The University of Sunderland was my route to the best job in the world.
I grew up in London but when it came to universities I found that the facilities for my chosen course at Sunderland were just far ahead of anything that I saw elsewhere. Plus, Sunderland was a completely different scene for me and I wanted some change in my life.
When I arrived it was a bit of a shock to find myself living close to sandy beaches and not far from hills and countryside. But more than that, I was struck by the genuine enthusiasm that tutors had for their subjects. They were passionate about them and really knew what they were talking about.
I was studying photography, video and digital imaging and I couldn’t believe it when the tutor took my semi-automatic camera off me and literally taped down the autofocus so that I couldn’t use it. There was not a shadow of doubt that we were there to learn the real craft of photography. It was full on.
The tutors encouraged me to carry my camera with me at all times, looking for subjects and images that would tell a story. Before long their dedication to professionalism had completely passed on to me.
I would walk for hours around Sunderland and go out to the surrounding countryside, finding inspiration and recording images that got better and better. I shot loads of film and stored it in my fridge, which really annoyed my flatmates. I also spent hours using the University’s facilities for developing and refining images. The technicians were really helpful and flexible – though some nights they eventually had to throw me out so that they could get some sleep!
Fortunately, the library was open 24 hours a day during term time so I could stay as late as I liked. The University’s photography and art collections are superb. What’s more, I could order almost anything else I wanted; I just used the inter-library loan service.
Near the end of the course I started to think about getting a job. It was at this point that the tutors’ wide contacts came to the fore. One of them put me in touch with a fashion photographer in London and I arranged to assist for her. This was the break I needed. Through her I was introduced to other photographers and, because it’s a relatively small industry, I started to get known.
After several years of assisting, which is a great job in itself, I went a step further and established myself as a freelance fashion photographer. My images have appeared regularly in the pages of magazines like FHM, Brides Magazine and different fashion glossies. As far as I’m concerned, this is just the best job in the world.
The University of Sunderland taught me the skills to make a living as a photographer and the tutors gave me a way into the industry. My course crystallised my ambition and changed my life."