Mark Devereux is a Manchester-based artist, curator and tutor. After graduating with BA (Hons) Photography and MA Fine Art from Staffordshire University he founded Blank Media Collective in 2006. Supporting and promoting the work of early career practitioners, Mark helped numerous artists develop their careers. Now, as he prepares to leave his role as Blank Media Collective Director and Head of Exhibitions to pursue his own practice and independent curatorial projects, we look at what he did before all this. Find out below.

1. As a sixteen year-old avid Lincoln City football club fan, I had to find a way to fund this highly addictive and expensive hobby. Up popped a famous Yorkshire supermarket and my employment began. Not the most mind-expanding job but definitely one that taught me a great deal. As I progressed through the hierarchy of stacking orange juice to checking out of date chicken, after a while I was asked to manage the department I was working in for one evening a week. This was my first experience of managing people and I was in at the deep end, when half of them were double my age.

2. After this slightly inconspicuous start, my next foray into employment (after taking a good few years living the life as a student) was through the photography store, Jessops. Joining the dots, there was a relationship to what I wanted to do in the future. I started meeting photographers and creative people, talking to them and asking questions about what they did and telling them about what I was doing. I created some great contacts and of course friends, many of whom I am still in touch with.

3. What may have been seen as a step down in the employment ladder, but what was in fact one of the most important jobs I had was as a cleaner at Staffordshire University. At that time, I found a loophole in the system meaning that if you worked for the University they would pay your post-grad tuition fees. In the third year of my undergraduate course, I finally found my niche and area of practice. It felt a rush to bring everything together in time for the degree show so I wanted to expand this new development in my practice and widen my focus into a fine art field. Working as a cleaner not only paid my tuition fees but also paid me a wage to create new work.

4. After a year of working as a cleaner I was fortunate to be offered the role as a Photography Technician / Instructor at the University covering maternity leave. This gave me the opportunity and insight into the other side of University life and has later led me back to the University this year to teach on the course as a visiting tutor. As well as setting up the studios, darkrooms and maintaining the equipment, I also instructed group and one-one workshops with the students, teaching practical techniques.

5. When I moved to Manchester from Stoke-on-Trent, I started working for Manchester Art Gallery on short-term temporary contracts. This was and has been one of the most beneficial jobs to my progression as a curator and director of an arts organisation and gallery. I was able to both see the inner workings of a large gallery/museum, as well as meet and receive advice and ideas from some of the curators and staff. This was an invaluable support network and helped Blank Media Collective gain a stronger footing within the arts and local community.

You can find out more about Mark’s work on his website. His final exhibition as Blank Media Collective’s Director and Head of Exhibitions, Liz West: Chroma opens on 5 July at BLANKSPACE Gallery, Manchester. Follow Mark on Twitter here.


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.