Last month, the Image Source Art Directors visited the Free Range Graduate Shows at The Truman Brewery, Brick Lane to discover what the industry’s freshest talent is showcasing.
In the second feature of the IMSO 2013 Graduate Showcase, Art Director Tom Laybourne interviews Bartek Furdal, a recent Edinburgh College graduate originally from Poland whose lucky break came in the form of a portrait session with Harry Benson.
When did you decide you wanted to study photography and what was the best thing about your course?
When I moved to Scotland, I was lucky enough to move to Edinburgh, home of Edinburgh College. I began a part time BA course in Professional Photography but moved to full-time after a short while.
The best thing about the course was the learning process that was enriched by the fantastic tutor’s knowledge. Each project that we were given was assessed as if it were a professional job. Our projects were discussed in front of the whole class, so that audience always brought new thoughts and ideas to future projects.
Many photography graduates begin their careers assisting, is that your plan also or have you already built a steady flow of commissions?
I have been assisting several great photographers in Scotland. Whilst I have been doing this, I’ve looked for agencies, magazines and PR companies that are willing to collaborate. Ideally, I’d like connections in London, New York or Australia.
With such a huge number of students studying photography, how do you keep ahead of the crowd and stand out? Did it feel competitive whist studying and now as a graduate?
I think it’s important to enjoy what you do and to make the most of it. I think the success of your work is whether you can tell something through your photos and somebody can see your style in them. For my portraiture work, it was important for me to show not just an image of the person but their emotions and the relationship we have together as photographer and sitter. That’s what makes you stand out. These simple rules seem to work for me.
I have never felt competitive whilst studying, it was more like helping each other by sharing tips and ideas. It was great to see how everybody developed throughout those years. The audience at the Free Range Graduate Show gave me such good feedback as well, it told me that we can compete within the industry. It’s never been easy, and there is competition but my tutors always said to push hard and never give up. The secret is to believe in yourself and move on.
I see from your blog that you’ve been fortunate to shoot the famous photographer Harry Benson, how did that come about and how did you find it shooting such a legendary photographer?
I made some connections over the past few years that led me to Harry Benson. It was a great opportunity to deal with such a legendary photographer as he really was an inspiration to me. Spending time and interacting with him was a real pleasure – the hard work finally paid off! Finishing Edinburgh College and being presented with a portrait session like that was amazing!
You have an impressive industrial section to your portfolio, why did you choose to focus on industrial portraits?
I come from a working class family and I feel like this section is a part of me. I always wanted to make people look proud of what they do, make them feel good or important.
Industrial locations are often hard to gain access to, how have you managed to be so successful and do you have any tips for other photographers?
At the beginning I struggled as a lot of places weren’t willing to give me access to their premises. College helped me believe you can open all of life’s doors, we just need to push hard and someone will finally help. A lot of the time I would jump into my car and drive miles just to go and talk to the people, ask for permission, explain what I was planning and what it was for. Building this relationship is important. I think people saw my passion and this was my own little success. After I had a few sessions to show people, gaining access became easier.
Next steps? Where do you go from here and where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I’m currently in the middle of organising an exhibition of my work in my motherland, Poland. Eventually, I would like to work in the industry as a photographer or assistant. I’ll continue my portraiture project and next year I’m planning on visiting Cameroon.
For more information on Bartek, head on over to his website.
Are you a recent photography graduate looking to showcase your own work? Get in touch via the comments below.