A Case Of Divided Loyalties

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Last week, while I was shopping for new trainers,  I started thinking about some brands that do not have our best interests at heart. From Adidas standing by Kanye West's comments on slavery to Nike's (and so many other companies') misogyny culture, we keep supporting brands with ethics that go against everything that we stand for. I then realized that, in my closet, I have 6 pairs of Adidas trainers and 7 pairs of Nike trainers, which made me wonder: why am I still giving my hard-earned money to brands that do not represent me and what I believe in? So, instead of shopping those brands, I consciously supported a lesser known one.

It is true that causing controversy has helped the careers of so many people throughout history. It seems to be PR 101. Kanye does it, Trump does it, Lady Gaga did it, Madonna did it, Dali did it, Marilyn Monroe did it, and the more you go back, the more you realize that it has always been part of the celebrity toolkit. Mae West once wrote: "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right." But, one thing is causing controversy and another completely different thing is attacking a particular group.

You shouldn't expect women to buy your products when as an organisation you oppress them, the same way that you shouldn't expect women's support when you claim that they should be grabbed by their parts when they don't respond to your advances. Or expect black people to keep endorsing your products when you support slavery deniers, the same way that you shouldn't expect gay people to be religious when every single religion in the planet has discriminated them at some point.

The irony in all this is that there are still women buying Nike products, black people wearing Adidas, women voting for the Trumps in the world and gay people supporting religions. I don't know if it's in our nature or if it's just that we are brainwashed from birth into condoning these practices. But, at some point, the cycle must be broken.

And I'm not writing this post trying to call for a boycott on any brand. Those boycotts don't really help, they just give brands free publicity, even if it's bad publicity (remember Mae West's quote). What I'm saying is that we should be more conscious about who we give our money to. Because money doesn't grow on trees (I know mine doesn't) and something doesn't feel right when we are working our lives away trying to make a respectable living, but then we give that money to companies that are not respectable at all.

Brand loyalty shouldn't just be about the quality of the products we buy or the customer experiences that these brands give us. It should also be about which brands reciprocate and are loyal to us as well. Because, in the end, the most important loyalty is the one that you have to yourself and your principles, and if a brand doesn't align with them it should be their loss, not yours. There are plenty brands out there to choose from, but there is only one You to buy from them.

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Thank You For Coming To Photo Scratch

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Thanks to everyone who came down to Photo Scratch last Monday! I had an amazing time, it was a brilliant opportunity to see familiar faces but also to get to know some really interesting people and, more importantly, to have the chance to appreciate great photography work. On top of that, the feedback that I received from the lovely people who stopped by my corner was invaluable. I am very grateful to Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal for letting me be part of this event and, above all, thankful to everyone who shared their opinion in regards to my project with me. Enjoy the photos of the night!

Photo Scratch is an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

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Founders Hanna-Katrina and Phil host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

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To find out more about Photo Scratch visit photoscratch.org

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I Fell Down And Nobody Helped Me

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Last Saturday I was on a train when a group of kids boarded with bikes which they placed against the opposite doors from which they entered. As the train sped, the bikes wiggled and threatened to fall over. Without giving it a second thought, I jumped from my seat and tried to hold them, but before I could reach them, they stabilized and stayed upright. I was already half standing, so I just tried to go back to my seat but, instead, I fell to the floor on my bum, hitting the edge of the seat with my back and the side panel with my elbow. I had forgotten that I had been sitting on one of those retractable seats.

I stayed on the train floor for probably five seconds which felt like an eternity. I then tried to get up but, because the train was in motion, I struggled to grab one of the poles to lift myself up. After probably 30 seconds of battling to hold the pole firmly, I was able to stand up, dust my jacket and my trousers, and make sure that this time the seat was down before I sat. Meanwhile, the rest of the passengers acted as if nothing had happened. No one came to help me. Not even the kids who owned the bikes. One of them just exclaimed "wow!" and looked away. The whole car remained in silence until the next stop.

As I was trying to make sense of what had happened, I didn't feel any embarrassment nor pain. I was just shocked, upset really, that nobody came to my aid. I could have broken a bone for all they cared and absolutely no one could be bothered to help a fellow human being in distress. When did we become like this? When did we stop caring for the wellbeing of others? Has it always been like this and I just hadn't realized it? Where did it all go wrong?

Photographer Bettina Rheims said during the Festival de Hyères: "If one day we convince one person to open their ideas and minds then we help make the world better." I hope that if at least one person reads this post, I convince them to make an effort to offer a hand when another human being is in need of help. Like Bettina, I believe that we can change the world, one person at a time.

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I'm Taking Part In Photo Scratch

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On the 14th of May, 2018, I will be taking part in Photo Scratch, an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The event will take place at Hotel Elephant (Spare Street, London SE17 3EP) in Elephant and Castle. It's free, but you must book your tickets in advance to guarantee entry.

Founders Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

I will be presenting all the portraits that I have taken thus far of my personal project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress". I hope to see you there!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Modelling In Your 50's!

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This is the twelfth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today I have the honour of chatting with British model Nicola Griffin about how opportunities arise when you least expect them and about what is it like to pursue a career in modelling after a certain age:

1. When we met a few years ago, you had recently started modelling at a very unconventional age. Can you tell us a bit about your story?

I first started modelling when I was 53. A lady asked me in the bank if I would do a photo shoot for a new shampoo product called white hot hair. This launched me into the modelling world and I was approached by an agent to be represented. Not long after, I was lucky enough to get a job with a company called Swimsuits For All in the USA.

2. From the cue at the bank to being flown to the Caribbean for a photo shoot with the one and only Ashley Graham to be featured together on Sports Illustrated! And then the cover of Bazaar, and countless advertising campaigns, editorials and catalogues. How does it feel to be part of this new pro-diversity movement in the industry?

It is really inspiring to be part of this as I represent older women in the fashion industry. I was the first woman to appear in Sports Illustrated magazine at the age of 56. Which I'm very proud of! It's a wonderful feeling to be part of this movement showing diversity in every age, size and race.

3. What sort of opportunities are there in the industry for models starting out later in life?

I think they're all sorts of opportunities out there now for older models. Things are improving all the time and I do believe anything is possible and anything can happen. I am living proof!

