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!

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.


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

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.

2019 Industry Symposium – our best yet!

Our Annual Symposium in London is a key initiative in our commercial photographic curriculum, providing a unique opportunity for students to expand their understanding of the business of photography. With presentations a from a range of practitioners, agents 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 our symposium was held at the Seven Dials Club in Covent Garden, and 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. Many of students, who have been to our symposium every year since joining us, unanimously agreed that 2019 was our best symposium yet. The range of speakers, the breadth of their practices, and their obvious energy and enthusiasm to support photographic education was clearly apparent and greatly appreciated by all. Our thanks go to all of our contributors this year:

Olivia Beasley

Olivia’s work spans fashion, advertising and editorial, and clients include: American Express, Bacardi, British Airways, BT, Clarks, Ernest Jones, Heals, Levi’s, Mastercard, Qatar Airways, Remy Martin, Sony, The Times, The Telegraph, and the Tate Modern. Olivia was recently selected to show at the 20th International Hyeres Festival of Fashion and Photography, in France.

Victoria Ling

Victoria comes from a Fine Art background, which can be seen in her clean and minimalist asesthetic, with keen attention to detail, texture and colour. Selected advertising clients include: British Airways, Papier, Mondial, Ciroc, Marie Claire, M&S, Vogue, Stella, John Lewis, G F Smith, and Saatchi & Saatchi

Alice Hawkins

Best known for her portrait and fashion photography and filmmaking, Alice creates jubilant, playful, touching and unashamedly glitzy images. She contributes to titles such as POP, Love and PonyStep and has collaborated on many campaigns including Diesel, Agent Provocateur and Topman. With a unique flair for storytelling and being naturally attracted to the outrageous, unconventional or exuberant, her work continually celebrates individuality across the globe. A compilation of her images entitled “Alice’s Adventures” was published in 2017 by Thames & Hudson.


Jon Enoch

Jon Enoch is a London-based photographer with a bold, uncomplicated approach to his work, earning him widespread recognition, from multiple nominations for Celebrity Photographer of the Year to the Professional Publishers Association’s Best Magazine Cover. His work won the Non-Commissioned Portraits Series in the highly prestigious AOP Awards 2015. He was nominated again in both 2016 and 2017.

Equally at home on location or in the studio, clients include: Norwegian Airlines, Sport Magazine, Skoda, The Times, Forever Sports, The RNLI, Philips, EA Sports, Addison Lee, ES Magazine and The Royal British Legion


David Stewart

David Stewart is a genuine legend in the world of photography, beginning his career by photographing punk bands including The Clash and The Ramones in the 1970s.  Stewart won The Taylor Wessing portrait prize in 2015. In 2016 he was presented with The Royal Photographic Society award for outstanding achievement and excellence in the fields of Editorial, Advertising and Fashion Photography.


Jennifer Turner

Jennifer graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2008 and quickly established a successful career in London as a photographic producer and then an Agent. Within a short time she was being approached to be a judge for prestigious competitions such as the AoP Assistant Awards. In 2015 Jennifer founded Wren Artists Ltd, a London based visual artists agency managing photographers and productions in both stills and moving imagery.


On Location: Shooting Fashion in stately surroundings

Coinciding with our Introduction to Fashion Photography module our students recently enjoyed the experience of carrying out a fashion shoot in a beautiful Tudor mansion and country park. Part of our ‘Fashion and Trends Week’ the activity provides students with the opportunity to work in creative teams, developing their skills and knowledge of professional fashion photography.

We often make full use of our enviable location in the South West and Mount Edgcumbe, a short drive or boat ride from our Plymouth campus, is a particular gem. Built nearly 100 years before the Mayflower set sail in 1620, and surrounded by 865 acres of formal gardens and beautiful landscapes, the grand Tudor mansion provides a fantastic backdrop.

With the evocative atmosphere of Mount Edgcumbe in mind, our students were given the opportunity to work with a number of clients who provided a series of garments to be photographed.

The Dark Angel label has an international reputation for ethically producing high quality, unique clothing, designing costumes for a range of high profile clients which include Disney, Blenheim Palace, and TV and theatre companies worldwide. For our shoot at Mount Edgcumbe, The Dark Angel provided a collection of period & fantasy inspired garments.

Alongside the theatrical garments provided by The Dark Angel, and continuing our theme of promoting sustainable fashion choices, we also collaborated with St Luke’s Hospice charity shop in Plymouth. Charity shops can be a fashion treasure trove and St Luke’s gave our students free access to their city centre store, with a brief to style and shoot a collection of elegant party wear sourced entirely from their store.

In addition to these two fabulous briefs, we also collaborated with our own BA Hons Fashion programme, providing an opportunity for 2 groups to work with clothing collections produced by recent graduates, Amy Bray and Lan Chen. Reconciling or juxtaposing the highly contemporary style of these two collections with the traditional setting of Mount Edgcumbe was one the first challenges for these groups.

