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Caitlin Orridge

Level 6 Photography

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Caitlin Orridge

Caitlin studies Photography at Newcastle College University Centre. She Stepped Up to a degree after studying at Newcastle College. Find out what she has to say about her time learning with us.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, etc.?

I’ve remained in education from high school through to degree level. I came to Newcastle College University Centre to study photography after taking it up while trialling Sixth Form. I found I really enjoyed photography, but when I started studying at Newcastle College University Centre, I found I didn’t have a clue about the technical side of photography. My course at the University Centre has helped me to develop my talents in photography, so I can take my career progression into whatever field I want to specialise. For instance, I’m more of a fashion photography and my style focus is more contemporary than traditional. I feel drawn to the creative side of the fashion photography industry.

Why did you choose to step up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

I took Photography in Sixth Form, but I felt I didn’t learn a lot about the mechanics of it. That said, I learnt how much I loved photography, and knew that I wanted to progress with it. I looked at various courses in different places, but Newcastle College University Centre was one of the only local colleges that offered pure Photography degree courses, which was where I knew my passion was. I came to an Open Event, looked around, and was instantly drawn to Newcastle College University Centre because I got a great sense of the staff and facilities, especially the amazing photography studio here. I felt I’d have a fantastic opportunity to develop and grow with my own photography skills, and I’m very pleased to have been proven right.

What was it about this course that made you want to progress onto a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

For me, it was coming to an Open Event and for the first time, and seeing all the facilities that I have available to me at Newcastle College University Centre. I spoke to staff and lecturers while I was exploring the campus and galleries, and so gained additional information about the course, what I’d be studying, and where a qualification from the University Centre might lead. For each year of the degree course, the modules were all so creative, which really drew me into exploring everything on offer.

What benefits do you think there are in choosing to stay on to study at Newcastle College University Centre?

I’ve found throughout my time at Newcastle College University Centre that you get so much support with everything you try and any question you ask, even if you think it’s obvious. Coming from a smaller school myself, and looking around at other places to study, the University Centre does give you so much more support than anywhere else I considered. Among my friends at university around the country, whenever I mention how much help and support I receive on my course, they are all surprised and shocked because I get a level of provision at Newcastle College University Centre that nowhere else can match. I think it’s really important because now, in my final year, the additional workload and pressures are such that I appreciate knowing that support is available to me more than ever, even if I don’t always need to ask for help.

What are the facilities like at the University Centre for your course and as a student?

They’re really good! On my course specifically, I have access to the huge photography studio in Mandela, as well as all the equipment they use in the Photography department. We’re also allowed to take the equipment off-campus if we ever want to shoot or work on-location. Obviously, the other degree facilities like the library, the HE Hub, and Parsons tenth floor are all brilliant as places to go to sit down and work. Honestly, I feel better knowing that there are designated areas where students like me can go to sit and hang out, or to work quietly, and since everyone there has the same broad goal, you feel supported because everyone knows exactly why everyone else is there, which creates quite a supportive environment on-campus. The whole atmosphere of the University Centre is very relaxed, which makes the time I spend on campus even more enjoyable!

What do you enjoy the most about your degree?

I think the creative freedom that I have from it. From transitioning between my second and third year at the University Centre, I’ve been able to figure out which direction I would like to specialise in my photography career, in large part thanks to the opportunity the course grants me to explore every avenue in the sector which might interest me. Since I started the degree course with very little idea of a long-term plan, I can’t thank the teachers at Newcastle College University Centre enough for taking the time not only to teach me about such a broad range of topics within the field of photography, but also to nurture my individual interests and passions so that I could develop my own future. Personally, I think that’s a quality of care that I wouldn’t have received anywhere else.

What inspires you?

