The term “Photography” has multiple meanings these days. When you think about it, the tools for professional photography are easily accessible – our phone cameras are no longer pixelated and in terms of what’s in front of the camera, what is deemed as a professional photograph is no longer a one-word answer. Even taking an aesthetically pleasing snap of your coffee and cake is now one step closer to a money-making profession!

This is what our TICE Photography mentor, Katie, wanted to touch upon in this year’s Explore stage. Students of Monkseaton High School and Longbenton High School were well and truly introduced to the environment and the professional world of photography, with the help of some wonderful guests and venues.

Day 1: Sunderland University

With huge thanks to Sunderland University, we were welcomed into the Priestman Building, their home the fine arts, performing arts, culture and social sciences disciplines. The team were seated in their workstation and before they got too comfortable, Katie was already preparing for them to get working on some shots. Oh, but not your average shot. This year, we’re touching on the hype of Instagram and one of the popular themes we have seen on our own feeds is stop-motion – film-making techniques requiring photographic skill. Katie set them in teams to come up with a concept, shoot the stop motion and edit to create the final video. And what better place to get some interesting shots than on a huge, beautiful campus!?

To put the cherry on the cake, we were thrilled to have a visit by the Instagram Queen of the North, Dominique. Also known as the account, allthatisshe. Dominique has 532,000 followers on her account. That’s over half a million. I know, let’s just take a moment to digest.

A huge part of Dominique’s online aesthetic is her own use of stop-motion video, which has ultimately enhanced the success of her Instagram feed. She sat with the students to share her story and to the student’s surprise, how she monetises from her beautiful account and makes it her full-time job. Not only that, she gave the team some top tips on how to create a stunning feed which visually captures the audience.

Day 2: Newcastle College

Next up, students were based at the Mandela Building, Newcastle College – the hub for art, design and creative industries. Students were given a tour of the stunning building and were also informed on the creative courses available for post-16. Finally, they were led to their HQ for the day, the Photography studio.This was the perfect opportunity for Katie to give students a real taste of the creative process when you’re stuck in one environment. It’s inevitable that being faced with only a white backdrop requires a lot more of a thought process and in fact, an entirely different set of skills. Throughout this session, they experimented with different props and poses whilst learning lighting and camera techniques.

As Katie mentioned: “This is always a great experience for the students as they would never get such an opportunity within school, to experience a professional studio and equipment.”


To bring the Explore Stage to a close, Fashion photographer, Ben Benoliel, came to give the students a talk about the work he does. Ben talked passionately about how his career has led him to some incredible destinations and working with clients including iD magazine, LOEWE, Wallpaper magazine and Billionaire Boys Club. The students were completely immersed in their story, keeping Ben on his toes with plenty of questions.

So, clearly, after a couple of days industry and FE/HE insight, the students walked away feeling that little spark of inspiration – whether that is to apply for a course, to travel the world with a camera in their hand or to build an iconic Instagram profile. This is certainly an experience that the group will take forward, as well as their well-crafted creativity as they progress to the final stage.