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Working in a picture library. Is it relative? Are there any jobs?


I’m looking for some advice. I want to push myself towards documentary photography. However I am concerned that if I save money and go away to produce a good project that I may not produce something that will sell. Also I wouldn’t have a great idea how to sell my work.

Is it worth getting a job in a picture library so that I gain a better understanding of the industry? I have applied for several jobs but am still in the early stages of looking. If anyone knows of any jobs going in London please let me know.

I would be grateful for any advice. If its of any interest to anyone my web site is: www.fraserlawsonphotography.com



by Fraser Lawson at 2008-01-14 13:05:10 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Reading / London , United Kingdom | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Why do you think you need to go away to produce a good project? What makes you think good projects are away, instead of stupidly waiting for you, right in your front and back yard? Bottom line, if you cannot produce a stupid project at home, forget about producing good ones away.

by Stupid Photographer | 14 Jan 2008 13:01 (ed. Jan 14 2008) | Holy Smokes, Holy See | | Report spam→
hi Fraser, my thought is that if your work as an interiors photographer is supporting you, you could do as Stupid says for awhile and shoot a documentary project at home. I doubt that working with a picture library will teach you how to shoot or market your own (documentary) work better than experience will. Can you reach out to some of the members here on LS in London, and chat them up a bit? Perhaps consider taking a workshop with someone like David Alan Harvey..there is a thread going on (down toward the bottom) where some former participants talk about their experiences http://davidalanharvey.typepad.com/road_trip/2008/01/links-and-kinks.html#comments
(do a FIND for workshop) to get you to Cathy’s post, and then read down from there.

Interesting B&w shots in the darkened space with the hands in your personal work section..what were you shooting? It’s a little difficult to see those well. You might want to upload images here to LS as well, where you can have your own galleries.


by [former member] | 14 Jan 2008 14:01 (ed. Jan 14 2008) | New York, United States | | Report spam→
A few points if I may.

1. Forget about making money out of documentary photography. Sorry to be blunt, but you’re on a hiding to nowhere. Look around; it’s a market full of skilled and experienced people fighting over the scraps. And the scraps are work-to-hire contracts where you get paid an apprentice’s rate to give them pictures they publish and then syndicate (sell) to whoever they like. Most people’s day-rates haven’t moved in a decade, and some have even gone backwards. The print media is dumber than ever which means more page space is devoted to entertainment stories, and because they’re chasing less discerning readers, they don’t need as much quality in the written word nor the type of pictures they buy-in. That’s why there’s subbing errors everywhere, and that’s why on the rare occasion you move a set of your pictures, the magazine will be of the mindset that they’re doing YOU the favour, and feel almost insulted when you want to talk about your fee.

2. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot documentary photography. It will make a much more meaningful human impact than commercial work could ever hope to. Just don’t base your business on the assumption you will make money out of it. Do it for your own development and interest. You look like you’ve got a commercial photography operation going. If I were you I’d be developing that, where there is the real potential of a good income. From that you can fund the work that keeps you sane.

Good luck.


by Wade Laube | 14 Jan 2008 14:01 (ed. Jan 14 2008) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Thanks for the responses guys. I think your right Stupid. I will have to do something on my door step. At least to start with.

Erica: The B&W shot with the hands is a couple of guys playing pool and they are describing the next play. It’s a shame that I have to explain it. I may take it off. I’m trying to work out how to get my own gallery on LS but I can’t work it out. Any tips?

Wade: I have been thinking along those lines for a while. The interiors that I do drive me nuts I must say and i’m still in the early stages of chasing for work so the income isn’t coming from there yet. I know that the documentary side is really harsh on photographers but i’m wondering how the guys that do it keep them selves finically afloat.

by Fraser Lawson | 14 Jan 2008 15:01 | Reading / London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
All the superstars on the big bucks started years ago in a market that doesn’t exist anymore. And plenty more are are poor. There’s an interview somewhere with Nachtwey that comes to mind (I think it’s this one) in which he talks about how he started. Watch it and you will begin to understand how different things are now. If you want to be able to produce long term documentary work, you need a job that will support it. Either developing your commercial stuff or maybe a newspaper job, but I strongly recommend the first option.

by Wade Laube | 14 Jan 2008 16:01 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Fraser, 25 years ago i was where you are now. i started out in the 70s doing arty b&w, pj gigs when i could get them and generally starved. in the early 80s i took a job as an editor for tony stone assoc. As you probably know, ‘stone’ is now the premier brand in the getty collection. For me, it was at once the best and the worst career move.

was it relevant? its relevant if you want to be a stock photographer. if pj is your thing, then its possible that a stint working for somewhere like panos might help train your eye as to what makes a good feature. but as Wade has pointed out there’s just no money in it. i know 2 or 3 excellent photographers with panos and they’d be lucky to earn £2k a year from 1000s of images.

if on the other hand, you’re thinking of shooting commercial stock in order to pay bills and help fund personal projects (which is what i do) then yes that is still possible and there is no doubt that i do especially well out of stock (better than certain colleagues whom i consider far more gifted than i) simply because i had that experience working in-house and i know how it works. editing other peoples work – and having to edit ruthlessly – is a very good way to learn how to edit your own. eventually you learn to think, see and shoot like an art buyer.

the downside is that your eye can become trained in a certain way. especially once you start to realize that there is a certain kind of image that is virtually guaranteed to make money and you find yourself reproducing that kind of image even when the sales potential is its only merit.

best of luck and hope this helps.

by david sutherland | 14 Jan 2008 16:01 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I asked Panos actually and as good as they are I think everyone knows. They couldn’t help me. They are too many staff for the size of the office apparently. So if these photographers are earning £2k a year from the photography then what do they make a living from? Is it worth looking for a job as an assistant? In so many ways I’m just looking to network with people. I live in Reading which makes getting to London Easy but I’m not in London so networking is that much harder. Once I meet a few people and start shooting a new project my career path will follow. The photography business seems to have such a steep incline to start with. It’s confusing to know where to start but the only starting point I can see is in an agency. Or is it worth assisting?

by Fraser Lawson | 14 Jan 2008 16:01 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Fraser, I don’t take this as an insult, but you’re thinking to much about it and you’re jumping a few steps. Less talk, more pictures. Don’t try talking to anyone about hiring you until you’ve got a portfolio under your belt. And you’re right about relationships. It’s just as important. It’s the other major difference between the photojournalism market in passed decades compared to now – while you will have to be capable of shooting, you will also need to know people. They never hire strangers. Even strangers with good portfolios.


by Wade Laube | 14 Jan 2008 21:01 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

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Fraser Lawson, Fraser Lawson
London , United Kingdom ( LHR )
Stupid Photographer, Dazed, shocked, stupefied Stupid Photographer
Dazed, shocked, stupefied
(Stupid Photographers Agency)
Holy Smokes , Holy See
Wade Laube, Wade Laube
Sydney , Australia
david sutherland, travel photographer david sutherland
travel photographer
London , United Kingdom


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