From education to employment

Cardiff and Vale College Photography students excel despite lockdowns and restrictions

man in a doorway with his arms crossed

Cardiff and Vale College (@CAVC) students studying the Foundation Degree in Photography haven’t let lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions get in their way and have continued to produce stunning work for a series of clients.

Year 2 Photography student Martyn Wilson was commissioned by Creative Cardiff to participate in the prestigious Our Creative Cardiff group project. This paid commission involved a range of different creative disciplines coming together to tell the story of their Cardiff.

Martyn was overwhelmed when he found out he had been chosen. I told myself because I handed the application in half an hour late that it was good experience in applying because I had never applied for anything before,” he said. “Then to get the commission was mind blowing. To be part of this project was an honour.”

A keen street photographer, Martyn embarked upon ‘My social distant family’, focusing on the distance everyone has had to keep from their loved ones during 2020’s lockdowns.

“It started the day I visited my mum, and I couldn’t hug her, and it made me realise the struggles people were experiencing in lockdown so the night before the deadline the idea came for ‘My social distant family’,” Martyn explained. “Working on it showed me how people felt.

“It helped me to engage with people while they were experiencing a very dark period in their lives. It was a joy to work on and showed me that I am capable of more as a photographer.”

He believes the FD Photography course has been a great help.

“It was a pleasure to be part of a course with such talented people,” he said. “The course tutors were amusing and amazing to be around at any time.

“Their knowledge and experience helped me to grow throughout the course, and the kindness and compassion shown was beautiful, always willing to go out of their way to help.”

Martyn now aims to get his work shown in more galleries around Cardiff and explore what options will be open to him as a photographer. He feels that College has helped him to achieve some key goals.

“Without the course and experience I have gained over the two years I would not have found confidence in picking up a camera nor realised my potential as a photographer,” Martyn said. “It helped me to mould ideas that initially started out as something simple and now I can write detailed plans on how to achieve them. It also helped me to view many photographers’ work I never knew existed thanks to the tutors on the course.”

Martyn and his fellow students were also commissioned by Cardiff and Brighton-based app company DabApps for an interior design artwork project.

“The live brief and Work Placement module enabled students to engage with a successful and creative business on a real/live project,” Photography tutor Paul Woffenden explained. “The students applied their presentation and communication skills when working with the client and learned quickly about the demands of working in a professional context.

“The students adapted brilliantly to working online and applied their resolve to meeting the needs of a client that demanded quality.”

“The team at DabApps really enjoyed work collaboratively with the students from CAVC,” Managing Director Chris Palk said. “The process was managed very professionally, and we now have a suite of ten amazing original photos hanging in our office.”

An integral member of the team that worked on the DabApps brief was FD Photography student Robin Gough.

“One of the greatest feelings as a photographer is knowing that someone, somewhere, has your art on their wall,” he said. “That’s basically the end goal of every photograph taken and having the opportunity to decorate an entire office with our work that would not only be seen by the people working there every day, but by everyone who visited the office as well was incredibly exciting.”

Having to fulfil a brief during a worldwide pandemic could be stressful, Robin said, but that also had its benefits.

“While the first few meetings we had were during the late autumn when Covid restrictions were more relaxed, when it came time to actually create the artwork that we had promised Wales was in the full-blown lockdown of January and so our options to create and access to facilities were seriously limited,” he explained. “That being said, sometimes limited options can be beneficial to creativity as it forced us to rethink and get experimental with our approach, pushing us down avenues that we may never have attempted otherwise.

“I think the group achieved something really special in our perseverance and imagination.”

Like Martyn, Robin believes the course has really helped him.

“The FD Photography course has been challenging but incredibly rewarding,” Robin said. “I began the course with a keen interest in photography but almost no knowledge of its history or significance in the art world.

“The modules have really opened my eyes to photography’s potential as a medium with a fascinating mix of art history, philosophy, practical applications and technical skill development. My tutors have really pushed me and encouraged me to explore themes more deeply and experiment which has made me a better artist than I ever could have done on my own.”

Robin plans to spend a year at CAVC partner the University of South Wales to top up to a full degree, then taken an MA.

“My goal in life is to be a famous artist whose work is exhibited in some of the largest galleries and museums in the country,” he said.

“This course has laid down an excellent foundation for me to begin my journey. While I still have so much to learn and practice when compared to my heroes in the industry, I feel like I have been given the perfect road map which I can use to make my journey towards those goals.”

Martyn and Robin have also organised their own end of year exhibition at the Aubergine Café in Cardiff.

It’s also been a good year for BTEC Photography student Kian Swainston, who entered the Skills Competition Wales Photography contest and won a gold medal.

“When they announced that I had won first place under the photography section I was literally over the moon,” he said. “It was a massive confidence booster, and I really enjoyed the experience of it too. 

“The competition provided workshops with professionals that work in the industry where they shared tips, tricks and advice to new photographers like myself!”

Cardiff and Vale College Deputy Principal Sharon James said: “Congratulations to the Photography students for their amazing achievements under extremely challenging conditions. Across the College, students have time and again shown how flexible and adaptable they can be in a year of constant change, and it has been really inspirational to see them succeed so brilliantly.”

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