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THE DECISIVE MOMENT

Quarterly journal from the Documentary Group

May 2020 Edition 19

Photo: Joanne Coates


Contents 4

Winner of the December 2019 Bi-Monthly Competition

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From Our Chair

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Winner of the February 2020 Bi-Monthly Competition

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The Documentary Group

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Joanne Coates - Cabin Fever

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RPS Documentary Distinctions Advisory Day

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Liz Vaz ARPS

58

Documentary Photography Resources

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Ron Evans ARPS - He’s in the Dark

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Jo Kearney ARPS - Photographing Balykchy

94

Gary Jones ARPS - Eagle Hunters of the Altai Mountains

106 Charles Ashton ARPS - COVID London 118 New RPS Documentary Courses

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Joanne Coates - Cabin Fever p12

Liz Vaz ARPS p42

Jo Kearney ARPS - Photographing Balykchy p76

Gary Jones ARPS - Eagle Hunters of the Altai Mountains p94

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Bi-Monthly Competition Winner

Winner of the December 2019 Bi-Monthly Competition The entries for the sixth bi-monthly competition of 2019 can be seen on the Documentary Group section of the RPS website: rps.org/groups/documentary/bi-monthly-competition.

The winning image was ‘Double Bass’ by Angus Stewart ARPS This is a shot from an ongoing project on cabaret and burlesque in London. This particular shot was taken at a charity show raising money for Cabaret vs Cancer in North London - the performers worked with the band to create original acts for the show, in this case the performers costume was a ’big bass’. I particularly liked this shot as the cabaret performer is ’mirrored’ with the musician behind. The band gave the whole show a ’speakeasy’ feel - it was a great evening for a great cause.

Highly Commended Images The December 2019 competition had three highly commended images. ‘Woodcarver’ by Ian Wright ARPS, ‘X-Box Generation’ by Mark Adams and ‘Chargrilling Artichokes Sicilian Style’ by Ian Tasker.

Our popular bi-monthly single documentary image competition is open for all Documentary Group members to submit their best/favourite photos. There will be a prize of “New ways of seeing” by Grant Scott for the winner. Your entries should be sent to dgcompetitions@rps.org The winner will be selected shortly after the closing date by the Documentary Group Committee. All images will be put into a Documentary Group gallery on the RPS website and some selected for publication in The Decisive Moment. 4


Bi-Monthly Competition Winner

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From Our Chair The world as we knew it has paused for the moment, perhaps changed forever. The COVID-19 situation has impacted us all in different ways and there are probably more uncertain times ahead. The challenges have resulted in many changes in the RPS and in the Documentary Group. For some, the COVID-19 situation has resulted in layoffs or furloughing, for others it has increased work. Within the Documentary Committee this has also been the case as some of us have been pulled into managing changes in businesses and education. As a result, a few things have taken us longer than planned. Our apologies, but I hope you will understand. One big impact of the crisis has been on the touring exhibition of Documentary Photographer of the Year. Many of the planned events are now on hold or postponed, some will probably be cancelled. We hope to be able to hold events later in the year. In the meantime, five large cases with the 30 exhibition prints and materials are sitting in my hall! Likewise, our AGM, due to be held at RPS HQ in April, has been postponed until later in the year. We had also planned a series of workshops on documentary photography, but these are also being pushed back, as we consider options to do them online or reschedule once restrictions are lifted. The RPS has run a number of online events. We are planning to do the same but are also conscious there is a lot of online activity already in progress. As a first step, we have started to provide online resources (on the RPS Documentary webpages) covering online picture archives and a summary of books relating to documentary and street photography. We will add to these lists together with short reviews of favourite photobooks. If you have any recommendations, please let us know. I’d like to be able to build a library of resources that help anyone wanting to understand and undertake documentary photography.

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For some time, RPS Documentary Group has been planning a workshop series dedicated to working on documentary projects. Our intent is to provide members with the knowledge, skills and confidence to develop stronger documentary projects. I am pleased to announce that these will be starting shortly and initially be held online and advertised in our Events page. As well as the main talks and events, the RPS is now offering one-to-one distinction Advisory sessions online, via Zoom. I actually took the opportunity myself and found the session really helpful and constructive. So, if anyone is thinking of submitting a portfolio for a distinction, I’d recommend booking an online session via the RPS website. It is also pleasing to see that a number of our regional sub-groups are running events online in a range of different formats. The online option might provide an answer for regions that have struggled to form sub-groups or put on events, mainly due to venue and travel challenges. If anyone is interested in organising an online subgroup, we would be pleased to hear from you. Justin Cliffe, our Treasurer for over seven years is standing down. My thanks go to him for exceptional service over such a long period. This has been planned as a phased handover to be confirmed at the AGM. In the meantime, we have co-opted Andrew Ripley on to the committee to take over as Treasurer. Welcome, Andrew! For many of us the lockdown has impacted our lives and our photography. However things pan out over the coming months, stay safe! Mark A Phillips ARPS Chair, Documentary Group

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Bi-Monthly Competition Winner

Winner of the February 2020 Bi-Monthly Competition

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Bi-Monthly Competition Winner

The entries for the first bi-monthly competition of 2020 can be seen on the Documentary Group section of the RPS website: rps.org/groups/documentary/bi-monthly-competition.

