“This is the situation, it happened to Hackney – the artists came in and then the prices went soaring.”
Lucy Bull is an exhibition curator and Company Director of Jeff Moore Photography, based in East London.
After being in the photography world for over 20 years, Lucy worked as a freelance picture researcher at The Times Newspaper. Since 2015 Lucy has worked closely with Jeff Moore Photography on projects such as the most recent Warburtons Ad, Gary Lineker Walkers ad and the Royal Ballet, amongst many others.
What is your definition of studio space?
If you were to say to me ‘what is studio space’ it would for me personally because obviously I am in a smaller space, but personally for me it would be a bigger space because if you’re doing photography, something with natural light, potentially an older building that’s been refurbished, maybe a warehouse, somewhere that you can have clients in so can provide tea and coffee. A space for lounging and washing up and just a big white wall with natural light coming in. The studio space that I have at the moment is quite small, that is purely because of the cost if you wanted a big studio its just not affordable. If you need to have a smaller one because of the cost you are going to need something that has storage, with the shop it is tiny its a box room and I’ve got all the photography so its essentially an art gallery inside and it just needs natural light that is quite lat light so that people can see what’s on the wall. I also work within that space as well so it’s like an office for me, so I need to have some form of storage that can be packed away – my desk can be pushed up or I can pull it down. Ideally, I would like a bit more space where I could mount pictures. I think its the cost.
If you said to me ‘you can have any studio’ I would love to have a big one, a separate little section for a dark room, bathroom facilities. When we’re not shooting against a background people could come in to critique the work then we do courses. I could do all my work within this space, obviously keeping the office space but the cost, you just wouldn’t be able to do it. That’s why I work in a much smaller unit.
What is it about the older buildings, why do you prefer them?
I think its just the look of them. There are also still quite a lot of old buildings that are derelict. There are still lots in the Silver-town that area.
Would you be willing to share a bigger space – the facilities were shared?
I don’t think I would. Just because you want to, I know that idea is very in the now. If you were going into a space with a laptop and just wanted to do office work or just wanted to type a few emails then that’s fair enough. But you would have your own equipment in there so it would be a case of moving the equipment round, you would have your own desk with your paperwork. If you’re going to do it, you would want it so it’s your actual office. I think it can be a lot more difficult with photography because you’re not just going to turn up with a laptop, it would be a whole lot of equipment. If you’re going to use it as your potential art gallery as well having pictures hanging up. I think I would want to have a lot more control over my space.
If you were to go into your space and someone else had hung something different up, something you don’t particularly like and you have a client coming into the studio space when thats on the wall and it isn’t yours. The work that we do, we don’t particularly get lots of clients coming in but that is something we’re thinking about for the future. If you do have clients coming in they will want to see your work and they won’t want to see someone else’s. It doesn’t sound too great if you’ve hired your space out. Some of the jobs we do, you don’t always need a studio space, it may be in a location. If we do need a studio, we will hire one, the client will pay for that. They will know, therefore, that it is a hired job because they will have organised it.
In an ideal world, it would be fantastic to have a studio, but it’s not going to happen.
How close does it have to be to home?
For me, it is quite important that its close to home. Staying within an area.
How about if it was fused with your home?
As in, for instance, another room outside. I do often work from home, if I’m not in where I mentioned earlier, the shop, then we do have the office at home and we’ve done that for about sixteen years. The problem that I found with it being inside the house is that you get distracted by other things. Whereas if it was a separate building in the garden, I think I could do that.
What aspects are really essential when it comes to designing studio spaces for the future?
Where you’re studio is, its good that they’ve got that hub at the coffee shop, so you can just use that space for a break. Meaning then you don’t need that within your studio, you can just come down and you are seeing other people, you get to meet everybody that either lives or works within the area. Potentially a concierge would be important so that not anyone could wander around. Or perhaps a communal garden where people can have a break or if you’re local to the area you have a space.
What would you say to artists looking for studio spaces?
To keep them in London? I would just personally tell them to leave and go to the coast. This is the situation, what happened to Hackney – the artists came in and then the prices went soaring. There is a space called resort studios, it’s a massive, old warehouse that was where all the artists went from Hackney. They’re my age, the older generation. The space has these beautiful large windows and it was a great space.
Resort Studios in Margate, prior to it being bought it was very run-down and I think a lot of artists, they didn’t mind it. The thing is unless our going to say for example if you’re a painter, you would have to share but also I think you should be looking further out. Places like Barking have got an artistic vibe to them but again you don’t get in there sick enough, or if you can’t get any help. You do still need to make the money to pay the rent, which can be very hard and I think thats why a lot of people are moving out of the city to places like Nottingham with all of the older warehouses there.
I would probably consider £500 to be affordable, depending on how much the artists work cost, but as a freelance artist, it really is up and down, month to month changes. It would be good to hire the space out, that you rent so that when you aren’t using the space, or when it may be a quiet period – you can ensure you have the funds to keep the space in use.
Maybe if there were some form of fixed rent for two or three years or so, and then it can be reviewed so that the artists know their commitment will not change for three years.
Having a space with basic needs and functions of the artist community and residents that will use it would enable for a feasibly wise development in both the favour of the developers an, in turn, reducing the cost for the artist residents.