Looking in from the outside, photography can appear one of the more opaque and bewildering areas of the creative industries. Big-name photographers tend to dominate the discourse around the industry, while landing that first commission is still often more down to your contacts rather than your work.
It’s for this reason that Create Jobs, an employability programme for young Londoners, recently teamed up with Magnum Photos and the HudsonBec Group (It’s Nice That’s parent company) to organise a scheme aimed at lowering the barriers to entry for young Londoners who are under-represented in the creative industries. Over the past six weeks, the scheme has seen 15 young Londoners work intensively on a brief set by Magnum and the HudsonBec Group, which asked them to respond to the question: “What Is Your London?”
Across the six-week programme, the trainees had workshops with Magnum photographer Lua Ribeira and crits with the HudsonBec Group team. The programme culminated last week in an exhibition of the trainees’ final projects at Protein Studios in Shoreditch and it’s fair to say we were blown away by the calibre of the work the group had created. From Maria Quigley, who shot dynamic photos of businessmen and pigeons in the City, to Marcella Chan, who took still-life images of traditional British foods in unexpected settings, the range across the board was staggering and showed that each trainee had found a unique perspective.
As Shannon Ghannam from Magnum puts it, that was the essence of the challenge for the trainees. “At the end of the day, it’s about you,” she tells us. “What is the thing that only you can shoot, the story that only you can tell? We wanted to help them find their personal vision, their unique voice and perspective.” The recurring themes across the body of work – from identity and representation to the idea of belonging – demonstrate that all the trainees found this singular point of view.
Oliver Benjamin, who heads up Create Jobs (the non-profit A New Direction’s employment initiative), explained the thinking behind the programme: “The young people we’re working with come from Hackney, Croydon, Wandsworth, the outskirts of London. Most creative organisations don’t go out to those places but that’s where ‘Young London’ is.”
Our colleagues at Lecture in Progress have been talking to some of the young people involved and you can read their thoughts on the project in full here. One trainee, Timi Akindele-Ajani, says, “At some point, you have to get started and the intensive nature of this course really helped me do that. I found that just starting with the kernel of an idea, regardless of how confident I was in it, allowed me to make progress, which ultimately led to me making something that I am incredibly proud of.”
For Johanna Lacey, who led the project for Create Jobs, it was the way the trainees worked together that impressed her the most. “They supported each other from the very beginning, which was great to see,” she says. “They were able to lean on each other and give each other feedback in an honest way.” This is clearly set to continue, as – off the back of the programme – the trainees have now formed a collective in order to support each other as they embark on their careers. One of the first things they’re keen to do is publish a zine that will help demystify the photography industry for school pupils interested in pursuing a career in the creative industries. Clearly, then, the group is already keen to pass on their knowledge and further lower barriers to entry for young Londoners.
Another of the trainees, David Adesanya, speaks to Lecture in Progress about how the programme helped him build confidence in his own abilities. “I learnt that we have everything we need to achieve all that we’ve dreamed,” he says. “I have learnt to be consistent in smashing the box, consistent in challenging the status quo through my photography and consistent in being the example I want to see in the world.”