Cymoedd Photography learner is a finalist for the Inspire Learning Awards 2018

Congratulations to Cymoedd learner Booker T Skelding on being Shortlisted as a finalist for this year’s Inspire Learning Awards. Booker is studying on the two year fulltime Foundation Degree course in Photography at the Nantgarw campus                                    

Out of over 200 entries in the category the panel acknowledged Booker’s achievements in reaching the final stage stating “Booker’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 photographer”.

As an Individual Learner Awards Finalist, Booker was asked to put together a statement on how her learning experience changed her life …….

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.  After nine years of treatment and therapy, I still see a chiropractor weekly to improve my quality of life.   During that time my mental health deteriorated from constant pain.  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, “What are you going to do with your life”? Being a single parent, I had always been her role model.   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. I’m so engrossed in the work, I can’t stop thinking of the next image to make.  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 Alzheimer’s and, as her only child, I have become her Carer.  In addition to that demand, my recently diagnosed dyslexia is a massive learning difficulty for me.  I take three to five times longer to learn and produce pieces of work than your average student.  I am currently finding ways to help overcome the barriers with specific software and alternative ways of learning.

Photography is my therapy:  I am able to be creative.  My life and career have always been about helping other people: it gives me purpose and identity.  My long-term plan is to progress onto the BA (Hons) and to use my photography to raise funds for charities.  I hope to sell ‘fine art’ 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. 

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.  My confidence has soared, so much so that I’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.  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…



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Rhondda Cynon Taff
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Ystrad Mynach
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