Tag Archives: Alumni

So, what is Reportage Photography anyway?

We chat to photographer and Central Saint Martins short course tutor Karl Grupe about the art of storytelling through photography and catch up with former students about the benefits the course has made to their own photographic creativity.

From conceptual typologies to classical photo essays, the final projects presented by students on the Reportage Photography course are always varied, but what exactly is Reportage Photography? Karl Grupe, one of two tutors teaching Reportage Photography at Central Saint Martins short courses, cites it as, “the art of storytelling through the use of still imagery. It is an umbrella term which can find its way into other genres of photography – fashion, editorial, photojournalism, visual anthropology to name a few. It is my goal to have the students leave the course feeling confident not through a belief in the precision of photography but through the play and alchemy that comes from constructing a language in photography.  Exploring and identifying where one feels comfortable in speaking visually is the essence of this course.”

Speaking with some of the graduates of Karl’s Reportage Photography course would most certainly confirm that this has been achieved.

Fran Hales is a freelance photographer, originally from New Zealand, residing in East London.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Inspiring, challenging and motivating

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

We covered so many interesting topics and styles and I loved the weekly themed projects based around these. Karl who was our tutor is second to none. He has a brilliant way of teaching and works so well in encouraging and bringing out the best in his students.

Can you tell me about your Reportage project and your inspiration behind it? 

My reportage project was called The Urban Emerald. It focused on the importance and value of green space and the wellbeing effect it has on helping people to unwind in a chaotic city such as London which swells to 11m people during the working week. The location I chose was Victoria park in London’s east end. Historically this park was created in 1845 to aid the working class in this area who were suffering from poor health and low life expectancy due to over-crowded living conditions. It was the first public park in London to be built specifically for the people and hence it is more fondly known by the locals as The People’s Park.

The Urban Emerald © Fran Hales
The Urban Emerald © Fran Hales

Has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 

Absolutely. I already work as a photographer shooting mainly events. This course inspired me to think more about personal projects I would like to work on. It really showed me how to tell a story well and how to critique and edit my own work in a way I did not know before. It has given me more confidence. The support of the students and Karl the teacher helped me in having the confidence to present my work to the class.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 

Do it! It’s so much fun and it gives you a great insight into the world of photography. You learn a lot whilst not being overloaded. I have done many short courses but this is one that really has made a change for me.

The Urban Emerald ©Fran Hales
The Urban Emerald ©Fran Hales

Kat Kotula works in HR and is originally from Wroclaw, Poland. She has been living in London for 1 year.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Challenge, motivation, feedback.

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

There was a micro assignment for every class based on the lecture we received that day. With only one week to complete, it was great motivation to go out and do something new, sometimes stepping outside the comfort zone. We were challenged to use different equipment, different techniques, exploring new topics. Being able to compare our  work to others was very beneficial as it showed how the same topic could generate very different possibilities and approaches! 

Can you tell me about your Reportage Photography project and your inspiration behind it?

Titled, “We are from the heart”, it focuses on Pippa, a single mother after being abandoned by her cheating husband, who has recently lost her job. Her life revolves around her two sons, Rudy, aged 6, a diva and a showman, and Max, aged 9, who has autism. Through my project I was trying to understand and document the family dynamic and the interactions between the three of them.  I wanted the audience to see the emotional bond that this family has and demonstrate that despite their tough circumstances, there is so much love and tenderness in their little family.

We are from the heart ©Kat Kotula
We are from the heart ©Kat Kotula

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development?

I had already been to photography school in the past, where I learned about different techniques and genres and my final essay back then was much more arty and dreamy, based on my own inner emotions rather than the actual story.  With the help of Karl and the examples he presented in class and the personal feedback I received, I was able to tell a story that was not banal, was more personal and intimate but still, I hope, interesting to others.  I feel quite confident about my storytelling skills now. I have also learned a few new things about the research and editing of photos.  I will definitely use the series I created for my final project in my portfolio. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course?

Absolutely take it and engage yourself fully in every micro assignment given.  Whether you are a novice or an experienced photographer, every form of self development is great. This course will open your eyes to different possibilities, introduce you to photographers or projects you had not known before or simply challenge you to think outside of the box. Also you will get independent feedback about your work, which will help you create something extraordinary. 

We are of the heart ©Kat Kotula
We are of the heart ©Kat Kotula

Christian Olsen’s ultimate goal is to study Photography at UAL’s, London College of Communication.  He is originally from Copenhagen and currently resides in East London.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?    

