Napier Photo Collective 2016 is a multinational collective made up of 14 Edinburgh Napier BA (Hons) Photography graduates. The class of 2016 participated in the Free Range shows in London by displaying their work at the Old Truman Brewery during the first photography week from 23rd - 27th June 2016. Free Range is one of Europe’s biggest graduate shows with many British universities and art colleges taking part.
Napier Collective showcased a collection of multi-faceted images of miscellaneous themes ranging from race and identity to economic crisis and feminism. Three of its members, Dafni Kalokairinou, Elina Karadzhova and Christos Patelis, here give us a frank and honest account of their experiences at Free Range and give some useful advice to Edinburgh Napier University photography students who may be keen to take part in the future.
Dafni Kalokairinou: "Freerange was an amazing experience from start to finish, but also very stressful and demanding, in order to have good results. My account of the London Free Range Shows experience starts before the actual exhibition. The collective was formed at the start of trimester one and the first big step, which was booking and paying for the space, had to be managed with the University by late October. Later on after Christmas, the real preparations started, which required everyone’s constant attention. I know that this seemed quite difficult to many because at that time we had started building our final projects and time-wise it was tricky. I wish we had worked even more during those first two months of the year. There is a lot of work to do and everyone needs to stay on top of their responsibilities, otherwise the weight falls on a few people and that is not fair. You have to put the most effort in during these 4-5 months before the show and believe me the last two months were a lot of work and quite stressful. People had nightmares about Free Range around that time (myself included)! but it was so worth it!
In all honesty, I can I say that I gained so much from preparing for and exhibiting at Free Range.The whole time you are in training for your life as a professional with all the ups and downs of organising a large scale group photography show. The experience has been so valuable and it is not just another exhibition to add to your CV, you are gathering important skills that will add to your value as an employee or freelancer later in your career.
When we got to London the most stressful part was setting everything up with sweat and tears literally and disassembling everything at the end, waiting for vans to pick up the boxes and finally catching our flight back to Edinburgh. The rest of the duration of the show was relaxing and so enjoyable! Chatting to visitors, networking, attending British Journal of Photography’s very interesting workshops that run throughout the week, exploring London and its galleries…it was truly great! I am so proud of Napier Collective 2016! All of us did such a good job, and our immense efforts were evident in the results! It would be great if next year’s team get even more support from the University and have as great a time (and show) as we did!"
Elina Karadzhova: "Free Range 2016 was a great experience for me personally. I will start with the fact that I am deeply proud of Napier Collective 2016 not only because of the high end work presented by each of us, but because we did everything ourselves; we were the only collective at Photography week 1 at Free Range that did this without the presence and guidance of our tutors.
The first day and a half was the most pressured and stressful time. The walls arrived (they were great), the van with our images and tools was on time as well, and the most scary moment was the look of the empty space. Organised into small groups, helping each other as much as we could, we started drilling, measuring and basically learning on the spot quite a lot. We received many compliments from the tutors of other Universities regarding our exhibition and presentation. Once again, I am so proud of Napier Collective 2016 (we will keep an eye on the 2017 team :P).
The opening was unexpectedly busy and we were given only positive feedback and great support from the audience! There was a good flow of visitors during the opening days and a few industry people. It is always good to chat with your visitors in order to identify them, because you never know who is looking at your work.
The exhibition time at Free Range, unfortunately is quite short; our opening was the evening of 23rd June (private view) until 27th in the afternoon. Thus, it's hard to know if I can recommended it for costs involved. I would like to highlight that this year the photography graduates from Edinburgh Napier did our very best to promote our University and our course, so we hope wherever next year students decide to head off to, they will be encouraged and supported even more by Edinburgh Napier.
In summary, be prepared for hard work, at the end of the installation day we could barely stand on our feet, we were fainting, we were exhausted, some of us even cried... it was tough! It requires amazingly good organisation, you will have to deal with ALL aspects ( and that ALL starts September :) )."
Christos Patelis: "Free Range was probably the best experience, I've had within my four years of studying. Participating in a big show in one of the coolest areas in London is something that I would encourage every photography student to do. Free Range required a stressful preparation period of six months, where everything had to be sorted. We had to set up a bank account in order to start a crowd funding page and generally begin work with all financial related issues. One of the first things was to ask Edinburgh Napier University for financial help as the walls and space costs were high. After that, we had to cover all the rest of the costs, including transport, printing posters and promotional materials, opening night drinks and tables. The most important aspect in order to achieve everything on time and in good order is that everyone takes on a role and area to be in charge of.
As soon as we arrived in London we started working intensively. The walls and work arrived a day before the opening. We gave ourselves a schedule of a day and a half to set everything up. The most important advice, I can give when it comes to the set-up is to help each other. Most of us teamed up with someone else, we brought our own drills and ladders and helped each other in smaller groups of 2-3 people. This was quicker and more efficient than working alone would have been.
The opening night attracted many people, including industry related professionals such as photographers and editors but also other fellow photography students. We met and saw a lot of different personalities. We chatted a lot and had various discussions about our work. A really positive fact with this year’s Free Range show was that British Journal of Photography was one of the main sponsors, so a lot of industry related lectures were organised.
In conclusion, Free Range is something that definitely makes you more aware as a photography graduate regarding all the competition and variety that you will meet out there. It is something, I would highly encourage every future fourth year photography student to experience and take part in."
Find out more about the Free Range shows here - www.free-range.org.uk
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