On Being Pretentious

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A few weeks ago I went to an event from a well-known organisation in the fashion industry. As I was walking into the auditorium where the event was taking place, the people before me in the queue started saying really loudly that they wouldn't seat anywhere else than on the first row because they must have had reserved seats for sure. I immediately thought to myself "how pretentious" and went to sit in the last row of the venue, as far away from them as possible. While observing their behaviour from the un-cool people's row, I couldn't help but wonder if they knew what being pretentious meant? Certainly, if they did, they wouldn't be behaving like that in the first place.

Being pretentious means to attempt to impress others by trying to show that one is more important or has more merit than one actually has. Basically, pretending to be something that you are not. So, if we all knew the meaning of the word, and we all knew that others know that when we are behaving like that it is because we are just trying really hard to look like something that we are not, then nobody would be pretentious.

Still, it is one of those behaviours that one witnesses regularly, not only in this industry but in society in general. Frankly, it looks exhausting. Living a life trying to always impress others so that you can feel good about yourself must take a lot of energy. An energy that could be used for being productive or to do some good, something that is really needed these days.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Fabiola Bastianelli.

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How To Survive A Portfolio Review

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Over the last four years, I have been shooting non-stop in order to learn the technicalities of my craft, to train my eye and my creativity, to create work for clients or for my personal projects, and to update my portfolio. All along, without even realizing it, everything that I was doing was bringing me to this past weekend when, for the first time in my photography career, I showed my portfolio to some of the major publications in the UK during PhotoMeet. It was intimidating, it felt like an emotional rollercoaster, but it was one of the most rewarding things that I have done since becoming a photographer.

Having your work reviewed is no easy feat. It doesn't matter if you are showing it to family, friends, peers or potential clients. You feel vulnerable, exposed, judged, and your self-confidence and the confidence in your own work is put to the test.

Imagine what it felt like when I attended PhotoMeet and walked into a room full of reviewers knowing that, for the following two days, eight of them would get to give me their feedback. It was like speed-dating for photographers. I felt like I was having eight job interviews one after the other with almost no time to breath and decompress. But I survived, and I owe it to how well I prepared for that weekend, not only mentally, but also by seeking advice and doing a lot of research.

Here is a list of the things that I did to prepare for my portfolio reviews:

Before the reviews

  • I made sure my portfolios were ready to be shown. You should always show the very best of your work, even if that means that you are only able to show 10 images. Everyone I asked and everywhere I researched suggested in between 25 to 30 images but, if you don't have that many, only show the very best of what you have. Also, most of the times we are our worst critics, and we tend to select images that we are attached to rather than the very best ones. If you can afford it, hire a photography consultant to do the selection for you. If you can't, ask peers, friends or even relatives to help you select them.

  • I prepared different portfolios tailored for different types of publications. If you are a food and travel photographer but you also shoot fitness, you don't want to show your fitness work to a travel industry publication. You should have two separate portfolios for this. In my case, I prepared three: one for fashion, one for portraiture and one for my personal projects, which fall more on the documentary side.

  • I updated my website, my social media and my print portfolio. Once you have the selection of the very best of your images, update all your communication channels. You want to show a coherent image of your brand.

  • I updated my promo material. After updating my portfolio and my communication channels, I printed new promos using the new images that I was going to show the reviewers. After each review, you want to leave something behind so they can remember you and hopefully visit your website and/or social media when they are back in the office.

  • I researched each and every one of the reviewers that I was going to see. Find out what their role is, what they look like so that you don't confuse them with someone else, what sort of photography they like (usually looking at the latest issues of their publication is enough) and what was published in their latest issue (good conversation starter and shows that you did your research).

  • I prepared a set of questions to ask them. Reviews are short, and in events like this one, they tend to last 20 minutes maximum. So you have to use this time wisely. Let them do the talk and ask you questions, but also have a clear goal of what you want to get out of the review so that they can give you good advice. In my case, I wanted to know if my portfolio was ready to be commissioned for editorial work (both in fashion and in portraiture) and what type of photography were their respective publications looking for.

During the reviews

  • I arrived on time. This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised.