4. Modelling is a tough job that requires a strong will, very thick skin and a heck-of-a-lot of self-confidence. Still, people, in general, have the misconception that modelling is an easy job where you just have to look pretty. Can you describe what a career in modelling is about?

Trying to describe what modelling is all about it's quite difficult. What I would say is it's really fabulous when you're on a shoot with wonderful people in a beautiful place and it's really the most wonderful thing to be actually making a living doing something that is truly amazing. However, it's lots of hard work. The downsides, of course, are the travelling, the delayed flights, the arriving at your hotel at midnight and having an early call at 4 AM. It's hectic and you're under pressure.

5. How much of making it in the industry is about working hard in promoting yourself to modelling and casting agencies and how much is it being at the right place at the right time?

I think that to make it in the industry involves a lot of good luck and a lot of hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Promoting yourself on Instagram and Facebook and all the social platforms is important in today's industry. Castings can be tough, the feeling of rejection when you've not been chosen can be quite upsetting but you have to move on quickly, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and tomorrow is a new day.

6. What would you suggest to starting models on how to start their careers? How does one become a model?

I think if you are starting out as a model today I would suggest getting some good photos together and start looking for an agent and agency that would suit you and your style and your strengths. Work hard and believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, be brave and be strong because you're going to need it.

7. You are represented by some of the biggest agencies in the industry, both in the UK and the US. What is the role of an agency for a model?

The role of the agency that represents you is to guide you and nurture you, to get you the best deals from the client and look out for you. They take care of your travel arrangements, check your tickets and check your hotel, check you got everything, they make sure that you're getting the jobs that suit you and the client is happy. And, most importantly, that you're happy. That's a lot for the agency to do to look out for you so picking the right agency is very important.

8. As a mother yourself, what message would you send parents whose children are interested in modelling on how to navigate the industry?

As a mother of two daughters, I always pushed for them to finish their education when they showed interest in modelling. It was very important to me that they were not distracted from their studies. I did tell them many times that when they finished their A-levels we would all get a shoot together by a photographer. But that never happened. They then went off to university and now they are in full-time employment. But, had they have been interested in the industry I would've given them all my support.

9. We are living in times when models careers are longer than they ever were. Where do you see your career going?

I do look forward to being in the industry for a very long time! I'm hoping I can continue working well into my 80's, maybe even 90's... how wonderful would that be!

Thank you so much, Nicky! Thank you for being so fabulous and taking part in my column to help me understand what modelling in your 50's is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Exhibition at One Canada Square

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From the 16th of April to the 1st of June, the AOP (Association of Photographers) will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibition called "AOP50: Images That Defined The Age" at the lobby of One Canada Square (Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB). Alongside these memorable 50 images, a digital exhibition of work by current AOP Accredited Photographers will be shown on a screen, including the image "The Anglomaniac" from my Brexiters project.

AOP50 is a retrospective which includes images by some of the world’s most well-known and respected photographers from the past 50 years. Curated by Zelda Cheatle, the collection of images celebrates 50 years of the AOP with photographs that illustrate the impact, diversity and quality of work by AOP members since 1968. As the AOP's Executive Director, Seamus McGibbon, explains, "many of the images have defined a generation, and helped to shape public opinion and to create change."

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Last night during the opening reception, while I looked around at the fantastic work on display I couldn't help but feel proud of belonging to a group of professionals that sets the bar really high and makes me want to improve myself every day.

Come celebrate this important milestone of the AOP with this free public exhibition, open daily from 7 am to 8 pm.

Photo of me by Andrezj Gruszka.

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Online Portfolio Updated

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These past few weeks I have been working hard updating my website with the help of a Photo Editor and Photography Consultant called Raffaela Lepanto. Raffaela and I gathered all the images that I have shot over the course of my career and put together an online portfolio that presents a more accurate version of who I am as a photographer. Along the way, it also made me realise that the quality of my work was better than I gave it credit for. What do you reckon?

It wasn't an easy task. We had to come up with a portfolio that was strong and coherent but that would also balance all the different types of photography that I shoot. Our main goal was to make the website appealing to those who are looking for my fashion work but also to those who want to see what I can offer as a portraiture photographer.

Raffaela helped me unify the Beauty & Fashion portfolios with the Portraits one, finding a consistent style all through. Also, she managed to build a Homepage Portfolio which could be appealing to Editorial and Commercial clients at once but also suitable and interesting for the general public. In the process, some of my favourite images were left out. But we had to sacrifice the most obvious commercial shots in order to give a contemporary edge to the website.

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I am really happy with the result and I think that we nailed it! It was a really difficult process because as photographers we are emotionally connected to our work. Having someone else take control over our work and tell us what we should and what we shouldn't present in our portfolios is probably one of the hardest things an artist can go through. But, in the end, it has been a relief. Just having the weight lifted off my shoulders of having to decide what to display in my portfolio has made the whole experience completely worth it.

Please browse through my website and leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!

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Exhibition at Four Corners

Catalonia: A Work In Progress

From the 18th to the 28th of April, my portraiture project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress" will be part of the collective exhibition Salon 18, organized by the London Creative Network (LCN) at Four Corners Gallery (121 Roman Road, London E2 0QN). “Catalonia: A Work In Progress” is a personal project where I explore the spectrum of opinions that people living in Catalonia have in regards to the Independence from Spain.

At first sight, it might seem like there are only two possible positions: in favour of the independence of Catalonia or in favour of the permanency in Spain. But the reality is more complex than that; there is a diverse set of opinions from the people caught in the middle.

Some people definitely want out, while others feel very much part of Spain. But, not everyone who wants to leave wants an Independence per se and would opt for just more autonomy for the region. Meanwhile, not everyone who wants to remain in Spain feels Spanish or agrees with the policies of the Spanish government.

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Whatever the outcome of the Catalan conflict is, the government of Catalonia or the government of Spain will have to guarantee that all the people living in Catalonia can live in harmony disregarding their political views.

This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries, but the rest of the world found out about it after the events of October 1st, 2017, when the pro-Independence parties staged a referendum that the Spanish government considered illegal.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Alternative Processes!

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This is the eleventh post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

As I explained on a previous post titled I Am An Immigrant, early this year I had the opportunity to meet Almudena Romero, a London based visual artist from Spain, and with whom I had an amusing discussion about art, immigration and alternative photographic processes:

1. On the day that we met, I posed for you for your Growing Concerns project using the Wet Collodion technique, and your enthusiasm and passion for your craft captivated me. When did you first know that you wanted to become an artist? When did it all start?

