Spotlight on a Volunteer: Dr Afzal Ansary ASIS FRPS

01 June 2017

SIG: Medical

 Dr Afzal Ansary ASIS FRPS

One of The Society’s most prolific volunteers, Dr Afzal Ansary ASIS FRPS has been a member of the RPS for approximately 50 years, having worked in medical and scientific imaging throughout his professional life. As a Society volunteer he has been the Regional Organiser for the North West, a member of the Science Committee and Distinctions Advisory Board, and Chairman of the Imaging Science Qualifications Board. In 2013 he was Awarded the Fenton Medal and Honorary Life Membership of The Royal Photographic Society.


Q.  Why did you start volunteering for the Society?

A. Photography in its various forms has given me so much in my life and I always wanted to put something back into photography. Thus, the reason I decided to get involved in volunteering with the RPS when I retired from my professional life from medical and scientific imaging.

I have always believed it is important to have a passion, no matter what, as without passion I personally would feel hollow. Travel, documentary, environmental portraits, macro, landscape and natural history photography has been my lifelong passion. And for me it's volunteering in photography which keeps me active, mentally and physically.

I started as a committee member on the North West region and I eventually took over as the Regional Organiser and that was about twelve years ago. This year I decided to give up this role and concentrate on my other volunteers roles within the Society where my expertise can be better utilised.


Q. What do you enjoy most about your role(s)?

A. I enjoy organising events, lectures, presentations, workshops, outings, meeting people and making friends with like minded people. Mind you volunteering has its own constraints and frustrations as well but the challenges are to convert them into success and satisfaction.

There is also satisfaction in receiving recognition. In 2013 I was awarded Fenton Medal and Honorary Life Membership of the Society. The award is made to a member or non-member who has made an outstanding contribution to the work of The Royal Photographic Society.


Q. How do you manage your life around volunteering?

A. Fortunately I can spare time as I am now retired. I doubt if I would have ever found time for volunteering when I was working and when my children were growing up. I found satisfaction out of volunteering to be quicksand- it sucks you in deeper and deeper. I, personally, found that the more I took on the more pleasure I got to deliver, but then it can get a bit too much as well if you’re not careful.  

At one stage I was wearing eight different hats as a volunteer with the RPS - Regional Organiser North West, Exhibition Co-ordinator (International Images for Science Exhibition 2011 & 2013), Chairman Medical Group, Member Science Committee, Vice-Chairman Analogue Group, Chairman Imaging Science Qualification Board, Member Distinctions Advisory Board, and Member Combined Royal Colleges Medal Award Committee.

It is important to volunteer in the area where you have the expertise and interest and there are many to choose from within the Society. Most members think they can volunteer in the Regions and Groups only, that certainly is not the case.


Q. How has volunteering benefited you?

A. I initiated and established the first International Images for Science Exhibition in 2011 and then in 2013 which today has become one of the highlight events of the Society. During these years I dealt with scientists, researchers, technologists and scientific photographers from all over the world. I was amazed how much I learned, not only about science and applications of photography in science but also about co-ordinating exhibitions, research, publication, managing budget and delivering in time. And, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention- I also learned how to find sponsors to raise funds.

I went on to co-ordinate the Special Interest Group exhibition and the first Exhibition of the Analogue Group which were displayed at the Fenton House. As Chair of the Medical Group I co-ordinated 'Visualising Medicine' exhibition which was also shown at the Fenton House. All in all I have co-ordinated five exhibitions and in each case I learned something new.

As the RO for the North West I invited famous UK photographers such Joe Cornish HonFRPS, Tim Flach HonFRPS, Jason Bell HonFRPS, Simon Roberts HonFRPS, Denis Thorpe HonFRPS and many others to come and speak at my region. I got to know them and some of them are now my good friends. So, as you can see I did not only learn a lot about photography but I also made many friends.

As Chair of the Medical Group I met many world class clinicians and scientist such as Dr Gavriel J Iddan, Professor Adolf Friedrich Fercher and Professor Anders Persson to name a few who use images in medicine and were the recipients of the Combined Royal Colleges Medal. This medal was established by The Society in 1958, in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.  The Combined Royal Colleges Medal is awarded for an outstanding contribution to the advancement and/or application of medical photography or the wider field of medical imaging.

To be honest every role I took on as a volunteer has been a joy and there was always something new to learn.


Q. What advice would you give to other members who may be interested in volunteering?

A. My advice to other members who may be interested in volunteering is to think carefully and only take on something which interests you and for which you have the time and expertise in. I always wanted people on my committee who were productive and cost effective. The Society pays for volunteers' expenses as no volunteer should be out of pocket but equally well the volunteer must not be a couch potato at the meetings but is required to actively participate and make positive contribution by accepting responsibilities.