Due to the pandemic, many photographers have had to change the way in which they work in order to sustain a living. In this series of blog posts by Redeye's Rosie Dale, we celebrate the adaptability and resiliance of the photographic community during this past year, and highlight some of those that have sucessfully altered their business models, or tried something new, to continue working during what is now the new normal of the photography industry.
Elaine Duigenan is a photographic artist based in London whose work is represented by Klompching Gallery in New York. She has exhibited internationally and has work in collections which include the V&A and The Museum of Fine Art in Houston.
Elaine works as a freelance artist, often undertaking artist residencies. When everything came to a halt during lockdown she was able to utilise Arts Council funding and the Artist Support Pledge to continue making work:
As an artist, I have always resisted taking on teaching or other time-consuming work so as not to compromise my studio time. That said, even with a degree of success in the art world, most artists need to be proficient in a number of areas in order to survive and I am no different.
I do feel like I live a little hand to mouth but somehow it always works out. This is only because of hard work, persistence and determination. In recent years I have supplemented my income from art with freelance work in two areas. I am what’s called a locum for a charity called New Horizon (a drop-in centre for vulnerable and homeless young people) and I also do the occasional producing/directing for video shoots with a great little company called Rocking Horse. With the lockdown, all this went out the window but there were some surprising upshots. One was Artist Support Pledge and the other was Arts Council Funding.
I had given little attention to funding over the years as could never bear the application process. However in the past year I’ve found this not to be the case. I know that ACE simplified their application processes but there were still good questions to be answered. The first funding I applied for was emergency funding which was aimed at shoring up one’s practice. It was worth £2000 and I asked for practical things that would really help me advance my practice such as a much larger monitor screen and an A3 scanner. I had been ‘making do’ for years and the upscaling this allowed was liberating.
During lockdown I was also on an artist residency at Keats House, Hampstead, which has been a challenge, but I’m pleased to say that the results are now on show and open to the public again. However halfway through I was informed that there was not enough money for me to continue. I forced myself to try and rescue it by applying for an ACE Projects Grant, which happily I got. When I got it, I felt really supported and encouraged. The one important thing that I had not really understood before, was that as painful as filling in the forms is, the key thing is preparing well. By that I mean, asking yourself serious questions about why you need funding and how it might actually help you step forward. If you address the questions really honestly, sometimes the answer is surprising and may be something as basic as a larger screen!
Most of us know about Artist Support Pledge (@artistsupportpledge) by now and I must admit that I was slow to the party! I have the utmost respect for Matthew Burrows (@matthewburrowsstudio) who started it, and I think that the art world is still learning and changing as a result of it. I chose to offer some work that I loved and that would work at a small size and edition. It was a success and I am planning to do it again.
Currently I am developing a new Instagram account called @phloratanical for the express purpose of selling prints via the Artist Support Pledge and perhaps, at a later stage, via an online gallery. I bought a wonderful piece of work by Daniel Harvey Regan before I sold anything via ASP and it was an enjoyable experience. Artists supporting and talking to each other has a lot of ‘feel good’ attached.
I am especially interested in encouraging other photographers/artists and am currently taking bookings for one to one mentoring. I have experience over many years having started out as a photojournalist and then building a fine art career from the late 90s to now. I can advise on all aspects of your photographic career whether it is support on a particular project or just getting started, approaching galleries etc. Feel free to email to begin a conversation; I’d love to hear from you; or DM via Instagram.
Elaine has used lockdown as a time of intense work and focus. Her art installation at Keats House is currently on display and you can book here if you would like to see it.
Elaine’s advice: Everyone is struggling at the moment so it is a case of being thoughtful, reflective and trying new ideas. If you have time on your hands then it’s maybe time to get to grips with your social media. Does your website need updating? (mine does!) Do you need to find some mentoring? Can you exchange some of your skills with another person (e.g. maybe you’re good on social media and they’re good at making cyanotypes!). The key thing is to be active and communicate.
I would recommend taking a look at @freelancehollie as she has a range of excellent workshops and materials that are easily accessible.
See more of Elaine's work on her website and social media and keep an eye out for upcoming print sales:
Print sales: @phloratanical