Week 4 – Marketing

We were challenged this week to create a marketing plan. While these can and perhaps should be far more elaborate plans embedded within an overall business plan, I have prepared a simple overview describing my objective, and the strategies and tactics I can employ to achieve that objective.  As a former strategic planner I balked a bit at the way the terms and examples were presented, as I thought they were very muddled and it can be important to be more precise because objectives, strategies and tactics are 3 distinct things.  An Objective is the overall outcome or end result you desire.  Strategies are how you intend to achieve the objective and tactics are what specific things you will do to effect success in each of the strategies.

To use a military analogy; the Objective is to win the war by way of an unconditional surrender.  The strategies might include using air, sea and land forces to overwhelm enemy defences, while the tactics would be something like begin with an air campaign designed to suppress enemy offensive capabilities and achieve air superiority before committing land forces.  Direct a mixed division of armour and cavalry forces in a fast moving multi pronged attack focused on key command and control nodes.  You get the idea.  These terms relate to a stratified structure of increasing detail as you progress through each layer.

One could also think of it in terms of a building.  The objective is to have a house.  The strategies are the various pillars holding up the roof and the bricks that make up the pillars are the tactics.

Planning ensures that the strategies directly support the achievement of the objective or they are not relevant and tactics needs to support the strategy to which they are assigned.  Once the planning is done, then what one concerns themselves with on a day to day basis are the tactics.  They are the “action items” that must be completed to execute a successful strategy and the sum of all the strategies successfully executed will achieve the overall objective.

Marketing Plan

Ashley Rose Photography – Chasing the Wild Life

 

Objective

To establish myself as a professional photographer

 

Strategies and Tactics

  1. Continue to produce high quality work while always striving to improve my skills
    1. Dedicate time to continually experiment and learn new skills
    2. Keep pushing in my project work to obtain the best possible photographs
  2. Use my website to promote my portfolio of work and ultimately monetise using it as a sales platform
    1. Update website to simplify and be more focused
    2. Work toward an upgrade that will allow sale of my work from the website
  3. Expand the use of social media to promote my work
    1. Post regularly to Instagram and Facebook
    2. Create a new Facebook page that is for my business and stop mixing it with my personal page
  4. Continue to produce photobooks and acquire new outlets for their distribution
    1. Two additional books in the planning phase
    2. New outlet for 19 Sutherland Bridges was identified this week and books are ordered
    3. Special limited edition book sold out at a profit
    4. Commitments from two retail outlets for the two books in work
  5. Establish retail distribution outlets for my prints
    1. Two retail outlets identified and committed; one on consignment and the other on outright purchase and resale
    2. Identify additional outlets
  6. Accept commissioned work when and if it fits my schedule and interests
    1. Word of mouth has been bringing a stead stream of commissions, so the key is to meet or exceed the expectations of each client and the word gets passed along

Week 4 – In the Beginning

My earliest recollections of taking photos was in 1964 during a family holiday to the western US.  Dad, Mom, younger brother and me loaded in the station wagon (estate car) and headed from Cleveland, Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri where we picked up Route 66 and headed west.  All of my monochrome images are still in an album in my folks house, but I recall very well images in the St. Louis Botanical Gardens, and National Parks including the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and Continental divide, and cultural and travel photos in Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, and Denver.  While there were of course the obligatory family snaps here and there, even then people didn’t figure prominently into my photography.

I graduated to more complex cameras inheriting my Dad’s hand me down rangefinder Pentax as I came into secondary school.  My photographic interests were still slanted heavily toward nature and outdoor activities. It was when I came to university and got my first Minolta SLR that my interest and passion for photography really blossomed.  My first trip to the UK in 1972 are full of photos of landscapes, birds, and cathedrals. It quite honestly hadn’t occurred to me that I have been doing what I do for a very long time and my preferred subject matter has remained remarkably constant through these may years.  There were again the odds and ends photos of people but usually engaged in some sort of outdoor activity or sport.

The mid-80’s saw my Minolta kit stolen and I migrated for a time to compact cameras, film and then digital until 2003 when I got my first Canon DSLR, though to be fair I also got an analogue SLR at the same time.  Once immersed in the wonders and flexibility of the DLSR for the subjects I prefer I have found I have left the world of film far behind.