  • I was courteous and friendly. Always be polite, hopefully not only with them but with everyone you meet.

  • I respected the time allocated for my review. Time flies and twenty minutes can feel like ten seconds. When your time is up, leave. It's disrespectful to them to take more time than they have given you, but also to the person coming after you because you are stealing minutes from their allocated time.

  • I established what I wanted from the review from the beginning. The reviewer needs to know what is it that you want to get out of the review so that they can give you productive feedback. Have a clear goal and a clear vision of where you want to be as a photographer.

  • I let them do the talking. Let the photos speak for themselves and wait for the reviewer to ask you questions before you speak. Reviewers love photography, you should let them enjoy that.

  • I was openminded when I heard the feedback. You may or may not like the feedback that you are getting, but you should keep an open mind and accept the feedback gratefully. They are the experts on their publications and the type of photography that they are looking for, and you are there to grow as a photographer and to learn what you have to do to be hired by them. Some of the feedback might be contradictory, but that is only because everyone looks for something different and what works for one publication doesn't work for another. Don't react negatively if you don't like what you hear. If you want to make it as a photographer, you have to grow a thicker skin and be ready to take negative feedback and rejection. It's part of being a creative.

  • I took notes. Write down everything that they tell you. Even if it sounds silly or redundant. When you get home, leave the notebook aside for a day or two and then go back to it and read it calmly. Take the advice that you consider objective and that you think it's helpful. In the end, you decide what to do with the information that you are given.

  • I was thankful when the review finished. When your time is up, thank them for their time and for all the feedback. And don't forget to leave a promo or a business card behind.

After the reviews

  • I sent every reviewer a thank you note. Use the communication channel that they have told you works best for them.

  • I put into practice everything that they advised me to do. This is the least you can do to make the experience worthwhile.

Will I do it again? Absolutely! The feedback that I got was priceless, even though next time I will make sure to choose less and more targeted reviewers. Overall, it was an intense experience and one of the hardest things that I've done. But, like they say, comfort is the enemy of progress, and if I want to achieve the goals that I have set for myself I must strive to live outside of my comfort zone.

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The Discounted Life

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I don't like to haggle. I never have. If I see a product or service for a price that I can't afford, I just don't buy it. To give you an idea of my way of thinking: I once went to the Grand Bazaar in Istambul and I didn't buy anything because all of the vendors expected me to haggle! I guess that I find it disrespectful to ask for a discount. That's why I can't believe how often I am asked to give one myself.

I don't entirely blame the consumer. It's just this discount culture that we live in. What started with an occasional discount, or the desirable 2x1, or the unmissable end of season sale, has evolved into a constant price cut that almost makes Black Friday last from January 1st to New Year's Eve.

We are so used to having prices lowered and to having special sales that we hardly buy at regular prices anymore. So, in order for retailers to be able to sell during the non-sale seasons, they have created a constant sales calendar that has gone out of control.

Don't get me wrong, if I find a bargain I take advantage of it. But I don't expect everything that I pay for to be discounted. Something is not right when you see discounted prices at a store all year long. And as a business, if your prices are discounted all the time, then the discounted price is the new regular price. If we continue like this, there will come a day when stores will have to give customers their products for free because otherwise, nobody will buy them.

As photographers, I don't think that's the type of business that we want to be, nor the type of clients that we are after. And as a client, I like to think that you hire us because you like our photography, or because you like our passion and enjoy working with us, or because our style matches your brief and we are the best for the job that you are quoting. But, not because we are cheap. I don't think that would do any good for your project, for the industry or for our respective brands. I don't know any photographer yet who prides themselves on being the cheapest.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Ferran Vergés.

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Thank You For Coming To Photo Scratch

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Thanks to everyone who came down to Photo Scratch last Monday! I had an amazing time, it was a brilliant opportunity to see familiar faces but also to get to know some really interesting people and, more importantly, to have the chance to appreciate great photography work. On top of that, the feedback that I received from the lovely people who stopped by my corner was invaluable. I am very grateful to Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal for letting me be part of this event and, above all, thankful to everyone who shared their opinion in regards to my project with me. Enjoy the photos of the night!

