How I Turned my Passion for Photography into an EPQ Project

Ella Franklin

4 March 2019

Studying Biology, Philosophy and Theology and Economics for A Level is demanding, but it hasn’t stopped me putting on my own photography exhibition

After a conversation with my dad and realising that my timetable was already incredibly busy, I decided that rather than doing Photography A Level, I’d turn my interest in photography into an EPQ Project.

The Extended Project Qualification, run by AQA, is an independent project which is equivalent to half an A level. Rather than weekly lessons, homework and working towards an exam, you have complete freedom to choose your project – whether it be something practical or essay-based.

Downe House School EPQ
Downe House School EPQ
Downe House School EPQ
Downe House School EPQ

I wanted to look at the power of images and answer the question, “Can I capture emotion through a photograph?”

Starting with the decision to do an EPQ on photography, I decided to put on an exhibition of portrait photography, asking each viewer to fill in a feedback card to define the emotion depicted in each photo.

My EPQ supervisor, a teacher who I meet with regularly, guided me in my research and finalising my project. In my own time I was able to study my favourite photographers such as Bruce Gilden and you can see this influence in my work. As well as the independent study came the logistical side of putting on an exhibition – working with the Photography department, Estates and Marketing to print, mount and advertise my exhibition.

EPQ Blog Post exhibition Downe House photography

The story behind my favourite photograph

Attending a boarding school, I didn’t know our gardener extremely well. In the buildup to taking his photo, we talked for an hour. It was crucial to build up the emotion to make it visible in the photo and he told me about his experience of being bullied at school. I think you can see the complexity written on his face in the photo.

EPQ Blog Post Downe House School

A range of responses to my photography

I collated the feedback from my exhibition and used it to create graphs and results for my project which had become: “Is it possible to show through research and my own photography that all human perception of emotion is subjective?” Some of the portraits suggested one emotion strongly to lots of visitors. For example, nearly half of the responses for the photo of my grandad used the word “pride”. Other portraits seemed to create a more ambiguous response and it is already very clear that we do not all react in the same way.

EPQ Blog Post Pride Downe House School photography

Doing an EPQ is the perfect way to deep dive into something you’re passionate about

My EPQ turned out to be the perfect way to incorporate photography into my Sixth Form study. As a long-term independent project, I could fit it around my A Level subjects. I have other friends who were able to pursue their own interests too; one is designing and making a jacket and another is putting on a fashion show!

I’ve learned so much from doing an EPQ: practically how to be a better portrait photographer, how to write a bibliography, how to analyse data and how to manage a long-term project.

I’ll always have a passion for photography. I’m planning on doing a gap year to travel to Africa and I can’t wait to take my film camera with me!

My EPQ tips

  • Choose a topic you really enjoy and wouldn’t mind spending hours and hours researching.
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute! Keep chipping away at it. Lower Sixth summer is a great time to get ahead.

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