Adam Lee

Adam Lee is a freelance photographer based in Liverpool UK. For his personal and commercial photographic work his clients include the Wigtown Book Festival, The Observer Escape Magazine, Granta Books, Sara Maitland, and DaDaFest amongst others. Adam also works as a freelance facilitator of participatory photographic projects with commissioners including PhotoVoice, Preston City Council, Liverpool City Council and Minerva Arts. Adam is Chair of the board of directors for LOOK: Liverpool International Photography Festival. Here are his first five jobs:

1. My first job (other than working at McDonalds and for a local gamekeeper when I was at school) was for Ladbrokes the bookmakers while I was at university. I started this job in my third year and carried on until I went travelling, six months after graduating. I started off as a cashier and eventually worked my way up to the assistant manager’s role at a shop in Toxteth, Liverpool. It was quite fun (due to the customers, not the work) and was my first experience of any kind of people management. On the whole, I think I learned a lot about customer service, managing staff and it was a crash course in scouse banter!

2. After university and a bit of travelling, the first job I got was as a Student Support Worker for Liverpool John Moores University. I have been doing the job for over ten years now and cannot see myself quitting soon. This is a great job: it’s fulfilling, particularly knowing you’re helping people rather than creating profit for shareholders. Furthermore, I get all the good sides of being a student (attending lectures, receiving an education and being paid to be there) but with none of the exams or coursework. Over the past ten years this role has taught me skills and knowledge I still use today. The job has opened doors into the arts world that I had never considered when first starting: I work regularly as a photographer in this field as well as delivering participatory projects to disabled groups. Finally, it forms the basis of a sustainable business model to support my fine art photographic work.

3. I got my first project with PhotoVoice, a London based charity that delivers participatory photography projects nationally and internationally, in 2009 based primarily on my experience with disability from my support work role (I had limited, professional photographic experience at this stage). I didn’t really know what participatory photography was until I saw this role advertised. Since then I have built a pretty solid career from this type of work. I work regularly for PhotoVoice and now have an extensive portfolio of freelance participatory work and projects. I find the participatory work to be an excellent string to my bow – it is again very fulfilling, helps me to think about the visual literacy side of photographic work, is highly practical and brings in a good bit of money.

4. Since starting the support work job in 2003 I haven’t had any other types of “employment” (other than my freelance photographic and participatory work). I had been volunteering for Redeye, the Photography Network, since 2009 as host of their Liverpool network meetings and when the post of events co-ordinator became available in 2013, I thought that this would be a great job to support my own personal practice. It was a fantastic job – I got to meet some of the big names in photography, to establish myself as a figure in photography in the North West of England and to deliver some great events – from talks to masterclasses to conferences and mass participation projects. In the end, I decided to leave the job earlier this year, as I wanted to refocus on my personal photographic work, having been awarded a residency at Metal in Liverpool. I continue to work voluntarily for Redeye now, resuming my role with the Liverpool network meetings.

5. Since 2008 I have been working on a voluntary basis for LOOK: Liverpool International Photography Festival. I was brought onto the board of directors when the festival moved from Manchester to Liverpool in 2008. Since then, I have fulfilled a number of roles including treasurer, company secretary and web and social media manager. In June this year I was made chair of the board of directors. Despite being unpaid work, LOOK is something I strongly believe in and have put my heart and soul into for the past six years, helping to deliver two highly successful festivals in 2011 and 2013 and am now working with the board and executive director to plan for LOOK/15 next year.

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We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.