Luminous: The Class of 2020

After the challenges of lockdown, which unfortunately resulted in the cancellation of their degree show at the college and their graduate exhibition at ‘Freerange’, we’ve been delighted to see our students rise to the challenge to complete their final major projects. And despite the lack of a physical exhibition this year, our students have continued to develop their collective identity, publishing their work as Luminous.

A summary selection of their work is shown below. To get the full picture of the sheer determination and resilience of this year’s cohort, please take a look at their self-produced website:

Luminous 2020 is a collective of talented individuals who represent the next generation of commercial image-makers. Their work here demonstrates their readiness to make the transition from creative study into commercial practice, and we wish them every success.

Top AOP photographer Derek Seaward reviewing the portfolio of year 3 student Lorna Crocket

Member Benefits: Affiliation with the AOP reaps rewards for our students

When our commercial photography degree was launched 5 years ago we immediately sought affiliation with the AOP – The Association of Photographers.

Screenshot 2020-08-13 at 12.03.53

The AOP is the UK Membership Organisation that supports the industry, promoting and protecting the rights of photographers. They also provide accredited membership to educational institutions – those who seek  involvement with the commercial photographic industry, who include appropriate professional practice in their curriculum and can provide evidence that their content responds to the current demands in fashion, advertising, and editorial photography.

Membership has numerous benefits, one of the most notable being that our students gain free membership of the Association while they are studying with us. The AOP also provides access to their extensive network of photographic professionals. Over the years many award-winning photographers such as Olivia Beasley, Wendy Carrig, and Jon Enoch, to name just a few, have become closely involved with our programme and have been guests at our annual photographic symposium.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck earlier this year and the country was placed into lockdown, the industry faced some unprecedented challenges, and the AOP was quick to step up to provide support to its members, including our students.

Within their professional practice modules, our 2nd and 3rd year students are required to undertake reviews of their portfolios with industry professionals. Prevented from meeting in person our students had to seek online meetings so we were absolutely delighted when a number of top AOP photographers kindly volunteered their time for free to support our students.

Huge thanks go to the following people, all of whom met with a number of our students online and provided incredibly personal and thorough reviews of our students work:

Dean Belcher

Jack Eames

Lorentz Gullachsen

Ray Massey 

Gabrielle Motola

Stephen Potts

Karl Taylor

Naomi Wood

Despite the challenges of meeting and discussing work online via Zoom or Skype, for many of our students these portfolio reviews with such notable industry practitioners were the highlight of their Professional Practice module. Importantly they also provided a much needed motivational boost during a particularly difficult period of their studies. One student reported spending over an hour looking through work and chatting online.

Given the financial challenges imposed by the lockdown, we were incredibly grateful for the generosity of these photographers who gave their time and energy for free, and our thanks go to the AOP for their continued support of our programme and our students success.

Cut the Corona! Students challenged to beat the boredom of lockdown with weekly photo competitions

In line with Government directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Plymouth College of Art was forced to close its doors at the beginning of March this year. As we are all forced into lockdown, with deadlines being extended and taught sessions being delivered online, many of our students struggled to stay motivated to keep working on their projects.

To help battle the boredom of the lockdown we challenged our students to use their creativity to stay motivated. Launching a new photography competition titled ‘Cut the Corona!’, we invited everyone in Commercial Photography to submit a single image in response to a brief set every Monday. Students had a week to generate ideas and visual solutions before uploading their entries. The staff team reviewed the images at the end of each week, the winning image being on our Instagram page and the winning student collecting  a £20 Amazon voucher.

Despite the difficulties, which in the first few weeks involved being confined to the house or flat, our students certainly rose to the challenge and produced some outstanding work. Take a look at our winners below:

Week 1: Finding Form

Inspired by the work of photographic artist Jan Groover, our students were tasked with finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and every day. We loved this image produced by year 2 student, Jess Allibon: 

Finding Form-Jess Allibon
Jess Allibon

Week 2: Space & Place

With lockdown slowly starting to ease, students were encouraged to consider their thoughts around space and place. We loved this atmospheric and evocative landscape from year 2 student Rosie Hartshorn: 

CUT-THE-Rosie Hartshorn - Space_Place
Rosie Hartshorn

Week 3: Colour

Pure and Simple! We wanted to see how locked down students would respond to this most powerful of formal elements, and year 2 student Mi Kelly didn’t disappoint.

