Search Menu

Article: Simone Rudolphi on SHIFTS

Riksha Art on old DRIK window frame © Simone Rudolphi
Posted on: 9 January 2023

Simone Rudolphi reflects on developing her professional practice through the NEPN SHIFTS Professional Development Bursary Programme.

What I Hoped to Achieve

I had short, medium and long-term goals when I embarked on the SHIFTS Bursary Programme. I hoped the opportunity would enable me to plan for the longer term as well as attaining some more immediate aims. In the short/ medium term I hoped to make my existing work (especially Pont Valley Protection Documentary Images) more visible, online, in prints and in a zine.


  • Extend the audiences for my work.
  • Plan adaptable photographic/cyanotype community workshops.
  • Highlight my ‘Campaigning Works’.
  • Create Revenue (from existing work re-envisaged, and getting assignments/commissions, telling more stories)

My longer-term goals were to develop a PhD proposal and apply to Arts Council England for a Develop Your Creative Practice (DYCP) award to take my work forward.

What I Did/Learned/Achieved

A good way to visualise my working patterns and engagement as photographer/artist is a common garden hose pipe with a great attachment: This metaphor helps to describe a varied, interdisciplinary practice at the heart of which sit keeping alive my alertness, curiosity, and joyfulness despite the obvious challenges – often monetary.

© Simone Rudolphi

It may be counter-intuitive to be so ‘unspecialized’ within photography, but it works for me and allows me to be myself. The ‘specialism’ is a willingness to be curious, collaborative, and open on the one hand, while on the other thematically defined by making work often in the broad field of Climate/Migrant Justice that can be summed up as ‘better lives for more people’ and #thevalueofeveryone.

The SHIFTS process helped me to define my process and visualize my place within the creative/documentary community and see my strengths and weaknesses more clearly while feeling more confident that I belong and have something to say and do. The process itself within NEPN and the peer group was aided by all of us very quickly seeing a connectivity between our work, our themes, our values and by the huge flexibility and adaptability not only of the first call out but also the ongoing process.

Newcastle, Stanhope Street, 2018 from The Value of Everyone © Simone Rudolphi

Newcastle, Stanhope Street, 2018 from The Value of Everyone © Simone Rudolphi

The key struggle/ineffectiveness lay in the small budget for the overall bursary: It felt from the outset that possibilities were always limited by the mismatch between ambitious, important personal development plans and the bursary amount to allow us to make enough time to achieve the various components. If you factor in freelancers’ big personal situations that ‘steal’ time from paid work/the SHIFTS programme it can feel like never being able to rest or take a break to catch your breath. I often navigate this by the clever, cost-effective combining of work and visiting friends and family. The process highlights once again how necessary a Universal Basic Income could be in increasing wellbeing and productivity; and such schemes, for artists in particular, work well already in other countries.

Since March 2022, I have improved my practical skills including colour printing, workshop design, InDesign (with Folium Publishing) creating a zine, completing and sending the application for the prestigious Howard Chapnick Award and I have enjoyed the peer group connection and support. I have reached out more into ‘PhotoWorld’ through portfolio review, research and enjoyed a reading/research internship at DRIK in Bangladesh.

I benefited from mentoring by Mary Turner and David Campbell and visited more exhibitions with purpose related to my own practice in London and Manchester. I also completed a series of small accreditations to support my practice (Redeye’s Climate Aware Photographer, Photography Ethics Centre pledge, HEFAT course).

Taking a fellow SHIFT member’s entrepreneurial spirit as an inspiration, we organised a print sale in a friend’s café which was a good way of engaging with new audiences for more direct feedback and making a little bit of money with a sequel in planning.

Riksha Art on old DRIK window frame © Simone Rudolphi

Riksha Art on old DRIK window frame © Simone Rudolphi

Moreover, I stepped out of my comfort zone (and enjoyed) talking about my work during the national Redeye HotHouse event at Star and Shadow Cinema and by responding to Jim Mortram’s callout and offer of a Twitter takeover of his timeline: something I might not have signed up for were it not for ‘doing the SHIFTS’ bursary. Both helped define how I see my work with more clarity and pride and adding to the confidence overcoming the pre-SHIFTS ‘imposter syndrome’.

