The mysteries of photographic distinctions dispelled!

The evening of Monday 25th April saw a good attendance of members being enlightened about the process of gaining photographic distinctions in an entertaining way by our immediate past president Sally Sallett ARPS CPAGB BPE2* (who looks as though she is working towards having more letters after her name than in it!). With quite a few of the club’s members already having distinctions, some more in the process of obtaining them and many thinking about doing something, it was a very relevant and timely talk.

Sally started by making a recommendation for all routes – “Join a club and enjoy you’re photography”. She moved on to talk about the most well-known route – the RPS (Royal Photographic Society). The RPS is the oldest photographic society in the world and has 3 levels of distinction – Licentiate, Associate and Fellow. Sally took us briefly through the requirements of each and illustrated what was required by showing both her own panel and the late Jack Bunn’s panel of prints.

Sally explaining RPS panels
Sally explaining RPS panels

She talked about what assessors like and don’t like and stressed the importance of Advisory Days. These days are organised by the RPS and allow people thinking of applying to be assessed for a distinction to be given guidance in an informal setting. We had one last year here at the club in Wakefield on a Saturday and about 30 people attended (your webmaster and 3 other members attended bringing their panel of prints along to be reviewed). One of the RPS’s assessment panel gave very helpful comments on all the panels and everyone was much wiser about what they needed to do. Two more advisory days are planned at the club for this year. Sally also showed panels from other club members and emphasised that there were plenty of members with distinctions who were always willing to give help and advice to anyone wanting to have a go. She gave everyone lots of useful information so hopefully there will be many more members going in for RPS distinctions.

After the break Sally went on to discuss the PAGB (Photographic Alliance of Great Britain) and the BPE (British Photographic Exhibitions) awards. The PAGB is an organisation covering photographic clubs across the entire country and provides a range of awards of photographic merit – credit, distinction and master. There is cross representation between the RPS and the PAGB but they are very different organisations. Gaining awards follows what may appear a similar route in presenting a set of prints, but this time they are judged individually rather than as a panel and not in sequence – in fact they are mixed up with all other applicants so each print has to stand on its own. Each has to have impact as they are only assessed for a few seconds. Each is scored and then the total added up. If an applicant reached the appropriate total then they get their award (if they’re just below the total the set of images may be reviewed to see if it should still get an award). The PAGB provides a system of mentoring which Sally said she found very useful. Unlike the RPS, once you gain an award you don’t have to pay for membership to keep using your “letters”.

Sally rounded off with the BPE (British Photographic Exhibitions). This is an organisation which bases its awards on images accepted for exhibition in a range of “salons” across the country. You can send in your entries for one of the listed exhibitions and if it is accepted you get one point for each image accepted. Over time you can amass points and once you get to 25 points you are BPE1 (level 1). 50 points will give you level 2 , 100 level 3, 200 level 4 and 300 level 5. The methods of assessment are similar to PAGB so impact is again very important.

Rounding off the evening there were plenty of comments and questions which will all, hopefully, lead to more awards for members. An excellent and informative evening.

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