Oliver Spier, Photography Technician

Oliver Spier holding a mirror camera

Oliver Spier, a photography technician and TSS team member, discusses his role at LSBU and the new working group he's setting up for arts technicians.

How long have you worked at LSBU?

I’ve worked at LSBU for 5 years as a photography technician. I manage 10 spaces across the campus within Elephant Studios, including five specialist print labs in the Keyworth Centre, four photographic studios and a base room.

Could you tell us a bit about the facilities you work in?

Elephant Studios originally opened in 2016, in the London Road Building (now LSBU Hub), but moved to its current home in Borough Road in 2018.

I have a wide range of specialist equipment available in each of the spaces under my supervision, all tailored to the courses they are housed in. The spaces I look after are used by Photography, Fashion, Creative Advertising and Engineering students.

The spaces provide an industry standard environment for students to be able to come in and produce high quality work, learning skills which they can directly take with them when leaving LSBU in search of jobs within the creative industries. Overall, around £5 million was invested into the studios.

One of the most recent pieces of kit we’ve been able to install is the Flextight X5 film scanner into one of the print labs. It's capable of super high resolution film scans, from 35mm to as far as 5x4, as is suitable for billboards. This is mainly utilised by the Level 6 photography students when working on their major project.

What do you do day-to-day as part of your job?

An average day for me will consist of a technical demonstration to a class of students – this could be anything from a digital photoshop class to a more practical specialist studio lighting workshop.

Usually, I will also have students working in the printing facilities where I am regularly needed to troubleshoot issues such as print quality, while maintaining stock of papers and inks. I run the large format print lab for the photography students, so I would also likely be printing and mounting large format work, particularly during the busy periods towards the end of the semester.

I also monitor our online booking system, SiSo, for any student bookings in the spaces under my remit which I will prepare and hand over the key to. Plus, I answer student queries about work or techniques, and general office administration tasks.

I’m very fortunate to be able to work across multiple schools at the University, which I think is fairly unique to my role. I thoroughly enjoy having the freedom to push the boundaries of my job, which has given me a huge breadth of experience across multiple disciplines.

You’re in the process of setting up an arts technicians working group. What’s motivated you to do this?

There are plenty of working groups out there, however, the majority I have found either focus on STEM related subjects, or the creative arts groups I have found have a specific emphasis on theory and pedagogy. I think these topics are important for any group, but I haven’t been able to find any that offer a space for a more technical arts discussion over a theoretical one.

What are your future plans for the working group?

The purpose of setting up an arts technician working group is to provide a space for art techs to discuss and share best practices, along with plan any ideas for specialist workshops we may be interested in undertaking.

It provides a space for us to find commonality within our specialist roles, as each art technicians role is so varied. I think that there can sometimes be a mentality of a technician to bury ourselves in our work and not have time to develop our own personal projects, but this can provide a way for us, as practitioners, to share and become excited about projects we are working on and gain feedback to help us develop our craft.

I am currently getting the group established at LSBU, and hope that the group might one day expand to other institutions in order to grow a vast creative network where techs of similar interests are able to express their ideas.

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