Mi Kelly2
Mi Kelly

Week 4: Beautiful Strangers

Inspired by the work of Peter Zelewski and Niall McDiarmid – friends and visiting lecturers of our programme – this week’s brief was all about people. With lock-down finally eased it was time to get out and about and find some faces to photograph! This week’s great image was produced by year 1 student, Allanna James:

Allanna James

Week 5: We are Family

The final week of our competition was perhaps the most challenging.. students were asked to consider the idea of family, possibly in the literal relative sense, but also in terms of collective identity and our sense of belonging. Well done to year 1 student Lauren Wiig-Aspland for this great portrait.

Lauren had had won the 2nd place vote in a number of the previous weeks, so it was great to see her claim 1st prize.

CUT-THE_Lauren W-A Family
Lauren Wiig-Aspland


Our thanks go to all of the Commercial Photography students, many of who took part and entered images every week during lockdown. Cut the Corona provided a welcome weekly diversion for many of us and showed that even in the midst of a crisis, you can’t keep a good photographer down!

Shooting Fashion with freelance commercial photographer, Margo R

Whilst two thirds of our students headed off to London for our annual photography symposium in March this year, back here at the college of art, we decided to put on a jam-packed enrichment week to keep those left behind excited and busy! To compliment our 1st years fashion photography module, we decided to ask one of our alumni, Margo R, to help plan and devise a week based around her kind of fashion work. Margo photographs fashion, bridal and branding in both the South West and internationally. Her resume includes South West Wedding Awards Finalist 2018, a featured wedding photographer in many bridal blogs and magazines, a published photographer in Vogue Italia and has exhibited her fine-art photography across Europe. Not to mention winning a competition that saw her assisting internationally renowned photographer, Rankin.

See Margo’s work at:

The week kicked off with Margo talking to our students about her work, her career so far and how achieving a 1st class honours degree with us at PCA helped to define and shape her career. We then dove headfirst into a busy day of shooting, with three live external clients providing our students with briefs and products, and an amazing array of unique fashion clothes produced by our very own PCA BA Fashion students. Throw in five models and a make up artist into the mix and we had a super-charged day, taking over five of our studios to produce some really outstanding work. Everybody worked incredibly hard and really pulled together as teams. 

The next day was taken up with the digital workflow and editing processes, overseen by our wonderful in house technical demonstrator Neil, who is always on hand to help with all things Lightroom and Photoshop. It can be a challenging part of the creative process to narrow down your images to a few select choices, but Margo helped the students with their choices, encouraging them to always keep in mind what the client has asked for.

Then we printed the final selection of work for each group and had a critique session, headed up by Margo, where the students received some valuable feedback and got to celebrate their achievements. Margo was a great visiting lecturer to have on board and was incredibly impressed with the standard of our students’ work. We hope to have her back next year! 

Take a look at some of the some of the final images from the day below:

Industry Insights: 2020 Symposium

Our annual Symposium in London is a key initiative in our commercial photographic curriculum, providing an opportunity for students to expand their understanding of the business of photography. With presentations a from a range of practitioners, agents, picture editors and other industry professionals, our students gain invaluable insight into various areas of the industry, gaining an understanding of the career possibilities available to them and the knowledge, skills and attributes required to succeed.

This academic year we were delighted to be joined by an incredible line-up of award-winning photographers and photographic professionals, who spoke about the work and their experiences in the industry.

