She galloped through her early years as first a black and white, then a colour print assistant, learning so much from the people she encountered, before taking a LCC course in photography. Getting published in newspapers and magazines has helped to enhance her reputation so that she is now able to approach and negotiate with picture editors, once she has established how best to fund a story. She described the changing situation in the media: they will only pay a small fee for publishing work which she has had to finance from other interested sources.
Polly talked about the importance of professional collaboration in order to get a story told. She has worked closely with a journalist, Sally Williams, for instance, either one of them initiating a project they care about and then working together to complete it. Currently, she is working with Magnum, documenting a children’s circus in Russia. She recommended we look at the work of Katy Grannon, especially her ‘First Time Voters’.
We enjoyed hearing how her new book,'Lea Valley 2004’, evolved, co-authored by her husband, and published by Hoxton Press. There were many questions from the audience for Polly to answer on techniques and processes and our impression was that her determination to achieve the pre-vision she has of a project or image leads her into an indefatigable exploration of lighting, other media and collaborations. One reason she was so inspirational was that she is open-minded and creative in finding more dynamic and powerful means to tell compelling stories in what we describe as social documentary photography.