Norwich University of the Arts photography graduate Millie Battershill recently got in touch to tell us about her route into curation. Millie has had the opportunity to curate one show so far and below she tells us more.
Who are you? What and where did you study? My name is Millie Battershill and I graduated in 2016 with a degree in photography from Norwich University of the Arts.
What’s your photographic work typically about? What themes do you like to explore? My work tends to be fairly abstract; I work with a macro lens the majority of the time if I’m shooting what I would call a ‘proper project’ – that’s one which has a more considered concept. I like to photograph textures, mostly from natural subjects that I find outside. Before this approach developed, I enjoyed photographing landscapes so it makes sense that I’m still interested in nature. The projects often have concepts that I would say are loosely based on time, existence, thoughts, emotions and possibly memory in some cases.
I also photograph on film, however these images make up projects that have less of a concept, and are more related to documenting. That being said, I think that my work has an overarching theme running through it, which is exploring life, the notion of living and existing.
You’ve been gaining experience of curating exhibitions. Tell us how you’ve gone about this? I always thought that if I did any kind of further education after my degree, I would probably study curating. This is what I ended up doing. Mostly, I’ve been learning how things are done rather than actually doing them, but I’m now working on a show with an artist, Charlotte Powell, which will go on show in May.
What do you enjoy most about the curating process? Curating a show involves a lot of admin work for the curator. This is something that sounds boring but I enjoy making contact with various people and pulling together resources to create something. I also like the process of learning about the artist’s work and discussing how it can best be displayed.
What initially encouraged you, after studying photography, to learn how to curate? If I’m honest I think I got what I needed from my photography degree. That’s not to say that no one would benefit from studying it more, or that I will never benefit from it, it’s that at the current time I didn’t feel I could gain more from studying it further. I still love to take photographs and I’m currently working on my own projects, I’ve simply found a way into the art industry through a different route. Also, it means that when I see photographs that have shot work that I wish I’d shot, I can work with them, if they need a curator that is.
Have you got nay tips, advice or resources to share with new graduates? The first thing I would say is that I still have no idea how I passed my degree, it’s not that I think I’m bad at photography, it’s that the grading matrix used to mark our work is definitely not written for us. Therefore, it’s really difficult to fully understand how exactly you can hit all of the right things you need to get a decent grade. So bare that in mind.
My advice to graduates would be things that I didn’t realise upon leaving university. Firstly, if you set yourself a goal to have a specific type of job or to live in a specific place within a year or any amount of time, don’t be disappointed if that doesn’t happen. This doesn’t mean don’t aim for things, just remember there’s no time limit apart from the ones you set yourself. Success really doesn’t happen overnight.
Secondly, do what you love, not what you think someone else will love. People can tell if there’s no passion in your work.
And my last piece of advice would be this: don’t stop making things.
What are your aspirations as a curator? I’d love to curate an exhibition which lasts a few weeks and involves audience engagement or includes events of some kind, that’s the aim but I’m mostly just happy working on exhibitions and learning more about my individual process. I’m working on my first curatorial show currently, so my main aim at the moment is ensuring that is a successful as it can be.