Tom Oldham

Tom is a PCA Alumni and London-based portrait photographer, known for shooting portraits of musicians, sports starts and all manner of talented people across the nation and worldwide. Tom’s work has been shortlisted and exhibited in numerous competitions and awards including the AOP Awards, the BJP Portrait of Britain and the prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. His recent project, The Last of The Crooners, was awarded the 2018 Sony World Photography Award for Portraits in the Professional Category


Suki Dhanda

London based photographer Suki Dhanda is another PCA Alumni and has been shooting professionally for over 10 years.  As one of The Observer’s main portrait photographers her sitters have included musicians, politicians, celebrities and sports personalities. Her editorial commissions are regularly published in leading magazines and in press nationally and internationally. Her personal projects concentrate on people in their environments and ethnicity and she has exhibited with the British Council, Platform for Art and the Photographer’s Gallery.


Karen Thomas

 Karen Thomas is a London-based food and still life photographer, and moving image director. Known for striking stills campaigns for clients such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Costa she has also directed some incredibly accomplished moving image too. Most recently, she was thrilled to be part of the new M&S campaign doing what she does best – bringing a beautifully natural and foodie aspect to the work. Other clients include McDonald’s, Vue, Nestle and the National Trust


Holly McGlynn

 With her infectious personality and strong communication skills, photographer Holly McGlynn has attracted the attention of many high street and international brands. Her irreverent style of photography is feminine and feminist reflecting her sense of fun, colour and identity. Holly always want to collaborate with clients who want to create exciting imagery and is particularly passionate about working with brands who are committed to reducing their impact on the planet and have sustainability at the top of their agenda. Clients include: Chanel, Cosmopolitan Australia, Dorothy Perkins, Elle Australia, Fabergé, Glamour USA, John Lewis, Mulberry, New Look, Playboy Fragrances, Primark, Red Magazine, Stylist Magazine, Tiffany, and White Noise


Derek Seaward

Derek Seaward is a distinguished, award-winning advertising photographer, known for his extensive background in automotive and location shooting. His career has seen him working on illustrious campaigns with some of the biggest companies in the commercial world  including all of the world’s car manufactures such Alpha Romeo, BMW,  Ferrari  Jaguar, Mercedes,  Rover, Volvo, and Volkswagen. Other advertising clients include British Airways, Barclays Bank, Budweiser,  Sony, the BBC, British Gas,  Sainsbury’s and TESCO 


In addition to the talks from our industry guests, a key component of our symposium is the opportunity for students to have their portfolios reviewed

Professional portfolio critique is an integral part of our curriculum with students undertaking reviews as part of their Professional Practice modules. In addition to industry and creative advice, the reviews also provide a unique networking opportunity, with many students coming away with valuable contacts, often leading to work placement and assisting opportunities.


In addition to our 5 symposium speakers outlined above, we were delighted to to be joined by Germaine Walker.

After several years of shooting and studying photography, Germaine started her own photographic agency. 30 years on, she still has the same drive, determination and passion for the business, and is always wiling to spare time for students to review their work.

Our thanks go to all of our fantastic industry guests for their time, energy and insight.


On Location: Shooting Fashion for exclusive fashion label

As part of our Special Project week, where 1st and 2nd year students work collaboratively on a range of client led projects, our students recently had the opportunity to shoot for an exclusive local fashion business

Based in the prestigious Royal William Yard in Plymouth, Identity fashion is an up and coming fashion label working with a group of talented Bulgarian designers to create affordable, exclusive pieces that focus on fluid draping, asymmetrical shapes and relaxed silhouettes. Denitsa Avramova, Identity fashions co-owner and creative director, invited students our students to spend a day shooting a number of their collections.

Students shooting fashion collections in Identity Fashion

On location: Students explore using the historic backdrop of the Royal William Yard for advertising & editorial

Two groups of students were appointed, one to work shooting outfits and accessories inside the shop for e-commerce purposes, the other to work outside on location to capture some stylish shots for advertising and editorial. Tasked with sourcing models and make-up artists and working effectively in creative teams, the brief was a fantastic opportunity for our students to gain experience of shooting fashion for a live brief.

One of the lead photographers, 2nd year student Rosie Hartsorn commented:

‘Working with identity fashion was a great insight into the professional world of fashion photography. I am very grateful for the experience and have gained skills which I will take on with me when working with future clients.

Identity fashion loved the photographs and I was so proud to see my work on their social media. I have kept in contact with the fashion brand and hopefully will work with them in the near future! Overall, I enjoyed the day and gained a lot of positive and helpful feedback.’

