AN INTERVIEW WITH PHOTOGRAPHY CONSULTANT & CURATOR MARC PRÜST
We had the pleasure of recently interviewing Marc Prüst whose workshop. Marc is renowned photography consultant and curator. He edit books, creates exhibitions, teaches and organizes workshops and masterclasses, lectures and writes on photography, and on an individual basis – he also advises photographers on how to develop their work and how to market it.
He is currently the artistic director for the NUKU photo festival Ghana, He was also the Artistic Director of the Photoreporter Festival in Saint Brieuc, France, from 2014 to 2016. His exhibition North Korean Perspectives was on show in 2015 at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. He was one of three curators for the FotoGrafia festival in Rome for the period 2010 – 2012, and the creative director of the only photo festival in Nigeria, LagosPhoto in 2010 and 2011.
He has worked for the World Press Photo Foundation from 2001 to 2007, where he organized and installed exhibitions all over the world.
Here is the interview
Q : Can you take us through your journey as a photography consultant and curator? How did you start? How long back was this?
Marc Prüst : My journey is not typical, I studied Foreign Affairs and Japanese in the Netherlands and Japan, where I bought a camera at some point. Through some photography courses at the local cultural centre, I got interested in visual media, and after graduating I ended up getting my first job at World Press Photo in Amsterdam at the exhibition department. There I worked for six years and travelled the world setting up and opening the annual winner exhibitions. It was a great experience to meet lots of people and to work in many different places. I then left the organization to work for Agence VU’ in Paris, France. VU’ is an agency with a very interesting roster of photographer authors. The commercial world was not a match for me so I left the agency and started for myself: freelancing for festivals, museums, individual photographers. I was curating exhibitions, setting up workshops and masterclass programs, I was a teacher for some years at Spéos Institute for Photography, and combined all these activities under the title ‘consultant and curator’. Currently I am in the process on re-focussing on developing stories as a story editor.
Q : What does a Photography Consultant do? What do you do as a curator? How has the experience been?
Marc Prüst : I always called myself a consultant so I could be active in many different kind of jobs, but in the end, my main focus is to allow others to better tell their story: As a story editor I am not so interested to tell my own story, but to try to identify what the photographer wants to communicate and then edit and shape their work in such a way that it communicates well with the audience.
Q : Who inspired you to take up this professions? How do you keep yourself motivated?
Marc Prüst : My inspiration to do what I do is because I see the power and potential of visual storytelling, but also that this potential is not yet being fully used.
Q : Tell us about your experience working with the World Press Photo
Marc Prüst : I worked at the organisation as a project manager. It was great to be behind the scenes and watch the jurors in action! Currently I am the chair of the jury of the Dutch photojournalism competition, De Zilveren Camera. As a non-voting member I lead the process and act as spokesperson when the results are announced, and again in this position it is very interesting to see how discussions go, how decision are being made and how opinions change during such a process.
Q : We know you give solid advice to photographers and sometimes it is hard for some people to accept it. How do you critique without hurting sentiments?
Marc Prüst : Giving honest feedback sometimes means you hurt a photographer’s feelings, it is never my intention to hurt so I aim to give constructive feedback, to stress the potential that lies ahead. Those seeking feedback should be honest to themselves though, in knowing what they are asking for.
Q : What would it take to win a world press photo award ? What are the parameters that are considered for judging a photograph?
Marc Prüst : If I had the answer to this questions… wow… I think it is important your work tells an important story, that the images need little written context and are visually outstanding. Generally, to produce these kinds of stories, it takes commitment, skill, and a bit of good luck, too.
Q : What does it take to become a successful photographer (art & commercial)?
Marc Prüst : There is not one thing that makes someone successful, I always think that in photography you need technical skills, commitment and some talent. Skill is 30%, Commitment is 65% and 5% is talent. It starts and ends with working very hard and being committed to your job as a photographer.
Q : What is your message to all new photographers who are early in their photography careers?