I think when I signed up for an MA in Photography with a fine arts focus is when I made that choice. I was working as a photojournalist in Canada, and I think I gradually became more interested in the artistic possibilities of the medium rather than the documentary ones.

2. You create beautiful pieces and portraits using both early and contemporary photography techniques. Why did you decide to create your art using photography?

I find photography very powerful. We consume and produce images constantly. From my point of view, knowing how to analyse and create an image is like knowing how to read and write, but with visual content instead of words. I find surprising how poor visual education we have in Spain. Not having the tools to analyse the critical context of an image, what it signifies, makes us very vulnerable. I think that the more I read and work with photography the more I like to explore the medium.  

3. As a photographer myself, I know how the industry is always looking for ways to label us into preconceived types of photographers. Do you consider yourself a Portraits Photographer, a Fine Art Photographer or don’t even consider yourself a photographer at all?

I consider myself an artist, but if someone describes me as a photographer I am perfectly fine with it.

 Almudena Romero making collodion plates at her studio in East London for her project "Growing Concerns" about immigrants to UK. With JC Candanedo (Grey Pistachio).

4. You combine your practice with teaching at the University of the Arts London, doing talks and running workshops in the UK and abroad. Is this the life of the contemporary artist? Do you do it out of passion or to make ends meet?

I work with photographic processes that are very little known, and therefore, to engage people with these processes is to engage them with my practice too. I consider teaching part of my practice, and I don't think teaching is less cool than selling pieces or taking commissions.

People always like making distinctions and hierarchies. Photographers vs Artists, Technicians vs Academics, Artist selling through small commercial galleries vs Artist working with public institutions, etc. These categories are not helpful, so I don't really worry about them. Everything has advantages and disadvantages.

I see the benefits of teaching very clearly. First, it pushes me to be precise and consistent and then it helps me enormously to expand my network.  Teaching has the same effect as when you are cooking for someone else, you put so much more effort than if you were doing it just for you, and in the end, you end up being much better at it.

5. Speaking of your practice and your business model, when you sell your art do you sell the originals or do you sell prints? Do you do limited editions? Who are your clients (collectors, museums, galleries, private clients)?

I only sell originals to other artists that are also collectors (this happens very often, and I see myself collecting pieces soon too) and other people in my network including relatives, friends, art collectors, people working in the arts.  

6. I was lucky enough to visit your recently opened studio space in London. How long have you had your own space? Do you think it’s important as an artist to work in your own private studio? How did that affect your practice?

I have this one since October. I think it depends on the work. Some people need interaction and feedback, but I need to control the light and the ventilation conditions. It's easy for me to work 8/9 hours non stop, and this complicates a lot sharing the space.

7. Affordable spaces in cities like London are rare and in very high demand, with waiting lists that sometimes go for years. What advice would you give to other photographers and artists who are looking for a space but haven’t been able to find an affordable one yet?

Sign up for those lists now. Use artists studio finder website. Avoid companies managing spaces, go for charities or artist-led spaces like ACAVA, Bow Arts, SPACE, Cubitt, Acme- There are so many good space providers!

 Almudena Romero making collodion plates at her studio in East London for her project "Growing Concerns" about immigrants to UK. With JC Candanedo (Grey Pistachio).

8. Your projects deal with issues relating to identity, representation and ideology; such as the role of photography in the construction of national identity, or the link between photographic archives and colonialism.  I tend to go towards this sort of topics in my personal projects out of my own experience as an immigrant coming from a family of immigrants. Is it also a personal journey for you? If not, why do you feel attracted to these topics?

Having lived over the past 10 years in the UK, France, Canada and Italy, I have a strong sense of belonging to the immigrant community rather than to any nation. I want to use and share my knowledge to work with one of the most archival processes and leave a legacy of a contemporary understanding of colonialism, identity and photographic archives.

9. Your work is exhibited in galleries across the globe, and your most recent project, Growing Concerns, will be at the Centquatre Gallery in Paris from March 17 until May 6, 2018. For those who don’t understand the exhibitions circle, how does exhibiting your work come about? Do you get commissioned to do a project for an exhibition space? Do you pitch a project that you have in mind and that you want to work on? Do you create your work and then the exhibition spaces come for it? Do you submit to competitions?

I create work I want to create, then I research who can be interested in the work and then I apply to open calls and other opportunities within that network.  I tailor my applications to the space/facilities available. It's crucial to tailor your proposal, otherwise, the juries might not visualise how they could bring it to their own space/platform.

10. As a visual artist, what do you consider is the role of the artist in our communities nowadays? Why do we need artists? Why do we need art?

We need art in the same way we need science. It enriches us, it gives us perspective, a different angle, it helps us to understand. I see the role of an artist very similar to the role of a scientist, it's an everyday job that you do in conjunction with other people working in the same field that ultimately facilitates understanding and generates engagement.

11. What is in store for you in the future? What sort of new projects do you plan to work on?

I am now working on a series that focuses on the deregulation of goods and capital and the environmental and social impact of this, forcing communities to migrate. I have started to use plants which are originally from Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, and nonetheless widely available at daily markets in London, to alter the photosynthesis process and print images that relate to the migration history and context in their native countries on the leaves of said plants.

Beautiful, Almu! Thank you so much for answering all my questions and helping me understand what working with Alternative Processes is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

Photo credits: behind the scenes images by Chelín Miller.

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Let The Creative Juices Flow

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Over the last month and a half, I have been attending a set of creative writing workshops organized by the guys at the Centre for Solo Performance in order to improve my writing and develop my storytelling skills. As a photographer and a visual artist, storytelling is at the forefront of my craft and these workshops are not only helping me with my image-led narratives, but they are also helping me to write a better blog. Joan Miró said in I Work Like a Gardener: "An artwork must be fertile. It must give birth to a world." Hopefully, from now on, I will be creating more interesting worlds.

This is the first time in my life that I take part in creative writing workshops, but it will definitely not be the last. I guess that I just didn't see any use for them in my previous industry, or I didn't fully understand how they could have an effect in my life. Learning how to structure stories or how to move past the blank page syndrome comes very handy whether you are a writer, an artist or someone just putting together a speech.