I taught four very distinct cyanotype workshops by myself after previous experience as volunteer:

  • Open Garden Drop in for Friends (received petrol money and food).
  • Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (not easy due to all the restrictions regarding materials and interaction with participants under close supervision from guards, paid at Artist Union England day rate).
  • Locomotion Shildon (opportunity kindly passed on to me by another North-East photographic artist, paid at Artist Union England day rate).
  • Hen Power (creative sessions around photography in a supported living setting for the elderly, ongoing, paid at their session rate).

© Simone Rudolphi

Amid my very personal challenges of moving from one temporary accommodation to another, SHIFTS has helped me to keep working through the access to facilities, regular peer meetings and evaluative conversations and enabled me to not be limited by circumstances; instead utilizing specific external circumstances making them into a benefit (eg: 4 weeks tied to cat/housesitting).

© Simone Rudolphi

The professional mentoring aspect was interesting and useful. One big take away: The ‘earning a living’ question in photography is hard work and an ongoing hustle regardless how many gatekeepers someone got past. It reinforced that what I have been doing was already on the right track, to keep going and confidently asking for payment. It’s also great to have shared my work with people who make work like David and Mary and obtaining feedback and a sense of solidarity and support.

What I wanted to learn more about was pitching to a picture editor, either an idea for a long photo essay or when I am documenting something anyway. STERN’s Andreas Kronawitt, picture editor, responded to one such pitch and added me to ‘the address book’ which felt like a success. I am more proactive asking for a fair fee when I am asked for my images for publication. Recently the Quakers wanted images for a news bulletin: I was paid and they too added me to their list of photographers around ‘the North’ and nationally.

© Simone Rudolphi

Moving Forward

I’ll focus on writing a DYCP grant application and a PhD application.  Returning to the hose pipe approach in other words prioritizing watering a small corner and a few photographic ‘seedlings’ of the rich garden of opportunities in the short term for longer term opportunities.

I endeavour, over the next four weeks with a definite roof over my head (in addition to facilitating an ongoing workshop with Hen Power in a Supported Living community) to complete both an ACE DYCP application which will enable me to develop some of the elements from my SHIFTS Professional Development Plan further by exploring and experimenting with the possibilities surrounding presenting and exhibiting my own work in combination with using the space for other artists, workshops & talks and thus developing my arts promotion and curatorial skills. I will also be responding to a Northern Bridge callout for a PhD.

So that my housing situation doesn’t slow me down, I have taken the considered risk of signing a lease for a studio in in The Atheneum, Sunderland with Breeze Creatives, thus giving me some stability (and storage for my belongings). Intuitively, I have been thinking of wanting to make more work in and around Sunderland which is why the PhD application (‘Towards an Inclusive Re/Visualization of Women’s Work’) may be a perfect opportunity to pursue.

My current documentary work around Climate and Migrant Justice with and for the No To Hassockfield campaign, for example, has led to meeting Greg Constantine and hearing about his funding pathways for which a PhD could be vital to open up collaborations/fellowships/funding for my ‘personal’ projects in the short to medium term and longer term.

As I get too old to document in harsh environments, more teaching on photography, visual literacy, ethics would be a circular return to my professional roots.

The SHIFTS bursary has given me the confidence to keep working on all the strands I started out with maximizing all my educational achievements since Abitur (A-level) days. Within the context of the various challenging lived experiences I know I CAN make a difference AND earn a modest living through focusing in different seasons on different ‘seedlings’ and areas of the garden of opportunities from photojournalism, to cyanotype/photography workshops, personal projects, community photography and documenting events and weddings.

© Simone Rudolphi

Simone Jimena Rudolphi was one of four NE-based photographers selected following an open call for the SHIFTS Professional Development Bursary Programme, undertaken in 2022.
The programme offered a bursary, access to paid time of mentors (identified by photographers and NEPN), training budget, peer support discussions and access to the SHIFTS workshops programmed for all regional photographers throughout 2022.  Photographers were supported to develop their own Professional Development Plans, mentored by Amanda Ritson of NEPN and Independent Consultant Dr Susanne Burns.

Simone is a German- born, socially and politically-engaged photographer with a strong documentary thread to her project work.   Simone lives in the North East and works where opportunity takes her; documenting a range of important issues such as climate justice, including campaigns in Glasgow during COP26, and political struggles against poverty and racism.
Simone’s empathetic focus is guided by her own need for learning and a curiosity about people and the wider world beyond stereotypes. At the heart of which rests bearing witness, sharing stories, and trusting in our common humanity.

Related News