That’s a question that comes up a lot in photography, but I still get surprised when I’m asked! Being a fashion photographer, obviously other fashion magazines and photographers are a big inspiration for me. More generally, I think I’m inspired by creativity. When I look at photographers, I prefer not to follow the more straightforward or traditional – not to mean boring! – fashions, I’m more interested in the more creative, the contemporary, or the unusual sides of modern photography. To me, these more innovative styles of photography are opening up a lot of interesting new areas for the future of photography, and I’d like to explore those fields while I can. Those photographers, the kinds of fashions I see them photographing, and more importantly the ways they visualise and present them, give me the motivation and inspiration for my own work.

Tell us about how you have worked with industry whilst studying your degree (i.e. talks / live briefs / projects).

Every single year, we’ve had countless amounts of industry experts from all different areas of photography in as guest speakers. These industry specialists don’t just focus on developing our skills as photographers, but they encouraged us to expand our knowledge and interests into fields like styling and re-touching, which are obviously vital elements of photoshoots today. The guest speakers also used differently styles of photography, ranging from still life to fashion, to more commercial photography – I felt really fortunate to have contact with so many experts from so many avenues of photography. We’ve also received loads of opportunities for work experience: for me specifically, I’ve worked a lot with the fashion students at Newcastle College University Centre to help with their brand photoshoots. Photography competitions are also fantastic chances to expand our creative horizons, but also to network. Our tutors always encourage us to enter photography competitions for all sorts of specialisms, so long as we think the submissions are strong enough and that we’re happy to enter them. In January, for example, some of my work won “The Nordic Competition”, so I went to see it exhibited in Finland. The competition aimed to show the quality of image you could take on your phone, instead of using a professional camera, and while I chose fashion due to my interests, the subject could have been anything!  It was the first time any of my work was exhibited in a competition, let alone being shown off in another country, so it gave me the confidence to know that I could produce work strong enough to be considered alongside some of the best young photographers around Europe! I honestly couldn’t have achieved what I have without the support network I’ve found here at Newcastle College University Centre.

How do you think learning from industry experienced tutors has benefitted you?

It’s helped me to understand the industry more, and to know what professional employers are looking for in their photographers. Our lecturers all have so much experience behind them, which really helps to guide us in our studies and our career plans, but the diverse range of guest speakers we get from across all areas of the photography industry is just the cherry on top. Each lecturer or guest speaker we have brings a unique insight into the industry that is shaped by years of distinct experience, so a still life photographer would give different tips to a fashion photographer, but I’ve used all of that transferable knowledge to enrich my work. The sheer breadth of knowledge I’ve gained studying at Newcastle College University Centre is amazing, since it’s helped me to explore every area within the industry, and from there, to get a better idea of how and where I’d like to develop my own career in the future.

How would you describe the staff at the University Centre?

I love the staff! The tutors on my course are all so fantastic, they’re the most down-to-earth people, and I’ve never felt awkward speaking to them about any topics relating to my course or my personal wellbeing. Sometimes it feels like they’re friends, since at different points in my degree I’ve talked to them about day or what I did on weekends, but they still provide structure, help and support right through my studies. Personally, that mixture of formal and informal styles of learning suits me down to the ground. There’s also someone in the Photography department at the University Centre who is so helpful with lighting and technical materials, he’ll always go above and beyond to help anyone in the studio to set up the perfect shot. Not to mention the staff in Student Services or the HE Team, they are all so friendly and so eager to help us do our best and achieve our goals.

Have you overcome any challenges either before or whilst studying your degree?

For me, I’d say the biggest challenge has been building my knowledge and skills in photography. When I started at Newcastle College University Centre, I didn’t really know a lot about photography as a form of art itself, since my previous teachers were more traditional art-as-painting teachers without a specialism in photography. When I started my degree course, it was a bit intimidating because I had this brand-new environment, people, and incredible equipment to take in, but I wasn’t sure how to adapt to it or use any of the tools they had given me. I know so much more about different lighting techniques and photography set-ups, I’ve broadened my range of knowledge, I jump at the chance to enter competitions when a few years ago I wouldn’t never have considered putting myself forward. Looking back now, and comparing myself today to when I started, my overall confidence has developed so much thanks to the fantastic people I’ve met and learnt from while studying at Newcastle College University Centre.

