The Importance of Networking

My journey as a creative started in 2016 when I did an evening class in photography; five years later I am very soon to graduate with a BA (Hons) in Photography. Life after the world of higher education, with the support of my fellow students, technicians and educators seems daunting … to say the least! This week I begun the important leap of networking with other creatives in my industry, it was just a toe in the water, but I found the water was warm and welcoming and something to be embraced, not feared.

So Where Do You Start?

Your first network are your friends and family, they are your ambassadors and will always be there to support you and your work. Look at your Instagram followers, look at who is engaging with your work; your peers, galleries, curators and collectors … social media is a very powerful tool so have a good look at who’s interested in your work, a like or a comment could be the first seed of something really exciting. In the strange world we are currently living in there’s more and more opportunities to connect without it feeling quite as daunting as walking into a room full of people you do not know! 

Here are a few tips from our visiting lecturer Steve Macleod at  Metro Imaging on how to network successfully: 

  • Working in isolation is not good for creatives, networking is crucial 
  • Use the Gibbs Circle, as explored in one of my earlier Blogs, to evaluate what you are doing
  • Think of your Network as a moving wheel, you won’t always need everyone, and vice versa
  • Identify an outlet for your work and think of those people as ones to connect with
  • Remember you have many hats:  The Artist, The Advocate and The Ambassador 
  • Think about what hat you’re wearing where; for example at an exhibition you are the ambassador for your work, yet when at home researching galleries you are the advocate making things happen
  • When at an exhibition look at who is funding the work, look them up on social media, find out about them
  • Identify where you want to go …. and who you need to talk to in achieving this
  • Above all though: Have confidence in yourself, believe in what you do and just be yourself

It may seen daunting talking to people who you may regard as almost god like in their field, but they are just normal people. Some years ago my husband was on the train when someone sat down opposite him and asked if he might borrow a pen; the drinks trolley then came round and he offered to buy my husband a coffee in return for the loan of the pen … just a normal encounter on the train, except the person in question was Richard Branson and the train was one his Virgin Trains! People are people, just be yourself  and remember they are no different to you really, richer and more successful maybe, but they still have the same insecurities we all have. 

Get Involved:

Having identified where you want to be, it’s time to get involved. Remember that during the pandemic so much of our industry has moved online, whether this is temporary, or whether it will transpire to be a permanent part of how we view and interact with the arts remains to be seen. Interacting on a screen is not easy, but it is a new skill we are all learning at the moment. Have your camera on, your mic on mute and initially just be in the ‘room’, there’s no need to speak if you don’t want to, just use the messaging tab to ask questions instead. Jot down some names to look up later and give them a follow, chances are others are doing the same; these are now new people in your own network! A few little tips on interacting with others:

  • Be professional
  • Engage with people, its not all about what they can do for you, but what you can do for each other
  • Being an artist is by its nature isolating, so reach out, others will understand as they have been there too.
  • Know when to lead and when to be led
  • It’s a bit of a cliche I know, but just be kind, and by and large others will be kind back

My own experience of networking this week:

I have really struggled with the isolation of lockdown, without interaction with my fellow students, the inevitable moments as a creative of losing confidence in yourself and your work, becomes  all consuming. Whereas before Covid, a hug and a chat over a coffee (or glass of wine!) things would be soon be back on track, but now there’s a danger of spiralling down into a pit of your own self doubt. So this week I signed up for the Shutterhub Virtual Lunch Break .. ’an informal opportunity to connect and see what we can do together, how we can support each other and share the good things’ (Shutterhub, 2021) There were 22 people on the Zoom meeting, some great discussions about attending Portfolio Reviews, together with some great tips, but more importantly some genuinely lovely people. I jotted down some names and liked a few new pages on Instagram; as a result I got some new followers and some super feedback on my work in return. 

I have been struggling with my own practice in the last few weeks, in particular the work I am making for my Degree Project. It is a deeply personal reflection on the emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother as a child; and having had some mixed responses from tutors I had become nervous of ‘putting my work out there’ for a wider audience to see.  Social media can be nearly as daunting as a room full of people you don’t know, or I’d actually argue its worse than a room full of people you don’t know! That said, I feel that my work has a voice in these troubled times when children are without their normal support bubbles of friends and teachers. So feeling brave I posted three images from my project on my Instagram account … the response was amazing; some more new followers and supportive comments about my work.

Be yourself, have faith in you and your work … and be brave, dip your toe in the water and you’ll find it’s warm and welcoming, the creative world is a caring network that I’m thrilled to be a part of.

The images from my Degree Project posted on my Instagram feed: 

Tech: Hasselblad 500CM / Zeiss Planar 2.8, 80mm / Ilford HP5+ (pushed +1) & Portra 160 (pushed +2) / spot metered for the highlights and mid-tones / tungsten light and LED spotlight  / Tiffen Pro Mist Filter 1/4  / both films metered at a higher ISO than the box speed and the film pushed in development / minimal edits in post


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