Examples circa 2003 -2004

 

The following few years between 2005 and 2013 were consumed with work and high level golf competition.  That combined with the ease of using the mobile phone camera and a compact digital saw the DSLR kit coming out a bit less frequently.  Nevertheless, similar themes recurred and there was added interest in action sports when those opportunities were available.  Travel and nature photography were also mainstays in those years.

Examples 2005-2010

 

Examples 2011- 2013

It was coming to Scotland in 2014 that really reawakened my photographic passions as I found the scenery and the light so extraordinary.  My senses were overwhelmed and no matter where I looked I couldn’t not be making photographs again.  Upgrades to my Canon kit brought me more capability and also made me realise I had so much more to learn.  Post processing was something I had rarely done since my university darkroom days.  Joining a camera club, having work critiqued, studying and most importantly taking photographs, lots of them and exploring the capabilities of my camera and my eye took the quality of my work to new levels quickly.  Learning the power and necessity of post-processing produced another quantum leap.  I was beginning to produce very good quality work, but what to do with it?  And this is where the decision to pursue the MA Photography was taken.

Examples 2014-2018

It has been interesting to look back over my many years of photography and to see how much more continuity in subject matter there has been than I realised.  It is evidence the camera looks both ways and does reveal both the diversity and consistency in my interests.  Also noticeable is the general absence of people except when they are engaged in some activity.  It has also been interesting to see how the quality of my work has changed.  Looking back now at the earlier work which was almost exclusively just what came out of camera, I see all sorts of minor imperfections that could so easily have been corrected with post-processing.  I see another exponential leap in the work of this past year of studying for this MA.  It comes from a combination of more skills, more thoughtfulness, more familiarity with where I am working, and I am sure (though reluctant to admit) from reading theory and looking at the work of others.  I can’t describe exactly how the last bits are affecting my work, but it seems to be operating at a subconscious level in the realm of tacit knowledge as described by Polanyi in The Tacit Dimension (1966/2009).

 

Polanyi, M. (1966). The Tacit Dimension (2009th ed.). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

 

 

Week 3 – Reflections

Social Media:  I have used Facebook for a long time mainly to keep in touch with friends and family and occasionally to feature photographic work I’d done, but as  had no aspirations to making it a proper business, I never pushed that on FB.  I have had an Instagram account for some time as well, but had rarely posted anything there.  Despite that, I had over 50 followers when I began posting current work this week.  I don’t see Instagram necessarily as the vehicle that will bring me work, but I know the added exposure and distribution of my work is a generally good thing.

I was not keen on the Viral Image task either as an on or off line exercise.  I live in a very small Scottish burgh and the idea of plastering an image around town even on the few proper boards let alone across the breadth of the conservation district seemed to me to be an act of defacement that I couldn’t bring myself to, particularly since I am already well known within the town and I think it would raise more issues than benefit.

Webinar with Sophie:  I had the luxury of a one on one with Sophie this week as I was the only person signed up in that slot.  I sent a link to some of my current work to Sophie so we could discuss where I was and where I needed to be going.  I was a very helpful discussion.

First Sophie was encouraged by the non-project specific work as she sees it as useful to training my eye as a photographer and keeping the fun in the work.  She asked if I find it easier or more difficult to do project work and my reply was qualified.  I have diverse interests photographically as I mentioned in an earlier post.  I also find it quite easy to turn those interests, whether on an afternoon’s shoot or across a longer span of time into projects.  That is something that has changed dramatically with this course.  Previously I rarely saw my photographic work as anything other than the individual photographs I made.  Now with almost every photograph I make I can see an outcome; how it fits or might fit into a larger body of work or end product.  Each photo inspires me to bigger ideas because I always if there is one scene that captures my attention and my camera, there are more to be found.

The qualification was with respect to my MA project work which has been a bit more difficult due the circumstances associated with the planning application.  I am a bit stalled on the repeat photography elements of the project since little is happening after the project was called in by the Scottish Government for additional review.  On the wildlife side however, it is the beginning of the “Highland Gathering” of birds that winter on Loch Fleet and the north end of Coul Links.  While it is early in the migration and only a small fraction of the birds have arrived, I have had some really successful shoots already.