Photo Scratch is an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

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Founders Hanna-Katrina and Phil host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

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To find out more about Photo Scratch visit photoscratch.org

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I'm Taking Part In Photo Scratch

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On the 14th of May, 2018, I will be taking part in Photo Scratch, an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The event will take place at Hotel Elephant (Spare Street, London SE17 3EP) in Elephant and Castle. It's free, but you must book your tickets in advance to guarantee entry.

Founders Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

I will be presenting all the portraits that I have taken thus far of my personal project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress". I hope to see you there!

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Exhibition at One Canada Square

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From the 16th of April to the 1st of June, the AOP (Association of Photographers) will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibition called "AOP50: Images That Defined The Age" at the lobby of One Canada Square (Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB). Alongside these memorable 50 images, a digital exhibition of work by current AOP Accredited Photographers will be shown on a screen, including the image "The Anglomaniac" from my Brexiters project.

AOP50 is a retrospective which includes images by some of the world’s most well-known and respected photographers from the past 50 years. Curated by Zelda Cheatle, the collection of images celebrates 50 years of the AOP with photographs that illustrate the impact, diversity and quality of work by AOP members since 1968. As the AOP's Executive Director, Seamus McGibbon, explains, "many of the images have defined a generation, and helped to shape public opinion and to create change."

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Last night during the opening reception, while I looked around at the fantastic work on display I couldn't help but feel proud of belonging to a group of professionals that sets the bar really high and makes me want to improve myself every day.

Come celebrate this important milestone of the AOP with this free public exhibition, open daily from 7 am to 8 pm.

Photo of me by Andrezj Gruszka.

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Online Portfolio Updated

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These past few weeks I have been working hard updating my website with the help of a Photo Editor and Photography Consultant called Raffaela Lepanto. Raffaela and I gathered all the images that I have shot over the course of my career and put together an online portfolio that presents a more accurate version of who I am as a photographer. Along the way, it also made me realise that the quality of my work was better than I gave it credit for. What do you reckon?

It wasn't an easy task. We had to come up with a portfolio that was strong and coherent but that would also balance all the different types of photography that I shoot. Our main goal was to make the website appealing to those who are looking for my fashion work but also to those who want to see what I can offer as a portraiture photographer.

Raffaela helped me unify the Beauty & Fashion portfolios with the Portraits one, finding a consistent style all through. Also, she managed to build a Homepage Portfolio which could be appealing to Editorial and Commercial clients at once but also suitable and interesting for the general public. In the process, some of my favourite images were left out. But we had to sacrifice the most obvious commercial shots in order to give a contemporary edge to the website.

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I am really happy with the result and I think that we nailed it! It was a really difficult process because as photographers we are emotionally connected to our work. Having someone else take control over our work and tell us what we should and what we shouldn't present in our portfolios is probably one of the hardest things an artist can go through. But, in the end, it has been a relief. Just having the weight lifted off my shoulders of having to decide what to display in my portfolio has made the whole experience completely worth it.

Please browse through my website and leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!

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Exhibition at Four Corners

Catalonia: A Work In Progress

From the 18th to the 28th of April, my portraiture project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress" will be part of the collective exhibition Salon 18, organized by the London Creative Network (LCN) at Four Corners Gallery (121 Roman Road, London E2 0QN). “Catalonia: A Work In Progress” is a personal project where I explore the spectrum of opinions that people living in Catalonia have in regards to the Independence from Spain.

At first sight, it might seem like there are only two possible positions: in favour of the independence of Catalonia or in favour of the permanency in Spain. But the reality is more complex than that; there is a diverse set of opinions from the people caught in the middle.

Some people definitely want out, while others feel very much part of Spain. But, not everyone who wants to leave wants an Independence per se and would opt for just more autonomy for the region. Meanwhile, not everyone who wants to remain in Spain feels Spanish or agrees with the policies of the Spanish government.

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Whatever the outcome of the Catalan conflict is, the government of Catalonia or the government of Spain will have to guarantee that all the people living in Catalonia can live in harmony disregarding their political views.

