Marie-France Kittler, Curator
Firstsite Gallery Colchester
Introducing the Selectors for the BA Phase of Graduate Photography Online 2017: we talk to Marie-France Kittler, Curator at Firstsite Gallery Colchester.
Tell us about your job and about the work of Firstsite? What does your core role at the gallery involve?
Firstsite is a public art gallery in Colchester, that presents a changing programme of exhibitions by local, national and international artists. Firstsite's mission is to make art accessible and educational, by offering multiple routes of entry into artist's work through exhibitions, talks, community events, workshops, networking opportunities and creative participation. As curator, I am in charge of shaping and delivering the exhibitions. I am also in charge of contextualising artists' work within the wider remit and vision of the organisation.
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?
I studied Photography at BA and MA level at London College of Communication and Royal College of Art. At first, photography was a way to tell a story and investigate subject matter, but the more I explored the medium, the more it became a tool for studying visual language and understanding art theory. The progression I've made from photography to curating seems very natural to me. The tools that I use on a daily basis of research, interpretation and editing, are all skills garnered from studying photography.
How do you decide on what makes an interesting photograph or photographic project?
For the most part, photography uses a recognisable language of the everyday. What always draws me in, is seeing the everyday subverted somehow, sometimes in the subtlest or unconscious of 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?
I believe that with photography, presentation is key, and that can be hard to convey through a portfolio. Make sure you include the format you have chosen for your project in your supporting material. Whether you have chosen to present your work in book form, large glossy aluminum-mounted prints, on-screen or traditional glazed framing, this is an important part of your work - make sure it enhances it!
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?
In my experience, photographers are able to draw new perspectives from existing realities. They are also trained to scrutinise and derive meaning from the construction of images. Both of these qualities make for an innovative, analytical and politically-engaged demographic.
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?
The challenges are the same for all young graduates of the creative industries - there are more and more people making their way into the world with similar skills, but the demand for these skills is limited and the competition continues to be fierce. Without being too cynical, I think it's important to see the value in such a great degree without being wedded to the idea of becoming a photographer. My contemporaries have gone on to be creative in many different ways; from starting their own businesses, to teaching; from working in art organisations to forming art collectives; from becoming academics to moving into more scientific fields.
What advice would you have for someone interested in working in your area of photography?
For someone interested in focusing more on organising the work of others rather than their own, I would say: Take advantage of the amazing pool of contacts you have as a result of your degree. Use all the insight and criticality you have developed thinking about your own work, to create context and a platform for someone else. It can be extremely rewarding, especially when you help them to see their work in a new light.