Two Photojournalism students from Staffordshire University have kick-started their careers covering major football matches for national and international press agencies – before they have even graduated. Final year student Nathan Stirk is freelancing for world-renowned Getty Images and Rich Holmes, in his second year, takes photos for national agency Pro Sports Images.
The Photojournalism department has strong industry links and encourages all students to make the most of work experience opportunities to help them get on the career ladder. The pair’s work features in the sports pages of regional and national newspapers including The Guardian, The Sun and The Telegraph with one of Nathan’s pictures even being used by The New York Times.
Nathan, 21 from Congleton, began photographing local non-league side Congleton Town and went on to gain work experience with a host of other teams including Stoke City and Everton. He said: “Being at the University has really helped build my confidence. You get that one-to-one support – my tutors have backed me from the start. It has taken a lot of hard work but I just kept building up contacts and asked everyone for advice.”
An editor from Getty Images approached Nathan after being impressed by the quality of his work and he now works part-time for the photography agency alongside his studies. As well as the usual match photography Nathan is working on a project called ‘The Gaffers’ which documents the pressures and life of Premier League football managers. “What I love about photojournalism is that you’re not restricted to the studio. At something like a football game you get to go out there and capture all the emotions and excitement.” Nathan explained. “I’m really grateful to Getty Images for giving me this great opportunity. I have learnt so much within the last six months and believe this is just the start.”
Rich Holmes, 21 from Uttoxeter, began work experience at his local club Burton Albion FC last year which has led to a part-time job. More recently, he has been travelling across the country photographing both Championship and Premier League games for Pro Sports Images. “As a fan of Burton Albion it’s been great working for them – I just have remember not to get too caught up in the games and focus on the job!” he commented. “I’ve learned so much over the last year or so. Working alongside professional photographers you learn fast. It’s a competitive industry so getting this experience is really important.”
Rich also travelled to Hong Kong with the University last year to document the auction of a Ming Cup bequeathed to Staffordshire University, which sold for £3.6m. “The lecturers have been massively supportive. It’s thanks to my tutor Rachel and the University that I went to Hong Kong. It was completely different to anything I’d done before so was a fantastic experience. I also got to photograph the horse racing while we were there which looked amazing against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s skyline.”
Rachel McHaffie, Photojournalism course leader, added: “I’m extremely proud of Nathan and Rich, they’ve both pushed really hard to make contacts and get as much work experience as possible which has led to their work being published in major newspapers. It’s almost unheard of for a student to be working for an agency like Getty or Pro Sports so this is a fantastic achievement.”
Find out more about studying Photojournalism at Staffordshire University here.