Immersive, relevant, stimulating.

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

The class discussions and peer feedback following our homework assignments.  Not only did it open up numerous aspects of your work for interpretation that you might have not expected, but it also forced inward reflection on what you succeeded in achieving and more importantly what you did not, which is the most significant part of the learning process.

Can you tell me about your Reportage Photography project and your inspiration behind it?  

Docklands was the name of my project.  As with every area of London, the Docklands is seeing transformation and transition in terms of industry, demographics and infrastructure.  Having studied in North Greenwich and commuting both by means of DLR and London City Airport, it struck me that this transformation is happening on a far larger and rapid scale than other parts of the city and history cannot keep up.  The aim of the project was to document the post-industrial state of disrepair and the bustling ambitions of the future and to juxtapose these as harshly as possible in an attempt to convey the unnerving state of the Dockland’s today.

Docklands ©Christian Olsen
Docklands ©Christian Olsen

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 

It has helped me immensely in creating a vision of where I see myself in my future photographic career. Before embarking on the course, I found it hard to handle projects of a more journalistic nature. But now I am able to hone in on more specific areas on the spectrum of photography.  I have also developed techniques of combining conceptual and reportage photography and I know what processes and pre-requisites go into creating a successful photo essay.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 

Definitely take it. Whether one is an experienced photographer or an amateur, the course content, tutor and other students will prove beneficial in terms of tools, techniques, inspiration and networking.

Docklands ©Christian Olsen
Docklands ©Christian Olsen

Following a series of Short Courses in photography at Central Saint Martins, Niaz Maleknia is now studying her Post-Graduate Diploma in Photography at UAL’s London College of Communication.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?  

Motivational, interesting and vibrant

What did you enjoy most about the Reportage Photography short course? 

I enjoyed the weekly briefs and the feedback given by Karl and the other students. I also enjoyed learning about and discussing the work of other photographers.

Can you tell me about your Reportage project and your inspiration behind it? 

My end of course project was titled  Facebook Lolita. I am fascinated by the selfie culture and the use of photography to promote oneself and demonstrate on social media. I am a mum of a 13 year old girl and have therefore become aware of the explicitly of my daughter’s friends’ profile pictures.  I searched Facebook for open accounts and was able to screen shot the images that these girls aged 13-15 years old were posting of themselves.  The girls seemed to be living a double life, one in reality and the other on the social pages. My background is in English literature and the images reminded me of Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita.   I wanted to add the emoji faces to protect the identity of the girls and to also add a childhood element to them. I also saturated the colours. The final work was shown on an old slide show which made it seem more uncomfortable for the viewer.

Facebook Lolita ©Niaz Maleknia
Facebook Lolita ©Niaz Maleknia

Has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 
I have really benefitted from the course as it has enabled me to get onto the Post Graduate Diploma Course at London College of Communication. I was able to put together a body of work, and also gained a lot of knowledge which I am still finding helpful.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 
I would encourage anyone interested in photography to take the course, as it is taught to a high standard in a fantastic environment, which in itself is so inspiring.  Karl teaches you to look at things in a different way and the briefs are fun and challenging at the same time.  Karl is enthusiastic and gives excellent feedback so you move forward and develop your eye and skills.

Karl with students in class ©Niaz Maleknia
Karl with students in class ©Niaz Maleknia

The next Reportage Photography Short Course is in March with further dates throughout 2017. Check the Central Saint Martins Short Course website for further details.

Flash Fiction!

It is that time of year again, when all eyes are on the Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist, and this year it is said to be the best and most confident in years.  Literary prizes such as the Man Booker are certainly inspiring, and here at Central Saint Martins Short Courses, a new creative writing course, Flash Fiction (Weekend), will teach you the craft of writing short stories in under 1000 words.

Taught by Creative Writing for Beginners tutor, Joanna Pocock, this 2-day course will invite students to read, write, and workshop stories in progress, with students finishing the course with a well-structured, complete piece of writing.

Past students of Joanna’s creative writing short courses have gone on to find successes in journalism, song-writing and even a short-listing for a literature award.

Season Butler, is one such success story, who after studying under Joanna, went on to enrol on an MA in Creative Writing and was shortlisted for the Leeds Literary Prize in 2014.

We spoke to Season about literary success and how a short course in creative writing led her into a career as a professional writer.


What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Energising, illuminating, challenging

What did you enjoy most about your course?         