This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries, but the rest of the world found out about it after the events of October 1st, 2017, when the pro-Independence parties staged a referendum that the Spanish government considered illegal.

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Let The Creative Juices Flow

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Over the last month and a half, I have been attending a set of creative writing workshops organized by the guys at the Centre for Solo Performance in order to improve my writing and develop my storytelling skills. As a photographer and a visual artist, storytelling is at the forefront of my craft and these workshops are not only helping me with my image-led narratives, but they are also helping me to write a better blog. Joan Miró said in I Work Like a Gardener: "An artwork must be fertile. It must give birth to a world." Hopefully, from now on, I will be creating more interesting worlds.

This is the first time in my life that I take part in creative writing workshops, but it will definitely not be the last. I guess that I just didn't see any use for them in my previous industry, or I didn't fully understand how they could have an effect in my life. Learning how to structure stories or how to move past the blank page syndrome comes very handy whether you are a writer, an artist or someone just putting together a speech.

Besides, being surrounded by creative people from various disciplines and every walk of life is inspiring on its own. We all approach the exercises so differently that is very helpful to see the same topics from other people's perspectives. In my group, there are actors, visual artists, improv performers, physical performers, dancers, writers, teachers, preachers, playwriters, scriptwriters, poets and TEDtalk speakers. You can really feel when the creative juices flow!

I would definitely recommend these sort of workshops to anyone who's interested in improving their storytelling. It doesn't matter if you don't work in the creative industries, these skills are transferable to other types of jobs too. If you write proposals, letters, copy, if you talk in public or give speeches at work, or if you manage contents on social media for a brand, you are a storyteller in your own way.

Like they say, a good artisan never blames their tools, but they know that a good set of tools will make them better at their craft.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Fabiola Bastianelli by Andrzej Gruszka.

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Let Your Light Shine For Long

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This past weekend, as I was preparing all the paperwork for a submission, I had to make an inventory of every single photo, client, publication, competition and exhibition of my photography career. Thankfully, I have only been shooting professionally for a little under 4 years, otherwise, this would have been an impossible endeavour. Even so, for such a short career, it took me 3 whole days of non-stop sorting and documenting to be able to put all the work that I've done into one single folder. But I'm really happy that I had to do it because it was a cathartic experience and it made me realize how far I've come since I started this new phase in my life. And you want to know something? I haven't done too bad!

It's funny how sometimes we are unable to realize how much we have accomplished because we are caught up in our daily routine of running our businesses. But it takes opportunities like these when you sit down and look back at where you were when you started and where you are right now, to really make you see your path from a different perspective.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Create a visual inventory of every single image/set/project that you have shot. I used Powerpoint, but you can use any software that you are comfortable with. For every single image/set/project, create a separate page and write below the single image/set/project it's client, the date, the brief in one line, any publication that took it, any competition where it was highly commended, shortlisted or chosen as a finalist or winner, or every place where they were exhibited. I promise you that by the end you will start looking at your career with new eyes.

I shared the whole experience with a colleague and we both agreed that no successful career happens overnight. It's a slow process of learning, erring and growing and we should enjoy every step of the way and try not to rush things. Because, in the end, the light that shines twice as bright, lasts half as long.

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On Fake Models And Real People

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When Rihanna created Fenty Beauty, she proved that there was a demand for more products for darker complexion people in the beauty industry. Fenty Beauty is an inclusive makeup brand aimed at every skin tone from the lightest to the darkest, with the darker shades being especially popular. Her brand might not have been the first one focusing on the lack of diversity in the industry, but she offered a range of shades and undertones that was practically unheard of at the time. And then, a few weeks ago, this same brand that is making their target embrace their uniqueness and feel proud of their genetics, advertises one of their lipsticks on their social media using a flawless computer-generated model called Shudu Gram. Is this a publicity stunt or just proof that we can't trust anyone anymore?

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Don't get me wrong, Shudu Gram is stunning. She is a work of art and I personally think that her creator, photographer Cameron-James Wilson, is an amazing 3D artist. My concern doesn't come from the art itself or the possibilities of the medium; nor with the fear that some other people in the industry have that machines will take over our jobs (models, photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists, stylists, etc.). What worries me is the message that the brand is sending to everyone who consumes their products, that no matter how much money you spend on them, you will never look as perfect as a CGI model.

