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 Keith Cullen, Founder of Setanta Books and Selector for the BA phase of Graduate Photography Online 2022.

Keith Cullen

Keith Cullen 

Tell us about Setanta Books and more specifically your day to day role as a publisher?

We work both as a publisher and a photo bookseller. the two sides hopefully balance each other out. Listing books and promoting them on social media along with packing orders and getting them out is a big part of the day to day of things. it might seem mundane but packing and shipping books well is a huge part of things. People who buy photobooks are very particular, if a book gets damaged thats on our head.

How did you make your way into the area of work you're now in? Did you always want to work in a field that involved photography?

I had my own record label for around 20 years (same name) I was always into photography because I was quite involved with the cover artwork, when the music industry went through difficult times, with downloads and streaming, it was time for me to get out and do something else. I started selling fiction books online and slowly moved into buying and selling photobooks, then into publishing them. Publishing books is not dissimilar to releasing records by up and coming musicians.

How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?

Narrative is important obviously and the subject of the images needs to be unique or with a different angle. A big part of it is about the photographer having traction on social media and having an engaged audience. The work can be great but its very hard selling photography books so we need to work with people who are good at promoting their work themselves, keeping an eye out for opportunities, entering photo competitions and getting their work in front of the right people.

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?

As above, strong narrative is important to be able to draw people in to the photographer and their world (or the subject they are photographing). Engaging people is important.

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?

Personability is a big factor, being able to engage with people and to get your message across. I think students also need to have one eye on what works in the course they are doing but also be aware of what is going on online platforms.

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?

Again, with social media, things can be overwhelming, but these platforms have made things much more democratic. We work with photographers who are making a very good living out of their work but they are probably not known by any of the fine art photography establishment. Online bloggers can help sell a lot more books than an article in a national newspaper these days.

What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your particular area of photography?

Keep going, if your work is good and you are consistent, things will go your way in time.