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Fashioning the Image: The Process and Power of Image-making: a Panel Discussion with Margaret Mornings

Black and white framed photos on a red wall
  • Written byE. Freund
  • Published date 06 January 2023
Black and white framed photos on a red wall
Chris Killip - Chapter 1: Isle of Man | 1970-73

A new knowledge exchange cultural partnership between the School of Media and Communication’s BA (Hons) Fashion Styling and Production course, and London based communication agency Margaret, launched at The Photographers Gallery in November 2022 to much excitement. The partnership sets out to promote the multidisciplinary scope and diversity of the course and the valuable exchange that professional and industry insights offer to students considering their future careers.

LCF students on this course were provided with a curatorial tour of the gallery, centred on the exhibition on the famed photographer, Chris Killip. This exhibition took us through the journey of Killip's work, sectioned into chapters. Chapter 1 showed key works in his early years as a photographer in the Isle of Man. From working in his father’s pubs in the 50’s to returning in the Isle of Man in the 70s. It was here when Chris decided not to shoot commercially anymore, instead, choosing  to focus his craft on the Isle of Man itself, its inhabitants, and their stories. Chris Killip would engage in conversations with the locals and take photos afterwards, highlighted by how relaxed his subjects looked in the photos. Each room of the tour took students through a different period in his life as a photographer, continuing the overarching theme of people, communities, and storytelling.

Person examining photographs on a white wall

After a tour through the two-floor exhibition, students sat down for a panel discussion facilitated as part of the Margaret Morning talk series. Chair Ashleigh Kane, Editor-at-Large at Dazed was joined by Adelia Sabatini, Commissioning Editor at Thames and Hudson, Zaiba Jabbar, founder of HERVISIONS, and Alexander Aplerku, Creative Marketing Strategist at Condé Nast in discussing the process and power of image-making. Students were provided key insights about the influence of imagery, the power of curating images, and valuable career advice.

When asked about what makes a powerful image, the three industry leaders explained how certain images make them feel and think. Aplerku explained he knows that an image is powerful when "it makes me think, stops me in my tracks, and I save it in my phone.” Sabatini delved into the signature style and the unique identity of an image, which makes it feel powerful to her.

Where it feels individual, you can see their vision and it’s not generic.

Talking about creating an image, each panellist discussed their own definitions of the dynamics of creating imagery. Aplerku says that collaboration is key, “it’s about each component of the team, humility, respecting their teammates to create this piece of art together.” Jabbar adds that understanding the importance of each component in that production element is crucial to the outcome. She explains, “it is not just about facilitating the people and what they do, but it is who they are and how they fit into your vision, you have to be very aware of all those levels of collaboration and consider who you are bringing to the table.” Sabatini discussed the different kinds of imagery and what dynamics are within an editorial shoot, like crediting the makeup, hair, and clothing stylists.

Many students raised queries related to career progression in the industry. The panelists were no strangers to struggle and gave insight into industry and career expectations. Aplerku spoke about being an international student on a visa in New York, who had to return to the UK and felt like he needed to start over. He advised students that it is okay to pivot in your career, but to remain humble as it may not work out the way you want it to. He took a job as an assistant to get his foot in the door, and his career soared from there. Sabatini agreed and said you should put your ego aside, get your foot in the door, and find something that you find is interesting. Jabbar had an interesting take and advised students to find constant challenges in their career development journey,

If you think it is easy, then why are you doing it? You’re not learning, growing, or challenging yourself.

Panel of four presenting with 'Margaret Mornings' on screen behind them.

Adding to the career development advice, the panelists discussed progression within the industry. They shared the importance of building your craft, your portfolio, and a community, and that value lies in your experience and what you will take away from that experience. Sabatini said that as a recent graduate entering the industry, you should use your time to experiment and develop something unique from your work to build a niche, which would set you apart from others and help you progress within your career.

Applicable to all graduates, pay equality is an important topic to debate. Regarding monetary value of entry level jobs, Kane commented that when negotiating your pay, you should push yourself to be a little uncomfortable when asking for money.

“If you don’t feel embarrassed about what you’re asking for a fee, you’re probably not asking enough.”

Aplerku agreed and explained that you should seek out those companies that will pay you what you deserve and that you should “throw your wildest number out there first” which will give you a perspective that you might not have, but “don’t sell yourself short".

Panel of four presenting with photograph on screen behind them.

Overall, the BA Fashion Styling and Production students received a unique experience with a tour of the Chris Killip exhibition from the Creative Director, Tracy Marshall-Grant, and a panel discussion from industry leaders. The panellists gave insightful advice to students about building their craft and niche in the styling, production, and imagery industry.

Thank you to Margaret London, Stephanie Barker-Fry, Senior Lecturer in Fashion Communication and Knowledge Exchange at School of Media and Communication and Clare Buckley, Course Leader BA (Hons) Fashion Styling and Production for organising the first iteration of this event series.