In our series of interviews introducing the Selectors for the BA Phase of Graduate Photography Online 2018, we talk to Anna Dannemann, Curator at The Photographers' Gallery in London.
What does your core role at the gallery involve?
The Photographers' Gallery is a vibrant space for photographic presentations and discourse around the photographic medium. As a curator, I am part of the programming department that is responsible for all exhibitions and visual displays in the gallery. Since joining the gallery, I have curated several group and solo exhibitions, including: Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s and Food for Being looked at, Charlotte Dumas' Anima & The Widest Prairies (2015), Viviane Sassen's Analemma (2014) and the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2016, 2017, 2018) and the graduate programme FreshFaced+WideEyed.
How did you make your way into the career you're now in? Did you always want to work in a field that involved photography?
My interest in contemporary art is what led me to pursue this path. I have studied art history and comparative literature and have received my MA from the Humboldt University in Berlin. I worked in different arts organisations before TPG, and photography has been central to many of the most accomplished and varied art practices. Photography is such a multifaceted medium and I am hugely interested in the different ways it is used and altered - from social documentary to conceptual installations, digital media to fine art. Tracing these meandering paths through exhibitions and projects is really what keeps me captivated.
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?
An accomplished project can really be many things – it can be something that is visually mesmerising, conceptually provoking, emotional and intellectual, it really depends. Deciding the quality of a project is often a personal and intuitive process, but at the same time when artists use the medium in a meaningful way and can communicate something distinct, you know you have found something special.
As regards the photographer's statement, what are the most important things for you to know about the work? When it comes to showing their work outside of University, have you any tips on how graduates should prepare their work and the supporting material that accompanies it?
I would like to know about the artistic process, where did it start, what is the subject matter and what triggered the artist's interest. At the same time, it is important to trust in your photographs and not overburden them with meaning.
In your view, what are the kind of qualities that completing a degree course in photography should endow an individual with? Aside from specifically technical skills, what is the difference that having a demographic of emerging photography graduates makes in the world?
Photography courses can offer so much more than technical skills. Among the most important for me are an awareness and understanding of art history and theory, also the opportunities to meet other practitioners and discuss your work or even collaborate. There are amazing self-taught photographers, but I think that graduates often have a head start, as they know their peers and have a community around them.
What are the challenges you see facing graduates from photography degree courses as they make their way into the world at this point in time?
There are so many challenges facing emerging artists in any field; the competition for residencies or funding, the challenge of creating innovative projects, the distractions of everyday life and social media. At the same time, photography plays such an important role in all of our lives, so it is also an incredibly exciting time to take this practicing within this medium.