13 October 2020

Billy: Using Photography to Make a Difference

Billy standing on bike to look over a fenceBilly graduated in 2016

What have you been doing since graduation?

I've recently finished a Master’s degree in Photography at the University of the West of England (UWE). The subject matter of my personal study is imagined and fictional narratives. And despite this change of academic focus from my time in DEV, I have always been deeply interested in photography, and hope for this degree to empower me to focus on the role of photography in development.

Since graduating I have enjoyed my working experiences and found value in all of it. Working in the field, initially for an educational NGO in Beirut, put into practice the learnings and debates present within the course.  

Working for a small NGO I was able to exercise various roles within development programming - budgets, logistics, teaching, communications and so on. The experience of living and working abroad in such a different environment was personally something I found massively exciting. 

Following my return to the UK I worked at WaterAid in the photography department, which gave me the possibility to specialise a bit more and think more deeply about photography within the field - a marrying of my two interests (photography and development).

The decision to return to study is a complete privilege-  to have 15 months of concentrated study in photography and the ability to work on my own projects. And I am able to manage working freelance as a picture editor for the Marine Conservation Society at the same time. 

Although a return to the NGO sector is the most likely route in the long-term, I do want to have a few years beyond the sector - maybe working as a picture editor for a magazine or newspaper, or as a photographers assistant., whilst continuing to develop my own practice on the side. 

students looking at photos on tableWhat tips have you got for current students?

 As for tips within the first couple of years of graduating, it completely depends on your aims and ambitions, but for me the best thing would be to get into the field. Travel, live abroad, work in the field, see the multiple sides to the work and the issues.

And learn a language in this new environment. Push yourself whilst you're young and then return with this practical knowledge and experience. 

What were some of the most useful things you learned in DEV?

The useful thing in DEV for me was making the most of the overseas work experience opportunity - it was the same organisation who offered me a full-time position once I graduated.  This maybe goes without saying, but also to cater the essays, the modules, the Development in Practice module and the dissertation to the area you're most interested in. The area you can most see yourself pursuing later after the course, because it will only be a helping hand. 

In terms of applications from DEV, I actually put into practice the DIP project that I designed. I ran a series of participatory photography workshops with Syrian refugees in Lebanon which were designed using the research from the DIP project that I submitted about participatory photography programmes in Detroit, USA. 


School of International Development*

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