Student photographer snaps up top industry prize

06th July 2017

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A budding photographer, from the University of South Wales, has won a competition to have his photos displayed in the Grade I Hensol Castle, South Wales.

Student Charleston Gibbs, 30 and originally from Newport, won a competition set by the Vale Resort to provide a series of photographs that will be used to decorate the bedrooms, restaurant, communal areas and marketing material of the 400-year castle.

Gibbs submitted a portfolio of 20 images that featured the interior and exterior of the castle, together with the flora and fauna of the surrounding area. He pipped to the post fellow University of South Wales students Samuel Warr (21), Laura Goldup (22) and Charlie Brammer (21) to scoop the first prize of £500.

The runners-up were given £100 each and their photographs of the castle, its architecture and the surrounding area will also be used to decorate the revamped interiors.

The 17th Century Hensol Castle was opened in 2015 as a conference and wedding venue as part of a £10 million refurbishment to restore it to its former glory. Phase two of the redevelopment includes converting it into a boutique hotel, adding up to 30 bedrooms and a top-end restaurant with 120 covers, which is expected to be ready late 2018.

Talking about the photography competition, sales and marketing director of the Vale Resort, Paul Beddoe, said: “We wanted a fresh approach to the interiors at Hensol Castle, which is such an important development for us.

“Rather than turning to stock imagery, we were keen to work with and support upcoming talent, which is how the partnership with the University of South Wales came about.

“The photographs turned in by the students as part of this specially commissioned third year project were outstanding, and we were truly impressed by both the quality of the images and the approach they had taken. It was really hard to choose a winner, but, in the end, we felt that Charleston had captured the essence of what we were looking for.

“The images need to be able to appeal to our wide target market, which includes visitors from the US, and communicate a sense of both history and timelessness as befits the 17th Century castle. Charleston’s photos did just that.”

Charleston Gibbs has been studying Photography at the University of South Wales for three years and has just graduated. After having built up a social media following of 19,000 people, he hopes to go into communications.

Charleston Gibbs said: “To say I am gobsmacked is a bit of an understatement. I was completely lost for words when I found out that I had won. The whole project has been a blast, and I’ve loved every second.

“Many of my images focused on the local floral and fauna. This is a bit of a specialism of mine and I’m just about to have a book published featuring my photos of some of the finest botanical gardens from across the UK and Europe.

“I’ve been inspired in my love of flowers by my late mother, who was a keen gardener, and I’d like to dedicate this prize to her memory.”

Celia Jackson, senior lecturer in photography at the University of South Wales was instrumental in setting up the partnership. Celia Jackson said: “Working with external clients is ideal preparation for the world of work, and we have an excellent track record in delivering top-notch results to deadline. I was delighted to be able to offer our talented students the opportunity to take part in a collaborative live brief project of this calibre, and would like to thank the Vale Resort for all their support and encouragement.”

Dating back to the 17th century, Hensol Castle is steeped in history. Its previous owners include Samuel Richardson, who is credited with introducing the threshing machine to the world of agriculture and “Big Ben”, Sir Benjamin Hall, who was overseer of works for the installation of the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, which is apparently named after him. The estate was purchased by the Leekes family, who own the Vale Resort, in 2003.

Hensol Castle had been closed to the public for almost a decade until 2014, when it was opened for weddings for the first time. Until then, it had only been used as a stage set for the television series Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes and Torchwood.