Profile: Holger Pooten of London Institute of Photography

Having established London Institute of Photography, photographer and educator Holger Pooten has been leading, teaching and inspiring a whole new generation of photographers from his Shoreditch studios for several years now.

We sat down with Holder to find out more about the Institute, how it got started and what’s coming up this summer.

How did you come to establish the London Institute of Photography?

Prior to opening LIoP I have worked as a lecturer at university and colleges as well as a teacher in private photography schools and had the chance to learn what good teaching actually means. I found that the these institutions simply did not deliver what the students actually came for, which is to learn from established professional photographers the ins and outs of the business.
After spotting a gap in the market, I started from scratch and developed courses I wished I would have had access to myself as a young photographer.

What sets the LIoP apart from other photography institutions?

On the one side there is the exceptional quality of the courses and our team of professional photographers that makes studying at LIoP an outstanding experience. On the other side there is the focus on creativity and developing your own style that sets us apart from other courses that have a more technical approach.

Having talked at it myself, I can see the value in the ongoing visiting lecture series at the LIoP; what does it mean for you and your students to have all these different speakers share their stories?

The most important aspect of the LIoP Talks is that it allows our students to directly get in touch with people from the industry and art market and we keep the lectures small and familiar to create an atmosphere that feels relaxed and chatty, where no one is afraid to ask questions which can sometimes be very direct.
It is also a great opportunity to broaden our students horizon and often the talks that one might feel are not particularly relevant for one’s style turn out to be the most inspiring.

The annual student exhibition Show, comes with a programme of events including portfolio reviews, why have you set up this particular portfolio review day?

Through our strong ties to the industry we are able to offer the opportunity to get feedback from industry leading photographers, curators and editors which I’m sure will be of great value for everyone involved.

Why do you think it is important that photographers be willing to discuss their work, and on occasion be challenged about the work they make?

As a photographer there is a risk of ending up in your own creative bubble, particularly in the digital age, and presenting your work and having it reviewed is an essential part of the learning process. Photography is a language and the purpose of every language is to communicate. So it’s essential to get out there and see the reactions, hear the replies from other people. But the act of presenting your work in itself makes you understand it much better and also reveals areas that need to be improved and edited. Simply speaking, if I always have a bad feeling when the reviewer comes to a particular image or series, I know that I need to change it.

You’ve worked with many of the biggest brands in the world, what’s been the most important advice you’ve received in your career and how has it affected that work?

I have worked in the industry for 20 years and there were so many conversations and comments that I’m grateful about because they helped me to become the photographer I am today.
I think the best bit of advise I ever got was that, once you know what your theme, brand or specialization is, name it the way you like, everything else will fall in to place. This is so true and it is the foundation of all our courses.

What can participants hope to gain from this portfolio review day?

Meeting experts that are extremely difficult to get hold of and have their undivided attention for full 45 minutes is an incredible opportunity and a real luxury these days. I expect every participant to come away with a feeling of being inspired and real world advise of how to develop their photography further.

Holger will be reviewing portfolios, along with Diane Smyth (British Journal of Photography), Harry Borden (Photographer), and Karen McQuaid (The Photographers’ Gallery) during London Institute of Photography’s SHOW, when there are talks and workshops also taking place. Find out more about LIoP and book your place here.

London Institute of Photography
The Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL

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