FutureProof: A TPG Develop Exhibition

How I ended up exhibiting at the biggest emerging photographic talents festival in London at 20 years old.

My name is Joanna. When I was 18, I decided that I wanted to pursue a path in photography, despite only ever taking holiday snaps before. A year later, I found myself in London with two pieces of luggage and a couple of quid that I had saved from my first ever job. I couldn't think of a better place to study photography than here. This summer, I was lucky enough to have a chance to organise and take part in an exhibition with TPG Develop - a creative careers programme for young people interested in photography - at Free Range, the UK's largest graduate art show.

It didn't take long for me to realise that a BA in Photography doesn't actually prepare you to go out and make money off it. TPG Develop is perfectly filling in that gap in my education. I started attending the sessions in spring of 2018. In February this year, I signed up for an exhibition planning session. From that point, I was a part of it – both as an organiser and an artist, and so was everyone else whom I had met there. What was really great about this, was the fact that the exhibition was a collective effort, everyone had input into its coordination. As we all came from different backgrounds, each person had a different set of skills, which has proven very useful. For example, one of the peers was very capable of 3D modelling, which helped us significantly with planning the exhibition’s layout. We would meet a few times a month either at TPG or outside to catch up with our progress, decide on next steps, and assign tasks. Despite being a group of 20 people, everything ran smoothly thanks to our coordinator Jolie, whom we cannot thank enough.

All of the preparation led to FutureProof – our collective exhibition within Free Range in Old Truman Brewery, Shoreditch. The installation was a bit stressful, but we had support from each other,  and the TPG technicians. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of putting your own work up on the wall, out there in the ‘real world’ for the first time. Each year, Free Range showcases work of art graduates from the best universities in the UK. It was an extreme honour to be included in it. FutureProof ended up being this large mirror reflecting interests and issues that matter to us, the young artists who organised it.

I think the greatest thing about putting on FutureProof together was the sense of community and belonging. Too often, the art world feels inaccessible to me, everything just seems to be run by old white men. FutureProof was born from a community of diverse individuals with a common goal. The entire experience of it has boosted my self-confidence and taught me a great number of things. Apart from technical matters, such as various ways of hanging your work on the wall, it taught me a lesson about time management and project organisation. Most importantly, I gained a lot of interpersonal skills, such as compromising, working in a group and liaising. I only wish we had enough time to produce some kind of handout that would include more information about us. Next time, I would also produce a visual map with directions, as many people had difficulty finding our exhibition within the Free Range.

After this experience, I actually went on to curate and organise another exhibition independently. I wouldn't have been able to do that without having worked on FutureProof previously. I would definitely encourage every young photographer to take up an opportunity to organise an exhibition. Not only do you get to learn so many things about working with other people, but it also gives you a completely different insight into the artwork you are showing. Find yourself a group of people who are interested in putting up an art show and go for it!

- Joanna Sitarz