The group taking the course with me was great, and I made awesome friends there. We were all in the same boat, trying to carve out a writing practice while juggling the demands of work and family and all the messiness of life. Writing can be a solitary activity; with the support of Joanna and the rest of the group, I didn’t feel that I was going it alone.

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development?

This course was a springboard into my career as a professional writer. Even having studied English and Creative Writing as an undergraduate, the course at CSM was hugely valuable, helping to refresh and refocus my writing practice. For me, going on to read an MA in Creative Writing was a natural next step, and I don’t think I could have done it without the confidence and renewed skills I gained in Joanna’s class.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course?

Go for it.  Joanna is a great teacher who creates a warm atmosphere among the participants, makes the often daunting task of writing something feel rewarding and (dare I say) fun.

Flash Fiction in a Weekend short course will take place on 26 and 27 November 2016. For further information please visit our website.


Ceramics Short Course alumni Maria Gasparian wins MullenLowe Nova Award

It’s been an interesting journey for Architect Maria Gasparian, who following an inspirational Short Course in Ceramics at Central Saint Martins, subsequently enrolled on an MA in Ceramic Design and graduated with distinction this summer.   Following this she won a MullenLowe Nova Award and Unilever Sustainability Award for her Colour Ceramic City, which aims to offer an engaging and sensory experience within pubic urban spaces.

Photo by Vic Phillips
Maria Gasparian, Colour Ceramic City Photo by Vic Phillips

Currently on display at Brain Waves, a Central Saint Martins Lethaby Gallery exhibition, the self-supporting sculptural ceramic pieces and dynamic volumes, formed by extruded clay coils have an abstract plane with two faces that celebrates the plasticity of clay and brilliance of the glazes. The pieces are scalable and can adapt to local contexts offering endless opportunities for site-specific interventions creating vibrant spaces within a city.

Maria Gasparian, Ceramic City, materials: clay, earthenware glaze Photo by Vic Phillips
Maria Gasparian, Colour Ceramic City, Materials: clay, earthenware glaze Photo by Vic Phillips

We asked Maria about her journey from ceramics short course student to award winning MA Ceramics graduate and how her Ceramics Short Course changed the path of her career.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?   

Eye-opener, Informative, Intensive

What did you enjoy most about your course?  

The teaching, hands on experience and experimentation.

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development?

The short course on Architectural Ceramics was a start of a new path in my career. I had been practicing as an architect at the time and also attending part-time pottery classes. Joining the short course gave me an idea about how to combine the two practices. Subsequently I enrolled on MA in Ceramic Design at CSM and graduated with distinction this summer.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course?

With work, study or family commitments it is often difficult to subscribe to a full time course particularly if it is in a new discipline for someone. Short courses are a very good way to try new ideas or test something that one had on their mind for a long time.

The next Ceramics for Beginners short course starts on 22 October 2016.  For further information please visit our website.  Taught by Simeon Featherstone, the course will teach you how to construct forms using hand-building techniques, create colourful and decorative surface patterns and also experiment with slip-casting.

Also in December we have exciting new course, Ceramic Screen-Printing and Ceramic Transfers, which will teach you how to design and produce your own screen-printed transfers.  Our full course offer of Ceramic Short Courses can be found on the Central Saint Martins Short Courses website.

GUEST BLOG: Alison Branagan on the Routes to Business Success

Alison Branagan is an author and visual arts consultant and also teaches business, entrepreneurship and self-promotion courses for Creatives at Central Saint Martins Short Courses. Students who have attended Alison’s courses have gone on to set up innovative, experimental and commercial companies. We therefore asked Alison to give us more insight to the different routes of  business success for Creatives ahead of her new courses starting this summer.

If you are looking for a way to launch your art, craft practice, or design business than look no further. This summer there are a number of popular business, entrepreneurship and self-promotion Summer School courses which I run at the Central Saint Martins Kings Cross Campus in Granary Square, which are also available online.

Students who have attended these courses in the past have gone on to set up innovative, experimental and commercial companies. Each course has a number of guest speakers, including one of the team from Silverman Sherliker LLP a top London Intellectual Property firm.

Entrepreneurship For Creatives

In Business Start-up for a Creatives, we look at how to get started, covering a wide gamut of  vital areas such as costing and pricing, what to charge, business planning, legal issues, networks, marketing, trends, as well as, finance, how to get paid and understanding tax. Audrey Whelan attended this course a couple of years ago and she has now established a successful Interior Design Business. She is now a guest speaker on my courses. She works with residential clients in London, from small flats to large homes, and she says ‘Alison’s course was a great way to begin my journey into the world of running my own interior design business. Alison was not shy about the reality of the focus and commitment I would need to put in to make it work. But her approach and attention to detail resulted in an inspiring and very informative Launchpad.’