Besides, being surrounded by creative people from various disciplines and every walk of life is inspiring on its own. We all approach the exercises so differently that is very helpful to see the same topics from other people's perspectives. In my group, there are actors, visual artists, improv performers, physical performers, dancers, writers, teachers, preachers, playwriters, scriptwriters, poets and TEDtalk speakers. You can really feel when the creative juices flow!

I would definitely recommend these sort of workshops to anyone who's interested in improving their storytelling. It doesn't matter if you don't work in the creative industries, these skills are transferable to other types of jobs too. If you write proposals, letters, copy, if you talk in public or give speeches at work, or if you manage contents on social media for a brand, you are a storyteller in your own way.

Like they say, a good artisan never blames their tools, but they know that a good set of tools will make them better at their craft.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Fabiola Bastianelli by Andrzej Gruszka.

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RIP Stephen Hawking

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Today we have lost one of the brightest minds in modern history and a person whose contribution to humanity is unmeasured. Professor Stephen Hawking passed away this morning at age 76 in his home in Cambridge, leaving behind a legacy which includes his works on black holes and the relationship between Einstein's theory of relativity and the Big Bang. One can only begin to comprehend how much humankind has lost today.

There are many human deaths every day, people constantly die from natural causes, from diseases, in horrible conflicts, accidents or even natural disasters. And it doesn't seem fair to mourn the death of just one person when there would be so many other human beings who deserved to be honoured as well. But the reason why I decided to honour the memory of Professor Hawking is that his life is an example of how one person can battle their own demons and overcome all the obstacles and limitations that have been thrown at them and still live an exemplary life contributing so much to our species.

These should be our heroes. These should be the role models our children look up to. Not one single person who achieves celebrity status these days has done so much for humanity as this man did. And I'm sure that there are so many more exemplary human beings working in the shadows and doing real good who we will probably never hear of in the news or in our social media feeds.

That's why I decided to acknowledge his passing on my blog today. I hope that everytime that I'm faced with a challenge that can potentially set me back, I remember people like him, who in spite of adversity managed to achieve so much. Rest in Peace, Professor Hawking.

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Let Your Light Shine For Long

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This past weekend, as I was preparing all the paperwork for a submission, I had to make an inventory of every single photo, client, publication, competition and exhibition of my photography career. Thankfully, I have only been shooting professionally for a little under 4 years, otherwise, this would have been an impossible endeavour. Even so, for such a short career, it took me 3 whole days of non-stop sorting and documenting to be able to put all the work that I've done into one single folder. But I'm really happy that I had to do it because it was a cathartic experience and it made me realize how far I've come since I started this new phase in my life. And you want to know something? I haven't done too bad!

It's funny how sometimes we are unable to realize how much we have accomplished because we are caught up in our daily routine of running our businesses. But it takes opportunities like these when you sit down and look back at where you were when you started and where you are right now, to really make you see your path from a different perspective.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Create a visual inventory of every single image/set/project that you have shot. I used Powerpoint, but you can use any software that you are comfortable with. For every single image/set/project, create a separate page and write below the single image/set/project it's client, the date, the brief in one line, any publication that took it, any competition where it was highly commended, shortlisted or chosen as a finalist or winner, or every place where they were exhibited. I promise you that by the end you will start looking at your career with new eyes.

I shared the whole experience with a colleague and we both agreed that no successful career happens overnight. It's a slow process of learning, erring and growing and we should enjoy every step of the way and try not to rush things. Because, in the end, the light that shines twice as bright, lasts half as long.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Food Photography!

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This is the tenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Early this year I had a really amusing chat with Martí Sans, a Food Photographer from Catalonia, about food, branding and how life has a funny way of turning things around:

1. We met 6 years ago and during our first conversation, you told me a really interesting story about how you ended up becoming a Food Photographer. Do you mind sharing that story with us?

(He laughs really loud) I wanted to become a chef. In fact, it was while I was studying to become one that I bought my first camera. I believe that I was about 17 years old. I studied for Chef and Pastry Chef for 5 years, but during the last 2 years of the career, I was completely sure that I would not spend my future working in a restaurant. I started doing some photography gigs while I studied and once I finished chef school I had made up my mind and became a freelance photographer.

2. Do you need to know how to cook or bake in order to be a successful Food Photographer?

It is not necessary, but it does help. Like in many other fields, having a knowledge of the subject that you are photographing helps you to understand how to face the photo and to find the most interesting features of each product. For instance, if you work as a Bird Photographer, having a knowledge of how they behave, move or interact will make things easier for you.

3. How different is food photography from other types of photography, like product photography?

In regards to similarities with Product Photography, I think they are very similar. It's a style of photography where all the details are really important and the lighting makes the difference. In terms of other types of photography, in most cases, they are related worlds but they are very different.

4. For those who are not familiar with Food Photography, can you walk us through your workflow when taking the photo of a dish?

Usually, the process starts with emails, phone calls and some meetings. The client lays the initial idea on the table, they give you some references of what they are going after and you try to give your vision on how to get the best photo possible. From there, you set the timeline for the shoot, deadlines, etc. and you start to work.

During the shoot, all the photos are built bit by bit. The point of view is decided, the props are added and the empty plate is lit. The idea is that the food arrives at the very last minute in order to have it in the best state possible. If you are using sauces or ice cream, you add them at the very end to avoid mistakes.

5. It seems to me that photographing food is a very slow process. How do you manage to get the shot on time before the food gets cold or becomes unattractive? If it's grilled meat, for instance, do you have one piece of cooked meat or do you have several ones that you cook as you go?

What we usually do is that you set up everything without the main subject. You might have the side dish or any other additional surrounding elements ready. For a piece of meat, for instance, you might use a prop with a similar colour while you are composing (a piece of cardboard might work) and then you swap it for the real thing. The idea is to have everything ready before the food arrives and that way you avoid having it for too much time on set.

6. Is it true that you can't eat the food that you photograph? How much of the food in the photo is real food?

I would say that almost everything is real. It's true that in some cases you use food that is not real but you might do that for technical reasons with ice cubes, ice cream, etc. The majority of food that we use could be eaten if you don't mind that it has been touched by so many hands. You'd be better off eating a new one!

