Need a bit of help to kickstart your motivation for the year ahead? 

This year, we bring you a blog post filled with advice and reflection from eight leading photographers. 

Aswell as one piece of advice for 2016, we asked each photographer to tell us what they felt was their 'defining moment' of last year, giving a unique insight into their photographic practice. 

​Read their answers below.

Layla Sailor

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

Definitely being shortlisted at Berlin Fashion Film Festival for Mystic Pizza and being up against a Dior film with Marion Cotillard in it. Just seeing people's reactions to it on the big screen was brilliant. Also working on my Sailor Advent, my yearly advent calendar, it’s my favourite project of the whole year!  

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

Keep going, keep learning. I tell myself that every year; I’m thinking of having it tattooed!  Being very creative and conceptual can lead to you getting less commercial work, especially in the north. Have integrity and believe in your work and don’t think too much about it!

 © Layla Sailor

Len Grant 

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

In 2015 I celebrated 25 years as a freelance photographer. 

Twenty-five years! I must be doing something right. But I still feel like an imposter, as if someone is about to rumble me; I still sleep badly before an important job; I still struggle with fill-in flash.

And I nearly didn’t celebrate because I like to look forward and not back, but instead I staged a month-long mini-retrospective on Twitter. Three photographs a day, following my photographic career to date. I decided it was healthy to have a review, to help see the road ahead more clearly.

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

I can’t stop at just one piece of advice. Here’s my top three. 1. Ask for work, don’t expect it to drop into your lap. 2. Diversify: offer more than the next person. 3. Read Ben Tallon’s Champagne and Wax Crayons, a new inspirational book for all aspiring creative professionals. 

 © Len Grant 

Lydia Goldblatt

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

2015 has, for me, been a time of steady development of new work, alongside some wonderful opportunities for exhibiting, teaching and commissions. As such, rather than a particular moment, I have many great memories from the year that are as much about the photography community as about the work itself. I was privileged to visit Busan in South Korea this year, to participate in the exhibition Two Moons at the GoEun Museum of Photography, and shortly afterwards I ran a series of photography workshops in Japan, for the Tokyo International Photography Festival. These were hugely enriching experiences, in which I learnt much about other photographers’ work, and photography’s ability to span different cultures. Personally, I would say the most satisfying development of this year has been to devote time and space to really make progress with my new work - very much helped by a studio residency I am currently on at the Florence Trust in London. So, not so much a defining moment, as a focussed development over many months!

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

Connected to my first answer, perhaps the hardest thing to achieve as a working artist and photographer is the balance that enables you to keep looking, to keep engaged in the art world around you and what is being made, but retreat far enough to make your own work, whilst also earning money! My advice would be to regularly reassess where you are in this balance, and to decide what your priorities are for the year ahead. For me, having an artist studio for the first time has made a huge difference - it gives me space to make, print, test and think, that is separate from the daily business of photography.

Wedding Ring, from the series Still Here © Lydia Goldblatt

Jona Frank

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015? 

The defining moment for me in 2015 was the publication of my third book, The Modern Kids. The series follows a group of young boxers from a club in Ellesmere Port. I first visited the club in 2010 and returned whenever I could over a three year period, so to see the work culminate in a new publication was thrilling. In addition, the new series lead to an introduction to the photographer Bruce Weber which lead to Bruce writing an essay for The Modern Kids. I have long admired Bruce’s work and having the opportunity to talk with him and have him make such a significant contribution to MY work was incredible. 

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

Buy a new notebook and a packet of Post-it Notes. 

Start 2016 by making a list of 10 things that interest you. Not just things that you might want to photograph, but things that interest you, things you wake up thinking about, things you are distracted by. Write this list in your notebook. Whenever you see an image that reminds you of something on your list cut it out (or print it) and tape it in your notebook. Write each item on your list on a separate post-it note. Put the post-its on your mirror, by your bed, somewhere you look everyday. What’s standing out on your list? What are you drawn to? What images are coming to mind? Create those images.

