Extended Diploma Photography student image of a sunset landscape

Our Journal

Creativity, business & the environment: IB student Nico talks Pre-Degree study

We catch up with Pre-Degree student Nico to talk about his latest environmental project, creative freedom, and his experience on our Extended Diploma in Photography + IBCP course.

When the original concept for his IB Service Learning Project fell through due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Extended Diploma in Photography + IBCP student Nicolas Gruzdev had to re-evaluate his approach. This led him to investigate whether the pandemic had affected the environmental behaviours of students and staff. Have they travelled less? Are they buying more locally produced food? Are they thinking about sustainability and their impact on the planet?

The IB Service Learning Project provides opportunities for students to understand their capacity to make a meaningful contribution to their community and society. Nico said: “I composed an anonymous questionnaire that asked students and staff at the college questions on how covid has affected their environmental behaviours. There was a separate form for each course so I could analyse and look into the differences between them and then present the data collected to the college.”

Extended Diploma Photography student Nicolas Gruzdev with his cat Arthur

Extended Diploma student Nico with Arthur the cat (who appears to be an aspiring photographer too!)

The results of the survey were a surprise for Nico who had expected that everyone would answer similarly: “I was surprised to see such a split in answers for some questions on the survey. I had a worry after sending out the questionnaires that I would be getting the same answers from everyone. However, most questions were 50/50 rather than something like 90/10 which was good to see. It just goes to show how differently the pandemic affected people’s environmental behaviours, it would need further investigation to see why they were different, whether changes were affected by location, resources, knowledge, age etc.”

Nico also found that when participants were presented with open questions such as ‘what are your current views on the environment?’, an overwhelming majority talked about feeling worried, sad and anxious about the global climate crisis, an indication that the impact of the climate crisis is not just to the planet but the mental health of its inhabitants too.

Plymouth College of Art has personally offered me more creative freedom as a student and aspiring photographer than I imagine my other options would have.
Nicolas Gruzdev, student

Chris Smith, Pre-Degree Subject Leader and Sustainability Lead said: “What I love about Nico's project is that he was making the links between huge global phenomena, his local community and of course himself - this is the essence of the IB's emphasis on international mindedness, asking ‘where do I fit into this picture and how can I make a difference to the world, from within my community or my own context’. The project was entirely Nico's idea, and he showed great levels of independent thought and motivation.”

Extended Diploma Photography Plymouth College of Art portrait Nicolas Gruzdev

Portrait photography by Nicolas Gruzdev

Nico is currently in his second year at Plymouth College of Art (PCA), studying a UAL Extended Diploma in Creative Practice: Photography while completing his two International Baccalaureate Career-related Programmes (IBCP) in Business Management and Film. The IBCP is an internationally recognised framework of career-related education for post 16 students. Plymouth College of Art was awarded International Baccalaureate (IB) World School status in Spring 2019, becoming the first non-private education provider in the South West to offer the IBCP taught in conjunction with existing A-Level-equivalent UAL Level 3 Extended Diplomas, combining vocational skills with academic excellence.

Nico said: “I knew I wanted to study photography after school but it was just a case of where I wanted to go. My brother had already been going to school in Plymouth for a couple of years by the time I had to make my next decision, and the course at PCA looked really appealing for what I wanted to get out of the next two years.

Extended Diploma Photography Plymouth College of Art surrealism Nicolas Gruzdev

Surreal photography by Nicolas Gruzdev

“Due to the course having a strong focus on a solo subject, my parents said the one condition of me going here was that I had to do the IBCP as well. This actually turned out really well as the IBCP was manageable and fulfilling, I chose an IB in Business Management and an IB in Film, with the latter being a highlight of my time here!”

“The staff have been great and are always there if you need to talk about college-related work or personal matters. There isn’t too much pressure and the tutors are all very understanding which helps with flexibility and time frames for completing work and balancing your college and home life.”

“PCA has personally offered me more creative freedom as a student and aspiring photographer than I imagine my other options would have. I think this freedom really reflects on how much work you put into your time here and if you apply yourself you will definitely succeed in whatever you study.”

Pre-Degree students have the opportunity to take part in educational trips throughout their studies, from Tokyo and Iceland to Barcelona and New York. Aimed at broadening student’s creative horizons and exposing them to different cultures and landscapes, Nico spoke about how it is one of his favourite memories: “A great highlight from my time at PCA would be our trip to Rome at the beginning of last year. I had never been on a trip with my school out of the UK before and to go to such a culturally rich part of the world with such a great group of students and staff was definitely a fond memory of my time here.”

From learning the fundamentals of digital and analogue photography, and experimenting in the studio with professional lighting, to exploring still life, portraiture, fashion and product photography, the course is jam-packed with exciting projects to expand your skills.

Nico said: Without covid we would’ve had more opportunities such as underwater photography as well as a trip to the annual photography show in Birmingham. However, we still got to explore so many technical and conceptual components within the world of photography which has definitely prepared me greatly for HE study in September, not to mention the IB influencing me here too. Some definite highlights would be an introduction into panoramic photography which I have carried on into my final major project, and an introduction into shooting film which I have carried on outside of my college work.”

Extended-Diploma-Photography-Plymouth-College-of-Art-street-photography-Nicolas-Gruzdev

Documentary photography by Nicolas Gruzdev

When asked about his favourite project so far at PCA, Nico said: “It would have to be my final major project that I am currently halfway through right now. I have really enjoyed the creative freedom of choosing my own focus whilst also building research and conceptual ideas. It makes everything I shoot feel more worthwhile when there is so much riding on my final outcome.”

Nico is currently holding a conditional offer to study a BA in Photography at UWE Bristol this September: “I am very excited to take what I have learnt here and apply it to everything I will do in Bristol!”