Obituary - Jenny Leathes ARPS

© Vivien Howse ARPS / Jenny Leathes, Dartmoor

10 June 2014

Region: South West

Obituary Jenny Leathes MA ARPS

Jenny Leathes, passed away peacefully on Friday 11th April at St Julia’s Hospice in Hayle Cornwall.  Her ambition had been to reach the age of 50, this she surpassed by another full 4 years. She had been fighting her cancer for many years and during that time achieved some remarkable feats. This included running the London Marathon and cycling from John O Groats to Lands End, as well as sailing her classic yacht single handed across the English Channel and back. Skiing was another passion that she enjoyed in the winter and she would head off to the slopes whenever her Consultant agreed.

Here in the South West, Jenny was known as a person who was passionate about her photography.  She enjoyed the outdoors?  No, she reveled in being outdoors.  Her eyes would light up at the opportunity of being up on Dartmoor, leading a field trip to some place she knew so well.  Alternatively the rocks on some sea shore could be drawing her as she worked in a very considered way, composing an image in the viewfinder of her Hasselblad.  Later the negative would be scanned and a print produced.  Of course Jenny had plenty of experience in the outdoor life through working for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Trust where she had enjoyed the challenge of helping young people in their development.

Jenny had a background in the arts having received her first degree from the West Surrey College of Art and Design in 1982. She went on to teach art, ceramics and photography.  Jenny was also dyslexic and would often say that she could not understand a word unless she could create a visual picture of it’s meaning.  Later on she gave up teaching to do a BA and then an MA at Falmouth College of Art.  As part of this course she had to produce a book. Naturally it was to be about the outdoors and she chose The Tinners Way in South West Cornwall as her subject. The resulting book, ‘Granite Land’, went on to receive  the Holyer an Gof trophy in 2004.  Later she turned her attention to a project on ‘Heartlands’, an area of waste mining ground that was being turned into an area for recreation.  This led to another book and an exhibition and now forms part of the records of Cornwall’s history.

Another photographic challenge that Jenny threw herself into in the latter years was wildlife photography.  She went on a trip with a friend to Africa during a respite from chemotherapy and then started photographing wildlife closer to home (ok the Shetlands are not that close to Cornwall). 

I came to know Jenny through the RPS when we both became part of the Regional Committee about 15 years ago.  During this time we have spent many hours traveling together to various RPS events as well as meeting with other RPS friends for lunches and discussions about the work we were undertaking at that time.  We would produce say 10 to 15 prints, Jenny would often have 30 (sometimes printed the previous night!).  I can recall at one weekend event that she had organised as RO for the Region, but because of her health situation at that time could not attend, one of our group ‘facetimed’ Jenny on her  i- pad so we and we all could chat with her.

I don’t intend saying much about Jenny’s role as RO because it is well know by those of us here in the South West.  Suffice to say that she continued to take our Region forward and has received the Fenton Medal for her contribution to the RPS.

Through out her life, Jenny has strived to achieve.  She found strength in the face of adversity and she was always willing to help those who needed it, in any walk of life.  At times the school teacher in her would come to the surface!  Jenny’s passing has left a large hole in the lives of all those who knew her.

Martin Howse ARPS
SW Regional Organiser

Image:   Vivien Howse ARPS

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