What kinds of support have you received during your studies?

I’ve received a lot of support at Newcastle College University Centre – far more than I think I ever would have received at another university. Not only have I had exceptional help from my tutors, studio assistants, and other members of staff from the Photography department, but I’ve also used the Learning Enhancement Team for modules where I’ve needed to write essays or produce long pieces of academic writing and reports. It feels like I’ve got access to endless amounts of academic support, but I also know the provision for pastoral care, especially mental health, is just as good, if not better. These resources and support systems are so easy to access, and there are so many people at the University Centre who are more than willing to support you, so for as long as I’ve studied at Newcastle College University Centre, it’s always felt like a safe and supportive environment.

What has been the highlight of your time studying at Newcastle College University Centre?

My highlight isn’t so much one single moment as it has been my personal growth and development. When I first came to Newcastle College, I was shy, lacking in confidence, unsure of my path in photography, and didn’t know anybody; now, I’ve gained so much knowledge and so many skills, I know exactly what I want to do, and my best friends are people that I met through studying at the University Centre. My work has developed alongside me as well, I think – looking back at my work during A-Levels and when I started at Newcastle College, the standard of work I hold myself to now is so much higher, and I feel confident in trying new styles and approaches, thanks to the fantastic teaching at the University Centre.

What’s Newcastle like as a student city, in your experience?

I think Newcastle is a great little place! (Obviously not ‘little’ little, but you know what I mean!) There are a lot of times where I’ll go into town to sit and work in a coffee shop, as a nice break from campus. There are also so many places to go and meet friends in town, even somewhere like Leazes Park to sit and work during the summer. Since everything is so close and reachable on foot, Newcastle is a brilliant place to just wander through and clear your head, since it’s such a chilled environment as a whole. No wonder it’s so appealing to students! Nothing to do with the nightlife at all…

In what ways do you think your degree at Newcastle College University Centre has prepared you for employment?

I think it’s prepared me by developing my skills and knowledge on every aspect of photography. Although I’ve now settled on my specialism, across the three years on this degree course, I’ve been able to explore any avenue of photography I wanted, which has prepared me to enter any area of the photography industry I want. I’ve learnt skills, knowledge, and industry experience through studying at Newcastle College University Centre, so I know what to expect moving forward in my career. The combination of all these factors has prepared me and my peers for what the photography industry can offer us in the future, but it’s also highlighted the challenges that we might face in the industry as well. Knowing what those challenges are, I know I can overcome them, and so be enriched by them.

What are your plans after you graduate?

Once I graduate, ideally I’d like to get a full-time job! The plan is to enter full-time work for a year, hopefully in something to do with social media, such as Digital Marketing, since I’ve been doing a fellowship with the Newcastle College Marketing Team and I’ve really enjoyed the work I’ve done through that. Afterwards, I have plans to travel for a while, and then I’d like to come back and focus my efforts on entering the fashion photography industry. I really enjoy styling, so getting into such a creative world, either as a photography or a more hybrid stylist role, would be a dream for me.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about Steppin’ Up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

I would absolutely encourage it! Studying at Newcastle College University Centre will offer you so much more in terms of knowledge, skills, and support, that will make you competitive for the job market. I’ve been able to grow a lot from this experience, and the contacts I’ve made while here have opened doors for me as well, be they through industry work or just meeting guest speakers. I’ve been able to clarify my path with help from the amazing staff here, but you’ll be able to discover so much more about yourself and the subject you love (or a surprising interest that reveals itself along the way) thanks to the efforts of everyone in the University Centre community.

Describe your student experience in three words.

Creative. Helpful. Exciting.

What are your top 5 tips for Steppin’ Up at Newcastle College?

Don’t be afraid to do what you love, even if you’re the only one doing it.

Go into your degree with an open mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – there’s no such thing as a silly question.

Get as much as you can from every opportunity available to you.

Have fun!