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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

University of Chester Graduate Celebrates String of Achievements Since Overcoming Health Battle

In just one incredible year, a graduate who discovered a life-changing passion for photography after suffering a stroke has celebrated becoming a dad, an award finalist, a teacher, achieving a master’s qualification and exhibiting work.

Alberto Gonzalez Gabarre is celebrating graduating from the University of Chester with a Master’s in Fine Art, focusing on photography, and being named as a Liverpool City Region Photo Awards finalist, with one of his images currently on display at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool.

The 42-year-old, originally from Madrid, Spain, and now based in Liverpool, became a new dad while completing his final Master’s exhibition, and has also been inspiring the next generation of photographers and artists, teaching students in further education.

Alberto studied his Master’s of Art (MA) part-time after completing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Photography at the University.

He said: “My university studies have been such a great opportunity – I will always feel grateful for them. I have had different health issues since I was 16 that prevented me from pursuing further and higher education earlier in life. While I was completing my foundation course in 2015 I had a stroke and this impacted my ability to draw, so I turned to photography instead, and it transformed my life as I discovered my true passion. When your capacity to study is affected, you appreciate every opportunity – studying is a real privilege – and studying at Chester has been life-changing.”

On becoming a dad and juggling all of his responsibilities, he added: “Balancing everything as a mature student – work, dad duties, and studies, as well as the restrictions of the pandemic in the first year of the MA – has not been easy. I had to be very organised and devote nights and weekends to cover for the time I could not devote during the day.

“But I have been very lucky to have the support of my partner, my peers, and excellent tutors so this has made things easier.

“In my fellow Master’s students, I could not have asked for better, more caring and helpful colleagues. For just one example, they helped me to install and uninstall some of my images when I had to take care of my baby or when I was at work. Having supportive peers on the course can really make a difference. I am thankful to have worked with them and was extremely happy to graduate together.

“As well, I am extremely grateful to all my fantastic lecturers, during both my BA and MA, as they have inspired me and made me grow intellectually and personally.”

Alberto shared how they had helped him to improve his practice to become what it is today: “My photography focuses on how we perceive things and the possibility that objects and things can be transformed depending on the context where they are placed. I mainly shoot still life images as I enjoy creating different compositions and imagining how objects can look different depending on the perspective, light and shadow casts.”

Alberto’s progress and skills shone, with the recognition in the still life category in the Liverpool City Region Photography Awards, and he described how “seeing my photograph in the gallery was really exciting. It’s great for my work to be visible in this way”.

The accolade follows further award nominations and selections for exhibitions, including making the shortlist for the national 2020 Eizo Student Colour Award.

His time at the University helped him to also improve in other disciplines, while spurring him on to further study. He explained: “Thanks to the MA I am teaching not only Photography but Art and Design at foundation level, for an online college of art. The MA has also fuelled my interest further and as a result, I want to pursue a practice-based PhD (Doctor of Philosophy).”

Reflecting further, on what message he would pass onto other students, he added: “There may be moments where the course may feel hard, but it is important to make the most of every moment and this will be invaluable in shaping you and your future.”

Dr Maxine Bristow, Associate Professor in Art and Design at the University of Chester, said: “Alberto demonstrated an incredible level of commitment to his studies at the same time as negotiating his other responsibilities. The body of work that he developed over the course of the Master’s was uniquely inventive, aesthetically, technically, and conceptually. This has been duly recognised through his selection as a Liverpool City Region Photo Awards finalist, and the offer of a place to undertake a practice-based PhD here at Chester.”

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