Creative GradFest21: Documentary Photography students recognised for their work

Documentary Photography students at the University of South Wales have received a number of prestigious awards for outstanding studentship, critical writing and exhibition work.

The Reginald Salisbury awards are drawn from a donation by the Salisbury family of Newport and support USW Photography students to develop or complete projects in their final year. The annual awards usually focus on projects which have elements of travel, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students were given awards for Outstanding Studentship, Critical Writing and Most Outstanding Work in Exhibition, for the 2020-21 academic year.

As part of Creative GradFest21, the winning students tell us about their time on the course.

Alex Carnie – winner, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Outstanding Studentship

“I chose to study Documentary Photography at USW after meeting the lecturers at my interview. The way in which they questioned the reasons behind why I wanted to study on the course, and what motivated me to take photographs, clearly demonstrated the course ethos and what the three years of teaching would hold. Although Documentary Photography is a visual and practical course, I could tell that the teaching would go far beyond the aesthetics of photographs into the ideas, concepts and motivations behind them. This is what I believe makes documentary photography so fascinating and therefore made it clear that I should study on this course. 

The teaching has been amazing and challenged me to push myself as much as possible, resulting in the three years being a highly rewarding experience. All the lecturers have been fantastic and added their individual teaching styles and ideas about documentary photography to the course. This has allowed me to experience and gain knowledge of a wide range of photographic styles and types of documentary work. I have completed the course with a portfolio of projects that I am extremely proud of and now feel fully prepared to continue making photographic work in the future.”

Social Media: @alex.carnie

Matthew Harry – winner, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Outstanding Studentship

“After my interview with the course leader and a walk around the facilities, I knew that I wanted to come to USW. The course has allowed me to explore my passion for photography, whilst giving me the space to learn in a constructive and supportive manner.

I have been able to expand my knowledge of the technical process and have taken full advantage of the darkroom, printing and scanning facilities, to not only increase my abilities but to produce work that I simply wouldn’t have been able to make beforehand. Throughout the three years, I have had opportunities to speak with people within the industry and understand where I want to position myself once leaving university. “

Chloe Nicholls – winner, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Outstanding Studentship

"Studying at USW has been an amazing experience. The students, lecturers and the facilities made the University stand out to me and looking back, I’m so glad that I chose to study Documentary Photography at USW. The city centre location was also very exciting, as I always dreamed of studying in a busy city. The course has really given me the confidence to push myself further as a photographer within the supportive and encouraging environment that is provided by the lecturers.

The varied modules have allowed me to experiment and find my identity within photography, as well as providing opportunities to work closely with other students and industry professionals. The work is challenging and aims to really consolidate your thinking in a range of different photographic areas. I’m now excited to continue making work as a graduate in the creative industries and broadening my experience and knowledge as a documentary photographer.”

Social Media: @chloenichollsphoto 

Katy Bird – winner, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Outstanding Studentship

“I am so excited and grateful to be chosen for this award. I chose to come to USW to study Documentary Photography BA because it had such a great reputation, and I was excited to be taught by some incredible people in the industry. 

I’ve had a passion for photography since I can remember, and I chose Documentary Photography because I wanted to specialise in a specific genre. The degree as a whole has been so interesting and the community surrounding the course inspired me to push my work further. 

We would meet with tutors every week to discuss the photographs we had taken and get helpful feedback from both our coursemates and tutors. We also had external people from the industry to look at our work and help us progress further.

My favourite part of the course was network week where we were able to meet working creatives in the industry to help us gather an idea of what we wanted to do in the future. I would recommend this course to anyone who is passionate about documentary photography. I'm going on to study a Masters degree in Politics to help further influence my photographic practice.”

Social Media: @katybirdphoto

Eva Falk-Drake – winner, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Critical Writing

“I have learnt so much during my three years on BA Documentary Photography and have really enjoyed my experience. I chose USW because the BA Documentary Photography course stood out to me. Previously I studied A-Level Sociology, Politics and Photography, and saw this course as a way to combine those subjects with a visual outcome.  

BA Documentary Photography taught me much more than just photography skills. It allowed me to develop my academic writing skills as well as understand debates around ethics, race, and gender within photography. The course pushes you to develop skills so that you feel prepared when graduating and going into the professional industry. The teaching staff are also extremely encouraging and knowledgeable which has also been an important part of my experience. Now I have graduated I plan to continue working within the creative sector to run workshops with children, and eventually do a Masters.”

Social Media: @eva.fd

Pippa Harris – winner, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Most Outstanding Work in Exhibition

“The Documentary Photography course at USW has been invaluable in teaching and encouraging me to become an aspiring young documentary photographer. Before starting University, I had always loved photography but had little understanding of the ways in which it can be used to create dialogue and present perspective through visual communication. Upon joining the course, I have been enthusiastically encouraged in both my physical image-making and theoretical underpinning of work with proficient tutoring from industry recognised lecturers; I have learnt an immeasurable amount of knowledge and skills.

The facilities and welcoming atmosphere influenced my decision to study at USW. Staff and students from the course create a warm and close-knit community that encourages a supportive working environment.

The course and teaching over the duration of three years have enabled me to practice a range of techniques and styles which has allowed me to establish my personal style moving forward as a practitioner, as well as shape authorship over my work and projects. I have been able to learn and establish technical skills, as well as project production and key theoretical understanding. The foundations of these skills have enabled me to prepare for a career within the industry.”

Social Media: @pipkharris2

Sanne Rietveld, The Reginald Salisbury Award for Critical Writing.

"My decision to study at USW was greatly influenced by the lecturers who showed such belief in me and my photography practice from day one. They instilled so much confidence within me and provided me with the knowledge and materials to take my practice to the next level. I will never forget the great sense of community on the Documentary Photography BA, especially in the first year; witnessing people of different levels of photographic knowledge and abilities coming together and motivating each other was a beautiful thing. I have really valued absorbing the combined knowledge of my lecturers who have their individual established photographic careers, learning from their varied experiences and perspectives has been incredibly valuable to me. USW has opened my eyes to my full potential and without my studies here I would never have considered pursuing a role in the arts seriously. Over the three years on the course I have developed my personal photographic style, which was a natural process of self-discovery that was encouraged by the lecturers. Now, at the end of my studies, I think my biggest takeaway is the knowledge that this is not the end; this is only the beginning in terms of my photographic career, and I am incredibly excited for the future."

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