In all honesty, it's insulting. In times when companies like CVS are forcing makeup brands to stop selling their products with deceiving advertisement campaigns that have been photoshopped to the extreme, or when social media platforms are making the so-called influencers admit that they are just outsourced sales reps selling products for the brands that they represent, a brand cannot make the mistake of calling themselves diverse and inclusive while promoting an unattainable beauty standard.

It is really disappointing and it makes me wonder if this is a publicity stunt aimed at creating controversy. Be it as it may, brands should be really careful about how they communicate with their customers. For, in the end, real people buy their products. CGI models don't.

Photo credit: behind the scenes with Anna Sawyer by Rachel Williamson.

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Art Puts Food On The Table

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A few weeks ago, I had a really interesting conversation with artist Sally Wakelin about traditional Japanese woodblock printing and how it was a very complex process which involved many skilled people for each of the steps of the printmaking. You could say that classical Japanese prints are a collaborative effort and, obviously, their making had a direct impact on the local economy. But, we don't have to go too far back in time to see how creatives contribute to our economies. I wrote about artists and the economy in a recent post of mine titled Our Economies Need More Artists. While having this conversation with Sally, I couldn't help but think about how many other businesses benefit from my practice. Surprisingly, as a freelance photographer, I put food on a lot of tables.

We seem to live in times when people don't seem to care about art. For art detractors, art just doesn't make sense. David Lynch allegedly said on this matter: "I don't know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn't make sense." Maybe the problem is that we haven't taken the time to properly explain art. Or maybe, the real issue is that those who do art don't know how to talk about art. Painter Carmen Herrera said: "If I could describe what my art was about with words, I wouldn't have to paint it (...) You can't talk about art, you have to art to art."

I think that when people think of artists and creatives in general, they only think about classical art in museums or about pieces sold in auctions for millions of pounds which prompt the question "who'd pay that much money for something like that?!" But, perhaps, a more digestible way of understanding art is looking at creatives as important pieces in our economies because, even if they don't like being called themselves businesses or entrepreneurs, they do their part in keeping other businesses alive.

When I thought about writing this post, I took my time to go through the list of suppliers from whom I regularly buy products or services in order to keep my practice running. Apart from buying from some global brands every now and then (Apple, Nikon, Profoto, Ilford, Synology, etc.), and from others with regularity (Adobe, Google, MailerLite, Squarespace, PurplePort, Amazon, FrootVPN, CDMon, Hiscox, among others), I also spend a lot of money on products and services from local businesses in all shapes and sizes (TFL, Hyperoptics, AOP, Three, 123Reg, The Printspace, Uber, Moo, photography studios, production crew, and so on) and I pay my taxes in due time.

And yes, you could say that about any type of business in any industry, but that's not the point. The point is that the work of creatives from any discipline should be respected because, as shown before, we are also job generators and we also keep the economy running. So, please, even if our industry doesn't make much sense to you, show us a little respect and don't question our rates or expect us to work for free. We also have families to feed.

Photo credit: messy me, June 1977.

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Never Stop Creating

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This past weekend I went to see the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery. I honestly knew very little about this painter but I don't regret the visit to the museum at all. It was beautiful and very inspiring and left me with a craving to create more.

Amedeo Modigliani started his painting career when he moved to Paris at age 21, and after 14 prolific years, he died age 35 in 1920. In this very little amount of time he managed to create an outstanding body of work, he experimented with different techniques including sculpting, and he created a strong creative network with his fellow artists living in Paris. To me, this is the artist par excellence, but what I feel it's most impressive is the fact that he never stopped creating. Commissioned or not commissioned, paid or unpaid, Modigliani always felt the need to capture the people around him in his paintings.

