Each year as part of Graduate Photography Online we ask a number of professionals from the world of photography to review all the work submitted and choose their favourites. We chat to Ciara Moloney, Curator for the PS² Freelands Artist Programme and Selector for the BA phase of Graduate Photography Online 2021.
Tell us about your job? What does your core role as a curator involve?
As a curator I work with contemporary artists to create exhibitions, often of new work, usually at institutions but sometimes in public spaces. My role is to mediate between artists and audiences, ensuring that the artist's vision is realised in the best possible way - on time and in budget! At the moment, I am working as the PS² Freelands Artist Programme Curator, for which I support a small group of artists with their creative and professional development.
How did you make your way into the career you're now in? Did you always want to work in a field that involved visual art?
I studied History of Art and Architecture at Trinity College in Dublin, which gave me a thorough grounding in art before the 1960s. It was when I began working in galleries in Dublin and London that I became fascinated by the whole world of contemporary art and the excitement of working with living artists.
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?
As a contemporary art curator, I don't restrict myself to any particular medium. I often work with artists who use a range of methods to realise their ideas - it's the concept that comes first. I am drawn to work that explores questions of race, gender, identity and class, especially if it helps us consider these profound matters in funny, beautiful, surprising or delightful ways.
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?
It's important to convey your positioning as an artist through the statement. For instance, do you aim to create work that is political, or personal? I want to know what media you work in and the kinds of subjects you're interested in pursuing. In terms of promoting your work, I recommend a very simple streamlined website where works can be viewed in date order. I prefer the homepage to feature a single striking image - something that tempts me to explore further. Always make sure you have an updated CV, a simple bio and provide your contact details.
In your view, aside from specifically technical skills, what are the kind of qualities that completing a degree course in photography should endow an individual with?
Ideally graduates will come away with a thorough grounding in critical theory, with a good understanding of contemporary practice - so you understand where your work fits (or does not fit) with your forebears. Going to college provides you with a peer group, which can provide important support in the years after graduating.
What are the particular challenges you see facing graduates from photography degree courses as they make their way into the world at this particular point in time?
Obviously this is a challenging time for everyone, but I think it's particularly difficult for new graduates as ordinarily this is the time to travel, to network and make connections as you look to build your career. It's increasingly important, therefore, to use the online resources available to you, whether that means attending Zoom webinars or curating your Instagram feed, to remain connected to other practitioners and to encourage you to continue making work.
What advice would you have for someone interested in working as a curator in the visual arts sector?
Curating your own independent projects is the best way to get going. This could happen in a low budget, small scale kind of way - not necessarily a full exhibition, but even a temporary installation or an ephemeral public art project - the possibilities are endless. Anything that gives you an excuse to visit artists' studios and begin collaborating, and finding ways to make art happen, is a great place to start.