Programme: Photography - BA(Hons)

Year: 2016

Robert John Henderson combines his previous expertise in organisational psychology with the photography practice he honed at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), to create what he describes as a 'synergistic combination' of careers.

Tell us about your time at Edinburgh College of Art

As a student who already had a career in organisational psychology, I came to ECA to explore and develop my artistic and creative side. I had completed a HND in Photography and was advised by many people that the questions I continued to ask would be best 'answered' by going to art school. I chose Edinburgh based on the people I met during the open day, the feel of the buildings and also the facilities. 

I didn’t find answers, but I did find a way to engage with my own questions, a way to develop my artistic practice and a sense of direction as I left ECA. I benefited so much from my fellow students and the academic and technical staff who reached out and engaged with me. I loved the Friday lectures; they provided someone like me, who didn’t come from a visual arts background, with a sense of what it might mean to be an artist. The variety of artists who presented (or sung, as in the case of Martin Creed) offered a diversity of ‘role models’ that really helped me think about my own practice and how it might work for me.  Although there were age differences, I have gained many friendships with my fellow students who gave me so much and helped me learn and grow.  I also benefited greatly from collaborations with students in other disciplines of art, illustration and design. 

Woman sits on sofa in front of book shelf
Image courtesy of Robert John Henderson
Photo from series 'Incomplete Picture'

"I loved the Friday lectures. They provided someone like me, who didn’t come from a visual arts background, with a sense of what it might mean to be an artist."

Robert John Henderson, 2016 Photography - BA graduate

Tell us about your experiences since leaving ECA

After graduating in 2016 I was invited to show part of my Degree Show work at Futureproof 2016 Exhibition in Glasgow, an initiative that seeks to promote new graduate work in art photography. This was my first significant experience of exhibiting outside of ECA and working with a gallery. Currently, I am continuing with my previous career while establishing my own fine art photographic practice.  I find these two careers complimentary, together they make for an interesting and rich experience.

In October 2016 I was selected for a mentoring programme, The New Photographers Guild, led by Elaine Livingstone, Claire Stewart and James Pfaff and supported by Street Level Photoworks Gallery in Glasgow.  This involved developing a project from scratch all the way through to exhibition, held at 103 Trongate, Glasgow.  This was an incredibly beneficial experience and acted as a bridge from being a student at ECA to working life as a photographer. 

A year after graduating, and with the benefit of time and space, I am beginning to realise the incredible value of my experience at ECA. I know this will continue to unfold. I still find support and learning from former students at ECA with whom I shared my time there with, for me, this support is important to developing as an artist. I try to reciprocate a little of their wonderful generosity.                        

Night Walks #30 2017 Image by Robert John Henderson
Image by Robert John Henderson
Night Walks #30, 2017
Image by Robert John Henderson Night Walks #25, 2017
Image by Robert John Henderson
Night Walks #25, 2017

Alumni wisdom

I would suggest trying to experience as much as possible, to engage with what challenges you and to build your support and learning network. Customise it to your aspirations and needs. ECA and the University are rich in talent, resources and wonderful people willing to help. I found that by actively engaging, rather than just taking what was scheduled, I derived so much more from my experience. If someone or something doesn’t work for you, find someone or something else that does. Avoid retreating if you can.


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