What’s it like studying Visual Arts and Film?

Sophia Baker

Studying Visual Arts and Film at Durham during the height of coronavirus was surreal, to say the least. Learning about profound new ways of ‘seeing’ from leading artists and researchers whilst sitting in the confines of my college bedroom with Sudocrem smeared over my face was an almost comic juxtaposition. 

However, despite the strange circumstances of my first year, my mind was expanded and nurtured in ways that I never expected. 

In my college room

Marvellous modules

The core modules of year one challenged me to explore areas that I had never considered before. I initially went to university with the mindset of wanting to be the female equivalent of Quentin Tarantino, so I was really excited for the film core modules. 

Although winning several Oscars and Baftas is still on the table for me, I discovered a discipline called Visual Culture from the core module ‘An Introduction to Visual Culture Studies’. This incorporated several philosophies behind how we see the world, and ourselves which often left me questioning how to escape the matrix. I am even considering doing a Master’s in Visual Culture Studies.

What makes Durham different?

Studying Visual Arts and Film in Durham is unique because it belongs to the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Although this initially daunted me considering I can’t speak a word in another language other than Hola, Aloha and Bonjour, my eyes were opened to international art and film which I had been sheltered from before. However, if you are more of a linguist than me you can definitely explore foreign language modules easily due to them belonging to the same department.

The beautiful Cathedral

I especially found this international approach beneficial in the film modules, as other universities that I looked at seemed to have a large focus on Hollywood, which I can’t stress enough, is such a narrow field. I am now obsessed with directors such as Wong Kar-Wai and Jean-Luc Godard.

I also really believe that the course being Art and Film combined enabled me to develop my critical expertise, as you can’t begin to appreciate the art of a moving image if you can’t understand still images. 

All of the modules had a very hands-on approach, which would have been even more so had we been able to attend live lectures. We were set photography assignments, peer reviewed each other’s art criticisms, and in one of my optional modules we designed an online exhibition as a group. My lecturers seemed heartbroken that we couldn’t take to the streets of Durham together to figure out things like field of depth etc in photography. There is also a Film Making module in year three which I absolutely can’t wait for! 

Legendary lecturers 

The lecturers were all so enthusiastic about their fields of study and I often stayed after lectures to finish discussions because they were so captivating. Their passion for film and art wasn’t limited to the confines of lecture time with us often being sent emails about local galleries that they recommended which I dragged my friends too.

One time I mentioned off-hand how I was really interested in Japanese Cinema and I received a Hamlet length email of Japanese film recommendations. This evident passion and love of art and film that my professors had really rubbed off on me and made me engage in education more than ever before.

Discover more

About BA Visual Arts and Film here

The School of Modern Languages and Cultures here.

Download our latest prospectus and college guide here.

Follow our students on Instagram and YouTube.

Sophia Baker

Hi! My name is Sophia and I am a second year student studying Visual Arts and Film at Collingwood College. I enjoy playing electric bass, guitar and singing. I also love directing, making video edits, painting, and creative writing.

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