Marc Prüst : Work hard! And do not forget that photography is a medium, a visual language that needs to communicate. This profession is not about how you enjoy taking pictures, it is about how well your images communicate your message to your audience.
Q : Is it necessary to get a formal education in photography before becoming a photographer?
Marc Prüst : It is not essential, there are many self-taught photographers out there, but it just takes a lot more time and energy! There is a lot of technical skill involved in photography, and it helps to learn the basics of taking and reading visuals if you want to do this professionally.
Q : What is absolutely unacceptable when taking photos and as a photographer?
Marc Prüst : That is hard to answer, it is always difficult to speak in absolutes, but I think as a photographer you always need to have respect for the people you are taking pictures off.
Q : What makes a photo valuable? What are the key features of a great photo?
Marc Prüst : For me, a great photograph communicates, it tells a story or it shows me something I have never seen before. A great photograph captures my attention because of its beauty, because it depicts something in a truly refreshingly new way.
Q : What are some of the secrets of the great photographers?
Marc Prüst : You would have to ask those photographers! I think photography is made up of 70% hard work, 20% technique, and perhaps 10% talent. But what you lack in talent, you can actually make up with hard work! I think commitment and knowing what to achieve is an important element for success.
Q : How to balance the art vs commercial aspect in photography?
Marc Prüst : This is a hard one, as those two aspects are not mutually exclusive, but indeed: it may be harder to be very outspoken in commercial work. I think every individual photographer should look for this balance, and see what they themselves find more important.
Q : What makes wedding photography different from other photography genres, how can one be successful in wedding photography?
Marc Prüst : It is essentially not very different from other genres: it has to communicate something, they only thing in wedding photography is that the intended audience for the work is relatively small: you photograph the wedding first and foremost for the couple, and their immediate family and friends. In the end, the couple is not looking for photographs of their wedding, they are looking for a way to keep the memory of that event. Photographs just happen to be an amazing way of keeping memories!
Q : What is your advice to wedding photographers?
Marc Prüst : Wedding photography is a very challenging sector in photography: the clients are demanding, and you only have one change to get some of the most crucial shots at the wedding. Also, you need to be able to work in many different styles and conditions: portrait, action, event, close-up, natural light, daylight, night, flash… My advice is: consider what the couple would want from the photographer: a nice person who does not interfere with the mood of the day and eventually delivers an amazing memory of their wedding!
Q : What should people look into when booking a wedding photographer or any photographer?
Marc Prüst : Try to find someone whose style you like, but aim to work with a photographer who is not in the job of taking pictures but in the business of providing memories!
Q : Can you imagine what photography will be like in future?
Marc Prüst : Well, I don’t have a crystal ball…. but photography is changing at a neck brake pace, of course. I think the value of the individual image will become smaller and smaller, and that the still image will be used more and more in the context of other media: text, moving image, illustration etc. The point will be more and more to create powerful narratives, and the still image will play its role in those narratives, but that role will be versatile and changing continuously.
Q : I benefited a lot from your photography workshop, can you please tell us more about it and the kind of workshops that you take?
Marc Prüst : That is nice to hear! I have conducted several types of educational projects, short and long term. The bottom line of my workshop is this concept that photography is a medium and I use that as a starting point to develop stories, but also marketing plans or business cases. In my workshops I try to help photographers build their projects and to connect with the right audiences.
Q : What are your future plans ?
Marc Prüst : There are many short term plans, such as concluding some book and exhibition projects I am working on and developing some texts and ideas. Also, I have just finalised a research into sustainable business models for documentary photography. As it was funded by a Dutch foundation, (the Dutch Journalism Fund) it has a Dutch focus, but I hope to extend it to include a wider range of experiences. From this research came some interesting conclusions on different types of visual stories and how to distribute them: these are ideas I would love to develop further in the future.
Q : How can people reach you or follow you online?
Marc Prüst : I am easy to reach by email and I have some social media channels, such as facebook, instagram and twitter. Also I send out a newsletter every two months or so. You can find more information on my activities on my website, too: www.marcprust.com