Case Study

Helen McGhie

The creative environment of studying at Sunderland provided the catalyst Helen McGhie needed to go on to study an MA at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art.

Sunderland is an excellent place to develop as an artist and photographer. The University has extensive facilities to enable you to visually explore ideas as well as a supportive teaching environment to help you create a critical framework for your projects. I was particularly impressed that the photography department had made the decision to keep a traditional colour darkroom, as I understand that many UK universities are now totally digital.
 
I come from Greater Manchester and found Sunderland’s BA (Hons) Photography, Video and Digital Imaging degree on the UCAS course search. The course was attractive to me as it provided an important balance between traditional film-based photography, digital photography and the moving image. Once at Sunderland, I enjoyed experimenting with the range of different photographic techniques that the University had available – the colour darkroom and moving image facilities were particularly exciting to use.
 
The wide range of facilities allowed me to explore different image making techniques from digital and film cameras and printing to studio lighting, alternative print and video. The darkroom and studio facilities were large and accessible, which was really important during my studies.
 
All the lecturers and technicians were brilliant and very supportive and helpful on a personal level. Without the encouragement in individual and group tutorials over my three years at Sunderland, I feel that I wouldn’t have the confidence in creating the photography that I do today. I felt encouraged to explore the different themes I was interested in at the time and this undoubtedly built the foundations for the artwork that I am producing today.
 
The course set me up with the technical and critical skills I needed to continue my artistic practice after graduation and go on to study an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London. These skills were also crucial in helping me to explore new projects, apply for exhibitions and seek out other artistic opportunities with confidence.
 
Sunderland has a lively student community, with a diverse range of students from different backgrounds and many exciting students’ union activities to get involved with to meet new people. It is also a city with a vibrant history and amazing coastline. The locally based Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art is also a great space to view contemporary work.

Since leaving Sunderland, I have exhibited my photographic artwork in various exhibitions and have received a great deal of post-graduation support from the photography tutors, which has helped drive my desire to work as a professional artist.
 
I intend to continue working towards my goal of becoming a professional artist and I am also keen to work as a part-time photography lecturer in higher education in the future.”

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