Creative GradFest21: Photography students win outstanding achievement awards

Final year BA (Hons) Photography students Laura Deakins, Bethan Charles, Booker Skelding and Tom Keighley have all won the Reginald Salisbury Outstanding Achievement award for their fantastic graduate work.

Usually a travel award, the Reginald Salisbury awards are held annually and are drawn from a donation from the Salisbury family of Newport. The awards support USW Photography students to develop or complete projects that have some element of travel associated with them, either nationally or internationally.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students were given Outstanding Achievement awards for the 2020-21 academic year. As part of Creative GradFest21, we asked this year’s winners to tell us more about their time on the course.

Laura Deakins

“I chose to study at USW because I was made to feel so welcome and the staff were so engaged when I showed them my work. The location, photography facilities and student accommodation also stood out as great reasons for choosing USW. 

My interest in photography sparked when my eldest sister was gifted a Canon camera. Being 12 at the time, we would take it in turns to use it in the fields behind our house. My love for using cameras grew exponentially, fulfilling it at A-levels then resulted in me choosing to complete a degree in it! 

The modules throughout the three years helped me find my style of work as well as helping me become more confident in explaining my work. I learned new photographic skills, professional etiquette, and the work standards you need to achieve to make it in the industry. I hope to make it into a creative agency, to be represented by a company that specialises in fashion or editorial photography. I would be very fortunate to land myself in the creative industry at this moment in time, as it has been difficult during Covid-19.”

Bethan Charles

“As soon as I came to USW for my interview, I knew this was the university for me. The people were lovely, and the facilities are amazing!

Ever since I could get my hands on a camera, I knew that photography was going to be a big part of my life and has been ever since. USW has given me some stepping stones to help me prepare for the industry as I've done work experience, used industry standard equipment, and met fellow photographers who are in the industry.

My hopes and plans for the future are to step into the world of fashion and commercial photography, and spread my wings to show my work and push the boundaries of visual art.”

Booker Skelding

“I am absolutely thrilled and so proud to have been selected for this award.

I decided to come to USW because of the fantastic location, the support offered to mature students and the natural progression from my Foundation Degree at Coleg y Cymoedd.

I’ve been fascinated with photography since I was a teenager, particularly the technical capabilities of the camera and capturing memories.

The degree course is very demanding and the modules prepare you for industry, the support and guidance USW have given me, has greatly increased my confidence and professionalism.

The lecturers cleverly stretch and push your boundaries which has resulted in my photography flourishing. I have found direction and a niche for my photographic practice.

I have plans to exhibit my project, Finding My Religion, at the local church on which the story is based/photographed. The Rector has asked to meet in order to curate the exhibition when it is ‘Covid safe’ to do so. I will be applying for funding as soon as possible to support the exhibition, which will help to promote my photobook. I plan to start a new project after the summer and hope to share my work in helping other students graduate.

Tom Keighley

“I chose USW because of the friendly atmosphere in Cardiff, and because of how welcoming I found the University and staff.

I have wanted to become a photographer ever since I got my first camera in early secondary school!

USW and the Photography course have helped me gain the knowledge and given me the confidence to work in the photography industry, by giving me the skills and experience of working with multiple styles of photography and under deadlines that mimic the working world.

I have also been able to make connections with working professionals in the industry. In the future, I aim to create more work and to further my studies with a Masters.”

To see more student work from BA (Hons) Photography, visit