursue, explore different types of photography.
“And you’re not in full-time education, try doing a short course, as it’s really helpful. I’ve learnt how to organise my time, arrange shoot days and cast people for shoots. I had tight deadlines to work with, so it gave me an idea as to how a real assigned job might be like for a photographer!”
Collaborate with people you admire
“Try everything, if possible; collaborate with people you admire, not just photographers. Dabble in different photography avenues, whether it’s photo manipulation, portraiture, fashion or photojournalism. You won't know what you are good at until you try it out.
“This course has taught me to believe more in myself and in the work I produce. It has also really shown me how the industry is changing, and how social media is becoming a great platform for photographers.”
Photography by Vanessa, Yumi and Yasmin
Use your work to express yourself
“The main thing that I have learnt is that there are no rules to expression. Photography is a medium which allows us to express our own viewpoint without boundaries. Make your work the best window into your perspective as possible.”
Work with what you have
“This course has taught me that I have everything I need to achieve all that I’ve dreamed. At times, we can get caught up in what others are doing, what our environment says can’t be done, and whether society permits someone like you and me to do it. I have learnt to be consistent in smashing the box, in challenging the status quo through my photography and being the example I want to see in the world.
“Capture with whatever you have, and begin to understand what story you want to tell. Experiment with your shots and never let an image hold you hostage.”
Face your fears
“This experience has reminded me that growth arises out of discomfort. I’ve spent the majority of these weeks well outside of my creative comfort zone, and it’s been surprisingly transformative. I’ve really learnt the value of placing yourself in situations that force you to face your anxieties, until they start to lose their hold over you.
“We faced challenge after challenge – crits, briefs, rigid time constraints. Public speaking in particular is also one of my greatest fears, so being repeatedly made to voice my ideas in front of new people and industry professionals was a terrifying but satisfying experience. I thought new thoughts and used parts of my brain that I had never really ventured into before.”
Photography by Amie, Naila and David
Engage with the world
“This course has taught me that having an opinion is important – from art to politics to society. Engage with the world around you in a meaningful sense. That way, you will learn what you don’t like, which is just as important as learning what you do like.
“I have learnt that not everyone will like your work, or even particularly care about it. But you should make work for yourself, and your passion will interest others where they were apathetic before. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Likewise, you don’t have to share the same passion for things that others have – just appreciate the hard work they have put in.”
A camera doesn’t make you a good photographer
“Having been to university to study photography, I can safely say I’ve learnt more about the creative industry and got more connections in this five-week course than I did during that three year experience.
“I’ve learnt how useful critiques are; more minds can help you solidify an idea, or bring to your attention subjects which you hadn’t thought of before. And that a good, supportive group is the way to go for me; where everyone is there to help you, not to bring you down.
“Also: social media is important! I now know how to market myself on social media platforms, while staying true to who I am and what I want to represent.
“Remember that the camera is not what makes you a good photographer. You don’t have to be technically advanced; if the content is good, anything that can take a picture will do. And the more images you take, the better your creative eye will become, and the more confidence you’ll build.”
“A valuable piece of information I have taken away from this course is the importance of using Instagram as a tool to promote yourself. I’ve learnt the best ways to use it, get noticed, and get work. I have also learnt that you can be a master of more than one trade, and there is nothing wrong with that.
“Take pictures, and don’t stop taking pictures. It’s true what they say: you need to take bad pictures to take good pictures. You’re going to have to sift through a lot of junk to find a gem; being a photographer is about having the patience to do so.Just like people have bad hair days, you can have bad photo days – it happens. Recognise that, and don’t put yourself down, just try again tomorrow.”
Photography by Maria, Marcella and Dubheasa and Jacob
Keep pushing yourself
“I learnt fundamental elements of portraying a story through my work, how to build an effective creative content strategy to broaden my online presence, and how to create work that resonates with potential clients.
“Enjoy the learning process! Focus your energy on subjects you are passionate about. Inspiration is all around you, so just keep practising by taking as many photos as you can. Things get easier when you repeat them everyday, so keep pushing yourself – not just in photography, but in life as a whole!”
Eric Aydin Barberini
“This course has taught me about the importance of team work: everything is easier on a shoot or project when work is shared equally, and between people with the right skills.
“The whole industry is built upon relationships – both online and in real life. Use Instagram to help people discover your work, but also surround yourself with a good team. Having someone to bounce ideas off can enrich and enhance them. And finally: be stubborn with your dream, but flexible on how you get there. (Kamasi Washington said this in an advert, haha).”
Photography by Jacob, Eric and Chanel