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 Louis Chapple, Founder of Studio Chapple and Selector for the BA phase of Graduate Photography Online 2022.
Tell us about your work at Studio Chapple? What does your core role involve?
I decided to set up Studio Chapple in 2019 when I was studying at Goldsmiths, primarily as a way to highlight the work of many promising artists I knew there, but also to make collecting art more accessible to young and first time buyers. At the time I was working in blue-chip galleries and art fairs, and quickly became disillusioned with the sterile, hierarchical elitism that was ever-present in galleries’ rosters, prices and collector base. This system is damaging and highly inaccessible for both young artists and collectors. Studio Chapple was born as a reaction to this, where I felt it was essential to foster meaningful relationships with both artists and collectors, and produce exhibitions that focused more on the curatorial than commercial.
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?
When I started university I actually wanted to be a musician, and hadn’t thought about working in the art world at all. I had always been very interested in contemporary art, and as I furthered my research in various genres of music, the crossover between the sonic and the aesthetic became increasingly present. The relationship between music and photography has been intrinsic for many years, from the documentation of musicians and gigs, to the design of album covers. I try to include elements of sonic production in any exhibition I curate. For Studio Chapple’s upcoming solo show with photographer Tayo Adekunle, a spoken sound piece will connect a myriad of narratives within the works to one central theme.
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?
I think photography has the power to be the most emotive medium - as essentially it can be the most relatable to a wide audience. I think an honesty in what is being captured - and by that I mean being true to your own practice and ideas - is very important. I also like to look beyond the immediate aesthetic quality of a photograph as there is limitless scope for narrative; I think when a story or concept is conveyed in a simple, yet powerful manner, this can be very impactful. Of course, I am always looking for something I have not seen before, whether that be technically, conceptually or visually.
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 think it’s important to show the motivations behind making the work, and its experiential relationship to yourself (however, I am aware this is not always applicable!) Use your genuine voice, and don’t feel the need to pad out a statement with art world jargon to make it sound more impressive - I suppose this relates to my previous point about an honesty within your practice, and having faith in your own ideas. It may be an obvious point, but keep everything concise and not too long! The people you want to notice your statements often are reading through many, so you want it to be clear and engaging from the offset.
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?
Learning how to take both criticism and inspiration from the people around you. Discussing theories, histories and your own practice with other creatives will enhance and diversify the scope of the making process. Learning to network. Whether we like it or not, connections and networking are vital in the art world, and hopefully the spirit of connecting with groups of like-minded people at university can be carried through into professional life.
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?
Firstly, time and money. Trying to keep up with your practice whilst working full time jobs for many sadly becomes an impossibility. In the current world we live in, almost anyone with a social media account can claim to be a photographer, with quick filters and editing apps accessible to all. This means that at times, it can be harder to stand out as a fine art or professional photographer. The other key challenge is the lack of information given at art schools about managing the business and practical side of your life as an artist. Graduates are projected into a world that is already difficult to break into, often without knowing how to respond to requests from galleries and curators, price works, or edition their work.
What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your particular area of photography?
I don’t particularly work within a specific area of photography, or any medium for that matter, so I will keep it quite broad. I suppose what I look for in a photographer’s practice is a coherence in the relationship between concept and visual style - so have a strong sense of identity within your work that can help connect even the most disparate of ideas and techniques.