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Steph Taylor

Hi, I’m Steph Taylor and I graduated in 2020 with a first-class BA hons in Digital Photography WITH Radio Production. My time at The University of Chester was the most exciting and rewarding time of my life. I was never planning on going to university, I fought against the idea for many years, even entering my last year of college I still refused. Eventually my tutors and mum made me realise I did have the potential to study in higher education, so I applied, this was the beginning of a jam packed incredible 3-year journey.

During my three years I got to get fully stuck in, when I began I told myself I wouldn’t get involved with anything, I’d just focus on my work but I’m awful at not listening to myself and ended up getting all of my volunteering awards which I fully recommend any student does. I also received all my Chester difference awards which again I fully recommend.

I became a peer mentor and a stAR representative. I then won a Valedictory award for my Contribution to the community, which was the most incredible achievement, but it didn’t stop there, I volunteered on most open days on campus and became a finalist in the Volunteering Charity choice award. I also became the Invisible Disability rep on the Student Council and sat on the committee for my Wheelchair Basketball club. The biggest achievement of them all was when my final volunteering awards happened over zoom and right at the end, they pulled out this brand-new Volunteer of the Year award presented and awarded by Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Eunice Simmons who started talking about me! I cannot explain to you the joy and excitement and shock on my face when my name came up on the screen! That really topped my university journey off especially sat in lockdown.

Alongside all my volunteering I got to experience some fun things such as shadow work at was Key 103 Radio now known as Hits Radio Manchester, I got to interview Comedian Jason Manford which crazily won me a radio award and I also interviewed Comedian Adam Hills.

A large memory was my second-year placement where I had the joy of working with the Cycling Project in Warrington. It was stressful but the experience I got was incredible, I got to go all around the Northwest taking pictures of big cycling events and even got to join in on some, I remember getting my itinerary and rota and thinking “wow, as if I'm lucky enough to get to do all this”. I felt like being in a wheelchair didn’t matter, I was still able to do everything and be part of the team. For me the work-based learning module was so important to get a taste of working life, meet new people and see what suited me and my needs best so if you’re not sure whether to take the placement option then take it from me, you will really be missing out on some great memories and opportunities.

My journey ended in my bedroom, forever the infamous class of 2020, three years of hard work without much result, I never imagined I’d have lessons over video calls or that I’d have to set up my own radio and photography studio in my tiny flat but I think that’s what made my results and my graduation even more rewarding and special at least my story didn’t end there, it was just the beginning.

Since leaving university I have had the privilege to be involved in some incredible opportunities. Becoming a finalist at the SheInspires awards for volunteering to winning the universities Venture Programme grant so I could finish setting up my business; StephiLouPhotography to being part of a BAFTA winning group called DANC (Disabled Artist Networking Community) and taking actors headshots whilst meeting some incredible industry people.

I’ve also collaborated with many charities being lucky enough to photograph some incredible events such as Maggie’s Cancer Charity Culture Crawl and Hospice of the Good Shepherd Chester Sparkle Walk amongst many more. Over the past year and a half I have been involved with the charity Glow and I spend my time as a creative youth worker helping young women learn about photography and spend weeks creating images to then present an exhibition at the end, this is incredibly rewarding. It’s amazing seeing young people who have never picked a camera up before blossom into talented photographers to the point they even want to study it and become professional photographers in the future.

My latest project was extremely thrilling and powerful, I got asked by the incredible team at 53Two in Manchester Arches to photograph Manchester so they can use the images in the astonishing Poet Tony Walsh’s Poem ‘These Bricks, They Speak’ written purposefully for 53Two to raise money so they can keep running. I still cannot believe my images were featured and I was able to be involved.

I physically cannot put into words my life since graduating, I’m incredibly lucky to have experienced everything I have. Without the University I wouldn’t have the skills or confidence I have today, so I give a lot of thanks to them. I really recommend that you get stuck in and make the most of your university journey, of course make sure your work is priority but if you have any extra time then use that to get involved, at the end of the day, your story is what you make it, the best thing about it, if nothing else, is how unique and interesting your CV will be for future jobs so at least give it a go.

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