Back to school: The story of photographer Nigel Maynard

Having been made redundant from his job at a drug rehabilitation centre in Cornwall, Nigel Maynard decided to revisit an earlier interest in photography. At 57, he has just graduated from Falmouth University with a degree in the subject and a desire for more

We spent much of June and July Talentspotting, doing the rounds of degree shows looking for standouts among the fresh crop of art and design graduates. This year we partnered with JCDecaux to showcase the work of our favourite imagemakers on 1000 digital screens across the UK. After a lot of discussion, and the odd argument, we made our final selection of eleven.

Up until this point we knew the students by their work alone. But while interacting with our picks and interviewing them for our website, we discovered the artists behind the art. It was during these exchanges that we discovered that Nigel Maynard is just a little bit different from all the other students we had picked. To start with he is 57 years old.

From Nigel Maynard’s 2016 Abstractions series
From Nigel Maynard’s 2016 Abstractions series

Five years ago Maynard worked as an administrator at a drug rehabilitation centre located on an old farm in a quiet Cornish valley. “It was a fulfilling job in a wonderful location,” he says. But then he was made redundant. Faced with having to press the reset button and start over, Maynard made a decision that not many in his situation would and went back to school.

He decided to revisit an “occasional interest” in photography and signed up to do an A level in the subject. Going back to studying as a mature student came with some challenges but, he says, the process was made easier by starting with an A level, with its gentler pace, rather than a full-blown degree course. The presence of other mature students in his class also helped.

I was more sure of the subject I chose than I may have been if I had done a degree when I was younger.

In his final term, Maynard’s tutor encouraged him to hone his craft further, and at the end of the summer he found himself on a full-time three year long degree programme at Falmouth. “I am glad I did a degree as a mature student,” he explains, “I was more sure of the subject I chose than I may have been if I had done a degree when I was younger.”

The challenge of being older than his classmates wasn’t the only issue. An art education is a costly affair particularly a subject like photography that requires a lot of expensive kit. This is where a bit of research helped, and Maynard chose a university that has a lot of equipment available for students to use; cameras, lenses and other accessories needed to fully explore the subject. Maynard got through all three years of his degree without having to personally invest in equipment.

maynard talentspotting

He did however get some other aid: “Being dyslexic, I received financial help via DSA (Disabled Students’ Allowances), which provided a book allowance, Photoshop fees and mentoring,” Maynard reveals. DSA is a government scheme for all residents of the UK providing support for both graduate and post-graduate students with a disability, subject to a needs assessment.

The BA course has brought me to a certain point, which feels only partway there

For Maynard, the path to graduation has meant overcoming redundancy, discovering a new passion and finding ways to fund it, without making an excuse of his age or a learning disability. And he’s not over yet. “The BA course has brought me to a certain point, which feels only partway there,” he says. “For example, I would like to learn more about how research can play a part in uncovering new theoretical approaches, opening up new avenues in imagemaking.” This month he’s off to Plymouth to start a Masters degree.

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