Photographer Nicholas J R White is based on Dartmoor National Park, South West England. His work examines the landscape and the ways in which we interact with our natural spaces.
In 2017, White was awarded the RPS / TPA Environmental Awareness Bursary for his series ‘Black Dots’ that explores mountain bothies and bothy culture throughout the United Kingdom. The bursary helped fund White’s ongoing project ‘Carpathia’, documenting the formation of a new European wilderness reserve in the Southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania.
Below, White shares his tips for project creation. The RPS / TPA Environmental Awareness Bursary deadline for submissions is 3 July.
Find and putting together a funding application
I have a small notepad that lives on my desk at home, and whenever I have even the smallest idea, or read about something that captures my imagination, I’ll jot it down. Sometimes these ideas never get further than a few lines but others develop into multiple pages. When this happens, I’ll consolidate my notes into very basic ‘who, what, why, when etc’. These are generally the questions you’ll be asked in funding apps, as well as pitches to picture editors.
It’s good to have a more detailed synopsis for a project as it develops, but perhaps more important to be able to cut through the waffle and get to the point! I can’t think of anything worse than finding a funding opportunity and quickly improvising some vague concept in order to get some funding.
Planning a project
Research is key, of course, but always leave room for surprises. There’s only so much you can achieve by sitting on Google, and sooner-or-later you just have to take the leap and head out with the camera. Obviously, this is tricky when you’re working on something in a different country. For my work in Romania, I had a very rough idea of what I wanted to achieve but spent 50% of my bursary money on research trips and location reccys.
Everyone approaches project work differently, but I usually spend a lot of time walking and getting a feel for the environment. The camera stays in the bag for the first few trips. This can sometimes feel as though you’re wasting time but it pays dividends to put in the groundwork.
I always draft up a huge list of relevant contacts, email addresses and their relevance to the project. Doing this in Romania helped me to build friendships with the forest rangers, and ultimately allowed me “exclusive” access into the organisation’s project area.
Getting your project seen by the right people
I try not to think about this too much until the work is well underway - I don’t really want the work to become influenced by what a certain mag/editor might like.
I like to keep a list of names/mags/editors that might be interested in the themes I’m exploring, but usually don’t reach out to them until much later on.
You can quite quickly build an audience to your work as the project develops - social media has made that an organic process. That said, I’d err on the side of caution when it comes to posting new work as soon as you possibly can. There are more important things in this world than rushing your new work onto Instagram. Let the work live with you for a bit, and only release it when you’re 100% happy.
The Environmental Bursary is offered by the RPS in partnership with The Photographic Angle and consists of a £3,000 grant to support a photographic project promoting environmental awareness. The bursary provide a platform for exposure and professional development opportunities, with the recipient's final work published in the award-winning RPS Journal. Applications are invited from anyone living or studying in the UK. Find out more here.
About Nicholas J R White
Nicholas is a photographer based in South West England. He works on long-term projects in addition to undertaking commercial and editorial assignments internationally. In 2017, Nicholas was named as a winner in the Lens Culture Emerging Talent Awards and has had work featured in the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward, British Journal of Photography Portrait of Britain and named as Judges Choice in Landscape Photographer of the Year. Learn more about his work here.
1) Mosu, forest ranger, photographed on his land in Magura Village, Piatra Craiului from ‘Carpathia’; 2) Strabeg Bothy in the Northern Highlands, Scotland from ‘Black Dots’; 3) Targului River, from ‘Carpathia’; 4) Members of the wildlife team patrolling Draganu Peak within the Rucar Hunting Area. All photos © Nicholas J R White