When I started my photography career, a very wise woman called Nina Malone once told me "you have to test like crazy" (testing being the term used in the creative industries when you collaborate with fellow creatives to try out new techniques or just to create something out of the love of art). And I took her advice very seriously. Since then, I always create. On my own, with another creative or with a massive crew, in between jobs I try to always take new photos. Why? Because practice makes perfect. No one creates a masterpiece on the first attempt. Like Marc Jacobs said when he paraphrased Eddie Cantor: “It took me 20 years to become an overnight success”.

I was recently reading a post on Saatchi Art's blog. It was an interview with Guillermo García Cruz, an artist from Uruguay, where he was asked what was the best advice that he had ever been given. He said that the best advice that he had ever been given was by painter Ignacio Urrutia, who told him: "...if you really want to be an artist never forget this: Never stop working. The more you work, the more things you will get as an artist. Everything else does not matter, you only have to work.”

I don't aspire to have Modigliani's posthumous fame nor to be a well-known artist in my lifetime. My goals are simpler and more humble: I just want to be the best artist that I can be. And to achieve that, I have to practice like crazy. And never stop creating.

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I Am An Immigrant

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When I left my country and moved to Europe, among the things that I took with me were my photo albums and my film camera. For some reason, I felt like I needed those items for the adventure that was about to unfold. Almost twenty years later, I reflect on that moment when I was packing my bag and I finally understand the reasoning behind this peculiar packing list. I must have known back then that I was never coming back, and I must have wanted to take with me the treasured memories from my life in my country and the tool that would help me create new memories in my new home.

Migrating is not easy. You need to have courage, a strong determination, a humble heart and an open mind. Venturing into the unknown leaving behind everything that you know and love is not for the faint of heart, and arriving at your new destination willing to unlearn what you know about the world and assimilate and adapt to a new way of living takes a unique set of skills. This is if you are privileged enough to emigrate of your own will. Those who are forced out of their countries by conflicts, starvation or just because they want to provide a better future for their families should be our real heroes.

Immigrants are brave people. If you are an immigrant yourself or come from a family of immigrants, you should be proud of your heritage. It is not easy to move to a different country. If society knew the things that we go through and the things that we put up with, immigrants would have a completely different reputation these days. The word immigrant itself has gotten such a bad name that we had to come up with alternative terms to describe immigrants who we consider our equal or who we admire. But, the truth is that your Founding Mothers and Fathers were immigrants; your favourite sports team members from abroad are immigrants; even those who we call Expats are immigrants too. It doesn't matter what fancy name you use to describe your status, if you moved to a different country than the one you were born in, you are an immigrant.

I am an immigrant, and I am the son and the grandson of immigrants too. I say it with pride and with my head held high because there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant and I am tired of seeing this term used in a derogatory way. This is the reason why, a few days ago, I took part on Almudena Romero's photography project on immigrants in the UK called Growing Concerns. This project is a beautiful endeavour that deserves the utmost praise, not only because of the technique used to create each portrait but also because of the beautiful message behind it.

Almudena Romero is a London based visual artist from Madrid working with a wide range of photographic processes from early printing techniques such as cyanotype, salt printing or wet plate collodion, to new technologies including 3Dscanning and printing. Her practice uses photographic processes to reflect on issues relating to identity, representation and ideology; such as the role of photography in the construction of national identity, or the link between photographic archives and colonialism. Her work focuses on how photographic processes and technology transform the notions of public, private, individuality, identity, memory, and, in general, the concept of the individual.

Growing Concerns consists of a series of passport tintypes of London immigrants to reflect on the increasing restrictions of movement for persons and the reduction of regulatory barriers for goods and capitals. Almudena uses the wet collodion technique, which was the most popular photographic process between 1850 and 1880. It was the cheapest and most light-sensitive technique, but its most distinctive characteristic was that it allowed the first glass negatives, and therefore, the reproduction of images in prints from one same negative.

If you want to learn more about Almudena Romero, her project Growing Concerns and the wet collodion technique, visit her website at www.almudenaromero.co.uk.

Photo: wet collodion tintype portrait by Almudena Romero, as part of her project Growing Concerns

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How To Manage Your Time Effectively

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We are halfway through the first month of the new year and we can already see that our workload is consuming us. We don't seem to have time for anything. When we became freelance creatives nobody told us that we would spend 90% of our time taking care of the business side of the craft and only 10% actually creating. But, this is the life of the freelance creative and if you want to make a living out of it, you have to learn how to manage your time.

