09 February 2014
Region: South East
The best way to prepare for a RPS distinction is to have a look at the website, read the guidelines and all the material available: there is plenty of information there. Then, seek advice. I know it can be daunting – and you may not know where to begin. Particularly if you are relatively new to photography, or perhaps you have been doing it for a few years, but so far all the feedback you’ve had has been from friends and family, who will of course “love” your photos. Add to that a natural tendency we all have not to see our own mistakes, and it will be difficult to obtain an unbiased, fair judgment of our own quality and skills.
So I decided to go to a Celebration of Distinctions in November to see what standards were expected - more on this later - and started selecting pictures for my panel.
Christmas came and went and before I knew it my Licentiateship Assessment day arrived. I travelled to the RPS Headquarters in Bath the night before, I wanted to make sure that I would be there on time. It was a chilly, rainy January morning. When I got to the RPS I couldn’t find a place to park and I was panicking. So I dropped off the box with my prints and Emma at the reception made me feel that everything was going to be ok. I managed to park my car and returned to the building. All the members of staff were so helpful throughout: Simon Vercoe, Ben Fox, Andy Moore, the Panel judges. And although applying for an "L" can be intimidating, everybody made me feel that I could approach them for advice, and indeed it was most useful.
As I was candidate No15, my panel came up after the lunch break. When you are sitting there, watching everybody else’s panels go before yours, you start doubting, and you don’t know until the last minute what is going to happen. When my name was read out-loud I was confused, I didn’t understand what was going on, only when I heard everybody clapping, I realised I had been successful.
All the photographs I chose for my panel were taken in the last four years, when I was living in Beijing. They are a selection from different trips I did when I was there: Mongolia, Myanmar, South China and Iceland. A lot of people ask me 'What kind of photography do you do?' This is one of the most difficult questions to answer, particularly when you first start in photography, because you want to try all the genres and you are not sure what you are really good at. It wasn't until I came back home, to live in England again, that I finally found the answer, I found my passion: I do Travel Photography.
Back to last November when I attended a “Celebration of Distinctions Day” in Canterbury. The full day event provided an opportunity to see examples of successful LRPS, ARPS and FRPS panels across all categories and appreciate the standard of work required to achieve these distinctions.
Roger Reynolds Hon FRPS, Past President, Chairman of the Distinctions Advisory Board and a Member of the Fellowship Board, led the proceedings, assisted by Andy Moore LRPS, Distinctions Manager, and Simon Vercoe LRPS, Distinctions Assistant. With a great sense of humour and down-to-earth personality, Mr Reynolds gave excellent advice on what to expect and how to prepare for an assessment. We had a chance to see how the print panels are supposed to look, how they will be marked, what to expect from the judges, and how carefully they are looked after by ‘those men with white gloves’ from the Distinctions department.
We saw several displays of successful panel in all categories: Natural History, Travel, Contemporary, Visual Art - all of excellent quality.
One of the most interesting selection was Marie-Ange Bouchard’s ARPS panel. A collection of 15 striking images of ‘Street Art’, taken with an IPhone. As Marie-Ange explains:
“The iPhone camera has obvious limitations; so bold, colourful shapes make more successful pictures. While considering this, I stumbled upon the potential of street markings. Utilitarian and rarely given a second glance, I found that their figures had character - imperious, arrogant, and commanding - shouting their message boldly and colourfully against a drab background. I began to see dull expanses of tarmac as a canvas for huge, abstract paintings and I found myself scouring the streets to find interesting shapes and textures. I discovered that these markings could be incredibly striking and some even lent themselves to further reduction into vibrant abstract images. For me these markings are ‘Street Art’ and I hope this panel will encourage you to look at them in a new light.”
This was the first Panel of photographs taken with a mobile device that was awarded a Distinction. A great achievement and evidence that the Society moves on with the trends and there is room for all sorts of categories in photography.
Being able to meet the Distinctions department staff in person at the event was very helpful. When I was preparing for my “L” they were extremely friendly, attentive and approachable. I remember walking to Andy Moore at the end of the event and asking him ‘How do I know if I’m up to it?’ And he simply said ‘Send us an email with your images and a panel member will give you feedback, if you send it within the next couple of days, you’ll get a reply before Christmas’. It was as simple as that, within a week of sending them an email, I received a reply with detailed, genuine, honest feedback about my photographs. It was very encouraging, but it also helped me to focus on my selected images and work on the recommendations.
The journey to the “L” had its ups and downs, there were moments of insecurity and doubt, but all the tools and advice are there, so if you follow the steps carefully, you will know when you’ve reached your destination.