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Photography graduate picturing career in Art Therapy

This time last year, Hugh Baird University Centre alumni Stephanie Fawcett was celebrating achieving a first class honours degree in Digital Imaging and Photography from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

One year on, as she prepares to start a Master of Arts in Arts-Health at UCLan, she spoke to us about how studying for her UCLan degree at the Hugh Baird University Centre helped shape her career and aspirations…

Having studied Fine Art at Hugh Baird College after finishing A Levels, Steph progressed onto the UCLan validated Foundation Degree in Digital Imaging and Photography at the Hugh Baird University Centre. She then stayed on at the University Centre to complete a further top up year, graduating from UCLan with a full honours degree.

Steph said:

“I chose the Hugh Baird University Centre for my degree course because, throughout my education, the passion and commitment of tutors has always been important to me when deciding where to study. Prior to applying for the BA (Hons) Top up course, I had the opportunity to observe teaching styles and attitudes at the University Centre and I was more than impressed with the tutor-student contact time, support and involvement. Another factor for me was not wanting to move away from home. Studying for my UCLan degree at the Hugh Baird University Centre meant I could continue in employment alongside my studies and still be close to friends and family.”

“One of the best things about studying at the University Centre was the support from staff. The mutual respect between staff and students made learning enjoyable and I felt I was able to explore the best of both sides of being an undergraduate, with well-equipped and relaxed working environments and well-designed social spaces.”

“I also found that, because the tutors involved in the course where active practitioners themselves and had lots of past experience in the field, they were able to pass on their expertise through their teaching.”

Also benefitting from the focus on employability at the Hugh Baird University Centre, Steph took advantage of lots of opportunities to gain work experience in a range of photographic styles. As well as collaborations with undergraduates from other courses on fashion, make up and food photoshoots, she undertook several professional commissions for local and national companies.

Steph explained:

“My work experience whilst at the Hugh Baird University Centre included photoshoots both in the studio and on location, working with various different lighting techniques and equipment. For example, I did a shoot for Fashion Designer Samantha Chong photographing her new clothing range which was then featured on her website. It led to more work too on some of her other clothing ranges. I was also lucky enough to work on a project for Peel Ports, one of the UK's largest port operators. They wanted images to document the developments taking place at their new L2Deep Water container terminal so it involved a private tour of Seaforth Docks to get the shots.”

“Another commission that gave me a real insight into what to expect when working for established companies was a large scale project for Churchill China. Spread over 6 months, the brief was to photograph images of their crockery ranges to feature in their high-end product catalogue. The project involved liaising closely with various members of the company’s management and marketing teams, discussing deadlines and the layout and house style of images. The assignment also gave me the chance to try my hand at the specialist area of food photography and I worked with the chef to ensure both the prepared dish and the Churchill products looked their best.”

For Steph’s final project on her degree, she chose to do a community based photography project exploring mental health. She worked with local charity The Venus Centre and found that the experience gave her a firm direction for her future career aspirations, saying:

“It was at this point in my education that I knew I wanted to use my artistic and creative skills to help others. Since then, I have focused on projects that involve the participation of others and I aim for the work produced to have a meaningful undertone to raise awareness of current issues we face in our society.”

Since graduating, Steph has been commissioned by the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool to undergo a community based project as part of the Culture Shift Residency. Steph has also worked in community care and is currently an activity coordinator in a dementia home, working creatively to improve quality of life and management of behaviour. Her advice to anyone thinking of studying HE at the Hugh Baird University Centre is to take time to look at all the options available.

She said:

“Moving onto higher education is a big decision and commitment. It is worth looking at a variety of courses to make sure you’re following the path that’s right for you. It’s a good idea to visit the course too or do a taster session to get a feel for what it’s like. Meet the current students and the tutors and decide if you will get along. Another thing I learned is to interview the tutors as much as they interview you. You have to be confident that the course is what you are looking for and that the tutors are the right people to help you progress in the direction you’re hoping to go.”

Now hoping to qualify as an Art Therapist, Steph is delighted to have accepted an unconditional offer onto the Master of Arts in Arts-Health at the University of Central Lancashire and feels that the tutors at the Hugh Baird University Centre played a big part in helping her progress this far. She said:

“My tutors always encouraged me to go out and be independent and the confidence and opportunities they gave me have definitely helped me gain employment and progress onto my Master’s. The wide range of learning techniques and one-to-one support helped shape my ambition and drove me to keep expanding my skills and professional practice as I move forward in my career.”

“Once I achieve my Master’s Degree, I’d like to work in this field and continue to devise my own community based projects to help people express their own needs, creativity and feelings through artistic mediums.”

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