Starting to think about sustaining my practice

I am very aware that I have a long way to go before I find my voice and understand what I’m trying to say with my photography, and until a few days ago I had no thought whatever of putting my work out into the wider world. But when Alan515735 started a thread on the Discuss forum about his submission to the FORMAT 19 open call I thought of the speech given in 2015 by Thijs groot Wassink (right), in which he advised his audience of graduating students to enter all the competitions they could find and then forget about them, so that from time to time they might have a nice surprise. (There are many other wonderful pearls of wisdom in Thijs’s speech, which I highly recommend to anyone.)

While this forum discussion was underway I saw a Facebook post inviting submissions to the 2019 BJP OpenWalls exhibition in Arles and, inspired by the example set by Alan and Kate513940, decided on a whim to enter. The theme was Home & Away, so I submitted six images from my C&N assignment 3 that seemed to fit the Home theme. Having done that, I thought why stop there? Why not join Alan and Kate in entering FORMAT 19 too? So I did, with nine images from the Languages of Light assignment I did for EYV. This was rather more challenging, because I had to write a bio and a statement about the work, but it struck me that there is no better time to start learning how to do this than the present, and that by starting now I might actually be quite good at it by the time my work reaches the kind of standard that might stand a chance in these competitions.

The FORMAT 19 application also asked for entrants’ website addresses, which led me to think that I should make myself a basic personal website at juliasalisbury.com, which I’ve owned for years but have used only for email until now. So I’ve spent the past few days doing exactly that, and this too was a really useful exercise because attempting to write descriptions of the included projects made me look at them outside of the framework of the assignment briefs for the first time. It also led me to think about what, if anything, they all have in common, which gave me the first faint inklings of what it might be that motivates me as a photographer.

I’m thinking of all this as very much an ongoing work in progress, something that over time I can refine and improve, replacing what’s there with better work as and when it emerges. But I feel that by doing these things this week I’ve made a statement of intention to myself, and although I’m not yet ready for this path, by starting to lay its foundations now I should have a solid basis in place by the time I am.