Student Conference

For part of our project on professional practice we as a class were asked to work together to organise an event that was led by us the students. This could be anything that we the students thought would be interesting and insightful about our course as commercial photographers. All the courses in year 2 had to take part and create their own event as it was a new experimental brief given to the year two, so that we had a chance to work together as a class to plan and organise an event. The date of the student conference was set for the 13th of February. 

When we were first given the brief of student conference we were all confused about what this would entail and what we would do for our event. After we had a session from the main lecturer Steven Felningham who came up with the brief, to enable us to come up with inspiration for our own event that involved the whole class, we were all still confused in what the brief entailed and what was needed. However, once the majority of the class had sat down and brainstormed ideas about what we need to do for this day and what each of our roles would be, we slowly but surely over a couple of weeks began to create ideas and eventually some consensus. Some ideas we came up with were a workshop, portfolio review and exhibition. Yet after a lot of discussion and disagreements between people on what we should do for our day we decided to do an event centred on the work of a series of ex commercial photography students. The plan was that each of the ex-students would take it in turns and give us a presentation about their work and their experience in the photographic industry since leaving university. After all the talks we then planned to have an open panel consisting of the ex-students so that any of us could ask them question about their experiences etc. After this we would have an exhibition of our own work so that the ex-students could give us feedback on our work and maybe give us advise on how we could progress as a photographer. 

Once we all agreed on the event we then began to delegate roles my job during this experience was to email and contact a number of ex-students asking if they would be prepared to come and talk to us and to fit this into their schedule. The potential list of ex-students who might be interested in such a conference was helped to be created by one of our lectures Jane. Once this list of potential ex- students had been finalised I began to compose a generic email that I could send to the first lot of ex-students we would ask to gauge their response, however parts of this email would be changed depending on the person to personalise our approach. The email I wrote to the photographers was:


My name is Laura, I am a second year Commercial Photography student at Plymouth College of Art. As part of our Professional Practice module, we are organising a student conference which will consist of a day’s activities focused around the photographic industry. Our cohort has decided that for our event we would like to ask graduated students, from the Commercial Photography Programme to come and discuss their experiences and careers since their graduation.

We were wondering if you would be interested in sharing your time and experiences with us. The date set is Tuesday 13th February so hope you can make it.

I really hope this sounds interesting to you; we would greatly value your insight and experience and we look forward to hearing back from you.

Kind regards,


After sending this email to a variety of ex-students I slowly got a lot of replies saying they would not be able to make the event due to prior arrangements, this started to panic me as if we could not find anyone to be part of our event we might had to change our idea, but after talking to Jane again and coming up with more people to ask we began to get replies saying yes! This really excited me as slowly but surely the event was coming together with the help of most of the students who were doing their parts. Once we had the list of people who would be coming to the event and we had an idea of the plan and layout of the event I then sent another email to the ex-students saying:

Hi …..,

I thought I would just email to make sure you are still coming to the student conference on 13th February. We are all really looking forward to seeing you and to hear more about your work and experiences in the industry since leaving Plymouth College of Art. The itinerary for the day is as follows:

09:55 – Introduction to the day

10:00 – Codie Hobbs

10:15 – Dom Moore

10:30 – Louise Visson Jutson

10:45 – Tony Fitzsimmons

11:00 – Break

11:30 – Irina Iljina

11:45 – Jess Bright

12:00 – Andy Ford

12:15 – Lunch

13:30 – Panel

15:00 – Open to Public

On the day we are also hoping to be able to do some talking head interviews with you. If you are happy to do so, we will make the arrangements. Again, we really appreciate you coming and talking to us and hopefully it will be a lot of fun.

We will be meeting in the reception of Plymouth College of Art at 9:30 to then escort you over to the venue (The Roundabout).

Many thanks in advance and look forward to seeing you on the day.


After getting a reply from everyone saying they were still happy to be a part of the event we had the final list of people coming these were:

  • Codie Hobbs
  • Dom Moore
  • Louise Visson Jutson
  • Tony Fitzsimmons
  • Irina Iljina
  • Jess Bright
  • Andy Ford

Each of these former students have had different experience since leaving university and have gone on to be a commercial photographer within different subjects such as Andy Ford is a music photographer and Codie Hobbs a fashion photographer. This meant that hopefully during the event all of my class mates would be happy with the people who came to talk to us and could relate to one of the ex-students. 

On the actual day all of my class met at around 9 in the commercial base room to make sure everything was ready some people were moving our images from our class room to the venue where we were holding our conference in whilst others were waiting for our guests to arrive. Once all the guest had arrived Martha and I took the guests over to the venue and the day began. The day seemed to run very smoothly and followed our timetable perfectly which meant that everyone was less stressed and could focus on having a fun and interesting time and learning from this experience. After all the talks and the open panel which a bit was lacking in questions (perhaps some questions could have been planned in advance to ask our guests and promote discussion) we moved on to our exhibition. First, we showed the ex-students all of our work and had some time to talk to our guest it was then time from them to leave and for the exhibition to be opened to the public. Sadly no one turned up for the exhibition other than our cohort, so the day ended earlier than expected. Yet at the end of the experience I have learnt a lot about planning a big event like this and that communicating and working as a team is key to making an interactive, fun and interesting day. 

If I was to do this event again I would make sure that everyone in the class took part in the planning and execution of the event instead of it just being left to a few people in the class, as I think if everyone put a lot of effort in to the event as others did we could have made the event even better. I also think that though we did advertise the exhibition with a posters around our college and information on Facebook and Instagram I think that if we put this information up earlier and made this publicity available to a wider audience, so our event was more widely publicized even more k, people other than our class might have turned up to the exhibition. Saying this though there where ups and downs during the planning and disappointment that not everyone committed to the event etc. I am proud of the event we achieved and really enjoyed working as a group to create something we would not always get the opportunity to do. 

To conclude during the exercise and organisation of the project of a student conference I learnt a lot about team work and how to plan a big event like this and believe this was a vital experience to have during our second year to help us not only gain more knowledge about the industry and the reality of working in such large teams, but It also help us become clearer about the subject within photography we want to go into and also brought us closer as a class and cohort