Check out a selection of the images produced on the day by our talented students


Our grateful thanks to Denitsa and Identity Fashion for the opportunity to shoot such beautiful collections, and also to our stunning models Petra Blank, Morgan Elder, Selina Hall, Milly Jenkinson and Eden Smith, who all gave their time and energy on the day.

Showtime: Movie publicity project with top industry photographer

As part of our Special Project week, where students work collaboratively on a range of client led projects, our 3rd year students recently had the opportunity to work with legendary TV and film photographer, Alex Bailey

With a career spanning over 30 years, Alex Bailey is a world-class screen and stage photographer, shooting behind the scenes, unit stills and publicity imagery for major theatre, TV and movie productions. His credits include movies such as Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Bohemian Rhapsody, and TV productions such as The Crown and the recent BBC series His Dark Materials. 

Utilising Alex’s considerable experience in shooting world-class publicity material, our students were set a straightforward, but challenging task. Taking inspiration from the theme of The Dark Mid-winter, they were asked to conceive a cinematic narrative, and produce a publicity poster for the film.

Spending two full days with us, Alex spent time working with the students, discussing their ideas, helping with planning and supporting their productions. Sourcing models, clothing, and locations, and in some instances designing sets, the students had one week to plan, shoot, and produce their posters, using Adobe Photoshop to composite the imagery and add text. The project was a real test of the all of the creative, visual and technical skills that our students have spent the last 2 years acquiring.

End of the week review with Alex

The project culminated with a group critique at the end of the week, with Alex reviewing all of the work produced and selecting the winning poster. This was a genuinely difficult challenge, as many of our students produced some outstanding publication quality work, but after much discussion the 1st prize went to Jake Lynch for ‘Other Side of the Door’

The other side of the Door by Jake Lynch

2nd and 3rd prizes went to Lewis Barnard (Barney) and Imogen Bradburn, whose work demonstrated some exceptional compositing skills in Photoshop

Midwinter by Lewis Barnard

Lost Voyage by Imogen Bradburn

The movie poster project was great fun for everyone and importantly provided a unique opportunity for our students to work with a leading industry professional. Our thanks to Alex Bailey for his time, energy and enthusiasm. Alex has joined our ever expanding list of top visiting lecturers and we are looking forward to working with him again in 2020.




Commercial Photography students archive collections at The Box

Students from BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising and Editorial have recently completed an exciting collaboration with expert curators from The Box, Plymouth to photograph items from the collections of the £40+ million cultural development which is set to open in spring 2020.


Guided by Curator of Art, Terah Walkup and Media Archivist, Stacey Anderson, the students were invited to a number of offsite locations to photograph over 200 museum and archival objects, resulting in the creation of more than 400 new high-resolution images. Many of them will be used in the Box’s graphic interpretation and interactive digital displays.

Many of the objects had never been photographed before and included archaeological finds, historic books, prints, paintings, ceramics, costumes, photographs, archival documents, cameras and film equipment.

Due to the challenging nature of some of the pieces, the commercial photography students had to be flexible and creative in setting up cameras, tripods and lights. Some of the objects couldn’t be physically handled or were tricky to photograph, such as artworks behind glass.

One student commented on the difficult nature of some of the objects: “One parchment was particularly challenging because it was folded and couldn’t be forced open. We had to slowly unfold the deed, as it would get damaged if handled too quickly. Every ten minutes, we would unfold it slightly more and weigh it down using archival weights.”


Curator of Art Terah Walkup said: “I looked forward to seeing the students each day and enjoyed their enthusiasm. They were able to capture highly detailed images of our rare books collection, which are challenging to photograph. Quality photography of collections is very important. Not only does it document an object for research and posterity, but a truly beautiful image also captures the spirit of an artwork. The students are now a part of those objects’ stories, in addition to how visitors engage with and encounter our collections.”

Alice Conway, one of the students who took part in the project last year said: “I’d never really looked into museum photography before, so working with The Box was an amazing opportunity to inform this period of my studies. Some of the artefacts were difficult to work with, but despite this technical challenge, myself and the team were always ready to make adjustments. Through this, I was able to find an aspect of photography that I really enjoy, expanding my photographic knowledge and experience.”


