Hi. I am Jude Wacks. I am a photographer. That’s what my website JudeWacks.com says when you first visit it, let me tell you how I got there from nothing a year ago.
It was in the summer of 2017, just 12 months ago, that I took the plunge to sign up to a Graduate Diploma Photography one-year course at LCC and who would have known in those 12 months I would end up doing two photographic exhibitions, appear on local London TV and gain valuable experience taking part and organising numerous photographic shots. And, of course having to learn quickly from making mistakes and then recovering from them!
Nearly 30 years on since I was last at Uni, I went back! Armed with student travel card, student ID, backpack, hot coffee flask, numerous Spotify music playlists and other student orientated paraphernalia.
The Elephant & Castle become almost my second home as I studied, drank coffee, learnt, struggled to learn, overcame the struggling to gain new technology skills, stayed late until closing time in the library and generally stayed late on projects so they would happen, made new friends, discovered how photographic prints are made, learnt shortcuts not just on my computer but also in navigating around LCC and generally gained skills and confidence to push ahead with growing my love of photography from just a passion of doing it to something that I want to make a career out of.
What I learnt along the one-year course was that this was not just a journey into only doing photography, it was a journey into enhancing, improving and learning life skills. It was about discovering how to not just take a photograph, but how to ensure you build up empathy and a connection with the subject matter so that the end result is personal both to the subject matter and to myself.
I learnt the art of making things happen. Turning ideas into opportunities and delivering on a promise – don’t just say you will do it, make sure at a minimum it is what you promised and whenever I could over deliver on that promise. That’s that way to get best results. I immersed myself into the course and into bettering myself through it.
The course was intense, it is one-year after all, it challenged myself and I felt it was the classic situation of sink or swim. Sure, it’s possible just to sit back and listen, take in just that and do the basics to get you through.
For me it was never about just doing the minimum, it’s about going to the max. It’s about getting outside my own comfort zone to achieve what I would like to achieve.
So, with all of that I learnt. I embraced to the full the opportunity I was being given. Late nights, early morning. LCC took over. I threw myself at it.
Thankfully I had a supportive family who knew this was important to me and those late nights were not just about having a late night for the sake of it, it was about researching and getting the work done and immersing yourself in it. The work and projects just don’t happen, you have to make them happen.
I sat down and listened to everything – topics and subjects that I was genuinely interested in as well as others that I wasn’t. I know the end result is getting a good understanding of everything and then picking up what I feel will work for me as a photographer and what actions I need to do from the technical aspects of photography through to running the business side of being a photographer.
I gained more self-confidence, I learnt how to ask for help when needed and that there’s nothing wrong with asking for it. I made new friends, revisited old friends to let them know what I was doing and trying to do these days.
I brushed up on technology and gained new skills. Of course, I also had sleepless nights and indeed some no sleep until the work was done and wrestled with my PC crashing and being slow! But that was the learning experience and allowed me to get focused and helped to manage my time better.
The opportunities I got as part of my course culminated in being able to take part in two excellent photographic exhibitions. The first one end of May/early June as part of the end of year student show at LCC and taking part at The Old Truman Brewery in the East End of London as part of Free Range.
It was through the planning of these two exhibitions that I got the opportunity to create a press release and created my own mailing list. Painstakingly going through media websites of newspapers, magazines and other online publications, I had to not just write the press release but then learn how to use mailing list software to get it to media attention.
You can’t expect much from your first attempt but I was so pleased when London TV station London Live asked to come to LCC for the first exhibition. A two-minute segment on TV was shown. For the first time I saw myself on TV and saw myself as who I am, someone determined to go for it! Someone with a passion for photography and to make things happen.
My project that was the culmination of the course and the exhibition was titled Best Days of Your Life. It looked at the rise of adolescent self-harm among young people up to late teens. It is quite a shocking subject, not just in terms of what these young people subject themselves to as they plunge into despair, but also how society has allowed it to be hidden.
I hope through the exhibition and the attention it gained that I will be able to help raise awareness of adolescent mental health and the issues they go through.
A year ago, if you had asked me where I would be today and where I am going, I don’t think I could really answer that question.
With what I have learnt, seen and experienced over these 12 months, I can tell you for sure that I am Jude Wacks, I am a photographer and I have a passion for taking my photography and doing something with it.