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Sophie then asked how I feel about photographing people and I replied that I have always been a bit uncomfortable with it, but that I had been making an effort, with some good results, at doing more; particularly outdoor environmental portraits.  Sophie challenged me to set a target of  8 or 10 portraits as part of my work and as we were talking I realised how many people use the north end of Coul Links and the perimeters of Loch Fleet every day their dogs, enjoy the outdoors, or watch the birds and marine mammals that inhabit that patch of land and sea.  In fact, I missed an amazing opportunity last Wednesday because right where I set up to photograph birds, a gentleman and his wife were encamped behind their estate vehicle with two chairs a wee tea table and a spotting scope.  When I arrived the gent was intent on birding while the lady sat comfortably in her chair reading her Kindle.  It would have been a perfect photo and because I just do not think about photographing people I missed it.  At least four other people came up to me for a chat about what was out on Loch Fleet and likewise never thought about asking if I could take their photo.  So lesson learned and in response to Sophie’s challenge I will be looking for those opportunities over the coming weeks.

I am re-energised about my project and really appreciated Sophie’s encouragement and advise.

Week 2 – Whose Image is it Anyway?

This week’s forum looked at the issue of appropriation and the court case involving Richard Prince and Phillip Cariou.  Below are my thoughts and posting.

While the court found that for all but 5 of the 30 appropriated works Prince had sufficiently transformed them, I find it difficult to agree.  I also find it difficult to swallow that because Cariou only made $8000 and Prince made over $10 million that somehow factored into the evaluation that made it all right for Prince to have appropriated the work of Cariou.

At the risk of straying slightly for a moment from the principal question being asked, I personally find it sad and unfair that someone like Prince can be so lazy in the creation of his work, and I have to say that I am amazed that there are people with more money than sense who will pay more than $1 million for this (in my opinion) tripe.  But then this is the world we have come to in which style often trumps substance and that monetary value somehow bestows legitimacy as good art.  As many art auctions in recent years have shown, the price paid for art is more often a reflection of the ego of the buyer and their desire to “one-up” the last obscene price paid for a piece of art so as to have bragging rights; until the next auction at least.  The link below is to a Guardian article article titled  “Art prices at ‘obscene’ levels as Chinese join high-spending elite.”

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/may/19/art-market-rising-prices-modigliani-hockney (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

A second article from New Republic in 2013 also address this subject.

https://newrepublic.com/article/115823/record-auction-prices-show-moneys-victory-over-art (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

And now to bring the discussion back to the original question; Prince, the galleries that display his work and the buyers of his work basically have by their actions condoned the misappropriation of Cariou’s work.  Ignorance, the allure of money and an overall erosion of ethical behaviour are evident in my mind and the fact that a high court has also given its blessing still doesn’t make it right.

 

Week 1 – Looking Back

For this week’s forum activity we were asked to discuss project work produced during the break by:

  •       Introducing the topic of your project
  •       Introducing the area of concern or your angle
  •       Summarising work made in previous modules
  •       Describing the intentions you had for the break
  •       Sharing work produced during the break: three – five images is enough

The topic of my project is a unique piece of land in northeast Scotland; how it changes over time in response to both natural and human influences, and how that land is used by humans and other species.  Coul Links has served many purposes over the centuries and it borders one of the most important wintering sites for a number of species of birds. It is a designated site under Scottish, UK and International law and there is a pending proposal to use relatively small portions of the land to build a golf course.

In the prior modules I began the repeat photography survey work to establish baselines and watch how the land changed through the seasons using both a drone and terrestrial methods.  I have also been observing and photographing flora and fauna to get a sense what is there and how it changes through the year.  Most recently I have also begun to pay more attention to the current limited human use of the land and traces of past human use.

