Students ‘see the beauty in the ordinary’on February 16, 2021 at 2:22 am

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First-year photography students at the University for the Creative Arts show off their work.

It has been a tough year for all of us but for those starting their university life it has meant adapting to a new way of studying – not only remote learning but also finding new ways to explore creative ideas with other students, having never met in real life.

For their first module, undergraduate photography students at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) Rochester, in Kent, were asked to create work in response to the theme “environment”.

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VW Beetle

image copyrightCali Faraway

My images show the journey of this 1974 Volkswagen Beetle through both natural and industrial environments.

Each photograph takes you closer to the car, with the final photo being of its owner, Sam.

VW Beetle owner

image copyrightCali Faraway

Times have been tough and still are, which is why I wanted to create a positive piece of work that will make my audience smile.

I also wanted to base my work around something that I was passionate about.

Even though the pandemic’s restrictions have made the start of my university journey difficult, I have enjoyed challenging my creativity and the opportunity to continue to develop my knowledge and skills.

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image copyrightAlex O’Callaghan

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Starting at university during peak pandemic time was definitely a challenge – not just for me but for everyone, I would assume.

But, it has also been the gateway to bringing forth new ideas and methods of working for us.

The series of images that I have created were designed to be a form of escape.

I wanted to create new worlds that have never been seen before, allowing you, the viewer, to imagine what life could be like on these different moons and planets.


image copyrightAlex O’Callaghan

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Perhaps you wish to be whisked away to the icy landscape of Europa or the red deserts of Mars?

Refresh yourself and forget about what’s happening across the world just for a moment and become lost in somewhere you’ve never seen before.

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Brutalist architecture

image copyrightFraizer Dunleavy

During the first lockdown, my mother sadly passed away.

This, alongside the time I suddenly had available, served as a catalyst to reflect on my life path and the choices made.

After feeling bogged down in a financial role for 12 years, my partner encouraged me to pursue photography professionally.

I had years of experience as a hobbyist photographer, earning a bit of money here and there, but I decided to take the plunge and enrolled in a photography degree – during a global pandemic.


image copyrightFraizer Dunleavy

Having spent time, as a young child, living in rural France, my mother’s choice to return to London and live in a small flat in an overcrowded concrete town confused me.

The blur of public transport, a loss of independence, and the feeling of isolation drowned me in Thamesmead[, Kent].

Our first photography project, Environment, allowed me the time and space to continue personal reflection, after a year of significant change.

I revisited childhood memories in Thamesmead and learned to see the beauty in the ordinary – areas in our environment I had never taken the time to admire.

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I’m always amazed to see the variation in our students’ visual styles, especially at the beginning of their journey.

Who knows where these photographs will lead them? What kind of image makers will they become?

Many students around the country have struggled with their studies.

But as photographers, they were placed in a position to document the pandemic in varying ways – either directly or looking at their personal response to the situation.

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Road sign

image copyrightBenjamin Taylor

Remote learning is a particularly odd experience, especially for more practical learners, which creative students generally are.

Being able to be creative in a pandemic can be a challenge but also a release at the same time.

Motivation can come and go with the stresses of being a student, being compounded by the constant bombardment of statistics, updates and restrictions of coronavirus.

Being in a new environment when moving into student halls, I found wandering around the area to also be beneficial for getting my bearings but also for my mental health.

Going out and taking photos added a small element of stability and routine in such an unstable and testing time for everyone.

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image copyrightEleanor Luciani

Coming into university, I imagined I would be creating projects of the outlandish and wacky, photographing exotic locations to capture the viewer’s eye.

However, as a nation, we have been put on hold.

And for the most of us, we are stuck at home.

Creatively, I thought basing my first project on my home was going to be rather bleak.

But having this time to really study the space in which I live in has been so fulfilling.


image copyrightEleanor Luciani

You think you know your home like the back of your hand.

And there’s nothing left to be seen that you haven’t already.

But there is beauty in these places, a beauty that is overlooked each day.

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Mr Rabbit

image copyrightKarl Fletcher

Mr Rabbit is a product of lockdown.

He is anxiety.

He is the unknown path ahead.

He is the uncertainty of the future, the nagging doubt, our inner demon.

He is born from the observations of anxiety and wanting to give a feeling of the unknown fear a face.

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image copyrightHolly Adams

Leaving sixth-form abruptly in March was a big shock.

However, university helped me to feel creative and engaged in work.

Learning throughout the pandemic has been a challenge.

But it has helped to change my outlook and has given me lots of inspiration for my work.

I did not think for my first university project I would be shooting the effects of the pandemic.

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Woman leaping

image copyrightFaye Littlewood-Tribe

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When starting my first university assignment. I was full of ideas and excitement.

However, with the current climate of the pandemic and restrictions getting tougher, I began to struggle with motivation to explore for new locations and to shoot.

During this time, my inspiration and ideas for my project began to change.

And I was seeking new ways to carry on whilst keeping to the government guidelines.

I feel that throughout this project, I have portrayed how dark the world currently is.

But photography is an amazing way to express the world’s true beauty and tranquillity.

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Hand on a window

image copyrightOlesia Kolisnyk

My first university project happened during isolation.

I wanted to show my feelings, surroundings, and everything I was going through during that time.

It was quite hard but also allowed me to grow creatively and to look for new meanings in my day-to-day life.

Bed with laptop

image copyrightOlesia Kolisnyk

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image copyrightJake Knights

Starting my first year of university during the Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be challenging in a lot of ways.

However, rather than seeing it within a completely negative light, I have tried to find positives within it.

I feel that it has pushed me as a creative, presenting itself as a blessing in some ways, making me challenge myself and explore avenues for my work that without this pandemic, I may have never considered.

This project is about the experience of life during the pandemic that makes you appreciate all the little things we had.


image copyrightJake Knights

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See more student photography at the UCA Instagram page or the website.

All of these images were made before the current national lockdown rules.

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