Q&A with... Joanne Coates of Lens Think Yorkshire
We've been supporters (and fans) of Joanne Coates photography for some time now. When she approached us about an upcoming Lens Think Yorkshire event we knew right away that we wanted to find out more.
F&A: What is LensThink Yorkshire and how did it come about?
JC: Lens Think is a social that supports creatives in Yorkshire. It’s a bi-monthly social to meet, share work, ideas, & develop photography in the North.
Our launch event was May 11th in York. The night saw Al Palmer of Publishers Brown Owl Press alongside Speed Creative networking. Amongst the photographers were Graphic Designers, Publishers and magazine editors. Throughout 2017 / 18 Lens Think will host events in Hull, Sheffield, Leeds, Whitby, North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Lens think has a Facebook group which is open to anyone to join, a instagram that features interviews with new and more well known work by photographers who have worked in the North.
F&A: Why is it important for photographers to come together and share their work in this way?
JC: Developing work it’s vital to talk to other people, I think of it as a learning process, which probably won’t ever be done. It’s pretty hard to learn and focus on being self-reflective when the only person you are showing your work to is yourself. When completing a body of work it’s really easy to become insular. Sharing work is really vital.
I think the reality of working, as a photographer, is that it’s quite a lonely living. It’s a very competitive industry; with a lot of egos, a lot of people with money behind them, and it can be very isolating. I graduated two years ago this July, and after working in Amsterdam a short while moved back to Yorkshire. There are many personal pressures of working freelancing, of taking that leap to put yourself out there. I felt it straight away. Studying in London there are many talks, events, exhibitions, groups that support each other. Moving back home it was a sparse land to navigate and I really wasn’t sure why. There are some incredibly talented photographers, creators, galleries, spaces, writers, creative living and working in Yorkshire. After putting the idea out there and receiving a positive reaction, I soon realised no one else was going to do this. I had to make it a reality.
Lens think is; A creative group, a community of people that can offer advice, a place where people can chat about ideas and work, it helps ease that pressure. It’s also really important to have peers out there, on the more business side to network and to grow an understanding of the industry you work in.
There are so many rejections in this industry we are told we need to be tough, and develop a thick skin. The problem lies in that most creative are sensitive people, the pressures can take their toll. A physical meeting won’t solve any of the problems within the photographic industry BUT what it can do is be a great place, to encourage inclusivity, to allow people to be curious, to meet people that they can form collaborative projects with. Also to put on some events that allows people to experiment a little with the medium, with other people and with themselves. I wanted to create a group where it didn’t matter how established people were, where it doesn’t matter what awards they’ve won, what university you attended, what class you’re from, it’s a meet up where everyone is welcome.
F&A: Is there a gap for these types of meetups in the North?
JC: I found there to be a real gap in Yorkshire. There are some great university’s here, some brilliant artists, but Yorkshire is the largest country, if it wasn’t split up into regions outside London it would the largest population at 5 million people. There is something missing, there are events but they seem only publicized in one city say, many cities / areas are completely ignored entirely. Lensthink will travel around Yorkshire and create a place for these meet ups and socials to happen. I have lots of different events lined up for the future, so keep your eyes peeled for what’s going on in 2017 / 2018. Our next event is in Hull, September 30th.
F&A: What is the best advice you have been given by a fellow photographer?
JC: There are two pieces of advice that have really stuck with me, one from Steve Macleod at Metro. I was really worried and hung up about being quiet, not being the loudest, not shouting about my work.
It’s simple advice, but often those speaking the loudest don’t have the most to say. It just gave me confidence that I could be myself, make the work I want to and not change to fit into the industry.
Another piece of advice that has really stuck with me and has become a principle of mine isn’t from a photographer. I was working on my fishing project, North Sea Swells in Cumbria. I was in my foundation year travelling and working on my own, staying at a cheap guesthouse. There was a man who lived there, he had a wealth of knowledge about the world, he used to be a sailor. He said just always listen, everyone has a story and everyone is interesting which I think is so true and more important than any amount of technical skill is the ability to truly connect and listen.
F&A: What are your hopes for LensThinks future?
JC: I have some really great ideas for future events and have been in a few meetings with groups, galleries, people I really admire who are so supportive. I want to create an inclusive space for events to happen, where there is a element of support. Future events will be practical with business advice, creative with non-traditional exhibitions. Plus support for those in the industry with some mental health management for creatives. Each social will be slightly different. The Hull event is going to be a full day event.
I think there are many things that connect us, and are great for marketing but in a place like Yorkshire there are so many great artists working but it’s very disparate. People can’t often connect and don’t always manage to meet up. It’s a tough, competitive industry, were many people face challenges and don’t make a huge amount of money. Having a network of people to ask about advice to ask for advice, to talk out work, to talk about ideas, is vital. I think the market is becoming tougher and less and less diverse for me this is a real tragedy and Lensthink would like to encourage people from all backgrounds, that there is a place and space for them in the industry.