7. What is the typical crew working on set with a Food Photographer?

It depends on the size of the production. For small productions, I try to do everything on my own, but if the production gets too complex, I would work with a Food Stylist and an assistant. For bigger productions, I usually work with a digi-op, an assistant, a Food Stylist and, more often than not, with an Art Director. Also, in the latter case, I work with a retoucher for the post-production.

8. What is a Food Stylist?

A Food Stylist is a person in charge of prepping the food for the photo or video. They might or might not be a cook, but it is important that they know the rhythm of a photoshoot as well as understand the point of view of the image and how the dish will look in camera. I don't always work with one, to be honest, because I like doing the food styling myself, but there are times when I can't control everything on my own.

9. Apart from your photography, you also run workshops in different cities in Spain where you teach photographers, bloggers and hobbyists how to take photos of food. How did that come about?

It was something that just happened organically. I did a short workshop for some friends a few years ago and they encouraged me to create a whole day course. That must have been 5 or 6 years ago and bit by bit the courses have evolved to what they are right now. I do 8-hour courses around Food Photography and people seem to enjoy them. I also have two online courses on Product Photography at Domestika (an online portfolio and tutorials platform in Spanish) that allow me to reach a wider audience.

10. You recently changed your branding from your original brand name to your own name. Do you mind explaining why?

Up until now, I had been working under the brand 365mm, but now I have changed it to Marti Sans Photography. What happened was that the previous name was prior to my professional photography career. It was meant to be the name for a blog where I talked about photography but it ended up being the name of my portfolio and my brand. With time, I have come to realize that using my own name is simpler and easier for everyone. When I teach courses, people always use my name and not my brand name, so after careful consideration, I decided to do the switch.

11. As a Food Photographer, do you work freelance? Do you have an agent?

I work freelance at the moment, but I'm considering looking for representation.

12. Lastly, what advice would you give someone who wanted to start a career in Food Photography?

We always tend to make up excuses like "it's just that the camera that I own won't..." or " my strobes don't allow me to..." In the end, I am willing to bet that 95% of the times it is our lack of technical knowledge that won't allow us to get the photo that we are going after. It is also important to remember that you can only learn photography by taking photos. Books, blogs, workshops... they are all good but if you don't shoot, you will never learn. Fewer tutorials, more shooting!

This is brilliant, Marti! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer all my questions and giving us a glimpse into what Food Photography is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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On Fake Models And Real People

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When Rihanna created Fenty Beauty, she proved that there was a demand for more products for darker complexion people in the beauty industry. Fenty Beauty is an inclusive makeup brand aimed at every skin tone from the lightest to the darkest, with the darker shades being especially popular. Her brand might not have been the first one focusing on the lack of diversity in the industry, but she offered a range of shades and undertones that was practically unheard of at the time. And then, a few weeks ago, this same brand that is making their target embrace their uniqueness and feel proud of their genetics, advertises one of their lipsticks on their social media using a flawless computer-generated model called Shudu Gram. Is this a publicity stunt or just proof that we can't trust anyone anymore?

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Don't get me wrong, Shudu Gram is stunning. She is a work of art and I personally think that her creator, photographer Cameron-James Wilson, is an amazing 3D artist. My concern doesn't come from the art itself or the possibilities of the medium; nor with the fear that some other people in the industry have that machines will take over our jobs (models, photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, stylists, etc.). What worries me is the message that the brand is sending to everyone who consumes their products, that no matter how much money you spend on them, you will never look as perfect as a CGI model.

In all honesty, it's insulting. In times when companies like CVS are forcing makeup brands to stop selling their products with deceiving advertisement campaigns that have been photoshopped to the extreme, or when social media platforms are making the so-called influencers admit that they are just outsourced sales reps selling products for the brands that they represent, a brand cannot make the mistake of calling themselves diverse and inclusive while promoting an unattainable beauty standard.

It is really disappointing and it makes me wonder if this is a publicity stunt aimed at creating controversy. Be it as it may, brands should be really careful about how they communicate with their customers. For, in the end, real people buy their products. CGI models don't.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Anna Sawyer by Rachel Williamson.

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Art Puts Food On The Table

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A few weeks ago, I had a really interesting conversation with artist Sally Wakelin about traditional Japanese woodblock printing and how it was a very complex process which involved many skilled people for each of the steps of the printmaking. You could say that classical Japanese prints are a collaborative effort and, obviously, their making had a direct impact on the local economy. But, we don't have to go too far back in time to see how creatives contribute to our economies. I wrote about artists and the economy in a recent post of mine titled Our Economies Need More Artists. While having this conversation with Sally, I couldn't help but think about how many other businesses benefit from my practice. Surprisingly, as a freelance photographer, I put food on a lot of tables.

We seem to live in times when people don't seem to care about art. For art detractors, art just doesn't make sense. David Lynch allegedly said on this matter: "I don't know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn't make sense." Maybe the problem is that we haven't taken the time to properly explain art. Or maybe, the real issue is that those who do art don't know how to talk about art. Painter Carmen Herrera said: "If I could describe what my art was about with words, I wouldn't have to paint it (...) You can't talk about art, you have to art to art."

I think that when people think of artists and creatives in general, they only think about classical art in museums or about pieces sold in auctions for millions of pounds which prompt the question "who'd pay that much money for something like that?!" But, perhaps, a more digestible way of understanding art is looking at creatives as important pieces in our economies because, even if they don't like being called themselves businesses or entrepreneurs, they do their part in keeping other businesses alive.

When I thought about writing this post, I took my time to go through the list of suppliers from whom I regularly buy products or services in order to keep my practice running. Apart from buying from some global brands every now and then (Apple, Nikon, Profoto, Ilford, Synology, etc.), and from others with regularity (Adobe, Google, MailerLite, Squarespace, PurplePort, Amazon, FrootVPN, CDMon, Hiscox, among others), I also spend a lot of money on products and services from local businesses in all shapes and sizes (TFL, Hyperoptics, AOP, Three, 123Reg, The Printspace, Uber, Moo, photography studios, production crew, and so on) and I pay my taxes in due time.

And yes, you could say that about any type of business in any industry, but that's not the point. The point is that the work of creatives from any discipline should be respected because, as shown before, we are also job generators and we also keep the economy running. So, please, even if our industry doesn't make much sense to you, show us a little respect and don't question our rates or expect us to work for free. We also have families to feed.

Photo credit: messy me, June 1977.

