Guest blog by Eleanor Ryder
The weird thing about University is it provides you with a wonderful comfort blanket of work, things to do, friendships and aspirations and then, when it’s over, it abandons you to the outside world with not a thought as to what you are going to do next… This is exactly how I felt.
I knew what I wanted to do — sort of — but didn’t really have any idea how best to realise my ambitions. Understanding that if I were to make my way in the world, I was going to need some serious professional development.
I happened fall upon an advert for Catalyst and, to my delight, I was accepted on to the course. This began my journey whereby, with the help of the Catalyst team and all the wonderful people who gave up their time to talk to us, I soon started to appreciate how my skills and attributes could have some impact on the world of work.
One thing I have always been good at is recognising my faults and weaknesses.I’m brilliant at it. Confidence was never my forte. However, Catalysts’ workshops encouraged me enormously and enabled me to look at things differently.
As a photographer, I’m used to working independently but Catalyst introduced me to the joys of collaboration. I found I really enjoyed the discussions, activities and projects, which made me think imaginatively and creatively about what I was doing and where I wanted to be.
One of the most significant moments of my time on the programme, was during the Valentine’s Day workshop when it was suggested I made contact with companies or other organisations that might be interested in my work. This encouraged me to extend my ideas on collaboration and talk to others who, like me, were mindful of the need for conservation and driven by a desire to protect our planet — big passion of mine. That night, on the train home, I saw a post by an organisation I follow on Facebook called the Plastic Pollution Coalition and I decided to message them in the hope that they might be interested in my work… They were!
Within the following week they posted one of my photographs with a short blog attached, and from that a number of different companies and organisations contacted me directly. Two of whom I have ended up working with. I am now happily collaborating with Fabricants du Futur in Spain and Samudra Skin & Sea based in California. These contacts have given me valuable exposure abroad and enormous satisfaction from knowing that my work is having an impact worldwide.
As for the future, I am preparing to do my M.A. in Wildlife Documentary at Salford University. Incidentally Catalyst also impacted on my application process, as the lecturer who interviewed me was very interested in my involvement on the course.
I have benefitted enormously from my time with the Catalyst team, developing professionally and on a personal level; I have grown in confidence and self-belief. It was great fun and I have made some very special friends because of it.