Jane Parr, pictured left, is the new course leader of the NCTJ-accredited photojournalism and press photography course at the Sheffield College.
She took the time to talk about her first month in the job, and why it’s important for photojournalism trainees to get a little bit wet.
After 15 years of dreaming of walking in longtime course leader Paul Delmar’s shoes, I finally made it. I gained valuable experience as a senior staff photographer and deputy picture editor for 11 years, and after being a freelance photographer since November 2009, I decided to study for my teaching qualification.
I graduated in November 2012. I was already working at the Sheffield College and teaching one afternoon a week on the NCTJ course, so when previous course leader Rob Rathbone decided to move on, it was time to move in for the kill.
So here I am with my new cohort of students (or trainees as I prefer to call them), and I am very pleased to say that they are already shooting with great enthusiasm. I sent them off to shoot the fire fighters’ strike a couple of weeks ago – an interesting first experience with a BBC news crew – and they came back with some pretty good images for their first news stories.
I try to make my sessions with them as practical as I can, and watch for breaking stories each week, which they either go off and shoot or find creative ways to illustrate the stories.
For the last couple of weeks they have been playing around with flash, which has been a little overwhelming at times, but they are a very determined bunch and have gone away to practice in their own time. I’m sure that in a couple of weeks they will have mastered the basics and will build on their knowledge of and confidence with use of flash.
I am really pleased with the group I have this year. They are all capable of getting a job at the end of the course. They have approached every task they have been given so far with great enthusiasm – even the vox pops with the trainee reporters on a very grey, damp and miserable Wednesday afternoon. As cruel as it may sound, it had to be done; wait until they have to sit on the touchline at a footy match on a freezing cold and wet Tuesday night … that’ll sort the men from the boys and the women from the girls.
The first four weeks have flown by, and so far I have had really positive feedback from the group. I intend to keep it that way and will endeavour to give them the best possible experience I can. I have invited in several guests so far, including a working news agency photographer; Paul Sanders, former picture editor at the Times; and Alison Hastings from the PCC. In November they will spend a day at Press Association in Nottingham with Martin Stephens, and next week they will have a tour around Sheffield Wednesday FC and listen to a talk by the club press officer, Trevor Braithwaite.
I know that people are awaiting the website, which is being built as I type, and there will be a space for the trainees to showcase their work throughout the course, so please be patient, as we want it to be right. There will be a regular update of progress and activities on the blog, and hopefully all you potential employers out there will make it your first port of call when looking for a new photojournalism recruit.