2017 photography review by Laura Ward

Like a lot of people, I love the turning of a year. I love the newness of January and how it feels like shedding a skin. 2017 on the whole has been pretty amazing, though December has been a beast. As we edge closer to January I thank my lucky stars that everyone I love is still alive.

I set out to push myself in 2017 to do things I hadn't done before. I gave a couple of talks which were well received. I played a small role in an appeal for homeless photographers. I wrote articles - something that doesn't come easily to me. I even blogged more which is a small miracle. I only exhibited once and that was at The Paxton Centre, but my work was published in Oh Comely and presented at the ICA thanks to Emma Watson.

I need to scale back a bit next year but I've just come back from a short meeting to discuss a small possible exhibition on my doorstep with a local photographer.  Effra FC also turns 10, so something had better mark that occasion.

Here are some of my favourites from the year shot on 35mm and digital.  Go here for 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

A love letter by Laura Ward

I got a handwritten letter recently. Not a card, but a letter, and it wasn’t from my mother-in-law who often writes very thoughtful letters. It wasn’t a love letter either but one filled with gratitude reminding me that in the occasional drudgery of business making-decisions, you can make truly worthwhile ones. Decision making can be a mystical maze of wrong-turnings and occasional dead-ends.

Business aside, when it comes to projects I decided to try a few things out. Approach that person I’ve admired for a while. Do a talk about my work (inspired by my womb) to a small mostly-male audience. Say yes to small publishing projects. Say hells-yes to taking projects overseas. Be honest, even if people don’t like it. Review practically everything else to see what I don’t have time for, including relatively noxious things that float my way simply by the wind changing course. There are fewer dead-ends here.

Current photos: went to Sheffield for the weekend and ventured to Wales again.

Talking about yourself by Laura Ward

I've been keeping myself busy since the beginning of the year. I hear a lot of people telling me to make more time for doing nothing, like it's better for the soul. In my case, it's not. I'd always rather be doing something rather than nothing. Some of these somethings are developing into exciting ventures.

One of my new roles is Project Manager for Shutter Hub (I totally L-O-V-E that team). One afternoon in early February I had the opportunity to address a room of aspiring photographers at a workshop run by Accumul8. Their mission is to empower young, homeless people through creativity. I talked about my journey and approach to photography, and how my camera is my tool, my weapon, my voice and occasionally my therapist. Afterwards I spent some time with one of students who couldn't believe we had so much in common. 

The most refreshing thing about the afternoon was the lack of assumptions anyone made about me which is what I had feared the most. I walked away feeling empowered by the process of sharing advice, tips, fears, ideas and how I measure success. People listened and made notes. I'm very grateful to both Shutter Hub and Accumul8 for giving me that platform and for allowing me to listen to them too. 

It's helpful to spend a chunk of time thinking about your motivations, your work and the narrative behind the pictures you take. Sometimes it pays off to be honest about the stories to tell and the reason we pick up a camera or paintbrush or pencil or guitar. I've often found myself editing or deleting blog posts that tread onto the fringes of personal content. Recently a good photographer friend Ted told me 'if it's not personal, why bother?'. He's right. So right. My most recent projects have helped me heal, forced me to get outside of my comfortable zone and in turn, made me feel much better about my place in the world. The most immediate thing in my gift to change is where I put my energy, which projects I'll focus on and who I want to invest time in. It's my food for thought this year.

Here are a few pictures from my local park this winter.  I can't get enough of Crystal Palace when it's cold.