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Never Stop Creating

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This past weekend I went to see the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery. I honestly knew very little about this painter but I don't regret the visit to the museum at all. It was beautiful and very inspiring and left me with a craving to create more.

Amedeo Modigliani started his painting career when he moved to Paris at age 21, and after 14 prolific years, he died age 35 in 1920. In this very little amount of time he managed to create an outstanding body of work, he experimented with different techniques including sculpting, and he created a strong creative network with his fellow artists living in Paris. To me, this is the artist par excellence, but what I feel it's most impressive is the fact that he never stopped creating. Commissioned or not commissioned, paid or unpaid, Modigliani always felt the need to capture the people around him in his paintings.

When I started my photography career, a very wise woman called Nina Malone once told me "you have to test like crazy" (testing being the term used in the creative industries when you collaborate with fellow creatives to try out new techniques or just to create something out of the love of art). And I took her advice very seriously. Since then, I always create. On my own, with another creative or with a massive crew, in between jobs I try to always take new photos. Why? Because practice makes perfect. No one creates a masterpiece on the first attempt. Like Marc Jacobs said when he paraphrased Eddie Cantor: “It took me 20 years to become an overnight success”.

I was recently reading a post on Saatchi Art's blog. It was an interview with Guillermo García Cruz, an artist from Uruguay, where he was asked what was the best advice that he had ever been given. He said that the best advice that he had ever been given was by painter Ignacio Urrutia, who told him: "...if you really want to be an artist never forget this: Never stop working. The more you work, the more things you will get as an artist. Everything else does not matter, you only have to work.”

I don't aspire to have Modigliani's posthumous fame nor to be a well-known artist in my lifetime. My goals are simpler and more humble: I just want to be the best artist that I can be. And to achieve that, I have to practice like crazy. And never stop creating.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Wholesale!

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This is the ninth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

A few weeks ago I had a really interesting conversation with Jessica Morera, the Wholesale Sales Manager for Iberia at Guess Europe, about her career in sales in the fashion industry and on how being proactive can open many doors:

1. You have an extensive career in sales in the Fashion Industry, working for companies like Calvin Klein, Inditex, Desigual and currently Guess. What made you go into Fashion? And why Sales?

It was actually pure luck. I had never looked into fashion as a career option, but right after I moved to New York I was offered a temp job as a receptionist at Calvin Klein. Since there was little to do at the reception and I like to keep myself busy, I asked all the departments around me if they needed any help with any projects. They started giving me little things here and there, which increased in quantity and complexity over time. After a few months, there was an opening in sales and I got a recommendation from one of the people whom I had been helping.

It was love at first sight. Attending fashion shows, presenting the collection, building relationships with my customers, but, above all, learning about the business from professionals with many years of experience.

I was extremely fortunate, but I must admit that my proactivity got me that opportunity.

2. Usually, when people think of the Fashion Industry, they think of designers, models, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists and editors, but they forget about all the supporting roles that keep the industry alive. What exactly does a person in Sales in a Fashion brand do?

That is true, often people think that their role is what really makes the difference in this industry. Creatives think that without the “magic” that they make a product would not be attractive or have a demand in the market. Salespeople think that without them, the product wouldn’t make it to the point of sale and the business would not be able to survive. The truth is that one without the other would not have a future, both sides of the industry are equally important and need each other to exist. Those professionals who acknowledge this have a higher chance of success.

In my opinion, the main objective of anyone in sales (whether is Retail or Wholesale) is to promote the brand as if it were their own. It is important to do that by building relationships with your clients and understanding what they need. In the case of Wholesale, you go one step further as you must create a healthy alliance with your clients. They are the experts in their business and you are the expert on your brand. Combining those two and working with your client as a partner is one of the keys to success. Their business is your business.

3. Would you say that to work in Sales you have to study a career? Are there any studies that would help someone who was already born with selling skills?

It certainly helps to understand the basics of the business. Often people think that as long as sales are growing the business is healthy and they forget that what makes a business sustainable over time is having healthy margins. It is crucial for anyone in Sales to understand the basics of how to achieve “healthy sales”. You can learn this with a Business or Economics degree, even though I would always recommend a Business degree as it usually includes learning about Marketing.

But I think that the key to being a good Salesperson (no matter the level you are at) is mostly about common sense and being able to build relationships and trust with your customers and colleagues.

4. As someone working in Sales in the Fashion Industry, you must have some sort of understanding of fashion. What would you advice someone who wants to go into Sales in Fashion to learn before embarking on this career?

No matter the industry you work in, having some knowledge about the product that you are selling is a must. Nobody expects you to be an expert from day one, but some sort of understanding about the product that you are selling is required.

When I started out, I was quite uninformed about fashion. I guess that working as the receptionist, I was not expected to know a lot about it. But, because I was working in the reception of the Design and Product Development floor, I became curious about it. All the little projects that I was given were related to sales, sketches, fabric samples, etc… This is how I got acquainted with fashion and found out how much I enjoyed it. I was very lucky!

By the time I started in the Sales Department, I had made sure to be as informed as I could about Fashion. This was back in the year 2000 when researching information was not as easy as it is now. The rest I learned through experience and thanks to a great team that was willing to be patient with me and teach me as much as I was willing to learn.

To someone who has a real interest in a career in fashion sales, I would recommend getting as much experience as possible. Real experience. Working in a shop, for instance, is going to give you a lot of real experience about what the business is all about. You will learn about fashion (patterns, fabrics, and trends) and you will do so in a practical way, meaning that you will learn by doing, which I find to be the most effective way of learning.

5. Designers present their collections on the runways, in private shows or in their showrooms a few times a year. What happens next?

Many things!! The moment the samples reach the showroom is one of the most exciting times of the season. You open boxes with the same excitement a kid has on Christmas morning. But it is also hard work! Ironing and hanging the garments, pricing them, learning the collection (fabrics, fits, the moods within the collection…), creating a visual that provides a nice flow to ensure that the first contact that the clients have with the garments has a lot of Wow factor, etc.   

You also need to prepare each appointment as thoroughly as possible. How was your client’s season? Was your brand key for them? Why? Or Why not? What type of garment and which price point worked best for them? These are a few of the key points that you need to have prepared before the meeting starts, not only in order to be able to have a successful meeting but above all in order to help your client make the most efficient order possible. If you manage to do that, it is much more likely that your client will have a good season and allocate more space and budget for your brand.