The problem is that, when you are a freelance creative, there are some days that you have absolutely nothing to do and you spend the day just staring at the empty wall in front of you. But then, other days you wish that the day had actually 48 hours so that you could finish on time everything that you have to do. This is our life and we must accept it. However, for those days when we wished that the seconds lasted for hours so that we can go through our endless list of to-do's, there are certain time management techniques that can come in very handy.

Personally, I use the first two of the following three techniques and they work for me, while my husband uses the third one and he cannot live without it.

- The Rewards system: this one is pretty simple and I think it's the one that the majority of people use. For every item on your to-do list that you complete, you give yourself a reward. The rewards vary depending on what you consider a treat; a few minutes on social media, going to the vending machine for coffee or doing yoga, are just a few examples. I use this system on the days that I have to do the chores and only look at my social media when I have accomplished something.

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- The Post-it notes system: this time management system consists in writing each task in your to-do list on a single Post-it and pasting them on a notebook. Everytime that you complete a task, you remove and discard the Post-it note associated with it. When all your tasks are done, your page will be empty. This system gives you a sense of fulfilment whenever you are able to go through all the tasks on your To-do list. I have different pages full of Post-it's in my Moleskine notebook depending on the priority of the tasks. My imminent priority To-do list is on the first page and as I turn the pages the tasks have less priority or a more long-term deadline.

Pomodoro-Do App

Pomodoro-Do App

- The Pomodoro technique: this technique consists on working on a task for 25 minutes without interruptions, then resting for 5 minutes, then working on the task for 25 more minutes, then resting again, and so forth until you work on the task for a full hour. Once you have worked on the task for four 25-minute intervals, you rest for 30 minutes and start a new task. This system is especially good for those tasks that require a lot of time and concentration to finish, and that could take up all of our available time forcing us to ignore other tasks with a similar priority. With this method, you work without interruptions on several different tasks on the same day.

There are plenty more time management systems but these are the ones that I use or that I know of and that I can definitely recommend. Do you have a technique of your own?

Photo credit: behind the scenes photo taken by Andrzej Gruszka

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Our Economies Need More Artists

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If I had told my parents when I was growing up that I wanted to be a photographer, they probably would have told me to study a real career and do whatever I wanted with my spare time. Is not that they weren't supporting parents, it's just that, where I come from, working in the creative industries is not considered having a real job. Sadly, this is a reality in many parts of the world. But, when you come to countries like the UK and you realize how strong their creative communities are, you can't help but wonder what makes this society so open to the arts. Could it possibly be what they put in the water here?

I doubt it. But, one thing is for sure: countries like this one must be doing something different at family, school or government level to keep culture and arts alive. That is the reason why when you think of creativity in the UK, you automatically think of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, David Bowie, the Beatles, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and the list goes on. Is it a coincidence that all this amazing talent concentrates in one country? Or is it that in the UK there is more support for artists than in other parts of the world?

I know for a fact that where I come from there is an incredible number of really talented creatives. Unfortunately, most of them have to leave the country to pursue Arts as a career. There just isn't that much support for artists back home. And you might think that maybe it is because governments in other countries have other priorities and invest in what really drives the economy. But, looking at the figures, that does not make much sense.

In the UK, the creative industries (which include advertising, film and TV, architecture, publishing, music, design, games, museums and galleries, fashion, crafts, and the creative use of technology) are a £92bn sector which grows at twice the rate of the economy, and which accounts for 14.2 percent of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA). Over 5.2 million people work in this sector, 16.1 percent of all the jobs in the UK. This represents an 11.3 percent increase since 2011 (4.7 million) and, taking into account that over the same period of time employment in the UK increased by 7.6 percent, these figures are really impressive.

This is in part due to the government's support to the creative industries sector. For example, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, dedicated tax relief to support high-end television productions, such as Game of Thrones and The Crown have seen a production boom worth £1.5 billion since the scheme was introduced in 2013.

