On this last day of January I’m feeling ever more guilty about not actually shooting any wet plates in the cold. Luckily, I had some distractions in the form of my presentation for the Milton Photographic Club on the 21st of January, a portfolio review at Caius College with the good people from Phocus (the Cambridge University Photographic Society) and the viewing of the newly put together King’s College Darkroom. Apart from that, I finally joined the RPS and even though I fully forgot about the presentation being held today on ‘How to get Published’ I’ll be looking forward in getting involved in my local (East Anglian) Region.
The talk at the Milton Photographic Society went well – I always dread I sound boring, flat or monotonous or that I’m not explaining the process correctly, making people more confused then they might already have been. I was warmly received by the organiser Duncan and by Chris, whom I knew from a Bloggers meetup I used to frequent and who kindly subjected himself to my wetplating in it’s earlier stages. Even though the group was smaller than the one I spoke to on my first attempt at this presentation, they were polite, attentive and full of questions. I re-structured the presentation and I am pleased to say it worked a lot better – the evening went by in a flash and we finished up in the local pub for a not-so-quick half pint. Should Milton be your locality and you are looking for a casual meet-up group to discuss photography, meet speakers and mount exhibitions of your work, this group could be for you.
The portfolio review at Gaius and Gonville was another matter. Organised by Phocus member Barney and president Giulia, the turn-up was a healthy 10+ people who were crammed into Barney’s living room at the College. As informal as meeting as could be, we sat in a circle on the floor and presented our works to the other group members and received their comments, good or bad. Initially, I was not going to go – It was very cold outside – but I am very happy I did. The comments were always constructive, and I was especially impressed by the knowledge Barney presented on current photographers, places to gather information and the best places to source film. I presented a small gathering of my Medium format film work and took away 2 photographers to check out (Mark Power, Gerry Johansson) and a German website (Macodirect.de) to buy film. All comments and suggestions were individually tailored and there was none of that ‘oh that’s perfect, no comment’ nonsense that I hate so much!
Phocus has a lot of activities going on per term, and it’s not student-only although the majority of their membership will be. If you don’t mind being shown up by the sheer talent some of these people possess in the (much) younger years, I would suggest joining. You can find them on www.phocus.org.uk, which is not updated that frequently or just join their Facebook group to stay up to date. Lifetime membership was £20 or £25 last year when I joined and you can join at any event, just message one of the member on the committee.
My third photographic engagement was the viewing of the King’s College Darkroom. Once established and up-and-running as it should, it was closed for building works to be carried out. The college decided to do this over the Summer break, so the people that used to be involved were not notified, or they may have graduated and moved on. Other (newer) student were left wondering what happened to their darkroom and since building works lasted for about a year and a half, the darkroom was all but forgotten.
Luckily, a few photographic enthousiasts managed to bide their time and keep an eye out for further developments, apply for the funding and in general fought hard to preserve this nearly extinct facility for future generations of students to pass though King’s. On the Sunday I visited, I met up with Jack (who is petitioning for the funding), Pranav (who is doing most of the physical organisation of the space) and Peter (who was, like me, there to help out). Pranav has already done a lot of the cleaning required and we shifted and matched up parts to see what was still needed and hopefully, fingers crossed, Jack will bring some good news in a couple of weeks time that funding has been approved, the rest of the materials and equipment bought and the darkroom will once again be up and running!
How the darkroom will be run in a practical sense is still to be formally decided. They are hoping to bring in members of Phocus (and maybe share some of the cost involved) and otherwise opening it up to the general public for a small fee per session. It might look like papers and film will be made available, but again, nothing has been formally decided on that. You can find the King’s College Darkroom Society on Facebook.