100 Years Of Photography At Newport

Ben Absalom

April 26, 2012  by admin  •  Alumni

I remember receiving a shock on my first day as a student at Newport, when I turned up and was informed that the course leader had changed over the summer. This took me by surprise and I was pretty annoyed that I hadn’t been informed of this during the interview. This was September 2005 and my annoyance soon abated when I realised that I was actually very lucky to be at the beginning of a ambitious plan to transform Photographic Art from a course that was considered secondary at the university to a course that would be able to establish itself as one of the most innovative in the country.

It wasn’t always easy to be the guinea pigs of this experiment, the plans took time to come to fruition and when they did were regularly hindered by glitches and hiccups. Although if anything I think this created a strong sense of camaraderie amongst my year group, which was probably best exhibited when we pulled together to become the first year (and maybe course?) to publish a graduation book – Brink, instead of exhibiting at free range which was then the tried and tested formula.

Personally I feel that I benefited from a diverse and enthusiastic teaching staff who were eager to engage in critical debate around the subject of photography. This resulted in me not taking a single photograph in my second year, and then being able to collaborate with a student for a different university in the third year (Sam Bardsley, who studied at the Universty of Brighton, and with who I still work with exclusively in the collaborative partnership ‘Absalom & Bardsley’). Needless to say I took some photographs in my final year.

This probably brings me to the point which I find most important, and which is seemingly unique to the courses at Newport, or at least Photographic Art, which is the only course I am at liberty to speak about. Since graduating in 2008 I have had a regular contact with most of my tutors, exchanging updates atleast every few months, and the level of support post-graduation has been outstanding. I was awarded a grant to continue future projects, been given oppertunities to exhibit, and was taken to Essen, Germany to enter a prize where we finally won the opportunity to publish our graduation project ‘8X’s’ with Steidl. All of this happened because of the dedication of the teachers, not only to me as an artist, but to the cause that was outlined back in 2005. If the course hasn’t achieved its status amongst the national eltite yet, with the continued will of those involved, it will only be a matter of time.

Ben Absalom, Berlin, 2012.