I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of an alumni group tasked with coming up with ideas for how former students could celebrate and be celebrated as part of the University's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Duing the Leeds Trinity 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2016/17 alumnus and former Students’ Union President, Mark Dolby, wanted to contribute something special to the proceedings. So he came up with the idea of a photographic exhibition to capture some of our exceptional alumni.
The exhibition can be viewed on the alumni home page. We interviewed Mark in the newsroom at Leeds Trinity (see video above) and also asked him some questions about why he came up with the idea and what the project meant to him.
How and why did you come up with the idea for the Faces of Leeds Trinity Project?
I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of an alumni group tasked with coming up with ideas for how former students could celebrate and be celebrated as part of the University's 50th anniversary celebrations. I felt that capturing the portraits and stories of some of the exceptional alumni would demonstrate the impact that the University has had, as well as celebrating the achievements of the student body.
What were the most exciting parts about the project?
One of the big draws of photography is the opportunity to meet new people and explore new places, and the Faces project has been the epitome of that. I've bumped in to former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in a lift at Portcullis House and BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner at New Broadcasting House. It's also been great to meet some alumni who have shared similar experiences to me at LTU, whether that's in halls of residence or on nights out in Headingley.
What do you look for in the perfect picture?
Decisions about lens choice, lighting, backdrop and composition are all important but once they are sorted I'm really looking for a moment of natural expression which reflects the personality of the subject. Often that involves me talking a lot of nonsense in order for the subject to let their guard down and shooting lots of frames in search of that decisive moment.
What do you think the legacy of the project could be?
I hope that the project will help demonstrate the impact that a Leeds Trinity education can have and also the fondness with which alumni reflect on their time at the University. I also think it will be interesting to reflect on how the student body has changed in another 25 or 50 years.
What have you learnt from the project so far?
The big draw of this project for me as a photographer was the opportunity to create a body of work designed to sit together and tell one story from a number of perspectives. In the early days that was quite difficult because I was constantly second guessing my creative choices but one of my favourite sayings about photography is that the camera looks both ways. To that end, I think these portraits reflect my own happy memories, lessons learnt and opportunities gained while studying at Leeds Trinity.
We also asked Mark about his time at Leeds Trinity and what were the highlights for him. Mark graduated with a degree in Media with Management in 2004, and then spent a year as President of the Students' Union.
What made you choose to attend Leeds Trinity and what are your best memories from your time here?
I was keen to get new experiences by moving away from home (in Derbyshire) for University and looked at a number of different places. I thought Leeds would be a fantastic city to study in and I really loved the atmosphere on campus at Leeds Trinity. Home was a couple of hours away on the train which felt close enough to dash home for a weekend with the family but far enough that I could be independent.
While at Leeds Trinity I was an active member of the Students' Union serving as Press and Publicity Officer in my second and third years and as President following my graduation.
Mark pictured with Vice President, David Crighton
How do you feel your time at Leeds Trinity has supported you in your career and life more generally?
I was keen to work in broadcasting when I arrived in Leeds having had some experience as a college student. However, when I graduated I went in to the business environment, doing sales and project management, and the management side of my degree was essential to understanding my clients and creating marketing proposals for them. I always wanted to return to a more creative role and now as a photographer I feel like I have a business that allows me to do that. Nevertheless, I'm in no doubt that it is a business built on the foundation of my management studies and early career. The accounting and finance topics taught by John Earley are one example of modules which I draw on almost daily!
Where did you do your placement? How did you benefit?
I undertook placements in the Newsroom's of ITV Regional News, BBC Local Radio and at my Godfather's packaging machinery business. I was able to use some existing connections to secure these and I'd definitely recommend trying to build a network and get some experience before arriving at University. Having a few high profile names on my CV heading in to the job market and being able to use some examples from the placements at interview were really beneficial.
What three words would you use to describe Leeds Trinity?
Community, friendship and fun
Can you tell us a little about your career to date?
I'm the Founder and Photographer for Mark Dolby Photography. When I first studied photography at college I was shooting and developing my own black and white film but I didn't find it particularly interesting or accessible. Instead I channelled my creative ideas through film-making and writing and that's what led me to my choice of degree. After university I was keen to stay in Leeds and took a job with a web development agency working in account management and had the opportunity to work at and with some great companies like Disney, Sony Music and First Direct. Nevertheless, I often found myself more interested in the creative side of the office and returned to photography as my own creative outlet. By this time photography was digital and I enjoyed learning about blending creativity and technology. I soon realised that this could allow me to have my own business and started to build up my portfolio, equipment and client base.
What advice would you give current students and recent graduates embarking on a similar career path?
I think a lot of creative people forget the importance of the business side to running your own company or working for yourself. I felt like my management studies and the years spent writing proposals, pitching and project managing provided me with a great foundation for my own business. I made more mistakes than I care to remember, but I had some great people around me to learn from and that made all the difference.