From borrowed cameras to photographing Stormzy – BCU alumnus launches debut exhibition in Birmingham

A Birmingham City University (BCU) alumnus is hoping to inspire others to pick up a camera as he opens his debut exhibition, featuring music stars Stormzy and Cardi B.

Jonathan Williams, who graduated from BCU with a BA in Media and Communication in 2019, now works as a freelance photographer and opened his debut exhibition at Grosvenor Road Studios in Handsworth.

The 25-year-old has thanked BCU and its staff for helping him get started on his freelance journey and giving him a confidence boost to pursue his dreams: “I used to be really shy and introverted, but the staff at BCU helped develop my confidence as well as build my profile as a freelancer. They saw my drive and determination to pursue a freelance career long before anyone else.“Careers+ staff would recommend me to clients, some of whom I still work with today!”

Jonathan, from Aston, started expanding his passion for photography at university by borrowing equipment through BCU’s hires and loans programme. “The scheme was invaluable to me. Getting to hire out cameras, rather than having to buy my own, allowed me to develop those skills and start my freelancing journey while studying for my degree. “I remember running from campus with a loaned camera to a Jorja Smith concert at the O2 Academy so I could photograph her performance. Some of those images are featured in the exhibition too!”

Jonathan is currently featured in BCU’s new campaign, Look At Me Now, which highlights the achievements of the university’s alumni. 

Grosvenor Road Studios, formerly Hollick & Taylor Studios, is the oldest professional recording studio still operating in Birmingham, first opening in the 1940s. The exhibition showcases iconic images of artists in front of huge crowds as well as intimate behind-the-scenes moments. Amongst the names photographed are legendary Birmingham artists such as Mist, Mowgli, Lady Leshur and fellow alumna, Laura Mvula, who graduated from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2008.

“The past five years as a freelance photographer have been extraordinary. It’s been a rollercoaster journey filled with so many achievements, challenges, and memorable moments, resulting in an extensive catalogue of photos I’m finally ready to exhibit,” said Jonathan. 

Grosvenor Road Studios was acquired by music group Black Voices in 2001 and now runs training and development schemes in the local community.

Carol Pemberton MBE, Founder and Managing Director of Black Voices said: “Grosvenor Road Studios is a creative, cultural and community hub and this free exhibition of live music photography by an incredible Birmingham talent offers another reason for local residents to step through our doors. “We hope to inspire the young people entering our studios and highlight another one of the possible careers they could pursue in the music and creative industry.”

Jonathan hopes those who visit the exhibition will be inspired by his journey: “I want to inspire the next generation of Birmingham creatives who are looking for inspiration. I would like them to see my work, see how far I’ve come since graduating and know they can achieve the same level of success.”

The exhibition is open now until October 2024.

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