I have spent the last few days producing my annual book that maps and tells the story of my life over the year photographically. It is a personal ‘album’ not on sale and it simply covers aspects I would otherwise forget.
It does however take ages to put together well and it needs a thorough edit. It isn’t cheap and the software sometimes cumbersome to use but I do like Blurb Books and the printing. The resulting publication is classy, lasts and above all makes the images stand out on the page. I do like it. I try to keep the design simple and the pages uncluttered.
It is a cathartic exercise and one that keeps my whole mind active for a few days. The text pages are also fun to write but keeping them consistent in style is not one I find easy over days of production!
One of my releases from this is to trawl the internet for inspiring images and to generally keep abreast of all things photographic. I am a member of the Royal Photographic Society and for some time have wondered why. I recently received their monthly Journal through the post as nearly all members do. However, I was moved this time to pass comment on the esteemed body’s website Forum. Only in the Members section of course, so as not to put off any potential new members.
My gripes around the RPS are many, however, I have resisted up until now the easy jibes about blazered old men sitting around oak panelled rooms in leather winged chairs, smoking cigars and sipping cognac or single malts. Up until now.
I should have not renewed my subscription to this Society a while ago but I did because simply leaving is the easy option. The Society has been running since its formation in 1853 by photographic pioneers of the time, became Royal by decree in 1894 and received the Royal Charter in 2004. The important bit is that it was formed and continues to operate under a Charitable status, the Charter sets out its aims and purpose with the main being to “promote the art and science of photography with the belief that no one is too young or too old to learn and enjoy image making and appreciation.” It runs worldwide exhibitions and gives out three ‘Distinctions’ to photographers who, in their opinion, have reached a certain standard in the Society’s eyes. The latter is a very popular attribute and some believe it helps promote their photography both commercially and most importantly, helps educate individuals to improve their image making. It has around 10,000 paying members some from many other countries around the world.
A few times there has been very strong dissent on the Forums within the RPS from disgruntled members who want more from this esteemed body. Many members join and then leave soon after. The Society’s own survey of its Members shows a distinct lack of females, anyone under the age of 45 (with a huge majority over 60) and poor take up of the “Special Interest Groups”. The growing feeling is that it is woefully out of date and desperately needs a re-vamp. The Council are too lethargic, too stuck in their ways and too happy to continue as is even though the membership is fast ageing and the forums very poorly populated. In fact the survey showed damning concerns in a number of areas. A Society that lived by its own Charter would surely not in this day and age still have a ‘Special Interest Group’ entitled the “Digital Image Group” would it? Its membership survey shows that a massive percentage use digital so why would this be ‘special’?
The cause of my latest outburst was the monthly Journal. It dropped through my letterbox in its cellophane wrapper and looked uninviting with its ‘Lancet’ style cover complete with lifeless mono image. This is nothing new for this Journal but it remained unopened for a day. It has been lambasted on the Forum before for poor quality and interest but nothing has changed. What is apparent from the accounts is that the sending and production of this Journal is one of the most expensive exercises the Society undertakes each year . You would expect therefore that the Council would be ensuring its quality, its relevance and its impact on a regular basis? Not on your life. It still is dour, miserable and lifeless with poor printing, poor images and dull articles. (This months review of the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens comes with a major picture of a photographer clearly sporting a Canon 70-200mm!!)
I raised my dissatisfaction with the magazine on the Forum and have only got a small level of interest from other Members (most don’t frequent the Forums, why should they?) but some degree of interest from moderators and one Council member has been seen. In response to my attack on Council Members being hidden and never participating at least one decided enough was enough and posted a comment. And wow, what a comment! He basically mocked me for not reading the articles properly and condescended me with every word of his pithy, poorly set out response. Well, he was wrong to do that and this arrogance is exactly what a lot of the members feel is wrong with the Society as a whole. He ably demonstrated its loss of touch with reality.
Why do I bother? Well, you see, I have, since I was a kid, believed that people like these do not OWN something like a Royal Photographic Society, they are custodians of it. They have no right to destroy it and it should be protected from them and their like. This is one of their last bastions of Gentlemans Club hawty tawty lifestyle. Well, they should pack up and get out and find something else to destroy. The RPS is too important isn’t it? They are a disgrace and things like the membership being so biased towards men and aged men at that, should immediately trigger a massive change. It would anywhere else. It hasn’t here. Mr High Horse from the Council derided me for not understanding what a “Journal” was. It is “words first and images second”. In a Photographic Society(?) any perfectly intelligent person is entitled to enquire aren’t they? If they (the Council) fail so miserably to be able to change the title of their flagship ‘magazine’ because they themselves are unable to interpret it in any way other than literally, then shame on them.
It is time we had a Society that meant something to the masses of new photographers that buy top kit each year and something that is a voice of and for the industry. I for one am sick of accepting snobbery and self preservation over quality and relevance.
Viva la revolution!!