Wow what an amazing year my business is having!! (Ok so I am not including the current situation….)
Each year I undertake some form of professional development and my goal for this year was to achieve the next level of photography qualification. Professional photography qualifications come in 3 levels, Licentiate, Associate and Fellowship. I have gained Licentiate with the two professional bodies I am a member of, The Societies of Photographers and the Master Photographers Association. So the next step for me was to achieve the level of Associate to do this I needed a panel of 20 images that not only displayed a good level of skills in the technical aspects of photography but the images also had to ‘sit together’ as a body of work representative of the photographer’s unique style, creativity and skills. The images also have to be print to 20″x16″ and card mounted display ready for the judges to view.
Now those that have met me and been to the studio will know that my family and images of them are very important to me so, with parents who have both suffered ill health recently I thought my panel would be a great opportunity to create my very own family album. So my project, which has come to be known as ‘My family and other animals’ had its subjects Mum, Dad, Darren the girls and a couple of self portraits thrown in for good measure. Next I had to decide on the styling for the family portraits – this was the easy part as I knew I wanted them to be classic, timeless black and white images. Now to create these beautiful images…
It took a few false starts, a few temper tantrums (all by me when things were not going as I wanted them to!) a few outtakes including Isla almost fainting and a crazy dog getting over excited but over the course of 6 months I created my panel, family portraits of us and when I finished them I knew I could not have been happier!!
Often when you set off on a journey of development you focus on the ‘doing’ and this is exactly what I did and I kind of forgot about the logistics of what I was looking to achieve. This ordinary would not have been an issue but I had registered for my panel to be judged live at the annual Societies of Photographers Convention in London in January 2020 and because of the false starts I was now into mid November and hadn’t really considered having my images printed so after a frantic couple of days deciding on paper choices I had the final piece of the puzzle sorted and all I had to do was sit back and wait on delivery of the images before heading off to London for the easy bit, the judging.
Fast forward to 21st January 2020 Darren and I travelled by train down to London to the Convention, my panel was due to be judged at 11am the following day. I have to say that was the longest and most anxious 24 hour period ever – we had to make our way through London with a very large box of very delicate prints and I had to sit through an evening of polite conversation with my fellow photographers, well when I say polite they just wound me up for the time I was in their company…
You would think by this stage the hard work was done but sadly no! As I said before the panel has to sit together as a body of work so I had to painstakingly position my images over 2 rows on 10 boards to allow the images to tell my story the display is a very significant part of the process..
As the old saying goes “nothing worthwhile comes easily” and the next stage certainly did not come easy for me as I had to read my artist statement to the judges (I will add it here as it explains my rationale behind the panel)
“My Family and Other Animals – By Fiona McKean
My photography journey started and has always been driven by my love of family photographs, a time remembered, a forgotten memory and even an unknown story waiting to be told. So, when I decided to take the next step and submit images for the Associate qualification the topic simply had to be ‘my family’.
I wanted my panel of images to be a snap shot of our lives, who we were in 2019, our moments, memories and stories recorded in a timeless way. Images that will be our family album which my daughters will have to cherish forever. So here we are the McKean family featuring Granny and Papa…
Keeping the images simple and uncluttered was important to me. I wanted them to be about us, our closeness and our differences so from the outset I knew that they would be simply, classically lit and printed in black and white on a beautiful textured paper.
I was aware this journey would challenge me as a photographer both creatively and technically what I did not appreciate is that it would challenge me as a person to my core. I have discovered so much about my family and our relationships as children, partners, parents and siblings. I have also discovered so much about myself; it has exposed with a harsh brutality my fears and weaknesses, my strengths, hopes and dreams.
Thank you for taking the time to judge my images I hope you enjoy my family album as much as I do and agree it is Associate quality.”
Now at that was left was to sit back and be judged..
After what felt like an eternity but in reality was only a few minutes the judges took their seats and advised the chair person that they were ready to make a decision so off the go into a huddle and discuss the whether my panel had met the required standard. I could see them talking and I have to admit I felt physically sick!! Thankfully they didn’t keep me waiting to long and they were soon back – now this is where the theatre bit some in and I will do my best to explain it using words (there is a wee video on my Facebook page if you would like to see exactly what happened… ) – So the judges come back into the judging area, take their seats and the chair of judges asks if they have come to a decision, they stand up there is a bit of movement which is them giving either the thumbs up or down depending on how they are voting (I can only see the judges backs at this stage) and the chair person announces that I have successfully achieved my Associate qualification – WOO HOO!!!!
But wait the chair of judges tells me to hang on and the judges sit down again…
I have absolutely no idea why?? – my mind has gone into overdrive, is there a mistake, has someone changed their minds???
I hear the chair say – can we vote on whether this panel has successfully achieved the Fellowship standard – surely this can’t be real?? But it is and it does and all of a sudden I am Fiona McKean Fellow of the Societies of photographers!!! Major Woo Hoo!!
All that was left was for me to cry, the judges to give me their feedback (which was amazing), me to cry a little more, my mentor Gary Hill to give me a hug and me to cry even more…
So here it is my family album…
If you have read this far thank you so much for taking the time I hope this gives you a little insight into how passionate I am about family photography and how important I think family portraits are!!
If you would like more information on having your own family album just email fiona@fionamckeanphotography or fill in the contact form and I will give you a call back.
Thanks Fiona x