• Walter Benzie FRPS

    We were extremely pleased this week to welcome back Walter Benzie to our club. Since his last visit five years ago, Walter has been extremely busy in his position as the President of the Royal Photographic Society - a role from which he stepped down only recently. Walter came to talk to us about the RPS and the three levels in the Distinction process to which photographers everywhere may apply.

    Walter began by explaining that the main aim of the RPS is to promote excellence in photography and image making by supporting photographers and enabling them to reach their full potential irrespective of their level of knowledge, equipment or skills. Founded in 1853, the RPS has pursued these objectives tirelessly for more than a century and a half, and was granted a Royal Charter in 2004 in recognition of its good work. Walter also explained that the society's main photographic collection, including a vast number of historic prints, was moved last year from the National Media Museum in Bradford to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

    The Distinction process was explained and illustrated in great detail by Walter including a slide show in which we saw some very impressive examples of photographs submitted by successful applicants. We learnt about the three levels of accreditation in the process: Licentiate, Associate and Fellowship. Walter then went on to take us through the expectations of applicants at each level which included print panels and sequences of digital images, both becoming increasingly more demanding at each level. For example, at the Licentiate level applicants must submit a panel of ten prints demonstrating a variety of techniques, at the Associate level it is fifteen prints and to gain a Fellowship the expectation is a panel of twenty prints.

    Walter explained that the RPS provides very good support to both members and non-members through advisory days that are held around the country in which there are opportunities to view successful submissions and receive personal guidance on the standard and preparation of one's work. There are also a number of special interest groups for members to join which focus on particular areas of photography and image-making. For example: Archaeology & Heritage, Contemporary, Creative, Audio Visual.

    Overall, we enjoyed a most interesting evening - Walter is such a gifted communicator and a great enthusiast and advocate for the RPS and photography in general. We were also greatly inspired by the quality of the images shown by Walter to illustrate his talk. The evening concluded by a short question and answer session followed by a sincere vote of thanks given by society President David Nicholls.