Subject Leader & Senior Lecturer Tim Gundry, said: “The collaboration with The Box has been a fantastic opportunity for our students. Guided by their curatorial team, the students were able to apply their skills in an exciting and culturally significant live project, providing them with invaluable professional experience. This is a highly specialised area of photography, requiring sophisticated skills in lighting, colour management and digital workflow, and the skills that the students have developed will become invaluable to them in their careers.”

“The project also provided an exciting opportunity for collaboration between our undergraduate and postgraduate students. Last year one of our MA Photography students, Nick Matthews, was exploring conservation and archival photography as part of his degree study and documented the conservation and restoration of the Royal Naval figureheads. We’re delighted to have played a part in this project with The Box and can’t wait to see how our student’s work will be used to encourage public engagement with the collections.”

The Box will be the biggest cultural and heritage centre in the South West and is also set to be the largest museum and art gallery space opening in the UK in 2020.

Article by Naomi Girdler, Plymouth College of Art

FREERANGE 2019: 3rd years exhibit at Europe’s largest graduate showcase

Our academic year came to a spectacular conclusion last month when a selection of our graduating 3rd year students – under the collective name of ‘New Wave’ – exhibited their work at Freerange in London, Europe’s largest graduate showcase event.

Presenting an outstanding selection of fashion, advertising and editorial photography, our students took over the T2 space at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, their large scale prints creating a distinctive presence amongst the other photography degree programmes exhibiting at the event.


Freerange provides a unique opportunity for students to present their work to the photographic industry, and we were delighted to be joined by some top industry professionals who came along to our private view to meet our students and view their work.

Ilka & Franz
Student Abi Baldwin discusses her work with top photographic duo, Ilka & Franz

AOP Student Awards shortlisted student, Nicola Simpson, discusses her final major project with top editorial photographer, Olivia Beasley
AOP Student Awards shortlisted student, Nicola Simpson, discusses her final major project with top editorial photographer, Olivia Beasley

Congratulations to our 3rd years for putting on such an outstanding display of work.

Particular congratulations to student Nicola Simpson. Nicola was already riding high having been shortlisted in the ‘People’ category of the AOP (Association of Photographers) Student Awards. To round off Nicola’s degree exhibition experience she was also selected as runner up in the ‘Best in Show’ awards at Freerange, winning the prize of having her portfolio professionally printed and critiqued at Metro Imaging, London’s premier production lab.

What a great end to a great year!

On top form: Students award our programme 94% overall satisfaction in National survey

We were delighted by the news published in the National Student Survey recently. BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising and Editorial was awarded 94% overall satisfaction in the survey, affirming our desire to be the best photography degree in the country.

The NSS is completed across the UK by students in the final year of their degree, giving them the opportunity to say what they think about their programme and place of study. The survey is seen as a hugely important benchmark, the results being published in National league tables and all publicised course material, influencing future student study choices.

The survey investigates various areas of degree provision with a series of questions in each category and students also have the opportunity to leave comments. We were delighted to see that our students ranked us over 90% for every one of the key performance areas. Our programme scores were as follows:

Teaching on my course: 92%

Learning opportunities: 96%

Assessment and Feedback: 100%

Academic Support: 96%

Organisation and Management: 95%

Learning Resources: 95%

Learning Community 95%

Student Voice: 100%

Overall Satisfaction:  94%

When asked to comments as to the most positive aspects of the course, comments from students included:

“Pastoral care. Organisation of course. Learnt so much about the professional/creative/photographic industry. Brought some amazing friendships with staff and other students. Opportunities to meet professionals”

“Many real life work opportunities that the course has provided, collaboration with other students and staff, friendly tutors that care about their students doing well.”

“Range of tutors and experience, I always feel a sense of genuine excitement about new work and my potential through our lectures”

Our grateful thanks go to our graduating students for their appreciation. All of our students can be assured that we will continue to provide the highest possible levels of teaching and support on our programme.