But, it also comes from the fact that people brought up in the UK seem to be more exposed to culture and arts at family and school levels, and they grow up to understand its importance in their lives. In early 2017, 77.4% of adults in the UK had engaged with the arts at least once in the last 12 months. Which means that roughly 4 out of every 5 adults had attended or participated in arts events and activities, which included visiting an exhibition, going to the theatre or attending live music performances.

So, as it turns out, choosing to support or be part of the creative communities has a direct impact on the economy of our countries. The next time that someone tells you that pursuing a career in the creative industries is a waste of time, tell them that our economies need more artists. Save the creative, save the economy!

Photo: behind the scenes wearing my #lovemyjob t-shirt from the beautiful people at MailerLite.

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You Can’t Dig Half A Hole

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2018 is my fourth year writing this blog. If I read all my posts since 2014 I can see that, what started just as a way of recording my progression in my venture as a photographer, has become my most powerful self-promotion tool. Of course, I know that it is not perfect, and sometimes all the different topics that I cover make it seem like it is all over the place. But, one thing I know for sure: it is authentic. Every single word that I write comes from my heart. And when you speak from the heart, you can't go wrong.

Along the way, I have written some very bad posts, but I have also written some pieces that I am really proud of; I have gained subscribers, but I have also had many unsubscribe; I have generated likes and engagement, but I have also lost followers in mass; some of my posts have gotten almost zero reads, while others have exceeded any of my expectations. But, what is really important is that I have grown. Writing this blog has been a cathartic journey of self-discovery, of learning and sharing, and of giving back to the creative community that welcomed me with open arms when I decided to become a photographer.

In that creative community, I have met some pretty amazing people, some of whom are featured in my monthly series I Wish I Had Known, where I speak to people in the creative industries about the things that I wish I had known when I started out as a creative myself.  This series is my way of paying forward all the things that I have been taught by the beautiful people that I have had the fortune to work with all these years.

This blog wouldn't exist if it weren't for the people who read it. I have a loyal readership that not only reads most of my posts and reacts to them, but also comments on them and sends me feedback. I am really grateful and I appreciate their support, and while I am writing my posts I do it as if I were talking directly to them.

Some people say that it is hard to tell if I am the proudest of my portfolio or of my blog. Sometimes, I ask myself that question too. But, in a way, they are basically the same thing. They are both a channel through which I express myself and my way of looking at life. And I give my 100% to both of them because that is the only way that I know how to do things. I either do something, or I do not. But, I cannot go halfway. Like they say, nobody can dig half a hole.

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When Everyone Takes A Selfie...

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My friend was telling me last night that their children don't get excited about anything anymore. They travel, they take them places, they try to surprise them with interesting experiences, but their kids seem as if they have lost the ability to be amused. I don't blame them, though. At such young age, these children have seen it all. They are constantly being bombarded with visual information on their smartphones, on advertisement and on the streets. We live in a world overly saturated with imagery.

As creatives, this is the real challenge today. We try to call the attention of our clients, prospects, industry and peers by creating art that is appealing to them. But, sadly, our target is also being constantly bombarded with visual information and, in some way, they have already seen it all as well. And, not only have they seen it all, but also we seem to just want to play it safe. We work in an industry where everyone is so concerned with just making what sells that we are creating a whole lot of sameness.

Understandably, being different has a risk. When you niche out your target turns smaller and growing your business becomes a slower process. I used to have a boss who would always tell us that being the best or the worst at something was easy: you always have someone with whom you can measure. But, being different is hard and scary because you venture into the unknown.

Be it as it may, wasn't that the reason why we started doing what we do? To create, to innovate, to become ourselves? I believe that standing out today is not only a challenge, it is crucial for our survival as creative businesses. If we keep on doing what everyone else is doing, there will always be someone who will do it better or cheaper than us. But if we aim at innovating, there will always be room for standing out.

Susan Sontag once wrote: "When everyone has a photo taken, the true distinction is not having a photo taken at all." But, I don't think it has to come to this. I think that, in a world where everyone takes a selfie from the front, you should go and try to take a selfie from the back.

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