Year One As A Professional Photographer

22 June 16

Posted at 10:40

On Thursday evening I will visit the private view of the University of Westminster Undergraduate Degree Show Photography at the Truman Brewery

The Cohort BA Photography and Photographic Arts

Courtesy John Wallace

It is perhaps appropriate to reflect on the year, my first year as a professional photographer. During the last two years of my four year degree course it became clear that documentary photography would become my favoured practice. The combination of research, understanding and immersion in a given subject and then communicating primarily through images and or video is a process that gives me immense satisfaction. Having decided that would be my prime photographic activity (prime but not sole) it also became clear to me that I must accept I was not about to earn a fortune as a documentary photographer. I am in the fortunate position not to have to depend on my photography for a living equally, at least for now, I don't have to take on a job that would no doubt distract me from and intrude on my documentary projects. So I am in a privileged position not enjoyed by many of my peers. I was also clear in my mind that a) I could not simply keep on self funding projects (I'm not that privileged) and b) to be regarded as a 'professional' my work must be credible enough for others to commission me. Having done possibly more than OK in my degree and having reluctantly accepted that my projects so far had been credible I decided my first objective must be to build a reputation as a competent documentary photographer and to achieve that in a cost effective way. I acknowledged that it would be a slow process and would require a lot of hard work and a little luck.

My major project for my degree had been successful on many levels.

The Book

Gravette The Heart of Hometown America

The output had been a photo book, a documentary on a community in North West Arkansas. A measure of my success was coverage in the British Journal of Photography Gravette BJP article

I had started the year with the kind of exposure I was looking for. I figured if I was the only one of 50 or so exhibitors covered in such a magazine it could only be good.

I already had a good idea of my next project. I was going to follow up on the progress of aid agencies and charities six months after the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25th April 2015. I applied for a bursary to part fund the project. I had no doubt that I would be successful so when I wasn't it dawned on me that rejection was also likely to be a common theme of my photography career and something I should get used to.

I went to Nepal in November 2015 spending time with three charities. I also spent time independently meeting those affected by the earthquake. By the end of the year I had the task of editing a massive portfolio of images. I also had the task of planning how to use my work.

So fast forward to today and I ask myself what progress have I made? Well my initial project objective was to document the progress of aid agencies six months after the earthquake. I expected to be focussing on rebuilding and infrastructure but what I found is that the real damage caused by earthquakes is the accentuation of the problems that Nepalese people live with - chronic poverty, child labour, human trafficking, gender disparity, abuse etc. I became close to the charities I spent time with. As a result I offered to put on an exhibition in conjunction with and in aid of Kidasha a London based charity specialising in supporting children and families in Nepal. I did this in the knowledge that I was also collaborating with two other photographers in an exhibition in June. I soon found that I had bitten off quite a lot putting on two exhibitions in the space of about six weeks. Really it boiled down to me working on nothing else from March until today. It's been worth it. Although not in the plan I am proud that my first exhibition raised over £3000 for Kidasha and also provided awareness of both the charity and their work but also exposure of my work to a new audience. In early June Yesterday's News an immersive multi media event proved to be a rewarding experience working not only with two other photographers but also set designers, a film maker, a sound engineer, a poet, journalists and documentary film producers. This was a high profile event at Platform Southwark, again my work reached a new audience. Also almost a year to the date my work was again featured in BJP Yesterday's News

Whilst at the exhibition I received a visit from a guy who is selecting work from Photo Book projects for a RPS exhibition later this year. He came to advise me that work from Gravette The Heart of Hometown America has been selected.

In twelve short months I have funded and part completed a project that has not only given me exposure but has raised money for a good cause. That and my previous project have featured in BJP and also in FAD Magazine 

I have made some progress with my objective of establishing a reputation as a documentary photograher as I said earlier it will involve hard work and a little luck. It's fair to say in year one I've experienced both.

Durbar Square

 Durbar Square


Nepal Ten Years On

07 August 15

Posted at 8:57


In 2005 I spent sometime in Nepal, trekking in the Annapurna foothills, absorbing the vibrant atmosphere of Kathmandu and exploring in the Chitwan jungle.


Kathmandu Durbar Square



I fell in love with the place, the people.


especially the people - Nepalese children would quickly melt the hardest heart.

Funeral Pire

Funeral Pire

and the culture. In many ways time seemed to have stood still in Nepal (apart from the tourism, their lifeblood) things continue in the way they have for centuries.




The scenery is amazing

Tara Top

Tara Top the high point of our trek

After the storm

One evening whilst trekking we were awoken in our tents by a tremendous storm. During the night much of our equipmet was blown away or destroyed. Together with our guides and porters we took refuge in a tiny cramped shed. And there we stayed for 24 hours until the unseasonal storm subsided. We experienced the tenacity of the Nepalese as our guides and porters gathered our equipment from far and wide, made repairs and took us on our way. A few days later we arrived back in Pokara and to our horror discovered that 13 French trekkers had perished in a mud slide just a few kilometres from where we were camped on the night of the storm.

So I have experienced just a taste of the kind of disaster that can strike in the region with no warning at all and I also experienced how the Nepalese take such events in their stride.


Now fast forward to April 2015 - a series of earthquakes devastated Nepal. Over 8000 people were killed, over 16000 injured and 2.8 million people displaced. The buildings pictured above and many many more were destroyed. I have made a significant career change since 2005. For the last for years I have studied photography at the University of Westminster equiping myself with skills, education and experience enabling me to forge a career as a documentary photographer. Having graduated this year I am embarking on my first documentary project as a full time freelance photographer.

My project is to visually document the progress/imact of the aid agencies response to the 2015 earthquakes six months down track. To make this project a reality I need some support so I have launched a Crowdfunder to help with my expenses. To find out more about the project and how you could become part of it click here   Nepal Six Months Later