Audrey Whelan Interior Design Consultancy Photo Credit Tony Timmington © 2015
Audrey Whelan Interior Design Consultancy
Photo Credit Tony Timmington © 2015

In Entrepreneurship for Creatives we explore more practical aspects of being a creative entrepreneur, such as vision, confidence, attracting attention, negotiation, presentation, how to pitch as well as developing focused networking strategies. Rob Dakin is also a former student and he now runs his own successful children’s games business Clockwork Soldier. He is also a guest speaker on my courses.  His creative products are stocked in over 500 stores in ten countries and he says ‘I truly believe the course was a really good and useful stepping stone to launching my creative business’.

Clockwork Solder Rob Dakin’s Children’s Games Business
Clockwork Solder Rob Dakin’s Children’s Games Business

In Self-Promotion for Creatives we cover many different aspects of self-promotion, these include self-promotion, social media, networking, publicity stunts, writing marketing and more serious statements. We also cover important issues such as protecting your brand, as well as presentation, confidence, and how to sell. Alana Biviano attended my course in 2014 and has established a highly successful graphic design business, BVN Creative and she says, ‘The Self-Promotion for Creatives course was a pivotal point in my career. It covers everything a freelancer needs to know in order to market themselves and turn their skills and passion into a successful business.

BVN Creative, Alana Biviano’s Graphic Design Company
BVN Creative, Alana Biviano’s Graphic Design Company

Alana also attended my online Entrepreneurship for Creatives course even though she is based in Melbourne, Australia. My Business Start-up for Creatives (online) and Self-Promotion for Creatives (online) courses are  available to enrol on this summer, students have attended these courses from Brazil, America, France, Spain, Sweden, Russia, China, Japan and as well as the UK.

Want to take an online course in Business Start Up for Creatives? The next one starts in June and Self Promotion for Creatives (online) starts in August

Both Entrepreneurship for Creatives and Business Start-up for Creatives will take place in July at Granary Square, with further dates throughout the year 

Follow Alison Branagan on Twitter 

And it all began with a weekend Short Course….

We love this article in Love My Dress about Jewellery Designer Nikki Stark, a former Short Course Jewellery Making student at Central Saint Martins.

“I took at Saturday course at Central St Martins just over 10 years ago and since then haven’t looked back. I was instantly hooked.”

Head over to www.lovemydress.net for the full article and Jewellery Making inspiration!



INSIDE LOOK: Expressive Painting

Ewa Gargulinska is the tutor of Expressive Painting and Imagination in Painting at Central Saint Martins Short Courses.  She is an internationally recognised Polish artist and the author of Poems. Her private collectors include Arthur Sackler (founder of the new wings to the Royal Academy in London and Metropolitan Museum in New York), Jeremy Irons and Vernon Ellis, chairman of the English National Opera.  We chat to Ewa about her Expressive Painting Short Course, her advice for aspiring artists and mindfulness.

Who are your courses targeted to and what should students expect to leave with by the end of their course?

I don’t target my courses to anyone in particular, everyone who is drawn to their title and description can attend. Very often it attracts art therapists and doctors, alongside young people who want to study art or those who want to know how to awaken and to express their imagination.

On completion of the course students will be able to recognise their potential as creators, sustain their concentration, trust their vision, express confidently their imagination through technique; form, colour and to understand the power of the creative mind.

How did you become a painter and what is your advice for anyone wanting to become an artist?

I think it was some deliverance of fortune, I had no choice, I just knew that I had to become an artist.  It may have been prompted by my hyper sensitivity and perception of the world around me and the part I play in it.  I don’t think artists plan to be artists, they simply are. It is an inner call.

My advice to anyone wanting to be an artist would be to listen to your inner voice. Observe and look at everything mindfully, engage in life and the world around you.  Becoming an artist is a lifetime disciplined commitment.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you stay inspired?

I feel inspired by human courage to endure suffering. By beauty and power of Nature.  I feel encouraged and empowered by studying the work of good artists; not only those who explore similar emotional themes as my own, but others too who express unexpected imagination through  their vision and skill, as well as an understanding of life and people.  To sustain inspiration I read a lot; philosophy, poetry, literature, going to exhibitions, film, experimental theatre, listen to music, observe my mind as well as others and Nature

The next Expressive Painting course starts on 18 July 2016 with further dates throughout the year

Imagination in Painting starts on 12 December 2016

Thinking about taking a Jewellery course?

