This year BA (Hons) Photography student, Aurora Way, has been on placement with a growing Southsea photography studio. She’s been in touch with us to talk about her amazing experience…

Tell us about the company you work for…

During my placement year, I have been working for a photography business in Southsea. It began as ‘Dimples & Daisies Photography’, but over time has grown two additional companies under the same leadership; ‘Liberty Photography’ and ‘The Liberty Lounge’.

Dimples & Daisies focuses on family, children and newborn photography and capturing the connection and love shared between people and their children. This work is photographed both on location and in our studio.

The Liberty Lounge is a new business that I aided in developing in the past year. Based in Southsea, The Liberty Lounge run workshops in creativity, business and spiritual subjects, designed to help the local women and bring people together. These workshops are run both by our staff, and independent business owners and creatives from Southsea and surrounding areas.

Liberty Photography was my main focus during my placement year. It is a photography company dedicated to empowerment, body-positivity and self-love, primarily for women, but we have recently opened our doors to men and couples too. The shoots are either 1-1 or in groups, both on location and in the studio. I am the Creative Director for Liberty Photography. Within this role, I photograph and do the post-production work for the 1-1, couples and group photoshoots. I am also in charge of creating and trialling new ideas, calling and styling our clients and part-managing our social media presence. Alongside this, I have designed all three websites for the companies, and am in charge of their upkeep. I also run a weekly workshop in the basics of web design at The Liberty Lounge.

What has your placement taught you?

It is almost impossible to explain in words what this placement has taught me. Under the phenomenal leadership of Jennifer Sanchez, founder of the companies, I have been taught so much about a range of technical and creative qualities surrounding photography and working with women. She has taught me to always play, to be passionate and excited about what I am doing. I feel completely confident in my ability to use technical skills, both during photoshoots and the post-production work.

Before my placement, I had the foundational skills, yet my confidence and efficiency were considerably weaker than they are now. I work for a company whose main focus is to build women up. And in return, they have built me up. I am utterly privileged to have worked with hundreds of women across Southsea and surrounding areas. There is nothing as humbling as painting a woman’s stretch marks gold or of being trusted by women who were complete strangers before they walked through the door.

One of those most integral parts of my job is to create a safe space for women, so that they may play, grow and create. Something I have learned is that we, as people, often feel the need for permission. We want permission to be happy, to create, to grow, to feel sexy/comfortable/beautiful. By creating a space where all permissions are automatically granted, I am allowed a privileged position of seeing people truly blossom in front of the camera. Whether we are photographing them naked in a river, running down lavender fields in gowns, covered in tribal body paint on the beach or posing with angel wings tied to their back, the entire experience is beyond phenomenal.

What have been your highlights?

Last year we stood in a lavender field as the sun began to set and 40 naked women ran down the lanes, shouting “I AM BEAUTIFUL”, “I AM STRONG”, “I AM SEXY” and so much more. This year, we’re planning even more mass photoshoots. We will be bringing all kinds of women together in one place to share their stories, find new connections and experience feeling alive within nature without limitations. In a society where body-positivity, self-love and female-empowerment are finally being given the attention they deserve, there’s no place I would rather work.

What would you say to a potential placement student?

If you are considering a placement, I would say this. Throw yourself into it. Experience everything, give everything you have got and teach yourself more so you can give even more. Take everything people offer, listen to every lesson, network with everyone you meet. Learn new skills and say yes to every opportunity.

When I first looked at work experience and placements, I had no interest. I did not want to be someone’s coffee girl. What I’ve learnt is that if you’re going to be the coffee girl, make the best coffee. Add a biscuit and one of those fancy teaspoons. Prove to everyone, that if you’re going to do something, you’re going to go above and beyond what they expect. On a random day at Liberty, something fell through from our website designer. My boss needed a website up and running in a week, and what we had wasn’t right. So I taught myself how to create a website and within 4 hours had the basic structure. She loved it. Since then, I have created all three websites for the businesses and continue to update them. I didn’t know how to do any of it before I started, but I took the chance and ran with it. This won’t always pay off, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

You will always be in safe hands with the Creative Careers team, and your tutors are there to help you every step of the way. I cannot imagine where I would be if it wasn’t for Liberty Photography. Not only have they made me a professional photographer and offered me a permanent position with them, but through the support of my incredible colleagues and phenomenal clients, I’ve learned more about being a woman, and an artist, than ever before.