An Interview with Fiona Rogers, Cultural & Education Manager at Magnum Photos and Founder of Firecracker

firecracker

Originally posted on March 3rd 2014

Since 2011, Firecracker has assisted the promotion of women working in photography with a series of monthly online features, networking opportunities and public events. In 2012, the annual Firecracker photographic grant launched to assist a female photographer born or residing in Europe with the completion of a documentary photographic project.

Jo Metson Scott was awarded the inaugural grant for ‘The Grey Line’; her sensitive documentation of soldiers speaking out against the Iraq war. Nadia Sablin, a Russian photographer based in Brooklyn, was awarded the 2013 grant for ‘Two Sisters’, her documentation of her two unmarried aunts, their relationship, daily life and the house that they call home. Details on how to apply for the 2014 Firecracker photography grant will be announced in July 2014.

Fiona Rogers currently also holds the position of Cultural and Education Manager at Magnum Photos, London. Her responsibilities include originating and touring international photographic exhibitions and working alongside Magnum’s Cultural and Print Room Director to program Magnum’s London gallery space to represent its photographers within the commercial market. Fiona founded Magnum’s educational initiative in 2007, which includes a yearly schedule of global workshops, professional practise seminars, masterclasses and portfolio preview events.

Fiona told us why she chose to set up Firecracker, her perceptions of photography and why men often outnumber women as photographers…

Genesisimaging: Hi Fiona, are you ready to discuss Firecracker and photography?

Fiona_Rogers: Bring it on…

Genesisimaging: Let’s begin by talking about Firecracker – What made you establish it?

Fiona_Rogers: I noticed a gender imbalance in the industry and I wanted to do something useful to address it…

Fiona_Rogers: I also wanted to help a lot of great photographers that I couldn’t through my employment at Magnum.

Genesisimaging: Why do you think that there is this imbalance in the photographic industry?

Fiona_Rogers: It’s a really big question! I think it’s due to a number of contributing factors; some say men are more competitive.

Fiona_Rogers: Some women also drop out after having kids which leaves a gap in the industry for high profile photographers of a certain age.

Genesisimaging: Interesting points – Willie points out that it often doesn’t correspond with numbers in photography degrees, where women often outnumber men.

Fiona_Rogers: Many women study photography and go on to work within the industry, but less convert to practitioners which is odd.

Genesisimaging: What was your biggest challenge in establishing Firecracker in 2011?

Fiona_Rogers: Time and resources. I still find it difficult managing Firecracker with full time employment, I miss a lot of opportunities.

Genesisimaging: How have your aims or expectations changed since Firecracker was established?

Fiona_Rogers: They just get more ambitious!

Genesisimaging: Great answer!

Genesisimaging: Going back to your point about women taking career breaks…

Genesisimaging: Mel asks, what advice would you give women who were professional photographers for getting back into the industry after having kids?

Fiona_Rogers: It depends on how much you want it. Industry socialising is a great way to meet people and build confidence.

Genesisimaging: Tell us about your interest in photography, where did it begin and what is it about documentary photography in particular that interests you?

Fiona_Rogers: I studied an arts BA specialising in photography, but soon realised my strengths were in supporting and nurturing not practising.

Fiona_Rogers: I love the diversity of documentary photography, and that it can be used to communicate anything from artistic expression to a political message.

Fiona_Rogers: I don’t think enough people realise the impact photography has on everyday life.

Genesisimaging: We couldn’t agree more! Sara asks, which up and coming female photographers are you most excited about right now?

Fiona_Rogers: I’m a big fan of Alma Haser, Maria Gruzdeva, and Emily Macinnes. Not all women! I like Robert Ormerod too.

Genesisimaging: Hannah asks, what do you think female photographers do differently, if at all?

Fiona_Rogers: I don’t think women do anything differently to men in practice but I think there may be a difference in PR’ing.

Genesisimaging: Great! Going back to Firecracker, how do you select who is awarded the annual photographic grant? It must be a tough choice!

Fiona_Rogers: Yes, so thankfully I don’t have to! The grant has a rolling judging panel who make the tough decision…

Fiona_Rogers: I think it’s more useful to applicants if their work can be seen by industry professionals.

Genesisimaging: Tell us, if you could own any image or body of work, what would it be?

Fiona_Rogers: Julia Margaret Cameron’s portrait of Charles Darwin.

Genesisimaging: Why this piece?

Fiona_Rogers: I love history. Cameron was a pioneer of photography; she broke the rules for what was acceptable at the time.

Genesisimaging: Last Q… What can we expect from you and from Firecracker next?

Fiona_Rogers: Hopefully some more social events and maybe a UK residency program if I can get some funding… Donations welcome!

Fiona_Rogers: And growing the scope of the grant too.

Genesisimaging: Sounds interesting! Unfortunately that’s all we’ve got time for…

Genesisimaging: Thank you Fiona for an interesting and lively photography discussion this afternoon!

Fiona_Rogers: Thanks everyone!

Find out more about Firecracker at fire-cracker.org

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