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28th July 2020

We caught up with Newcastle College's Subject Leader in A Level Photography, Amber Banks-Brumby to chat about her experiences before joining us, where she finds her inspiration and her advice for anyone wanting to study photography.

Q: Tell us about your experiences before joining the College.

A: I studied Photography at Nottingham Trent University where I explored a range of photography practices, I was particularly interested in the fashion industry at the time which led me to interning and eventually working in London as a stylist for e-commerce companies. I have always had a passion for teaching and throughout my studies I worked for the NCS as a Photography Practitioner, teaching young adults’ photography where we would visit charities, hospices and community centres using photography to interact and build relationships with communities. This experience was so valuable and rewarding for me and eventually led me to pursue teaching further. I completed my PGCE in Secondary Art Education at Birmingham City University, which resulted in me becoming Head of Photography in a secondary school and sixth form in Wolverhampton for 4 and a half years before joining NSCG.

Last summer I was fortunate enough to be chosen to join a week residential with Positive Light Projects Photography summer school, where I spent the week with influential photographers from around the world exploring nature and developing our practices. This kick started my personal project Peacocks Cry which has recently been published into a photobook with Out of Place Books.

Q: Which photographer has influenced you the most and why?

A: Such a hard one, I have so many! Guy Bourdin, Nick Knight and Susan Dergess were the first photographers that really ignited my passion for photography when I was young. Currently I love the work of Tito Mouraz, Sian Davey, and Tania Franco Klein (a real mix!)

Q: What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?

A: Hmmm….. don’t care so much what other people think, make the most of being with your grandparents and ask them questions!

Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?

A: Why wouldn’t you want to spend all day, every day teaching and talking about what you love? Inspiring others to think creatively and how to have confidence in your work is so important to young people. Also, being with young creatives every day gives me ideas for my own work.

Q: What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

A: When I finished university, I had in my head that to be successful I had to work in the fashion industry. I soon realised that the fashion industry was a little soulless for me and so I decided to influence others instead. It can also be difficult to discover your style as a photographer – I know I struggle as I like all areas of photography.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the photography industry?

A: Contacts! Share your work as much as possible, send emails to the photographers you love and ask to assist them on shoots. Enter competitions and network as much as possible.

Q: What sorts of careers have your past students gone on to have?

A: My students have gone on to study at top universities for the arts such as UAL, Bristol, NTU, BCU and Falmouth. A lot of my students are now successful freelance photographers, and working in London with creative agencies.

Q: Tell us a bit about your own photography and any projects you’ve worked on?

A: I have recently had a series of work ‘Peacocks Cry’ published by Out Of Place Books – a documentation of nature, portraits, life and death in my local village, all shot on medium format film. I am currently working on a fishing body of work – a hobby I have taken to during lockdown.

Q: What key skills does someone wanting to pursue a career in photography need to have?

A: Confidence, passion, perseverance, opinionated, persistence, creativity, ethical, alertness, and awareness – the list of skills goes on forever!

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

A: Everywhere and anywhere - nature, films, tiredness, emotions, Instagram, the news, photo books, exhibitions, reading, and family. Just absorb everything and filter it through a camera!

To find out more about studying Photography at Newcastle College, visit https://nscg.ac.uk/study/course-departments/creative-arts-film-media/a-level-photography.

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