Meg Pickard describes herself as a creative geek. She’s worked in new media for over fifteen years, for some companies you’ve probably heard of, including as Head of Digital Engagement at The Guardian. Despite her ultimate expert knowledge of all things digital, she still loves to shoot film. We asked her how she mixes the two…
Name: Meg Pickard
Hometown: London, UK
Current job: Digital engagement consultant (and new mum)
Congratulations are in order! How’s life as a new mum?
Great! Hard work and I’m knackered, but Erin is now nearly eight months old, and a delightful combination of impish, curious, wiggly and charming. I’m a bit older than a lot of the other new mums I meet on the baby activity circuit, and I had no idea becoming a parent would mean I had to spend so much time sitting on the floors of church halls. Ouch.
You describe yourself as a creative geek, and up until recently, you worked as Head of Digital Engagement at Guardian News and Media. How do you balance analogue and digital in your life?
I trained originally as an Anthropologist, doing research first in highland Bolivia, and then online, but focusing on similar questions about community, social participation and identity. Many of the same social challenges & experiences, but different environments and tools. I see digital activity and identity very much as an extension of our analogue world. It’s not better or worse, just different. Despite working in digital media for over 15 years (and playing with it for even longer), I don’t think we’ll ever give up some aspects of our physical world.
Do you think that film has a place in this increasingly digital world?
Absolutely! Digital cameras can be great for seeing instant, disposable results, but using film is an exercise in skill and patience. Those are great qualities to encourage and admire!
How do you think that the internet has helped communities to grow?
Sociologists talk about “bridging” and “bonding” networks. The former help people with interests or experiences in common to find each other (anything from music to health problems to a love of photography) while the latter help people to strengthen existing social ties through interaction and sharing. You can see how the internet has created and supported both kinds of community, providing applications and spaces for people to connect to each other. That’s been true since the first days of the internet and shows no signs of going away. If anything, community is becoming more integral than ever. The internet is powered by people, after all!
What cameras and film do you usually shoot on?
I’m a longtime Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim fan. There’s something wonderful about a camera that doesn’t need batteries, accessories or complexity, but still yields interesting results. I’m not fussy about film, but love the richness of Lomography films when I get hold of them. I use my iPhone camera every day, of course, and am trying to document my daughter’s changing appearance systematically with my Nikon D70.
Did you enjoy using the LC-Wide?
Yes. It’s like a grown-up version of my Vivitar UWS, and I loved putting it through its paces. Wonderful wide angle lens, very adaptable and fun to use.
We see you took it along to the Olympics, a once in a lifetime experience we’re sure! Tell us about your day there..
I was lucky enough to be invited to the closing ceremony as a guest of one of the sponsors. Because of having a very small baby at the time, I wasn’t able to go to any of the sporting events (though we were glued to it on TV – Erin particularly liked the gymnastics) so I was thrilled to go to the Olympic Stadium for an evening. The atmosphere was fantastic!
If you could shoot any once in a lifetime event on film, what would it be?
I think shooting Rio’s carnival on film would be amazing. Imagine all those brilliant, vivid colours and textures, vibrant movement and challenging lighting. Plus what a setting…
And lastly, what’s coming up next in your world?
After over six years as Head of Digital Engagement for the Guardian, I’ve just branched out on my own, doing independent consulting & project work in the areas of digital engagement, social strategies, community practice and creative collaboration. I’m contactable via my website, megpickard.com or (of course) on Twitter: @megpickard
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