College student selected as national finalist with pearly king photo series

Barking and Dagenham College photography student Helen Taylor

Barking and Dagenham College student Helen Taylor was a finalist in the Association of Photographers (AOP) Students Awards 2021. - Credit: Barking and Dagenham College

A photography student got to the final of a national competition with her series about Cockney culture and the relocation of east Londoners to Essex.

Barking and Dagenham College student Helen Taylor was shortlisted in the "things" category of the Association of Photographers (AOP) Student Awards 2021.

As part of the project, she borrowed a neighbour’s pearly king suit to photograph.

A collage of images from Helen Taylor's photo series.

A collage of images from Helen's photo series that she entered in to the competition. - Credit: Helen Taylor / Barking and Dagenham College

Helen, who lives in Hornchurch, recalled being shocked by how heavy it was and began to think about how the inside of the suit told an interesting story of the hard life that it endures while the outside is immaculate.

She said: “I was over the moon to be selected as a finalist and it’s an achievement I am proud of. 


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“I truly didn’t believe that I stood a chance of getting anywhere close to being a finalist, but I felt quite strongly about the story that the images were telling as I don’t think anyone has really thought about pearly king suits in this way before. 

“The AOP is such a highly regarded association in the photographic industry that to have any kind of endorsement from them is fantastic and would certainly help my career prospects."

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Helen added that she has enjoyed studying photography at the college and the recognition of being a finalist has given her a new-found confidence in her work.

“My tutors have been so supportive and are really passionate about photography, which makes you feel empowered to get out there and push your own boundaries,” she said.

“They want you to succeed in your career and it has been a real pleasure studying there.”

One of the photos of the Pearly King suit that Helen submitted in the competition.

One of the photos of the pearly king suit that Helen submitted in the competition. - Credit: Helen Taylor

The photography department at Barking and Dagenham College encourages students to enter the annual AOP awards because they are an internationally recognised event that can help provide students with a step into the professional arena.

The college’s programme leader for photography, David Bennett, said: “We are all extremely proud of what Helen has achieved.

“To be recognised by the AOP is a great honour and I know we will see great things from Helen in the future.”

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