Congratulations to Cymoedd learner Booker T Skelding on being Shortlisted as a finalist for this yearâ€™s Inspire Learning Awards. Booker is studying on the two year fulltime Foundation Degree course in Photography at the Nantgarw campusÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Out of over 200 entries in the category the panel acknowledged Bookerâ€™s achievements in reaching the final stage stating â€œBookerâ€™s determination and motivated attitude towards the course has paid off and it has been so fantastic to see you develop into such a great photographerâ€.
As an Individual Learner Awards Finalist, Booker was asked to put together a statement on how her learning experience changed her life â€¦â€¦.
Before embarking on a Foundation Degree in Photography, I was a Police Officer for 17 years and I was the happiest I had ever been, doing my dream job.
However, in 2009 I was injured in a car crash, which left me with a life changing injury and chronic pain including a herniated disk in my lower spine.Â After nine years of treatment and therapy, I still see a chiropractor weekly to improve my quality of life.Â Â During that time my mental health deteriorated from constant pain.Â After 3 years on restricted police duties, pain and depression became worse and I took ill-health retirement in 2015. The next two years I spiralled into further depression and started drinking heavily.
My mind was in a state of hyper-reaction and loud unexpected noise and crowds led to anxiety and panic attacks. I had lost my identity, my purpose, my health and my reason.
My daughter, now 18 years old, asked me, â€œWhat are you going to do with your lifeâ€? Being a single parent, I had always been her role model.Â Â Later that year, as I had always loved photography as a hobby, I decided to enrol on the Foundation Degree in Photography at Coleg y Cymoedd.
Since starting the course, my enthusiasm for life has returned as has my damaged confidence and I have learnt so much. Iâ€™m so engrossed in the work, I canâ€™t stop thinking of the next image to make.Â For the first time I have found something that can distract me from my pain.
However, during the course my mum has been diagnosed with Alzheimerâ€™s and, as her only child, I have become her Carer.Â In addition to that demand, my recently diagnosed dyslexia is a massive learning difficulty for me.Â I take three to five times longer to learn and produce pieces of work than your average student.Â I am currently finding ways to help overcome the barriers with specific software and alternative ways of learning.
Photography is my therapy:Â I am able to be creative.Â My life and career have always been about helping other people: it gives me purpose and identity.Â My long-term plan is to progress onto the BA (Hons) and to use my photography to raise funds for charities.Â I hope to sell â€˜fine artâ€™ prints in local shops, cafes and galleries.
Finding photography has been my route to improved health – physical and mental – releasing my creativity and finding my identity.Â
I have recently won Gold in the Wales Skills Competition with a set of seascape images taken around Wales (as part of the Year of the Seas, Visit Wales Campaign). My lecturer, Jessica Emanuel, saw my potential and suggested I put myself forward.Â My confidence has soared, so much so that Iâ€™ve now entered another competition at a local Camera Club.
Everything is not perfect as my condition means that I have to travel light: one camera, one lens. I have found a camera with an oscillating screen, which helps with low angles.Â I limit my camera hours to avoid aggravating my back and neck pain.
But, I have my life back now, which I fully embrace.
For more information on the Foundation Degree in Photography (2 years full time) – Visit our blog… cycphoto.wixsite.com/colegycymoedd
Rhondda Cynon Taff