It is also important to work on the marketing activities for your region. Each season, the Brand will work on a strategy as broadly as their DNA and resources allow. Media (Print, Social, TV), Press Events, Product Placement, etc. It is important that, as a Salesperson, you transfer that strategy and its message to the point of sale level and allocate your resources wisely. There are many resources such as brand images and logos, gift with purchases and even some events, but these are limited so it is important to try to allocate those resources in a productive way.

There are many additional steps that will go into the sales process: commercial conditions, payment terms, shipments, product exchanges and returns, etc. These tasks are undeniably more administrative (and unattractive), but they are just as important!

6. What avenues do designers have to make their creations available to their customers? What is the difference between all these channels (e.g. wholesale, retail, e-commerce, etc.)?

We live in a world that has almost endless options for designers that are just starting out to make their creations reach their target. Like everything in life, each formula has pros and cons. Retail offers direct communication with the consumer but very high fixed costs. E-commerce offers high exposure with low fixed costs but a lower emotional connection with your consumer and high returns.

A priori, Wholesale offers the best balance for newcomers; margins are higher than in Retail; you have a closer relationship with the consumer than in e-commerce; and you have your Brand in stores where they sell others brands that you might have established as your benchmark, which will give you visibility with the target consumer that you have envisioned.

It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed with the business side of the industry, in which case it’s good to partner with an Agency. They can help you to get started and provide the contacts that you need.

7. You have been working closely with department stores for almost your whole career in Sales. Can you tell us what exactly is a department store and how is it different from other channels?

Back in the day, department stores were born as shops in which you could fulfil all your needs in one place. Hence the name, department store, a store divided by departments. For many decades, this model had the upper hand as it provided convenience by offering everything one might need in one place, offering also exclusivity by always being the first to have any novelty that reached the market.

Nowadays, these advantages are not exclusive to department stores and many of them are struggling to attract consumers. Many people have shifted to online shopping, which is the epitome of convenience, or shopping malls which have all the benefits of a department store but its setting is normally more appealing than the one of a department store, including larger and more open spaces, family-oriented activities and a larger food offer.

Department stores that are thriving in today's economy are doing so by differentiating themselves from competitors (whether these are other department stores or a different channel altogether). Some of them are doing it by providing exclusivity through high-end brands or small labels that are hard to find; others are doing it by offering certain benefits to their customers (extended return dates, payment plans, promotions, additional services, etc). There are many ways that they can differentiate themselves and it is key to choose the best option according to who your consumer is.

8. Apart from the different sales channels, there are also different markets with their own particular characteristics. You have worked in Iberia, Europe in general, the UK, the US and Canada. How would you say the peculiarities of each market affect the selling process?

The base of most markets in Europe and America is basically the same, even though each region does have different needs that need to be acknowledged.    

Some markets are more professional than others in terms of how business is conducted, and it is important to adapt to that. Things like being on time for a meeting, being accurate on your communications, having a polished image are extremely important in some markets. So my recommendation would be to try to have standards as high as possible in order to be seen as reliable and trustworthy by your customer no matter what market you are working with. Even if you conduct your business under higher standards than those in your market, it is unlikely that anyone will have a negative perception of you for being too correct.

In regards to other relevant aspects of the industry, such as fashion, marketing trends or competitors, I think it is important to specialize in the market that you are managing, but it is also very important to keep up with what is going on in those markets that are close or connected to your own. Back when I started out, each market was an “island”, with its own set of rules and timings. Nowadays, everything is linked due to globalization, so having an interest in what’s happening in other markets will give you a competitive advantage.

9. If you were to hire someone to work for you as your junior today, what would you look for in them?

For me, attitude is the most important asset. Almost anything can be learned as long as the person is willing to do so. But finding a person with enthusiasm and passion for what they do is not as easy as one would hope.

10. What is in store for you in the near future?

Honestly, I’m not sure. For most of my career, I always thought a couple of steps ahead. I was a Regional Coordinator working towards being a Key Account Manager. I started my first Master's Degree because I wanted to move into international sales. I went onto Product Management because I wanted a broader view of the business so that I could have a more relevant position in the company where I was working.

For the first time in 18 years, I’m just enjoying my job and it’s quite refreshing. I have goals and ambitions of course, but these are short-term goals and ambitions related to the role that I currently have. Such as reaching my sales target, getting a big account that’s been an objective for a while, etc. And I must say that my job is much more rewarding than it has ever been because I can stop and appreciate each accomplishment instead of rushing off to the next thing.

Fantastic, Jessica! Thank you so much for all this amazing information and for giving us an insight into what working in Wholesales in Fashion is all about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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I Am An Immigrant

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When I left my country and moved to Europe, among the things that I took with me were my photo albums and my film camera. For some reason, I felt like I needed those items for the adventure that was about to unfold. Almost twenty years later, I reflect on that moment when I was packing my bag and I finally understand the reasoning behind this peculiar packing list. I must have known back then that I was never coming back, and I must have wanted to take with me the treasured memories from my life in my country and the tool that would help me create new memories in my new home.

Migrating is not easy. You need to have courage, a strong determination, a humble heart and an open mind. Venturing into the unknown leaving behind everything that you know and love is not for the faint of heart, and arriving at your new destination willing to unlearn what you know about the world and assimilate and adapt to a new way of living takes a unique set of skills. This is if you are privileged enough to emigrate of your own will. Those who are forced out of their countries by conflicts, starvation or just because they want to provide a better future for their families should be our real heroes.

Immigrants are brave people. If you are an immigrant yourself or come from a family of immigrants, you should be proud of your heritage. It is not easy to move to a different country. If society knew the things that we go through and the things that we put up with, immigrants would have a completely different reputation these days. The word immigrant itself has gotten such a bad name that we had to come up with alternative terms to describe immigrants who we consider our equal or who we admire. But, the truth is that your Founding Mothers and Fathers were immigrants; your favourite sports team members from abroad are immigrants; even those who we call Expats are immigrants too. It doesn't matter what fancy name you use to describe your status, if you moved to a different country than the one you were born in, you are an immigrant.

