26 March 2016
Ilya’s Course Blog Postscript: RPS Distinction Day
Yes, it’s me again. I thought the Course Blog was over but something wonderful happened last month and I was asked to write one last piece, so here it is.
I have to say that I am in two minds about photography club competitions, I really don’t like the idea of offering up an image to a guest judge and having it knocked down, getting an embarrassingly low mark. Who are they to say my image isn’t good enough? They love a black and white street scene but my image is all about texture without a single focal point. So, you’ve guessed it, I was wondering whether to offer up some images, to apply for the “L” as it is affectionately called. Trouble is I love a challenge, and this is all about technical competence so I was easy game really.
I do not want to be a spokesperson for the RPS, and helping them to raise funds and sell the OU course and distinctions through this article is not my agenda, in fact that made me wary of writing this, but in the end I couldn’t resist. Although I do want the RPS to raise lots of funds; it is a charity and I hope it has enriched your life as much as mine.
So this is where I get a little uncomfortable. It does cost money to go for the L. All that printing and mounting and paying for the advisory day & the big day, although I got the advisory day free as a consequence of doing the OU course. My costs would include a day trip to Bath -too exciting not to be there in person. The advisory day was invaluable, seeing other images and getting spot on feedback on mine. Maybe it depends on the facilitators but on my day Richard Walton FRPS was brilliant and has an excellent track record for accuracy. I took my panel and extras. There was some jiggling around using some of the extras I brought. I was told only 1 was dodgy, another few needed minor adjustments like bringing down the highlights on one of the boats, removing a couple of pigeon wings caught on the edge of the Blackpool image. It’s one of my favourites, of someone cutting roast pork but the light shining on the meat burns out a part of her hand and Richard said that this may or may not get past the judges, it could but is a risk. I didn’t want a risk as that is a financial risk I don’t need, so needed a replacement to go in top left position. Back home I decided on one I have of a skeleton in the Grant Museum (you must go, amazing place) but wanted a final check of the panel to be happy with it.
Richard had kindly offered to have a final look at my panel, by post or I could visit Kent with them. I took the latter thankfully as the skeleton had to go and another was chosen in its place and a little more shuffling around and swapping -Richard really liked my peeling paint images, an ongoing project I love.
In fact, I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you about it because the inspiration for it is a bit of a thing with me. Basically when I started getting into photography rather than snaps, I did an afternoon workshop. I only had a small compact camera then. We were in Shoreditch and I noticed fellow students with amazing looking big DSLR’s and impressive lenses taking photos just of graffiti. Of course the graffiti there is incredible, but this was only in the frame, nothing of the photographer, no cropping, no passer by caught mirroring the artwork, you know the sort of thing. So in reaction to this uncreativity I started to take some shots of really interesting old walls and peeling paint -the last image in my panel is actually from that day. There is great unintentional art work around us that goes unnoticed, it simply needs framing. I thought I was being clever, of course I wasn’t, it’s all been done before but I was new to all this then. And it can still be beautiful, that doesn’t change.
So I was told I had a panel, that it would probably get through but it’s not really strong, there is a chance it might not. I felt I might be borderline. Off I went to Bath. I asked for an afternoon slot as I was coming up on the train and might not get there till lunchtime. I was the last to arrive, but from London where I live it isn’t that far and I got into the distinctions room moments before the judges so I was in fact just in time. The morning went well although the very first panel sadly failed. The judges, led by Bob Gates ARPS, seemed to be really enjoying looking at the images. They spoke very, very quietly, I couldn’t hear a word from the back row which is all that was available by the time I arrived. I couldn’t even see the prints that well, certainly not the tiny details that were out of focus in just the wrong place, or were not printed well enough to pass. It is very hard to guess which way the decision will go. Far more people passed than failed, a few were referred as only one print needed adjusting or changing. If you pass they call out your name and if you fail they gently say why, usually most of the images are really strong, but they don’t mention your name. Someone like Richard would have got them a pass.
Quite a few people left over lunchtime so I slipped in and grabbed a seat in the first row behind the judges -still unable to hear their judgemental whisperings, oh well, at least it’s easier to see the prints from there. I was quite relaxed as I thought that as I had arrived last I would be seen last but in fact I was half way through the afternoon. I can only say that I didn’t feel too scared as the judges looked like they were enjoying my pictures. They did pick one or two up which can mean they want to inspect for sharpness but it felt like they were looking out of interest. Anyway, they sat down, completed their forms and Bob Gates called out my name! Relief and pleasure. The first thing in the verbal feedback was that they found it an “enjoyable panel”. So now I am Ilya Fisher LRPS.
That would be a great last line for this piece but I want to add that my train was nearly two hours away so I went to the pump room and ordered a glass of champagne! I got somewhat disapproving looks from people having afternoon tea. You might even possibly see the panel in the RPS Journal as I was told they are looking for a colourful panel (most panels have at least one or two b&w images) and mine might do. Finally, a thank you to Richard Walton, I feel it is his success as well as mine.
Here’s a postscript to this postscript. I have really appreciated hearing from people who read my earlier pieces saying they then signed up for the OU/RPS course. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe not and you are fuming at me? Please do comment below or get in touch about how you have found the course.