The Association of Photographers (AOP) recently held the annual AOP Award ceremony. The association representing commercial photographers, agents and assistants worldwide is based in London and helps its members with business and legal advice, workshops and talks, a member forum and the annual Awards.
We spoke with AOP’s executive director, Seamus McGibbon about the 2017 Awards, the future of photography, establishing professional connections in the photographic industry and more.
Production Paradise: Congratulations on a successful awards night! You had a fabulous selection of imagery. What do you think separates a common image from an award-winning one?
Seamus McGibbon: All our finalists and their work are exceptional, getting selected is a huge accolade. Being chosen as overall Best in Category sets your work apart. It can be because the image stands out, creates an intriguing narrative, provokes, challenges or simply resonates with the curator. It is a given that the work on display with be exceptionally brilliant as each of our members are masters of technique, but we always acknowledge that the concept behind the image is just as, if not more, important.
Production Paradise: Many people are concerned about how Brexit will affect the UK photo industry and advertising as a whole. Any words of wisdom for them?
Seamus McGibbon: Be ready and take it in your stride, we should plan for the worst but hope for the best outcome possible in the circumstances. We have no idea what is ahead of us, nor, it seems, does our government. The AOP is working with other photographic and arts bodies to ensure that photographers’ voices are heard where and when they need to be. Whatever the outcome, you can rest assured that the AOP will be there to provide advice, guidance and support for our members and photographers in general.
Production Paradise: How do you see the rise of Instagram-made photographers affecting the professional photographers in the UK?
Seamus McGibbon: There are lots of technical differences not to mention the possible legal implications of using work of this type. Our members will always be at the very top, both technically and creatively, and although it’s hugely important, Instagram-led photography embraces a different audience. There will always be a place for high quality image-making that communicates the culture of a brand and those who engage with them. I think the two will happily sit side-by-side.
Production Paradise: The internet also gives unprecedented access to talent across the globe. How do you think photographers can take best advantage of that?
Seamus McGibbon: Photographers’ marketing strategies should target a global audience. Invest time to conduct online research into new clients and markets worldwide and make sure you follow these leads in the same way as those closer to home. Ensure your social media networks are global and include your target clients and engage with them regularly. When you shoot in far-flung or exotic places, make sure you share evidence of that work (assuming you have the rights and permission to, of course) and mention it on your social media platforms – it’ll serve as a reminder that you do work globally, like our members. Use your networks to facilitate information-sharing to make life easier. Our members use our online forums to share up-to-date, grassroots information regarding visas, permits, trouble-spots, fixers and the minutiae of shooting all over the world. This information is not available anywhere else and is invaluable to them.
Production Paradise: When it comes to promoting work how important do you think an online presence/online marketing is versus sending mailers/sending out portfolio books through the post?
Seamus McGibbon: I think both are equally important, as is being able to get on with lots of different types of people. You need to get your online presence right and print seems to be enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in certain areas. We provide our AOP members with profile pages and we can advise them on how best to make the most of social media and the internet. We also hold lots of events where photographers can meet commissioners and well as agents. The AOP Awards is a great example of this. It’s important to strike up the right relationship with those in the industry be it in person or through social media.
Production Paradise: Since you first formed in 1968 the world of photography has changed dramatically. Where do you see photography heading from here?
Seamus McGibbon: The great thing about photography is that it has become available to more and more people – the so-called ‘democratisation’ of photography – and it’s a great way to tell the world about you and the world you live in. This will continue – how people will access it may change but the power of the image will never go away. I attended an exhibition earlier this year where someone voiced the opinion to me that the difference that elevates an AOP member’s work above the norm, was that although anyone can have a great idea, our members execute their ideas with such skill and eloquence. There will always be a need for that level of artistry, as there will always be a need for great artists in any medium. Just because I can sing doesn’t make me a great singer. If I train and have the talent, then perhaps I might. To be an AOP Accredited Photographer is to be the best.
We thank Seamus for taking time to share his thoughts with us. You can see the AOP Awards 2017 finalists’ work featured on Production Paradise London directory for photography.