An interview with photography graduate and curator Millie Battershill

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. 

From the series  Cotton Wool  by  Millie Battershill

From the series Cotton Wool by Millie Battershill

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. 

From the series  Cotton Wool  by  Millie Battershill

From the series Cotton Wool by Millie Battershill

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.

From the series  Cotton Wool  by  Millie Battershill

From the series Cotton Wool by Millie Battershill

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.

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Anne Erhard - An Artist Residency

London College of Communication graduate Anne Erhard was featured on Photograd last year and we recently caught up with her again. In a quick interview, Anne has told us about her residency which involved a six week stay at DEPO2015 in Pilsen, Czech Republic, and introduces us to her new series of work, An elderberry place.


From the series  An elderberry place

From the series An elderberry place

Who are you and where did you study? I’m Anne Erhard, a photographer and writer currently based in Berlin. I studied on the BA Photography at London College of Communication and graduated in 2016.

Tell us about your new series of work, how did the idea come to the surface? An elderberry place actually developed out of my graduation project From the trees we run between, which was based around various legends of the forest. For that series, I visited the Bohemian Forest at the border of Germany and the Czech Republic. After that first visit to the region, I wanted to know more about my family history there, which is the main focus of the new work. When I came upon an ancient and very direct connection between the two places in my research, An elderberry place essentially created itself:

More than 14 million years ago, a meteorite struck the earth in what is now Southern Germany, tearing open a crater whose remains are still visible today. In the moment the meteorite hit the ground, a unique mineral, Moldavite, was created out of the melting rock, thrown upwards and scattered in the South of the Czech Republic, across an area several hundred kilometres to the East of the impact site. My father’s father, who died when my father was a boy, came from Schönfelden (Osí) in the Czech border region of Bohemia, which the German population was forced to leave in 1946. My grandfather was subsequently resettled in a German village that happened to be located within the aforementioned meteorite’s crater, a coincidence that unknowingly bound him to the home he had left behind.

From the series  An elderberry place

From the series An elderberry place

We understand that you completed An elderberry place as part of an artist residency. Can you explain more? How did you secure your residency? Yes, doing a residency was one of my biggest goals for the year after my graduation. I wanted to do a program that would help me develop a project that was already in progress rather than beginning some completely new work. I applied for a few residencies in the Czech Republic before being accepted for a six-week stay at DEPO2015 in Pilsen. Writing several applications and having the project rejected along the way really helped me to refine my ideas as it forced me to repeatedly think about how to effectively communicate my plans for the project. My time in Pilsen was brilliant, I got to do, see and be involved so many different things. Everyone there was so welcoming and really went above and beyond to help me complete the project.

From the series  An elderberry place

From the series An elderberry place

Have you exhibited this work now it's complete? If so, where was it shown? At the end of my residency at DEPO2015 the venue hosted the Czech-German festival Treffpunkt, and I had a solo exhibition as part of this festival. Treffpunkt is a recent initiative supported by various European organisations and brings together cultural activities from both sides of the border. I made many of the prints for the display myself in the darkroom at DEPO2015, and the final exhibition also included objects that I had gathered from my family archive.

As An elderberry place is your first completed body of work since graduating, have you got any tips or advice you can share with new graduates? The biggest learning curve was making the project outside of the university network and facilities. My main point of advice would be to learn how to use whatever your new circumstances might be to your advantage. For me, this meant a shift away from making work by shooting every couple of months and bringing the project together piece by piece. Instead, I spent a year planning the photographs I wanted to make in advance and then shooting almost all of them in the space of a few weeks. Over the course of that year, I became much more experimental and let go of a lot of expectations I had had for myself, and I think in the end this worked out well for the final result. The most important thing for me was to embrace the fact that things will move at a different pace after you graduate and accept that there will be failures and rejections along the way. Throughout that time it helps so much to keep in touch with your course friends, as you are all in the same boat and most likely facing similar struggles.

From the series  An elderberry place

From the series An elderberry place

What does the future hold? I am just working on getting An elderberry place out into the world and figuring out plans of where to potentially exhibit it again this year. Beyond that I’m looking to publish a book of From the trees we run between this year and am involved in and applying to a few other exhibitions. I also have a new project idea that I am starting to plan and research, which follows on from the very last photograph I took for An elderberry place at a Czech photography museum.

Photograd Experience: Paris Wood

We think it's really important for graduates or students to share their experiences within the photographic industry. Not only does it allow those interested to share their achievements and experiences, but we hope for it to encourage others. We've caught up with current UCA student Paris Wood, who has a lot to say about what she's achieved over the years. We really think everybody can get something from what she's written!


I’m currently a third year photography student at UCA, Farnham in Surrey. My work mainly focuses on documentary style photography, and I’m really intrigued by social classes, people and geographical locations. Some of my latest projects have included a study of my family home with 10 people living under one roof, and my most latest project studied the area I’m currently living in during term time in Farnham.

