What's it like to study an MA in Photography online?

Mon 2 Aug 2021

Josie Purcell is a graduate of Falmouth Flexible’s part-time online MA in Photography. In this Q&A interview, she shares her motivation for studying the course, how she found learning online, and how the MA has impacted her career.

Where are you based and what do you do for work?

Josie: I’m based in St Agnes, Cornwall. I have what I call two (possibly three) work hats. First and foremost, I’m a photographic artist with a passion for using/developing eco-conscious hybrid camera-less and digital processes. I’m also a qualified and experienced journalist, and a Communications and Marketing Manager for an environmental charity.Josie Purcell graduation

What motivated you to study a masters, and why online?

Josie: I had previously Crowdfunded for my travelling photographic workshop project ShutterPod and was at a stage in my life where the ‘day job’ role I had at the time provided little creative inspiration or satisfaction. I knew I needed to do more and be with other people as passionate about photography as I am.

It has been my dream for some time to create an international photographic hub in Cornwall (it may remain a dream) but to reconnect with my photographic roots, the timing of the online opportunity couldn’t have been better.

It enabled me to keep working while I studied a subject I love. It also gave me the chance to engage with people on a global scale, and I’m pleased to still be in contact with them now.

Why did you choose the Falmouth Flexible MA Photography?

Josie: I live close to the University and have friends who work there or have studied there and had heard positive things about the photography courses. It meant if I wanted to attend the campus, I could, but the online way of working was the big bonus for me (and that was before it had to become standard practice for many due to the pandemic). I also knew I’d get to shake hands with Dawn French if I graduated, so that was a great incentive!

How would you describe your experience of studying online with Falmouth Flexible?

Josie: I was on the very first cohort. I loved the freedom online study gave me in managing my own workload and fitting it in around other work/life commitments. I studied while working full-time and that was challenging but I thrived on talking to tutors and my peers and knew support was always there if needed.

There were a few teething troubles with the online learning platform, but it was all very quickly sorted. I can’t recall any major hinderance at all and would happily do it all again.

How did the course impact your photography practice?

Josie: Hugely. Not only did my peers and tutors inspire me, but the course also made me believe in myself. Although the courage to get out and do ‘stuff’ was always in me, life had gotten in the way, and it helped me rediscover the joy photography brings me.

It also provided focus for my practice. I have been passionate about our natural world for many years, even working in an eco-conscious manner prior to starting the course through ShutterPod. But it evolved my thinking and developed my ‘voice’ and I’m very clear on what my practice is and isn’t now. 

Josie P photo

What impact has your MA had on your career?

Josie: My MA still informs and influences the way I work now. I have been commissioned for various environment-related art shows such as Of Earth-For Earth in 2020 which provoked discussion relating to sustainable mining practices as part of an international conference.

I have also created the Photopocene podcast. This is where I get to chat with photographers worldwide whose photographic work relates to environmental matters in some way; it’s sharing eco-conscious photography in an audio way. It would be fab if any students wanted to get in touch to take part too.

And I haven’t given up on that dream yet; I’m researching and developing a plan for a photographic hub that marries the medium with sustainability and environmental issues. I am continuing to run photographic workshops teaching individuals and school groups, with a focus on analogue, plant-based, and historic photo processes.

I now also work for an environment charity and get to use my photography, film and design skills as part of this role. It a fantastic role for a good cause and I’m sure gaining my Masters added an additional string to my CV bow.

Last but not least, I am currently researching PhD opportunities for the future. 

Would you recommend studying for an online master’s to others?

Josie: Yes. I’m not just saying this, but it is one of the best things I have done.

Is there anything else you want to share?

Josie: Visit www.josiepurcellphotography.com where you can sign-up to my newsletter, find out about events or listen to, or get in touch about Photopocene.

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Featured photo credit: Josie Purcell

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