Graduate Blog - Nic Rue

Huge congratulations to all you new photography graduates!
I hope that you are hugely proud of what you have worked so hard to achieve, and I’ll bet that you are also looking forwards to your freedom. I’m a recent(ish) graduate myself so I understand that the excitement of finishing up and entering the world can also be a little tinged with doubt about what lies ahead. So I have been speaking to some recent, and not so recent, photography graduates to try and gather together some of the great advice that they have been given and have to offer from their own experience. Hopefully you will find it useful!

Find your way.

You have just spent four years learning how to succeed in an academic environment, working in the world is different! You are suddenly working without the structure of set projects, deadlines and grades. You no longer have grades measuring your success or failure or externally set projects and deadlines to meet. It can be difficult to make the transition to your own practice.

This is a time for you to really think about what motivates you, how you work best, and what you need to do in order to balance money and your own practice. If you want to balance commercial photography with your own work, do it! If you need to protect your practice and work a different kind of job while making photographic work, then do that! The ‘right way’ is the way that works for you, now. This might not be anyone else’s way, and it might not be your way forever.

‘Leap into the Void’ by Yves Klein (Harry Shunk and Janos Kender), 1960Graduating can feel quite like this: ‘Leap into the Void’ by Yves Klein (Harry Shunk and Janos Kender), 1960

Keep (or create) a peer group.

Having regular contact with people who are facing the same struggles as you are can be immensely reassuring. It also opens up the chance for collaborative working and peer review which can be so valuable. As I talked about above, suddenly making your own work free from briefs and critiques can be a relief but it can also be really scary. You have to come face to face with your own motivations for making work and your own ability to judge the quality of what you produce. Having people around you who you can ask for advice and feedback can be a great motivator.

Figure out where you fit.

Then ignore it. 

Figuring out where your practice fits within the wider world of photography can be a great way of deciding who to target with your portfolio, and which publications and awards to submit to. At the same time, it can be when the boundaries between photographic practices are pushed that really interesting projects and collaborations can occur. 

Embrace opportunities.

Don’t be too frightened about whether it’s the ‘right thing’ or ‘good for your career’. If you are offered, or find, an opportunity with a very clear benefit to you, embrace it. 

Keep making work.

And if you don’t…

Don’t dismiss photography.

Some of you may find yourselves drifting away from photography. Having a break doesn’t mean that your practice is over. Maybe you will come back to it, or maybe you will use the skills that you learnt in order to do something else equally fulfilling. Don’t think that just because you have had a break you will have forgotten everything. If the desire strikes you then pick up a camera (any camera, the camera in your phone is also a camera). 

Nic Rue - Resurrection of the dead

From ‘Resurrection of the dead’ made after I graduated and 
submitted to the 
Jill Todd Photographic Award last year.

Be generous with your support.

While it can sometimes feel like there is only one opportunity out there and if you’re not part of it, you’ve missed your chance, I don’t believe that life works like that. It’s great to be driven and have a healthy grip on your competitive streak, but remember that often success drives wider success. So someone from your course, your town, or in your network, doing well, will benefit everyone around them. That’s the way that courses, areas, groups of people get a reputation for being excellent practitioners and a reputation like that will generate more opportunities for everyone around them. So be generous with your support and promotion of the people around you, it will benefit them, and it will benefit you too.

Believe in yourself.

You got this.

Nic Rue - Project Assistant
BA(Hons) Photography, Edinburgh Napier University, 2015.