Photography studio, gallery and training complex

2012: The Best & Worst

As we slide inexorably towards the end of 2012, it’s something of a habit of mine to look back over the last twelve-month and try to weigh up whether it was, in balance, a good or not-so-good year for Fotofilia and photography on the whole. As the doctor said to the man who wakes up after surgery, “First, the bad news…”

  • The authorities used the excuse of the London Olympics (am I allowed to mention it yet?) to clamp down on anyone “sporting” a “serious” camera and many other dubious infringements on civil liberties. Readers with a particularly long memory may remember a police officer tried to prevent my group of students from photographing buildings in the St. Pauls Square area of Birmingham, saying we needed a permit because of the Olympics (oops! said it again!)
  • Closer to home, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, where I’ve been teaching photography part-time since 2004, sold off its Study Centre leaving itself with no suitable venue for photography courses.
  • Long-term Fotofilia assistant Simon Smith left us for “a proper job”. There’s still the possibility he may be back occasionally in 2013 though.
  • Again at Fotofilia, we had rather a lot of breakages, damage, and the occasional theft this year. This has meant that hire prices will have to go up slightly from 1st January. Regrettably, there are now 3 photographers on our “banned” list because of inconsiderate (and in one case, downright shocking) behaviour.
  • We had some great exhibitions during the last 12 months, largely curated by Dave Shepherd and Jack Nelson. However, most of the exhibitors simply didn’t have enough work to fill the 140+ feet of wall space and so only parts of the gallery were fully utilised. This has led to us developing new plans for the main gallery room while continuing to exhibit work in the lobby and corridor area.
  • We also took a significant hit early in the year when a company we were delivering training for went bust owing us rather a lot of money. Not a major disaster but it did cause plans for a second studio location to be put on ice for the time being.
  • Finally, who can forget the dismal weather which did its utmost to hinder every location event we arranged – or so it seemed.

But on the upside…

  • We attracted LOTS of new clients for all aspects of the business, from studio hire and courses to photography services. Among our new clients this year were BBC’s Panorama programme and Cirque du Soleil. And we continued a productive working relationship with some wonderful fashion designers (not least Georgina of “Mixidress” fame and corset designer Gillian Wesley)
  • 2012 saw very successful exhibitions by Fotofilia’s two photography clubs – f2 and THE CLUB. Both exhibitions were at Birmingham’s Custard Factory and saw club members pulling together to deliver truly inspirational shows. I’m sure they already know how proud I am of them, but its events like these that really make the training/club side of the business so very rewarding.
  • Speaking of the clubs, we welcomed some excellent and diverse speakers for both clubs’ meetings as well as arranging some fun practical events throughout the year.
  • We came up with yet more new and original courses and workshops, with new venues, new models, new tutors (like Julian M Kilsby, Paul Bonning-Tyers and Andrew Jackson) and new equipment. All this alongside the “old favourites” and a growing number of 1-1 tuition sessions.
  • I’ve had the chance to do a lot more photography myself this year, which is of course what I really love but is a side of the business that has been rather neglected in recent years. There have been some wonderful models, some fun band shoots and the opportunity to photograph people like Pete Williams of Dexys who was a photographer’s dream to work with. I’ve shot everything from fashion to boxing, cakes to yogis, and loved it.
  • We (along with the ever-wonderful Nettie Edwards) consolidated our position as one of the country’s leading providers of iphoneography courses and workshops as well as running the Birmingham Instagram Group. Exactly what will happen with the BIG in the wake of Instagram’s recent much-publicised dreadful policy decisions remains to be seen but we’ve met some lovely people along the way
  • In the autumn, designer and photographer George Gavalas joined us at Fotofilia, occupying the (no longer) spare office.
  • The courses that could no longer be held at the Botanical Gardens were held, in a slightly modified form, at Fotofilia instead and these have proved not only popular but if anything, improved.
  • And finally, here’s something that happened in the summer that absolutely revived my belief in the goodness of humanity: I was teaching a group in the studio when a family (mom, dad and daughter i think) popped in to see the exhibition. After showing them around briefly I offered them a drink and explained I needed to get back to my group and left them to wander around. When I finished the course, I came out of the studio to find near the door a £10 note with a scribbled note saying “Many thanks. We just wanted to leave a contribution”. Utterly humbled.
The actual note. There ARE nice people around.

The actual note. There ARE nice people around.

A few linkys:

The Mixidress –

Gillian Wesley Design –

My new courses at Birmingham Botanical Gardens –

Andrew Jackson –

Julian M Kilsby –

Cirque du Soleil –


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