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The University of Southampton
Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

Tom Price BA Spanish and Portuguese, MA Transnational Studies, 2009,2010

Freelance documentary photographer

Tom Price's Photo

Tom Price studied BA Spanish & Portuguese and MA Transnational Studies at the University of Southampton.

I loved being a languages student at Avenue Campus. The campus was a great size, well designed, with a good amount of space to study, read and work. And there were always interesting talks, films and programmes going on.


1. What made you choose Southampton?

I liked that the university was a campus, but also pretty close to the city itself, but the thing that really decided it for me was the open day at Avenue Campus and the vibrant research and teaching environment there. I’d never seen a languages department that worked so closely with Geographers, Philosophers, Anthropologists, Historians and various other departments and I thought that the programme offered here seemed pretty unique.

2. Did you have any anxieties about going to University?

I’d already started studying at another university, but decided that I was on the wrong course, so I left and reapplied to Southampton a year later. Thanks to the brilliant open day, the time given to us during the interview and the care and enthusiasm of the teaching staff, I felt confident that I was in the right place.

3. How did Southampton help you settle in once you started?

Freshers week was well organised and we had a few introductory lectures which was good for meeting fellow students and getting a feel for the place and the course. The halls of residence were also brilliant for making friends and getting settled in as a community.

4. What is Southampton like as a place to study?

I loved being a languages student at Avenue Campus. The campus was a great size, well designed, with a good amount of space to study, read and work. And there were always interesting talks, films and programmes going on.

5. What did you enjoy about the course?

The course was intellectually rigorous, creative, stimulating and varied. At first the breadth of things we were covering across our modules felt a bit overwhelming, but now I really appreciate covering a lot of ground early on. I grew hugely during my degree and attribute much of the way that I think now to my formation at Southampton. It sowed the seeds for lifelong learning and curiosity.

6. What opportunities did you take up that really added value to your experience as a student?

My year abroad in Brazil was the most incredible experience. I spent a year studying in a school of fine art in Salvador da Bahia, which marked the start of my journey as a professional photographer.

7. How did your studies and experience at Southampton shape your future?

Having already spent a few months in Argentina before I came to Southampton, I was already interested in Latin American social justice and arts movements. During my course and year abroad I got to study the work of photographers I now count as major influences on my career, such as Sebastião Salgado. Taking this further, I was able to spend a year in a fine art school in the Universidade Federal da Bahia where I spent time in the laboratory and various field sites. I had the opportunity to exhibit my work in the city, publish in a magazine and work with a local NGO. I came back and continued to study for the MA in Transnational Studies. I exhibited some of my photographs at the university, submitted a photo essay as part of my final dissertation and won a competition with the Independent on Sunday during that year and had my work printed in the paper and exhibited outside City Hall in London. This encouragement and training from the university then set me on to the path of becoming a documentary photographer.

8. Tell us about your current role?

I work as a freelance documentary photographer, writer and filmmaker, and I’m currently based in Kolkata, India. My work is people-centred, with a focus on inequality and empowerment, especially in women and children. I've shot for NGOs like Save the Children, Tearfund and Christian Aid in Brazil, India, and South Sudan. I've spent months covering disasters in the Philippines and Nepal, where my work was published internationally generating funds for the relief efforts. I've shot corporate work for creative companies such as SoundCloud in Berlin, and worked for a PR agency at the world's largest dance music festival in Belgium. My photos and films have been exhibited in Brazil, the US and the UK, and been published in The Independent, BBC, New Internationalist, Sublime Magazine and Prospect Magazine, amongst others.

9. When you graduated what was your ambition and do you feel you’ve achieved it?

When I graduated I knew little about the industry, but I knew I wanted to work as a photographer for NGOs. It took a while to get there, but in some ways I feel like I have achieved that ambition. But these things rarely stay static, and while I think that my newly-graduated self would feel fairly happy with where I am, I have itchy feet and am constantly looking for ways to continue to grow, improve and make a better contribution.

11. What are you most proud of?

It’s really hard to say what I’m most proud of. I’ve had my photographs projected on the side of the Tate Modern, had a film played on MTV and had Bear Grylls endorse my work in the Philippines, but these things are fleeting. I’m happiest and most fulfilled working in the field on projects that mean a lot to me, seeing communities empowered, developing and working on the slow and hard task of standing up to injustice. Having someone thank me for interviewing them makes me realise what an incredible privilege it is to spend time listening to people and hearing them tell their stories.

12. What advice would you give to a student starting their degree at Southampton?

Embrace it, make the most of an incredible opportunity to learn, expand your horizons and meet some great friends. A lot can happen in three to four years, so keep an open mind and grab the opportunities that come up.

13. If you had your time at University again is there anything you’d do differently?

I think I might have used some of the free time I had to work on some projects. If you want to work in the creative arts, having a portfolio or work that you can show is incredibly valuable and, even though it doesn't always feel like it, you have a lot of time in university, lots of people to collaborate with and a wealth of interesting things happening and fascinating ideas to work with – it’s a creative paradise and I wish I could go back and make the most of that again!

14. What tips would you give to current students looking to start a career in your sector? What could they be doing now to make themselves more employable when they graduate in the future?

If you have a sense of what you might like to do after university, don’t wait until you finish to test that idea out. Ask for work experience, politely ask to spend some time shadowing people doing that work, ask all kinds of people working in that field for advice, begin to work on projects on things that interest you, practise a lot.


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