 © Jona Frank 

Jon Shard 

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

The defining moment in 2015 was photographing Lionel Messi in Barcelona for an advertising campaign. As a huge football fan it was a privilege to be working with one of the world's best footballers. I'm used to working under pressure, and this was no exception, with limited time to produce interesting and creative imagery. After a long pre-light day and numerous rehearsals we managed to get the perfect shot for the campaign.

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

My main piece of advice to any aspiring photographer is a simple one, and although it's a cliché it is one that I say to all of my assistants and that's to never give up. At the beginning of your career, you can send out hundreds of emails and calls to prospective clients that don't get a reply and many pitches for shoots that don't come off. It's easy to get disheartened when this happens, but if you're persistent and don't lose sight of why you wanted to be a photographer in the first place, then you have to remember that the next big job or breakthrough is only an email or phone call away.

 © Jon Shard 

Natasha Caruana 

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

It has been a very eventful year. 2015 has felt like a real pinnacle. A milestone. After exactly ten years since graduating from my Photography BA at the University of the Creative Arts, Farnham. The last ten years have been filled with a lot of hard work and creative passion.

I feel my defining moment of 2015 was a solo show at Paris Photo in the Grand Palais, which was the finale of the BMW Art and Culture Award at the musée Nicéphore Niépce. It was an amazing moment for me as it was the first time I had shown work at an art fair… there was a lot of buzz around the stand and I even had a balloon with my name on it!  But even though the work was being highlighted at the the world’s most celebrated art fair for works in the photographic medium, I really felt I was able to maintain the ethics and values of my project which felt like quite an achievement. At the opening a quarter of my subjects I’d photographed were present as were the staff from the musée Nicéphore Niépce and my production team. It was a real celebration for the relationships that I had forged over the last year. And as a result, when the fair closed in such difficult circumstances of the Paris attack it didn’t really matter about the balloon or the champagne. Because once the balloon is deflated it’s the relationships that remain.

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

One piece of advice would be to remind yourself everyday of the joy you feel the moment you release the shutter. As a photographer you can get really bogged down by all the invoicing, funding applications,  chasing clients, packing work, planning production … we all know that actually getting out and taking pictures is only 5 - 10% of the job.

So set a reminder on your phone to make sure you go and see photographic exhibitions, hit some private views to meet up with your community, and everyday keep making steps towards your personal projects however small. If you don’t start somewhere you get nowhere.

 © Natasha Caruana 

See more of Caruana’s work, click here, or follow her on TwitterInstagram  and Facebook

Pat Flynn 

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

My defining moment of 2015 was the opening of my solo exhibition Half-life of a Miracle at Manchester Art Gallery. The exhibition consists of new work as well as work from the past decade. It is the first time I’ve seen different bodies of my work hung together. It is hard to predict how new and older works will read together in a gallery space, and this show has afforded me a sense that my practice over the years has a real lineage.

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

One piece of advice I would give is to follow your own path. So many artists/photographers make work that is like other people's and while it might be rigorous and technically proficient, it’s often quite forgettable. I find more and more these days that I don’t look to photography for starting points but to painting and sculpture.

 © Pat Flynn

Yan Preston 

What would you say was your defining moment of 2015?

On the 15th May 2015, my exhibition Mother River opened at Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum. The opening ceremony was the defining moment for me this year. After 4 years making the work and 8 months intense preparation (I started working on the show one month after I had my baby daughter), it was a satisfying to see the images in their full splendour. Both of my parents were there too, which makes it even more special.

If you had to give one piece of advice to photographers in 2016, what would it be?

It's better to aim high with your work and to accept no compromise. But please make sure that you protect your own benefits and interests when working with other people. Otherwise we artists will stay at the bottom of the food chain. 

 © Yan Preston

Looking for more inspiration? Visit the advice section on our website for more photography-related hints and tips!

Redeye, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market Buildings, Thomas St, Manchester M4 1EU, UK
© 2010–2021 Redeye The Photography Network