There has been some controversy about the use of a designated site for a golf course and environmentalists have mounted campaigns (mostly based on out of area support), but the golf course project has strong local support and was approved by the Highland Council over the objections of the Planning Department.  At the beginning of August just before the final approval would have been granted the project was “called in” by the Scottish Government for additional review delaying the project decision by anywhere from 6 to 18 months.  As a consequence, I scaled back my direct project work during the break and used the time to work on some commissioned work some of which has direct relevance to the Coul Links project.  Royal Dornoch Golf Club (full disclosure – of which I am a member) and the burgh of Dornoch lie 3 miles to the south of Coul Links.  RDGC is ranked as the 4th best golf course in the entire world and number 1 in Scotland and serves as part of the reason the developers wish to build the course at Coul Links. I was asked to create a limited edition book in support of a charity event hosted by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland at RDGC in support of the Dornoch Cathedral building fund.  So much of the break time involved getting the final images needed for the book and completing the design, layouts, text and publication of the book.

Below are examples of the images I made during the break.

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Week 2 – Business Planning

Preamble

I have no plans at this point to necessarily start a “traditional” photography business, however, I recognise that if I sell my work I am a professional photographer and I am running a business.  While those statements may seem at odds, and perhaps they are to a degree, I think they are clear enough to articulate my intentions. I am 65 years old and in the enviable position of not needing to use my photographic practise to pay the bills.  I have managed large organisations with multi-million $ budgets in the past and have started and owned two businesses, so I am familiar with the requirements of running a going concern.

Mission

I plan to photograph when I want to and what I want to, and I reserve to right to photograph something some one else asks me to photograph if I have the time and the interest in pursuing that work.  For my personal work, I will pursue subjects and projects that interest me, and I expect the output to take the form of books and work for sale locally.  I will always endeavour to produce a high standard of work, whether for personal projects or clients, that is technically and aesthetically worthy of the time and effort I invest.  I will always approach my work ethically and with sensitivity towards my subjects and will never intentionally create work that is harmful or demeaning to individuals or the environment.  I will use photography as a tool to express my creativity and interests, and to show others the world through my eyes if they wish to see it.

Product

I produce photographs and books for my personal projects, and for my client work will deliver aerial or terrestrial photographic work in the format they need for their specific project.  My personal project work has mostly local interest though it appeals to tourists visiting the area as well.  My wildlife work, birds and macro work in particular, is strong and my North of Scotland country life regularly generates interest.

Market

I have already one shop/gallery that is exhibiting my work for sale and have had several sales resulting from my August exhibition.  Books are available online and in local shops.  My market is at this point is predominantly local, however, when I move toward monetising my website I believe there will be an opportunity to sell prints further afield.  Word of mouth has resulted in several new commissions.

 

Week 12 -Wrapping Up Surfaces and Strategies

As I have said in prior posts this module has helped me to evolve in a number of ways.  It has definitely helped my confidence soar in my ability to create work and show my work.  It has deepened my understanding of photography overall, and is beginning to help me understand my place in the world of photographers.  I have miles to go on the journey, but I am well down the road and on the right path I think.  More time to read and more exposure to other practitioners is part of what has been building the foundation of understanding.  Being pushed to make work in ways I have never done, or in ways I had not been comfortable has taught more about my craft and open my eyes to other possibilities for work and ways of accomplishing that work.

I have in the past looked upon my work as quite solitary as I had been making work for years, but never sharing it.  I now find myself interacting with others on a daily basis about my work whether it is sharing it with friends or strangers, or interacting in mutual support with my wonderful cohort mates.  They have been an invaluable source of advice, support, humour, fun and without them this would have been a very different experience and not nearly so rich and rewarding.  So thank you in particular to Mick, Gem, Danny, but also to the other in Cromarty who frequent our chat group.

It feels quite good to have the assignments done and dusted.  I feel as though I made a pretty good job of it on the whole, though the assessors may not agree.  I know I have made progress and I know I will continue to do so.  I know too there are some areas that need additional focus and effort.  I am getting more attuned to research, but I need to be more disciplined  about documenting it as it occurs.  I tend to take a while to integrate what I have read and then don’t always get back t write about it.  It is there informing my work, but isn’t always adequately documented.