I am an immigrant, and I am the son and the grandson of immigrants too. I say it with pride and with my head held high because there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant and I am tired of seeing this term used in a derogatory way. This is the reason why, a few days ago, I took part on Almudena Romero's photography project on immigrants in the UK called Growing Concerns. This project is a beautiful endeavour that deserves the utmost praise, not only because of the technique used to create each portrait but also because of the beautiful message behind it.

Almudena Romero is a London based visual artist from Madrid working with a wide range of photographic processes from early printing techniques such as cyanotype, salt printing or wet plate collodion, to new technologies including 3Dscanning and printing. Her practice uses photographic processes to reflect on issues relating to identity, representation and ideology; such as the role of photography in the construction of national identity, or the link between photographic archives and colonialism. Her work focuses on how photographic processes and technology transform the notions of public, private, individuality, identity, memory, and, in general, the concept of the individual.

Growing Concerns consists of a series of passport tintypes of London immigrants to reflect on the increasing restrictions of movement for persons and the reduction of regulatory barriers for goods and capitals. Almudena uses the wet collodion technique, which was the most popular photographic process between 1850 and 1880. It was the cheapest and most light-sensitive technique, but its most distinctive characteristic was that it allowed the first glass negatives, and therefore, the reproduction of images in prints from one same negative.

If you want to learn more about Almudena Romero, her project Growing Concerns and the wet collodion technique, visit her website at www.almudenaromero.co.uk.

Photo: wet collodion tintype portrait by Almudena Romero, as part of her project Growing Concerns

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How To Manage Your Time Effectively

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We are halfway through the first month of the new year and we can already see that our workload is consuming us. We don't seem to have time for anything. When we became freelance creatives nobody told us that we would spend 90% of our time taking care of the business side of the craft and only 10% actually creating. But, this is the life of the freelance creative and if you want to make a living out of it, you have to learn how to manage your time.

The problem is that, when you are a freelance creative, there are some days that you have absolutely nothing to do and you spend the day just staring at the empty wall in front of you. But then, other days you wish that the day had actually 48 hours so that you could finish on time everything that you have to do. This is our life and we must accept it. However, for those days when we wished that the seconds lasted for hours so that we can go through our endless list of to-do's, there are certain time management techniques that can come in very handy.

Personally, I use the first two of the following three techniques and they work for me, while my husband uses the third one and he cannot live without it.

- The Rewards system: this one is pretty simple and I think it's the one that the majority of people use. For every item on your to-do list that you complete, you give yourself a reward. The rewards vary depending on what you consider a treat; a few minutes on social media, going to the vending machine for coffee or doing yoga, are just a few examples. I use this system on the days that I have to do the chores and only look at my social media when I have accomplished something.

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- The Post-it notes system: this time management system consists in writing each task in your to-do list on a single Post-it and pasting them on a notebook. Everytime that you complete a task, you remove and discard the Post-it note associated with it. When all your tasks are done, your page will be empty. This system gives you a sense of fulfilment whenever you are able to go through all the tasks on your To-do list. I have different pages full of Post-it's in my Moleskine notebook depending on the priority of the tasks. My imminent priority To-do list is on the first page and as I turn the pages the tasks have less priority or a more long-term deadline.

 Pomodoro-Do App

Pomodoro-Do App

- The Pomodoro technique: this technique consists on working on a task for 25 minutes without interruptions, then resting for 5 minutes, then working on the task for 25 more minutes, then resting again, and so forth until you work on the task for a full hour. Once you have worked on the task for four 25-minute intervals, you rest for 30 minutes and start a new task. This system is especially good for those tasks that require a lot of time and concentration to finish, and that could take up all of our available time forcing us to ignore other tasks with a similar priority. With this method, you work without interruptions on several different tasks on the same day.

There are plenty more time management systems but these are the ones that I use or that I know of and that I can definitely recommend. Do you have a technique of your own?

Photo credit: behind the scenes photo taken by Andrzej Gruszka

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Our Economies Need More Artists

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If I had told my parents when I was growing up that I wanted to be a photographer, they probably would have told me to study a real career and do whatever I wanted with my spare time. Is not that they weren't supporting parents, it's just that, where I come from, working in the creative industries is not considered having a real job. Sadly, this is a reality in many parts of the world. But, when you come to countries like the UK and you realize how strong their creative communities are, you can't help but wonder what makes this society so open to the arts. Could it possibly be what they put in the water here?

I doubt it. But, one thing is for sure: countries like this one must be doing something different at family, school or government level to keep culture and arts alive. That is the reason why when you think of creativity in the UK, you automatically think of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, David Bowie, the Beatles, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and the list goes on. Is it a coincidence that all this amazing talent concentrates in one country? Or is it that in the UK there is more support for artists than in other parts of the world?

I know for a fact that where I come from there is an incredible number of really talented creatives. Unfortunately, most of them have to leave the country to pursue Arts as a career. There just isn't that much support for artists back home. And you might think that maybe it is because governments in other countries have other priorities and invest in what really drives the economy. But, looking at the figures, that does not make much sense.

In the UK, the creative industries (which include advertising, film and TV, architecture, publishing, music, design, games, museums and galleries, fashion, crafts, and the creative use of technology) are a £92bn sector which grows at twice the rate of the economy, and which accounts for 14.2 percent of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA). Over 5.2 million people work in this sector, 16.1 percent of all the jobs in the UK. This represents an 11.3 percent increase since 2011 (4.7 million) and, taking into account that over the same period of time employment in the UK increased by 7.6 percent, these figures are really impressive.

This is in part due to the government's support to the creative industries sector. For example, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, dedicated tax relief to support high-end television productions, such as Game of Thrones and The Crown have seen a production boom worth £1.5 billion since the scheme was introduced in 2013.

But, it also comes from the fact that people brought up in the UK seem to be more exposed to culture and arts at family and school levels, and they grow up to understand its importance in their lives. In early 2017, 77.4% of adults in the UK had engaged with the arts at least once in the last 12 months. Which means that roughly 4 out of every 5 adults had attended or participated in arts events and activities, which included visiting an exhibition, going to the theatre or attending live music performances.

So, as it turns out, choosing to support or be part of the creative communities has a direct impact on the economy of our countries. The next time that someone tells you that pursuing a career in the creative industries is a waste of time, tell them that our economies need more artists. Save the creative, save the economy!

Photo: behind the scenes wearing my #lovemyjob t-shirt from the beautiful people at MailerLite.

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