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Posted 17.07.19

Commercial photographer shortlisted for AOP and Free Range ‘Best in Show’ awards

By Phillip Buchan

Nicola Simpson

Photographer Nicola Simpson is preparing to graduate from BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising & Editorial, following an incredibly successful period of study.

Earlier this year Nicola was shortlisted out of thousands of applicants for the ‘People’ category of the annual AOP (Association of Photographers) Student Awards. Judges shortlisted an image from Nicola’s photo series exploring motherhood, ‘Mother at Merther Lane’. As a result, Nicola’s work is being exhibited at Wex Photo Video in London throughout July.

Depicting the roles and relationships within each family, ‘Mother at Merther Lane’ explores the diversity of families through age and social class. This particular set of images is of a family that lives on a farm in Truro and the mother Dee suffers with fibromyalgia, along with depression and anxiety. Dee has three children, all of whom are autistic and each have individual and specific requirements.

Expressionless - Nicola Simpson (2019)

As part of Free Range at the Truman Brewery, part of the largest graduate showcase in Europe, one of Nicola’s images was selected as runner-up for ‘Best in Show’. Judges included Steve Macleod, Creative Director at Metro Imaging, Kate O’Neill, Partnerships & Marketing Manager at Metro Imaging, Ashleigh Kane, Art Editor at Dazed, Max Barnett, Editor-in-Chief of Pylot Magazine, Millie Yoxen, Head of Photo at Object & Animal, and Izabela Radwanska Zhang, Assistant Editor of British Journal of Photography.

"All of the opportunities here have given me the confidence to believe in the strength of my work and think ambitiously about my future.”

– Nicola Simpson

After exploring the different genres of commercial photography covered on her degree programme, Nicola has shown a clear aptitude for editorial photography. She has an interest in people and their stories and various industry professionals who have reviewed her portfolio have commented on Nicola’s obvious sensitivity to her subjects.

At the beginning of her final year at the college, Nicola produced a photographic series documenting people at work in Flameworks Creative Arts Facility, the Plymouth-based not-for-profit community interest company that hosts a community of professional artists ranging from painters and illustrators to blacksmiths and sculptors. Her ‘Mother at Merther Lane’ work, which became her final major project, shows the evolution and refinement of her distinctive photographic style. 

Flameworks - Nicola Simpson (2019)

Alongside such personally-motivated editorial work, Nicola has also been mindful of the need to explore commercial contexts and career prospects. Part of her degree with us included a module where she had to secure hands-on experience with a professional client. Nicola applied for a position with Pro:Direct Sport as an eCommerce Retoucher, and credited her successful interview to a set of Photoshop skills that she had been taught in a college lecture the week before. As a result, Nicola worked part-time with Pro:Direct Sport throughout her degree and has recently accepted a permanent position.

Tim Gundry, BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising & Editorial Programme Leader, said: “Nicola has been an exceptional student, overcoming some difficult circumstances to produce outstanding work. Her success to date has been very well deserved and I’m sure that she has a bright career ahead of her.”

Nicola said: “I’ve loved my time at Plymouth College of Art, the staff have been so supportive and the facilities have offered everything I needed to work at a professional level. I was overwhelmed to be shortlisted at the AOP Student Awards and at Free Range. This has been a real confidence booster and has given me the opportunity to exhibit my work in London several times this year.

“I’ve had the chance to have my portfolio reviewed by so many industry professionals during my degree, offering invaluable feedback and advice that has helped me to strive to continue to improve and keep learning new skills. The college also gave me opportunities to work with local artists and businesses on numerous professional projects, which led to my capturing a series of step-by-step glass casting images for a book published by Crowood Press. All of the opportunities here have given me the confidence to believe in the strength of my work and think ambitiously about my future.”

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