I’ve been nominated for an award.

I don’t often get awards. Mostly because I don’t put myself forward for them. Often in the art world you have to pay a hefty fee and enter a competition to even stand the chance of getting any recognition. I figure if I have to pay to be recognized for what I do then that’s an award not worth having.

This award is different though. I’ve been nominated for Tutor of the Year, Adult Learning Awards 2015 Inspire!, with NIACE Cymru. This is for my work delivering participatory photography courses across South Wales to adults of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. I’ve been working in this field now for around 4 years and the courses I deliver are designed to inspire participants to discover more about themselves and make a positive difference to their own well-being.

Through a series of weekly tasks I encourage my students to look at their local environment in innovative ways. Digital photography has instant results which mean a quick boost in self-esteem. Participants can share their best images and delete others almost instantly. The focus is always on the positive and on the individual’s own personal development in seeing what is new around them.

Photography can often be seen as scientific or technical but to me the importance is on the photograph itself and the positive impact this can have on self-esteem. I never assume that I am a photography tutor. Instead I always tell people I am a confidence tutor. I help others discover more about themselves and build up their own confidence levels through how they are seeing the world around them through self-expression and self-determination.

My students become tourists in their own back yards. They leave no stone unturned in looking for inspiration around them. I love seeing them thrive and seeing their results. In a digital world where everyone is now a photographer it isn’t hard for people to find their own strengths using a camera. Often participants with no previous camera skills can create images that are easily of a professional standard and, to encourage this, there are often exhibitions for my classes at local gallery spaces as a final reward at the end of the course.

I enjoy seeing those little eureka moments, those ‘lightbulb’ moments, where all the compositional and technical elements happen to fall into place and a student discover something new about themself through the photograph they have just taken. It means so much to me just to see that happen. The job-satisfaction is immense and it inspires me to go out and discover myself in the same way. After class I often find myself wandering in the same neighbourhood trying to find the same places and inspirations that my students have found earlier.

I tell them that all that technical and scientific stuff doesn’t matter any more than it does for a painter or an actor. The key is self-expression and self-determination. I encourage my participants to be who they feel they should be in innovative and positive ways.

I’m not sure if I’ll get the award. I don’t mind if I don’t. I’m happy just to have been nominated and that somebody else has noticed how hard I try in my work. The job I do acts to boost my own self-esteem far more than any certificate or award will ever do.

Here’s a picture by one of my participants:


Nigel by Sarah




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