BIPP Associate in Landscape Photography

In September 2020, I have been awarded my BIPP Associateship Qualification. This is the second out of the three distinctions (Licentiate, Associate, or ultimately Fellowship) awarded by the British Institute of Professional Photography.

"It is an honour to have my work recognised by a professional organisation whose qualifications are so hard to get and are a benchmark for excellence worldwide."

The Journey

It was not a straightforward journey and required lots of hard work and preparation. I was battling with self-doubt forever, and I was missing a community where I could belong, so I became an International member of the BIPP in September 2019. My primary motivation was to be in touch with English speaking industry professionals, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to work with a mentor!

The first step to gain any qualification was to select a portfolio of images representing the field of Qualification the photographer is applying for - in my case; it was Landscapes. I submitted a selection of my favourite landscape images for a portfolio critique, first. It did not take long, and I received constructive feedback with some hints about which photographs are working well in my portfolio and others I should consider to replace. I had a mentor assigned, a BIPP Fellow, Mrs Annemarie Farley. I love her flower photography! From the very first moment I enjoyed working with Annemarie, she helped me to understand the qualification process as well as select the final 20 images which I would submit for my Licentiate qualification. She even encouraged me to attend the Qualification in person and prepare prints to have a chance to be "upgraded" to Associate. She believed in my skills and helped me to put together the required evidence for my 40-page book. 

The criteria for Associate of the BIPP demands a high standard of craftsmanship, including the use of light, composition, Image framing and cropping, demonstration of good ability in preparing files for print. Increased knowledge for output, including the correct choice of printing media. 

We were communicating online, as I was in Prague, in the Czech Republic and then later in Seychelles and Annemarie In Lancashire, in the UK. The scheduled April-date was postponed due to the pandemic. Also, I was stuck in Seychelles for five months. I received the news that there is a date set for September! I was hoping to get back to Europe by then.

Fortunately, I managed to order my prints before my trip, so all I needed to do was to collect them. Unfortunately, there was no more room for modifications and quality improvements, as they were hand-matted to an exact size. Well, I still had to put together the book! The draft was ready, and I had roughly a month after my return to finalise everything. I worked on a new brand and a new webpage in the meanwhile, so I had to rewrite part of the book. When I talk about the book itself - the supporting evidence included my approach to clients, workflow, professional business practice, personal and business development goals, health and safety policy, risk assessment procedures, sales reports, awards and publications and many other. 

Putting it all on paper forced me to think about my business differently and helped me to outline all the necessary fields of my work. Thank you BIPP for requiring this additional work! It was for the best at the end!

The Qualification

As the date was coming closer, I felt chilled as I had my prints ready and sent off the book for printing as well as the business cards. We had booked a hotel called "Stranded" in Blackpool - sounded like the right choice after being stuck in Seychelles for so long! I booked a business flight to be able to carry over all my photo books and supporting evidence in person, and I had my Birthday coming up just two days after the Qualification! It supposed to be a proper weekend getaway in Blackpool! What could come in my way, I asked myself?

The second wave of Covid, obviously! The flights had been cancelled, and the UK required a 14-day quarantine! I knew I wouldn't be able to attend the Qualification in person. My submission book had a delay as well as the business cards as most of the companies shut down their Europe printing labs and moved the printing to the US! I was in a mad panic! How on Earth am I going to get all my materials to Preston in time? Do I have to present my work over Zoom? Will I understand the English spoken by the judges? I am not a native speaker, and although I am quite confident about my English, I won't be able to do lip-reading if needed! Will they be wearing a shield? Since I had no connection to other photographers going through the process in the past except Annemarie, my mentor, I did not quite know what to expect. I only heard it is nerve-wracking! 

I found a box at home and let UPS teleport my materials to the UK, to my great surprise, it took only 8 hours! Thanks, UPS! My business cards arrived two weeks after my Qualification.

September 17th - it was my turn. I put on a dress for the Zoom call, and I was wearing my lucky Puffin socks hidden under the table! I had to follow this new crazy Zoom trend! :) The judges arrived in their cool face shields, and my 20 images from my portfolio were nicely displayed in the room. They asked me to introduce myself and my work in a nutshell - I do not know what I was blabbering about; I do not remember much. I was improvising, but please don't ask me about the content; I have amnesia. It was about my work and travel, I guess! I remember one of the judges, James Musselwhite @y2jimbob, mentioning that he takes pictures of half-naked men - that caught my attention for sure! :)

The judges asked me to wait for the results. Another Zoom call - I was successful with the Licentiate! Then something about re-discussing my work and prints and I think it was Martin Baynes, the CEO, who was holding two Certificates - both Licentiate and Associate! I was thrilled and confused at the same time! I did not know how to react! My brain was still coping with the word Licentiate and the thought of the half-naked men...

Now, retrospectively when I am thinking about it, doing the Qualification from my home office probably saved me from a lot of stress! On the other side, I missed the connection to all other great photographers attending the Qualification and the judges, which I hope I will make up next time when I come to pick up my submission materials!

What Next

I am incredibly thankful to my mentor, Annemarie Farley, for her expertise and help through the process, the BIPP, allowing me to present my work as well as to the fantastic judges giving me their feedback on the strength of the panel and where I need to improve! Also big thanks to Martin Baynes, CEO and Sharron Caunce, Office Manager for the smooth communication. This is not the final round, gaining the Associateship boosted my self-confidence, and now it is time to work even harder, for the Fellowship!

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© 2020 by Erika Valkovicova