Whilst I have been studying photography I have looked into various professional photographers careers and I have often wondered if I could see myself in their roles. Because of this doubt I tried to fix placements with varied career opportunities. I have spoken with freelance photographers and have received some amazing advice and heard their stories of how they became successful photographers. unfortunately no opportunity of a placement was available at this time. I learnt a lot from an English photographer who is now based in Italy, he explained how he started his own business and how he has been able to keep it running. Through speaking to him I found myself feeling more and more lost as I don’t feel I would be able/want to do all that is needed to run my own business. I felt I needed to go into a company that would support me with my creative work rather than going freelance. I sent out emails to many different companies and photographers but wasn’t having any luck with useful responses. I decided to use my previous connections to help me find a local placement I would be comfortable in. This is how I ended up gaining experience with Stratford-upon-Avon College.
I decided to use this module as an opportunity to try other career options which I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I have always enjoyed photography as a creative outlet but as my studies have intensified I have questioned if I am motivated enough to work for a career in the creative industry. Therefore I also gained experience in a Primary school, I have done piece of experience in schools and nurseries since my first work placement and have always been unsure if I would be able to perform the role of a teacher.
I first went to Stratford College before the Christmas holidays to discuss what they would be asking of me and if the work is something Id be interested in. After discussing the layout of the placement and their expectations of myself and my work we arranged for a start date of 14th jan, with projects running into may. On my first day I was set up with an email account and given a computer and a phone to organise and arrange photo opportunities with a selection of their apprentices in their working environment. The college had laid out their expectations and given me the tools to achieve this and left me to do what I felt was appropriate to be able to hand them finished works in 2 months time. I came across endless amounts of difficulties with trying to achieve this, from managers not informing the apprentices I was coming, apprentices being on holiday to apprentices/employers refusing to take part. I found myself attached to my phone, emailing and ringing employers continuously and driving around all day getting very lost. This task too up a lot of my time and I was rather disappointed with the outcome of many of my photographs. I often wasn’t allowed very long with the apprentices and found that many couldn’t think of anything that they do in a working day. I also did various tasks within the college, spending days photographing many things from performances to accommodation, even an MP cooking on a visit with one of their apprentices. As much as there was some variety within the work I was producing I didn’t find that creatively it was inspiring me. The working environment of an office from 9-5 with the only break being to photograph some students down the hall was definitely very testing for myself. I enjoy every day being different with new challenges to over come. I found this corporate office didn’t suit me, with shaking endless hands with identically dressed people who didn’t care who I was as long as I got their good side. I did however feel that over my time with Stratford college my confidence and ability to settle my subjects improved dramatically as I settled into my role.
When I had reached the point of being desperate for this placement to end I then finalized my starting point with Alderman’s Green Primary School on March 31st. I arrived at the school unsure of what I would be expected to do and if I would enjoy being in a school environment. I was placed with a mixture of year 1 and 2 classes allowing me 2-3 days with each class over my 2 week placement. I was shocked at how quickly I enjoyed my placement, the teachers were so helpful and how comfortable I was with the children. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to take part much and would be viewing the class from a distance. I was able to observe the teachers and how they all differed in style whilst the children were sat on the carpet at the beginning of every lesson. But I was then also able to get involved with helping the children and supporting them in their work. I often sat with one table of students that needed extra support. From observing the teachers interactions with the pupils I could quickly see which methods I feel are effective. I also saw perfect examples of why I have always been interested in teaching. On a couple of occasions some teachers gave a very negative response to the children such as telling them they “wont be able to do it” I feel that this has set the child up to fail as they often had a defeatist attitude and it was a struggle for me to get them reengaged with the task. I also found it very interesting to see how often the children that I had to tell off and be really firm with often responded to positive encouragement the best and turned out some of the stronger work and were the first to offer to help me with any of my tasks (like clearing up) to me this shows that if each child has clear boundaries but gets praise where praise is due they will respond beyond expectation.
This module has given me the opportunity to see what different types of jobs could offer me. Whether or not I stick down the photography route for my career after my degree or if I should continue to study towards a different career. I have seen how the instability of freelance work would be too unsettling for myself, but also that office work with the same tasks being done day in day out is too boring. I don’t have an interest in photographing for other people’s ideas or needs, I enjoy photography as a personal outlet. Therefore I don’t think I shall be looking to continue into a career in photography. I have however seen how rewarding and interesting life inside a Primary School can be. I now know that I would like to pursue a career in a Primary School.
My next steps will be to finish my degree at Coventry and continue my education with a PGCE with the hope of becoming a Primary School Teacher. I have already started looking at various courses and what they have to offer. Over the next year I shall continue with volunteering within Primary Schools to start my learning process. As much as I enjoyed my placement at Alderman’s it has also highlighted what weaknesses I have. One is mainly my lack of experience, children come out with many strange things and it takes time to get used to dealing with their unique ways. I have got gaps in my basic knowledge and as much as I’m already trying to work on this I know that my basic spelling needs a lot more work before I am confident with teacher pupils.
Without this module I wouldn’t have been able to “test” out what life is like in the working environments I was interested in. It has clarified for me what I am best suited for and what I am inspired to continue with. Stratford College is a familiar environment for me as I am an ex pupil, yet I still felt very uncomfortable and unsure about what was being asked of me. However Alderman’s Green is a new environment for me with all new faces and new position for me to be in yet I instantly felt extremely comfortable with the staff and pupils and felt like I knew what I was meant to be doing and had confidence in what I was advising the children. I enjoy the relaxed and creative learning environment of a Primary School and hope one day I will be able to add to this.