The parting shot from the module leader was one last assignment to create a self portrait that was reflective of the time spent in the Surfaces and Strategies module.  I have to say I enjoyed this module far more than the first for a number of reasons.  It seems only fitting that as the final task in Surfaces and Strategies that I should do something unconventional and completely different from my normal work..  At first glance you may miss it, but trust me, my image is there on a surface and in a way you might not expect to find me.  Truth is I am something of a motorhead and I had an unfortunately brief opportunity to photograph some pretty cool classics last Saturday.  This particular Austin had been once owned by King Farouk.

 

Austin Self Portrait small-8626.jpg

Week 11- Do too many cooks spoil the broth?

Perhaps the same is true with tutors, or not.  I have simmered this stew for a couple of weeks now as when I initially conceived it I was reeling from all the completely different flavours that had seemingly been dumped into my pot.  It seemed everyone had a different view of my work and not always did I get a clear understanding of how it might be made better; only that it wasn’t right.  There were exceptions thankfully, like when Cemre took several of my proposed WIP photos and arranged them in a particular sequence in a horizontal grid and then explained why she thought that worked.  In other cases, one tutor would like a particular photo while the next thought it was rubbish, and in other cases, I was told what I was trying to communicate wasn’t clear but without much more in the way of explanation of why or what sort of things might make it better, other than try arranging them differently.

To be honest I felt confused and lost, and even at moments a bit angry.  It was clear something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.  With advise sometimes so diametrically opposed, I didn’t know which direction to go.  I had to in the end, step back, lose the emotional attachment to my work and reaction to the criticism and figure out how to sort through the various comments to determine if there were any common elements among them, discard the outlying and off the wall remarks (there were some doozies) and integrate what was left to something I felt I could action in curating and editing my portfolio.

The first insight I was able to distill was that what I was showing was too diverse and divergent in theme and aesthetic.  It was said in different ways and it took some time to understand that “I can’t read your visual language” was similar in meaning to “the macro work is distracting and disconnected from the larger scale work”, or “photos in this series have a very different feeling.”  I had to admit, I didn’t really know what I was trying to “say” with my photos.  My project is big, maybe too big, and it contains a number of different aspects at this point.  I have so much to say that I ended up saying nothing because the breadth of this story from a final project perspective (and yes, we are a long way from that point) cannot be told in 18 photographs that I have now.  At the end of the FMP, it may be possible to tell this story in a relatively small number of carefully curated photographs.

I also had been “hung up” by the fact that I got into this programme as a natural history photographer, even though it has never been the only thing I have done, and it is not the only thing I want to do.  It was clouding my judgement in curating my portfolio.  It is somewhat ironic, because I have always hated labels and I have spent my life defying norms and expectations.  Why should I allow myself to be pigeon-holed now?  So once again something else to let go of.

I did finally work it out on my own I think.  At least I took a decision, cut away a lot to arrive at a portfolio that is I hope worthy of submission.  It is a few paragraphs in a chapter of what might eventually become a novel or perhaps a short poem, but it seems to be coherent and cogent.  That I got there is a testament to the progress I have made thus far in the course.  I couldn’t have even had this discussion several months ago.  When I felt I had the pot on with no recipe, thankfully Cemre slipped me a couple of key ingredients that allowed me to decipher the rest.  Photography, like cooking after all is art and the flavor combinations are limited only by one’s imagination.  Baking is science and there isn’t much latitude in the recipe. I didn’t want tutors to hand me a recipe after all.

Do too many tutors spoil the broth?  At first, I thought so, but each was bringing their favourite spice to the kitchen and in the end it was up to me to understand the implications of using that particular spice and make a decision whether or not it belonged in my stew.  There were times when they made it tough to get around the kitchen to be sure, but once I cleared them out, and some of the inappropriate spices in my cupboard, I was able to put together a pretty tasty offering.

Work in Progress Portfolio

My work in progress portfolio took quite a lot of editing and went through several incarnations before it came to its final version.  I began working to compile the portfolio several weeks ago reviewing the hundreds of photos I took during the module; both those that were direct project work and those that were not.  I undertook several side projects that included field trips to other places for wildlife photography, a commissioned project for a breeder of dressage horse, projects that were prompted by the curriculum, and projects related to organisations I support.  I undertook experimentation particularly in macro and super macro work as a way of capturing the smaller inhabitants of Coul Links.  I also began trying to become more comfortable photographing people as I have come to realise that my project work will ultimately require it.

