Sally's Insights - We’re not in this alone

The countless benefits of collaboration

© Brence Coghill & Sharon Blance. Still Life with Pears, 2020. Wet plate collodion photograph on 4x5 inch aluminium plate with hand-induced chemical intervention made by soaking areas of the plate in solvent to loosen and release the image-forming silver layer, causing veiled forms to appear. Recently awarded an Honourable Mention at the 2020 PX3 Prix de la Photographie awards in Paris, this image was created at home during COVID-19 lockdown using found items. “When the lockdown disrupted everything and life became still, we experimented with creating disrupted still life images.”

I was brought up to believe that a problem shared is a problem halved. Our entire creative world is based around working with others, and this is certainly true in photography. The world of photography is rarely a solo experience. The joy of working within a team, no matter what the size, comes from the sharing of minds and ideas, encouragement, and inspiration. Most of all it’s about working together to create the best imagery for the task at hand.

I have worked with countless photographers at all stages of their careers who have either fallen out of love with photography or are well on their way to it. When I dig deep, it is never just one thing that has created this, but in recent years it has mostly been about isolation. Even pre-COVID, many photographers had moved out of permanent studios, to save money and work from home. Saving money is a positive, but, in this case, it comes at a cost, mainly lack of human contact and collaboration. Nutting out problems with fellow shooters and collaborating on projects is what makes this industry so unique. We are being told to multi-skill, which I totally encourage, but not to the detriment of working in teams and embracing a strong network of people around you.

Melbourne photographers Sharon Blance and Brence Coghill have teamed up to create the Image Workshop. They collaborate on every job and project.

Brence: “We find collaborating leads to a better final expression of a creative concept. It’s easier to bring ideas from outside your bubble and trigger and ‘idea cascade’– where one person suggests something, then the other person suggests a new thing that builds on it. That doesn’t happen as quickly or fluidly when working solo.”

Sharon: “Teamwork also helps take the ego out of the equation, putting the focus on allowing the best version of an image to reveal itself by exploring ‘What if we tried this?’ or ‘What if we tried that?’ suggestions from the team.”

When you collaborate with others you create the best possible result for yourself, and if it’s a commercial job, your client. We all have our strengths, and collaboration makes those even stronger, as well as bringing in some skill sets we might lack. Let’s not forget collaborations also occur between different creative disciplines. Fashion and photography, music and photography, and architecture and photography are just a few great collaborations that fuse and mesh into wonderful projects and compositions. We learn from each other when collaborating, and together inspire thoughts and actions that take us into exciting, unchartered territories.

I’m often asked how to begin a collaboration, and my advice is simple: you have to put yourself forward at every opportunity. As with most things, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Doing your research and knowing why you want to approach an individual or a group of people is really important. This includes having a clear idea of what you have to offer. It may be as simple as a great concept which you then sell to the model, the makeup artist, and the stylist as an impressive new folio piece. Demonstrating how others will gain from the opportunity to collaborate with you is key.

I believe we must collaborate to fully bring out the creativity within us all. If you embrace collaboration, you’re likely to more easily generate new ideas and ways of seeing, along with novel ways to approach your photography. You’ll also develop insights into how you can make the most of every situation that arises.

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