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Success Stories: Photography Purnima Bhaskaran Sharpens Her Personal and Professional Focus
Success Stories: Photography Purnima Bhaskaran Sharpens Her Personal and Professional Focus

Opening night was fast approaching, and set designer Purnima Bhaskaran was working hard to get ready. But she found herself getting distracted from her main duties.

"I realized I like the imagery aspect of it. I liked what frames I was seeing,” she said. “Making the posters were my favorite part ever. There was a huge play that we were putting on, but I loved making the poster better.”

jellyfish photographsOcean Motion – Purnima Bhaskaran Portfolio

Purnima had moved to Seattle to take a job as an architect. Set design was just a side gig, a way to nurture her creativity. But as her interest in visual design grew, she decided to make some life changes.

One was to pursue a new career as a UX designer, working on web sites and mobile apps in the technology field.

“I realized that visuals were my thing,” Purnima said. “So I transitioned from architecture into UX design because I liked the nitty-gritty of all things tech. That is one space where you can ‘build the building’ but still go back and fix it. In architecture, you don’t have the luxury to do so.”

Purnima's other change was to look for a way to further explore the power of imagery. That’s when she heard about the Certificate in Photography program at the University of Washington.

So she signed up, and a whole new world came into focus.

In Her Own Words

Purnima Bhaskaran explains how the Certificate in Photography helped advance her career and gave her a new perspective on the world.


Seeing the Bigger Picture

Despite having a design background and a pretty nice camera, Purnima was a newbie when it came to photography.

“I used to look at other photographs, other images, and go to galleries, but never understood the process behind it,” she said. “I never knew what I was doing wrong, never understood what I could do better.”

Purnima checked out a variety of online photography courses, but something was still missing.

"I've gone online and explored ideas, how to light things, how to get down to the right exposures and create this effect in my photograph," she said. "But what I wasn't learning was the big picture — how that meaning or that idea would translate to another person, which in the end makes or breaks the message that you're putting out into the world creatively.”

In the UW program, Purnima found an important difference.

“It was so much fun to meet a group of collaborative people who are all focused on making better images, and from different walks of life, different experiences,” she said. “But to actually have people look at and critique your images is that point of inflection, that human contact that really helps knowledge, growth and understanding.”

“When you stop planning and start living in the moment — and doing the best you can possibly do in that moment, even in terms of creating a photograph — it starts creating such a difference in your outlook.”

Purnima Bhaskaran


Developing Professionally

This growth and increased knowledge has directly influenced Purnima's work as a UX designer.

“You start being more empathetic towards people, because you understand what experiences they're incorporating or analyzing your photo with,” she said. “It changes the way you design, and it has made me a better designer.”

Purnima recently transitioned to a new job, a move that she attributes to the greater sense of confidence she gained from the certificate program.

“I've learned to market myself in a better way to stand out from the crowd,” Purnima said. “I believe speaking about my ideas and thoughts in relation to photography in such an inclusive and diverse environment helped me grow in confidence, and that was the key turning point for my growth at work too.”

rolling hills photographsRolling Hills – Purnima Bhaskaran Portfolio

looking deeper

In addition to accelerating her career trajectory, Purnima discovered something unexpected during her time in the photography program: herself. 

In the final quarter, Purnima and her classmates were tasked with creating self-portraits. The project forced her to think about who she was, both as an artist and a person. 

"Who is 'I' at the end of the day? What was I putting into that image?" she said. "And the image that I came up with, and finally put onto the wall for my colleagues and instructors and everybody else to critique, was a piece of myself." 

It's this new self-knowledge that will remain for Purnima, enriching the rest of her life and how she lives it. 

"When you stop planning and start living in the moment — and doing the best you can possibly do in that moment, even in terms of creating a photograph, in terms of creating a design, or just living life in general — it starts creating such a difference in your outlook,” she said. “Because you've done the best you can for that one day. And that's all that matters at the end of the day.”

To see more of Purnima’s photography, visit her website.

For more success stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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