The first iterations were organised around a conceptual framework that included looking at the land from a bird’s eye perspective, a human’s eye perspective and then a bug’s eye perspective.  The idea was using a very broad views from above, flatter views from the ground and then very close up views of the world beneath my feet.  I also tested a Powers of Ten type concept where I had photographed the same view with increasingly longer lenses and narrowing perspective intending again to ultimately get to the world beneath my feet since I had spent a fair amount of effort on the macro work during the term.

I had also continued my repeat photographic work at Coul Links throughout the term and there were discernible changes in the landscape, however, I was struggling with a way to condense a sizable amount of work over 4 months into something meaningful in 18 or fewer photos.  So the second iterations attempted to show some of the landscape work intermixed with some of the normal wildlife and macro work.  When I showed those compilations to tutors and peers, there was almost universal agreement in one form or another that the breadth of perspectives was not communicating a clear story or a consistent visual aesthetic.

Along the way late in the term, I tested a concept showing a golfer “playing” the proposed routing of the new course as it is today.  I had the idea that I would desaturate those images to give a historical feel to them.  That concept got both good and bad reviews and, in the end, I decided the desaturation was too heavy handed and essentially a trope that wasn’t setting the groundwork for my ultimate story.  Tutorial comments and some additional research into social landscape photography that led me again to Dorothea Lange’s work revealed to me though that my project needed something more than just the natural history approach I had been taking.  I realised that what was being argued and what was at stake for the future of Coul Links is about how people have and will interact with this land.  That caused me to pour back through my aggregated work again and find those few photos where I had managed to incidentally capture people on the links.  At this point I still had some wildlife photos in the mix.

My project is complex with a number of different elements that in the end could potentially comprise distinct independent stories, or could be combined in different ways to create one or several stories.  However, all that complexity and diversity in the type of images I am capturing makes creating an interim portfolio that stands on its own thematically and aesthetically a challenge.  I had to overcome the inclination to try to show it all, because I was ending up showing nothing.  I had to let go of emotional attachments to my work and any pre-conceived notions about what type of genre(s) I fit in as a photographer.  I had to begin looking at my work in a completely different way than I ever had prior to this course.  Fortunately, the critical theory readings that seemed in many ways beyond my understanding during Positions and Practice when augmented by the many additional readings during this term had somehow begun to coalesce into something comprehensible and even useful. I was moving in the correct direction, but I still wasn’t there as I learned when reviewing drafts of my portfolio with tutors.  While I had come closer on selection of work there was still a sense that it was not yet organised and displayed in a way that communicated effectively.  My last one-to-one with Michelle left me utterly confused at first and feeling lost as to how to proceed.  I was limited by the structure of my SquareSpace website that wouldn’t allow me to organise my photos in grids or groupings and I didn’t know at first how I was going to overcome that limitation.  Ultimately, I found my way back to Abobe Spark as it allowed me the flexibility to create a layout that would allow me to communicate more effectively.

The final iteration integrated elements of the repeat photography with a twist, and was also intended to introduce the exploration of how people are interacting with the land.  The twist was packaging work that looked at the same areas of the landscape but from different perspectives rather than the traditional repeat photography approach of identical perspectives, and which included photos made in different months.  I did do the classic repeat photography work taking all the identical perspectives at different times, but chose not to show them that way.  I also made a conscious decision to not include wildlife in this portfolio.  I have shown the quality of that work in past submissions and was able to show examples of what I had done in the Oral Presentation.  It was time to do something different.  I hoped that approaching the portfolio this way would begin to show how the landscape changes in subtle ways throughout the year, would illustrate my various methods of image production while at the same time carrying an aesthetic that was cohesive and introduce ideas about how I might move forward in showing how various people use this land now and might use it in the future.

My portfolio can be found at the following link:

S&S WIP_Coul Links Perspectives