Anne-Katrin Purkiss: DACS membership shows you take a professional approach to managing your images

    Anne-Katrin Purkiss talks to us about her approach to portrait photography and what it means to be a member of DACS.

    Which photographers or artists have had the most influence on your work?

    The work of photographers such as August Sander and Louis Held has been a big influence. Louis Held had his studio in Weimar at the turn of the last century and his work is not that well known over here.
    More generally, I was taught the kind of documentary photography that is quiet, sensitive and respectful of its subjects. The last thing I'd want to do is to photograph people as 'celebrities' or reinterpret common icons.

    How would you describe a typical day in your life?

    Photography days are all different, there is no typical day. 'Desk and computer days' start at 8am to get emails and phone calls out of the way in the morning. I’ll try to go for a walk down along the Thames sometime in the afternoon and the rest of the day, and the evening, is spent on post-production work and archiving. That's if nothing happens at short notice.

    You’ve been photographing artists in their studios for many years now. What do you think we can learn about an artist from their portrait?

    I like to photograph people - not only artists - in the context of their environment, and I prefer to leave the choice of environment to my subjects. That allows the picture to tell several stories. One about a person and how they would like to be seen, another about a location - a studio, a street, a landscape - at a given point of time, and yet another about how they relate to or interact with one another.
    I'm not sure whether 'learning' something about someone else is the word I would use. Perhaps a portrait can help us to look at an artist (or anyone else) as a human being, and see and understand the work they have done the better for it.

    You’ve photographed many inspiring people, not just in the art world, but also in science, literature and politics. Are there any photoshoots or experiences that particularly stand out for you?

    That's difficult. There have been so many interesting people and so much to learn from them. There’s also much that I now know I missed at the time.
    Earlier this year, I photographed the painter Anthony Eyton. He had forgotten that I was coming and I found him writing his diary. He is 94 now and preparing an exhibition for the Belle Shenkman Room in the Keeper's House of the Royal Academy. He has kept a diary almost every day, all his life. I was hugely impressed.
    A long way back, photographing Enoch Powell at the Houses of Parliament, I saw a balcony outside and asked whether it was possible to get out there for a picture with St Stephen's Tower in the background. It was - by climbing out of the window - which Powell suggested we should do, and he went first. The picture is now at the National Portrait Gallery.

    It’s notoriously difficult to sustain a career as a photographer. What do you think of as DACS’ role in this area?

    I think the answer is precisely in the need to 'sustain' a career over many decades. DACS helps financially - by collecting and paying photographers and artists their royalties – and also by providing advice about copyright in a market that is changing very rapidly.
    It helps to have the support of DACS, who know the law and are experienced in negotiating fair licence agreements on behalf of their members. Being a member is a sign that you are a serious photographer and take a professional approach to managing your images.

    Thinking about your own experiences, how has DACS helped you specifically?

    Earlier this year, I had a request from a well-known gallery who wanted to use one of my pictures on their redesigned website, insisting that there should be no time limit on usage. When I contacted DACS, it turned out that they were already negotiating with the same gallery on behalf of several other contributors, and they simply added my request to the others. They certainly did not grant indefinite usage rights.

    Is copyright important to you? Why?

    Absolutely - it is not only a financial question, especially for portrait photography. It's also about keeping control over how and in which contexts these pictures are used.

    You recently joined our Copyright Licensing and Artimage services, appointing DACS to deal with requests to license your work on your behalf. What made you join?

    I knew about DACS from my work with the German picture agency AKG Images, but I always associated it with clearing rights for the reproduction of works of art and perhaps liaising with artists' estates. One of the Royal Academy artists I was photographing assumed that I was 'obviously' registered with DACS, and it was only at that point that I came to look at it in more detail. And I'm glad I did.

    What projects are you working on at the moment?

    I have just completed a photographic record of the restoration of J.M.W. Turner's House in Twickenham. The pictures will appear in a book due to be published by the Turner’s House Trust this September.
    I have also started to plan a series of photographs documenting artists' studios, supported by a grant from the Henry Moore Foundation. Separately, in the first half of next year, there will be an exhibition of my portraits of sculptors at the Royal British Society of Sculptors in Kensington.

    Find out more about Anne-Katrin Purkiss
    Browse and license her work on Artimage
    Join DACS: Learn more about our services for artists and artist estates

    Image: Anne-Katrin Purkiss, photographed by Brian Benson for DACS. Photograph © Brian Benson, 2017.

    Posted on 17/07/2017 by Jessica Bancroft