Thinking about taking a Jewellery course, but don’t know what to expect?  Edvvin Charmain completed three Jewellery Short Courses at Central Saint Martins and compiled a fantastic review over on his blog Edvisored.  Thank you Edvisored, we are thrilled that you enjoyed them!

Our Jewellery courses run throughout the year and the next available dates are:

Jewellery Making for Beginners 29th March

Organic Form in Jewellery 15th August

Jewellery Making with Plastic and Metal  4th July

Please visit the Short Course website for more Jewellery course options and dates

PPA Exposed! Final Exhibition

Students from the Professional Practice And Academic Portfolio Course (PPA) held their final exhibition earlier this month, with themes focusing on time, memory and family history, self-portraiture, fashion and performance, street portraits, appropriation and collage, repetition and taxonomy.  Speaking about the course, tutor Kathryn Faulkner said:

The PPA is targeted at anyone who is passionate about Photography and is keen to learn more skills and develop their thinking around what and why they make photographs. There is no limit to age or experience but we are looking for well-motivated and engaged students who will work well together. The course is divided into two stages.  After set assignments in Stage 1, the students develop a self-initiated project during Stage 2 and this is presented publicly in a Final Show at the end of the course.  In this year’s final exhibition everyone made a highly individual and personal body of work. There is no house style and the purpose of the course is to help students identify what is most important to them. Students leave with a workbook, an essay, a new portfolio of work and some make artists books. Hopefully they leave with a new found confidence in speaking about their work too.”

Speaking about his experience on the course, PPA Graduate Charlie Gao cited the experience as being “rigorous as well as challenging your own creativity”.

“Being able to critique and see the flaws of your own work is something that develops over time, and I think important to making further advancements as an artist. Being able to develop my own work and photographic identity whilst surrounded by a group of peers with diverse photographic practices, bouncing ideas off each other, being creative, trying new things, working across different mediums – still, moving image, analogue, digital.  This course has the potential to give you the practical skills and confidence to practise photography in any context and to the highest level, whether professionally or academically on an MA course.”

Whilst fellow PPA graduate Zhen Lin spoke of the experience as being “inspirational, practical, and mind-consuming”.

Congratulations to all 7 graduates and their amazing final exhibition








A COLLABORATION (all of the above)


Guest Blog, Ilga Leimanis: Former CSM Short Course students invited to contribute to book

I was invited to write three chapters / workshops for a new book, Creative Sketching Workshop, by Pete Scully, published in October. It is a great new book of 20 workshops packed with different exercises to try out.

Creative Sketching Workshop: Inspiration, Tips and Exercises for Sketching on the Move by Peter Scully
Creative Sketching Workshop: Inspiration, Tips and Exercises for Sketching on the Move by Peter Scully

There are a total of 12 contributors from around the world: Virginia HeinJames HobbsNina Johansson, Ilga Leimanis, Kumi MatsukawaShiho NakazaMelaine ReimRita SablerLiz SteelPaul WangSamantha Zaza and the author Pete Scully.

In addition to these contributors, there are also many other guest artists whose beautiful artworks are included. This 176-page paperback is packed with inspiration and insights.

My three workshops are: Architecture, Portraits at Home and Pets and Animals. In addition to my own sketches (alone and as Ortelius Drew), I also asked others, including some of my former CSM students, to contribute their drawings to these chapters. From my courses, Portfolio Sketchbook, Total Drawing (Online), Drawing Portfolio – Daytime and Bespoke Training, the following of my former students contributed

Tim BaynesPortfolio Sketchbook

Sandra Cox – Total Drawing (Online)

Gazala Haq – Drawing Portfolio – Daytime

Loretta McGregor – Bespoke Training

Ana Peigneux Ortega – Drawing Portfolio – Daytime

Ignacia RuizTotal Drawing and now my colleague

Felix Siew – Drawing Portfolio – Daytime

Portraits at Home
Portraits at Home

Fellow short course tutors John Booth and Simon Foxall also contributed to my chapters.

Contrasting Colours - Creating Sketching Workshop
Contrasting Colours – Creating Sketching Workshop

The book is available at Waterstones or Amazon and also many independent bookshops in London.

Thank you to Isheeta Mustafi of RotoVision Books and Pete Scully for asking me to be one of the contributors to this book which was a wonderful new experience!

Ilga Leimanis