The area is a massive change from where I live back home in Norfolk, but I love it and don’t want to leave! Farnham isn’t too far to travel to London, so I wanted to make use of this connection to gain experience in the city.

A recent series about family

A recent series about family

During our second year, one of our units, Professional Futures, encouraged us to go out and get relevant work experience. Me, still not having a clue what I wanted to do in life, took this opportunity to get a short, months worth internship at a photo syndication agency in London - Lickerish Ltd. I found this opportunity through the AOP’s jobs shop.

Having had NO previous experience, not even a part time job, I was literally thrown in the deep end and had to help and push myself to get anywhere. I was in contact with Arlene at Lickerish and had a casual interview not long after my initial email. Lickerish is based on Riding House Street, London, and a small, friendly office with roughly 6 people working each day.

During my internship I was shown how Lickerish works. Most of my days were spend key wording, on Adobe Bridge, fashion week photographs from their photographers to be uploaded to the website. I was surprised by the detail needed to be included in each image to be uploaded, but this key for detail was something I really enjoyed, despite most calling it a tedious job! I ran a few errands, and helped out with scanning magazines in which our photographers images were in.

A recent series about family

A recent series about family

I also helped out with a few photo searches which came in via email when clients needed a specific photo. Lickerish also gave me the chance to meet one of their photographers - Holly Mcglynn - and help out on a shoot with her. Despite not particularly loving the idea of assisting a shoot, Holly was lovely to work with and I was super thankful for the opportunity to experience assisting.

Due to costs, I travelled into London 4 days a week for just over a month and was paid half of my travel money back. This routine was just what I needed and was my first break into the experience I really needed to get any further with my search for what I wanted to do in life!

Leading on from this, I found another opportunity through Twitter to work with Empowering Futures. Laura contacted me by phone later that day explaining what exactly Empowering Futures does, and got me involved immediately! Empowering Futures ‘conects entrepreneurs and university students to collaborate on specific projects.’ I went into London for a chat with Laura and an entrepreneur she matched me up with. Unfortunately this meeting wasn't a success, and i just wasn't the right candidate, with the entrepreneur realising he maybe needed more than a university students help. Despite this, is was a good experience meeting new people, and I ended up working with Laura to create some Infographics for her company. I also attended a Branding Workshop with Laura which was incredibly useful and is something that is open to all university students, studying any subject.

Having at least some kind of experience on my back, I went on to volunteering in an art gallery, the New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, which I’m currently involved with, and a great insight into the gallery world. I’ve also got myself involved with an online magazine The Urban Watch and blogger Haylie Rubery from Frock Me Im Famous.

 
At the gallery

At the gallery

 

Both of these opportunities are great, each in their own way. Laura at The Urban Watch Magazine met me for a coffee in London and we discussed what we both wanted to achieve. I wanted experience of running a start up magazine, and Laura wanted help with social media and creation of a media kit for the site. Frock Me Im Famous’ Haylie took me our for lunch in London and said she wanted some social media, Pinterest ‘pinning’ help and typography/graphic overlays on her images to upload to the blog and use on Pinterest. Both these opportunities are on going and I complete remotely which keeps costs of travelling down.

For the time being, I shall continue with my current opportunities, and I'm still on the look out for other things I can get involved with. I’ve also just co-founded a new, online photography magazine - Untitled Collective which showcases the work of aspiring photographic artists and aims to connect, support and collaborate with other artists. Untitled Collective is always open to photographic or written submissions!

At the gallery

At the gallery

I said at one point I wanted to go on to compete an MA, but I just cant see this happening. At the minute, I just love meeting new people, getting involved with different projects and companies, and just want to get myself out there! I’ve loved my time studying photography at university, and it’s given me the confidence in the art side of things to go out and find what I want to do. When I’ve graduated, I hope to continue with the online photography magazine - Untitled Collective; get myself involved with more opportunities and internships, and hopefully soon, find what I really want to be doing!

My main advice would be to not worry too much about what you want to do in life. I’ve never had a clue what I wanted to do, and choosing photography as my BA degree was out of not knowing what else to do! My parents told me that I should take the opportunity to go to university for the experience, and I can say it has built me up as a person incredible amounts. I have no clue what I’d be doing with my life if I hadn't gone! During holiday breaks, take the opportunity to get in touch with people you know, or have industry contacts to get yourself relevant experience as it's so incredibly important these days. Even if it's something short and simple, to say you have pushed yourself to take on opportunities is something that will push you further and further!

In terms of things I find really useful - I subscribe to SO MANY email subscriptions, and not just related to photography! Any company you like, subscribe to them - you never know what opportunities may arise! I highly recommend Twitter, Diary Directory, The AOP and Fashion Workie for finding relatable opportunities.