Research, planning and new ideas shouldn’t be something you just think about in January, but the whole year round
Research and new ideas shouldn’t be something you just think about in January but the whole year round, says TheGuardian’s Karin Andreasson.
At the start of the year, there is a small window of time, just a few days, that’s truly glorious. Yes, January seems a distant memory now, but it’s still a wonderful one. I’m back at work in my job as a picture editor, but it’s quiet and the news feels far away. Some people are still on holiday and others in the office are doing the same as me: catching up on unanswered emails, going through lists of events for the year ahead, and planning. I picture photographers looking at the year ahead, finding competitions to enter, and seeking out submissions to make for exhibitions. Plus there’s that list of people to reach out to, connections to make and projects to start planning. I like meeting photographers, seeing their work and discussing projects. It’s probably what I enjoy most in my work. Meeting in person can be incredibly useful, although hard to arrange. I often only have 10 minutes to spare and it can feel a bit like a speed date. Having said that, if you’re meeting the right person that doesn’t matter, because more will always come out of it. In the past I’ve left meetings wondering, why did I agree to see them, and why on earth did they want to see me? It’s not just about what kind of work an editor might publish: it should also be about what they might want to publish, what they are interested in. That doesn’t have to be guesswork when most people have an online presence. Even a light user will leave a trail of interests in likes and retweets. When I meet a photographer, I want to see some completed projects, large or small, and published work if they have it, but I don’t want to see work that is ages old. What I’m most interested in is what they’re working on right now, what is driving them forward, and what they want to do next. Some photographers admit at this point that they find it very difficult to come up with ideas. My advice is to not think too much. Let your eye lead you to an idea. If I was to try to come up with a great idea I would never get anywhere; there would be a notebook full of crossed out dreams. You need to be inspired to have an idea, and inspiration is unlikely to come from a blank sheet of paper. Instead, just go outside and take pictures. If you can, then go somewhere new, but it doesn’t have to be some far-flung place. Be playful and don’t think too hard. Let ideas happen naturally by being out in the world and putting yourself into new situations. Go for walks early in the morning or late at night. Be in places at odd times, so you can allow yourself to see things differently. Get bored and don’t go out looking for inspiration. It doesn’t work that way: inspiration comes to you, not the other way around. I think it’s healthy and helpful to have several projects on the go at once. It’s not good to get completely obsessed with one thing. Other projects will help you to see each one with a bit of distance and when things get difficult in one area you can move on to the next. It’s also useful when you meet with editors to be able to say, ‘If you don’t like this, then there’s also this’. A subject can be completely obscure as long as there’s something there that reaches out and speaks to people. You should be passionate about it: there’s no point trying to pursue something that you don’t care about. As things progress, you might see potential for funding in one or other of the projects, but don’t think exclusively about publications, think laterally. There might be an opportunity for funding from an organisation that doesn’t seem immediately obvious. Try to think of the project having a longer life than just a news or magazine publication: that might be where it ends up after it’s been presented elsewhere. Also, don’t just think about presenting the work in the country you live in. Do some serious research into opportunities abroad. In short, don’t be like me, because really, you can make that first week of January happen any time of the year.
I’ve left meetings with photographers wondering, why did I agree to see them?