From education to employment

Commercial photography student wins prestigious British Photography Award

Shelby Nolan-Hoare won the People’s Choice Award with her image titled ‘Doll’s House’

Shelby Nolan-Hoare, a BA (Hons) Commercial Photography student from Arts University Plymouth, has been awarded the People’s Choice Winner of the Fashion Category at this year’s British Photography Awards with her captivating image titled ‘Dolls House’

The British Photography Awards are organised by a team of British photographers, and throughout the year they run a series of online and live events, including a charity-oriented photography competition, live and virtual galleries and an annual black-tie gala. This year’s prestigious awards ceremony took place at the Dorchester Park Lane in London this month, where Shelby’s outstanding achievement was revealed.

Final-year student Shelby said,

“Winning the People’s Choice was an incredibly proud moment. When I found out that I was one of 25 shortlisted photographers in the Fashion category, I couldn’t believe it. The overwhelming support that I received from family, friends and local groups both in Plymouth and Hampshire was surreal. Looking at the other talented photographers in my category, I was not expecting to win and the honour of being shortlisted alone was rewarding.

When Magic Radio presenter Neev Spencer announced my name as the People’s Choice winner and I saw my picture on the big screen, me and my family were in complete shock. To earn this title as a student photographer is a major achievement and I’m so proud of how far I have come in such a short period of time.”

Shelby is one of many BA (Hons) Commercial Photography students who have produced award-winning photography during their recent studies at Arts University Plymouth. First-class graduate Katy Johnson achieved second place in the Wex Student Photography Competition, Official Selection in the International Photography Awards (IPA) in 2023 and an Honourable Mention in the 2022 Awards. Matthew Marshall, a talented second-year student, clinched a win in the prestigious EIZO UK Student Awards. He was recognized in the Single Image category for his captivating photograph of the iconic Plymouth landmark, Tinside Lido.

Shelby’s winning image at the British Photography Awards was part of her final major project, titled ‘Liminal Space’. The project was curated to explore how clothing, prop and set design can be used as a narrative device in picture making to discuss themes of nostalgia and illusion. The composition features a model in a topsy-turvy world, appearing like a life-size doll in front of a doll’s house.

Shelby said, “Throughout my childhood experience, the concept of a doll’s house fascinated me in terms of its small-scale realism and its endless possibilities when controlling small figures in a game of house. But even though a doll’s house resembles closely to real life, the underlying tone when playing almost felt fake and sugar coated in childhood wonder to my adolescent self. This is what allured me toward this retro toy in the production stage of the photoshoot and I feel expresses in detail the ultimate definition of liminal space with my own personal experiences of nostalgia.”

“The final image that won the People’s Choice award took three practice shoots before I was finally content with the outcome. By the fourth attempt, I decided to try something completely new and featured a garment from third year Fashion Design student, Molly Adlington. With the introduction of youthful colours and a playfully shaped dress, I was able to transport the viewer back in time. Creating a scene that is not only nostalgic, but familiar in the sense that the viewer puts themselves in the shoes of the model and remembers what it’s like to play with a toy such as a doll’s house for the first time. With so much careful planning, trial and error, I’m so proud that an image I worked so hard on has received such positive feedback. As well as winning at The British Photography Awards, months prior to the competition, the photograph was also featured in Draper’s magazine, which is something that both me and Molly are incredibly proud of.”

Originally from Hampshire, 22-year-old Shelby identifies herself primarily as a fashion photographer, with a dream of working for a prominent fashion brand. Influenced by the likes of Tim Walker and Nick Knight, her work is characterised by strong storytelling elements, meticulous composition and a keen focus on lighting.

Shelby chose to study BA (Hons) Commercial Photography at Arts University Plymouth after receiving a recommendation from course leaders during her UAL Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.

Shelby said, “When searching for a university, I initially gravitated towards the South West for its location and photographic community. BA (Hons) Commercial Photography at Arts University Plymouth caught my eye for its broad coverage on editorial, advertising and fashion photography, as well as its equipment and facilities such as the cove studio and the resources in the Equipment Resource Centre (ERC).”

“Throughout my time in Plymouth, I really made use of my surroundings and found a lot of freelance work as part of my Professional Practice module. In my second year, I worked at the high end fashion label, Identity Fashion, based in Royal William Yard, Plymouth. There I got to photograph an array of models and outfits both in the studio and on location for use in marketing or on their brand website. I was also given the opportunity to photograph social events, charity fashion shows and even award celebrations, as Identity Fashion was declared the National Muddy Stilettos Winner for Best Women’s Fashion in 2023. Since then my work from the shop has been featured in the Plymouth Chronicle and is printed on display in store.”

“For anyone thinking of pursuing a career in photography, the best advice I have is pick up a camera and start shooting! As a beginner, I understand that the competitive nature of the industry as well as the cost of equipment can be overwhelming when you’re starting out. You could have the best education and have the most expensive equipment, but without genuine interest in what you’re doing, your pictures just won’t be as good in comparison. Look at other people’s work, try to find what makes you unique and don’t be afraid to experiment and fail. From there, you’ll build a portfolio and your work will start to reflect who you are as a photographer.”

BA (Hons) Commercial Photography at Arts University Plymouth offers the opportunities and expertise to help find success in today’s dynamic and competitive photographic industry. 100% of Commercial Photography students gave the best possible response to seven of the 27 National Student Survey 2023 questions, including 100% agreeing that “it was easy to access subject specific resources when they needed them.”

Arts University Plymouth’s Equipment Resource Centre contains over 6,000 items of industry-standard photography, film, audio, lighting, digital and analogue kit for students to book and loan, free of charge. Email to speak to a member of the BA (Hons) Commercial Photography team or find more information about how to apply to begin studying in September 2024 on the How to Apply page.

BA (Hons) Commercial Photography is also available as a January-start degree which can kickstart students’ future in the creative industries, allowing them to study their first year online at home and then join on campus for years two and three. Suitable for local applicants rethinking their plans to leave the South West for a degree, a mature learner returning to education from the workplace or an international student rethinking plans to travel overseas or looking to save costs. Find out more by visiting the Arts University Plymouth website.

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