Collaboration in Art!

A collaboration needs mutual respect, input and exposure. 

In the second year of the photography degree, there is a collaboration module where you are encouraged to collaborate on a project with someone outside of photography. Having known the South West Image Bank archive, (SWiB) in Plymouth, took volunteers, I got in touch about working with the archive on a project. 

The project in collaboration with SWiB and its Archivist and Manager Colette Hobbs, titled The Forgotten Image, led to an exhibition in SWiB's gallery space, which in turn led to another exhibition as part of Plymouth History Festival 2015. This was in collaboration with the Bread and Roses Pub where the exhibition was held. 

Image from the South West Image Bank, which appeared in The Forgotten Image, 2015

Image from the South West Image Bank, which appeared in The Forgotten Image, 2015

Image above of The Forgotten Image exhibition at the Bread and Roses Pub, as part of Plymouth History Festival 2015.

Image above of The Forgotten Image exhibition at the Bread and Roses Pub, as part of Plymouth History Festival 2015.

The benefits of this collaboration and the enjoyment of working with Colette from SWiB and Rachael Gomery from the Bread and Roses (who co-curated the second exhibition with myself), led me to pursue another collaborative project with Mendips Cave Registry and Archive, working with the Old Cheddar photographs last May, and continuing my collaboration with SWiB throughout my degree.

Images Below from my Cheddar Past and Present project, in collaboration with Mendip Cave Registry and Archive:

Past Cheddar Photograph, Ivy Farm, from Mendip Cave Registry and Archive

Past Cheddar Photograph, Ivy Farm, from Mendip Cave Registry and Archive

Present Cheddar Photograph from my project, Local Farmer Roy, 

Present Cheddar Photograph from my project, Local Farmer Roy, 

The collaboration module has not only been key to the shaping of my practice, but also quintessential to learning about the benefits of collaboration.

So, firstly, if you are a prospective photography student, or any art student, step outside of your comfort zone and collaborate! There are huge advantages of working with different people who have different knowledge and opinions, sharing both your knowledge, resources and a dialogue about a shared goal/interest!

Top Tips for Collaboration:  
1)    Be aware that collaboration means you are not the only one who needs to benefit. Let the other party know how a collaboration would be beneficial to them. What can you offer them? They could benefit from working with yourself as a student, building links with the University, or perhaps conclusion with a final exhibition would promote their work/organisation. Also ask them what they want out of the collaboration, this way they know it is based on mutual respect and you are serious about working with them. 
2)    Be sure to explain your own practice, previous projects and be clear about what you want out of working with them. Collaboration is about working together, but you also need to be straight and professional to achieve your own aims. If you do not agree with something, be calm and clear about why, and try to reach a compromise that suits both of you. 
3)    Budget your money. You need to act professionally when working with someone else, talk about budget, space for working and material, and who can contribute what. If funding is available from the person you are collaborating with, make a plan with your budget, how much can be spent on what parts of the project and be sure to keep receipts and track of what you are spending the money on. 
4)    Collaboration is not for everyone! Art is a private thing, and not everyone is open to sharing ideas or working with others- but if you can, it can be an amazing experience and is good practice for the professional art world.