As the students soon discovered, shooting fashion on location is a busy enterprise. Working with professional models and enlisting the services of the students on the Hair and Make-Up course at City College, our students had to work in teams to source locations, set up their lighting, and plan and style their shoots. Each of the 6 groups, some assisted by more experienced 2nd year students, worked in a range of locations both inside and outside the house, allocating roles and working collectively to meet the demands of the client briefs.

Despite the various challenges, including needing to take particular care when photographing around priceless furniture and antiques and keeping models warm on a freezing cold day, our students produced an exceptional body of work that showcased their creative and technical skills. Take a look at some of the final imagery produced below.

Thanks to all of the contributors who helped to make the shoot such a huge success.

Mount Edgcumbe House & Country Park 

Dark Angel Designs                                       

St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth                       

City College Plymouth                                  

Particular thanks to PCA Fashion Graduate Amy Bray, who kindly loaned her collection to us. Amy’s collection debuted at Graduate Fashion Week last year, to find out more about Amy and her work see:


On Location: Shooting Fashion in St Ives

We love living and working and South West and often make the most of our location in our curriculum.

As part of our induction and enrichment activity this year we took the 1st year students on an overnight trip to the beautiful town of St. Ives, a great opportunity for students to get to know each other and familiarise themselves with working on a location fashion shoot. The cohort had to organise and plan every aspect of the shoot, from devising a concept, sourcing the clothing, booking the equipment and choosing suitable locations. Some of the groups made full use of the beautiful scenery in and around the harbour and surrounding beaches. One group used their initiative by contacting the local cinema to carry out a themed indoor shoot.

The shoot was extremely successful, each student group approaching the brief in different ways, producing a series of images that showcased their production skills. In addition to the photographic experience gained, the cohort had the opportunity to develop team building skills, learning how to work in creative teams.

Take a look at some of the images produced below.

Show Time: 3rd year work exhibited in the 2018 Degree Show

The end of June is special time at Plymouth College of Art as as our city centre campus is transformed from a vibrant workshop and studio complex into a dynamic, public showcase for new work in art, design and digital media.

This year’s exhibition of work from students studying Commercial Photography has broken new ground and set a new standard. BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion Advertising and Editorial was launched in 2015, so this is the first year we have a graduating cohort from the new award.

Degree Show Exhibition
Room 2.32

The quality of work on display is a testament to both the quality of the curriculum, and also the incredible talent, passion and determination of our students. From corporate portraits to stylised fashion editorials, from computer generated advertising environments to meticulously crafted studio photography, our students have been encouraged to develop their own individual style and approaches to working.

You can see a small selection of work from this year’s show below. To see the full exhibition and the quality of our student’s work for yourself, please visit us in room 2.32 in the Tavistock Building. Our 2018 Degree show is open from 10am to 5pm on Thursday 21st June.

Student Conference event provides insight into life in the industry

As part of a college wide initiative, our year 2 students were recently tasked with a self-directed challenge to conceive, organise and deliver an external event. The student conference is a part of our enrichment curriculum, designed to encourage students to work collectively and collaboratively to produce an outcome that enhances their learning.

In the context of their Professional Practice module, our enterprising 2nd years booked an external venue, produced and curated a series of their images for a pop-up exhibition, and then called on a number of PCA Graduates to talk about their work and experiences.

Louise Jutson graduated in 2008 and after working in Fashion photography in Brighton, has now moved to London where she runs a successful wedding photography business.

Codie Hobbs graduated in 2013, having her work published in the British Journal of Photography the same year, and now works as a Fashion Photographer in the South West

Tony Fitzsimmons graduated in 2014, and now works as a documentary photographer and Photojournalist. Having recently returned from a commission covering deep sea fishing in the South Atlantic, Tony had some interesting tales to tell.

Andy Ford, also graduated in 2014, his flair for both portrait and live music photography. leading him to shoot for NME and Kerrang magazinescovering festivals across the world and editorial spreads with some of the world’s biggest artists.

Irina Iljina graduated in 2015, and has since put her outstanding post production skills to good use, working as a retoucher for some top brands

Jess Bright, our most recent graduate who completed her BA last year, is part way through her MA in Photography at the College, whilst also maintaining a successful wedding photography business.

PCA Alumni, Left to right: Tony Fitzsimmons, Andy Ford, Irina Iljina, Louise Jutson, Jess Bright & Codie Hobbs

The Alumni event was a fantastic opportunity for our students to hear from a range of  photographers working in different sectors who have graduated from Plymouth College of Art over the last 10 years. All spoke about the challenges and opportunities working in commercial photography, sharing their experience and advice.

Alongside the Alumni conference, the pop-up exhibition provided an opportunity for our students to display their work in a public space, showcasing some of the fantastic imagery produced during the year. Congratulations to all of our Year 2 students for delivering such a successful event. Thanks to Abi Baldwin for our behind the scenes coverage.