The winning image was ‘Child of Moria camp’ by Mark Slater This image is part of a wider piece of work focusing on the migrants who are currently living in the infamous Moria Refugee camp on Lesbos Greece. The numbers are sprayed onto the homes people have build in the Olive Grove camp, which is located just outside of the main camp. The original migrant camp of Moria was built to hold 3,000 people, to date there are over 20,000 people living in or around the camp. Conditions within this area are appalling, but NGO’s and international aid agencies are trying to improve the situation. But with conditions deteriorating and more migrants arriving almost daily this is a challenging situation. For children in the camp there is little to do, access to healthcare is problematic and many children have underlying health issues, only compounded by poor sanitation and living conditions.

Highly Commended Images The February 2020 Bi-Monthly competition has three highly commended images. ‘Damaged Retinas’ by Katherine Maguire LRPS, ‘Game Shoot Kinger’ by Ian Wright ARPS and ‘Dave’ by Ann Chown ARPS

Our popular bi-monthly single documentary image competition is open for all Documentary Group members to submit their best/favourite photos. There will be a prize of “New ways of seeing” by Grant Scott for the winner. Your entries should be sent to dgcompetitions@rps.org The winner will be selected shortly after the closing date by the Documentary Group Committee. All images will be put into a Documentary Group gallery on the RPS website and some selected for publication in The Decisive Moment. 9


The Documentary Group Team Documentary Group Committee: Chair:

Mark A Phillips ARPS

doc@rps.org

Secretary:

David Barnes LRPS

docsecretary@rps.org

Treasurer:

Justin Cliffe ARPS

doctreasurer@rps.org

Members:

Andrew Ripley

Harry Hall FRPS Patricia Hilbert Dave Thorp

Sub-Group Organisers: East Midlands:

Volunteer Required

docem@rps.org

South East:

Jeff Owen LRPS

docse@rps.org

Northern:

Peter Dixon ARPS

docnorthern@rps.org

Southern:

Christopher Morris ARPS docsouthern@rps.org

Thames Valley:

Philip Joyce ARPS

doctv@rps.org

East Anglia:

Malcolm English ARPS

docea@rps.org

Yorkshire:

Graham Evans LRPS

docyork@rps.org

The Decisive Moment: Editor: Dave Thorp decisive@rps.org Sub-Editors:

Dr Graham Wilson

Lyn Newton LRPS Editorial:

Gerry Phillipson LRPS

And the rest of the team: Bi-Monthly Competition Manager: Patricia Hilbert dgcompetitions@rps.org Social Media:

Patricia Hilbert

Flickr: Dave Thorp

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docweb@rps.org


The Documentary Group Goals for 2020 - 2021 Overall Objective To help support the RPS Strategic Plan and specifically increase the relevance of the RPS for Documentary Photography (especially for younger photographers) and engage wider audiences. We have decided to focus our goals under the three headings of promote, educate, and encourage:

Promote - the highest standards of achievement in photography These activities are focussed around showcasing and celebrating high quality photographic work and thinking, which is fundamental to the RPS’s purpose.

Educate - members of the public by increasing their knowledge and understanding of photography As an educational charity, it is important we continue to develop the range and reach of our educational work. We want to help photographers develop their practice, and also educate nonphotographers about what is current in documentary photography.

Encourage - the public appreciation of photography We want to engage with more people, including those who are not photographers, to appreciate the value of documentary photography so that it is enjoyed by as many people as possible. Full details of The Documentary Group Plans for 2020-2021 can be found in Edition 18 of The Decisive Moment.

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

Joanne Coates Cabin Fever A photo essay looking at the “hidden” crisis of rural homelessness. An unexpected story of hope during a global crisis, and a focus on the problems of those who are forgotten when a pandemic strikes. Americana themed log cabins nestled in the heart of tranquillity provide a different story for five men.

Misty mornings, endless wild and barren moorland, dry stone walls, and pretty villages. I was born and bred in North Yorkshire. I returned to the area after studying photography at the London College of Communication, knowing I couldn’t afford to stay on in the capital. The journey of this working class northern woman’s route to becoming a documentary photographer wasn’t simple. My teenage years were turbulent, filled with loss and trauma. I had no choice but to try and escape. To do that, at 17 years old, meant becoming homeless. My work often takes on this personal lived experience. I can’t explain it but there is an element of family connection, the familiar. This work, Cabin Fever, looks at rural homeless during a pandemic. 12


Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

Looking back to Monday 23rd March 2020, I sat and watched what we all knew was going to be inevitable. Lockdown was announced. Tuesday, I was officially meant to be moving into a farm cottage in rural Northumberland to begin work on a residency with the Centre for Rural Economy and Berwick Visual Arts. My work for the next six months was going to be around gender roles and farming. I stayed put. A bleak rural landscape, my dog for company, slow internet, and my partner. I found myself becoming restless with a sense of unease at what was happening to the marginalised in our communities. The Dales are known for picturesque countryside and hay meadows. Rural homelessness is not what springs to mind. House prices in the Yorkshire Dales National Park average just over £317,0001, more than double the value for the wider region. These areas are often considered to be affluent. Last year, rural communities saw a rise in homelessness from 9,312 to 17,2122. In rural areas the homeless are rarely visible, sleeping in barns, under bridges, in graveyards, in tents far from public view, going from couch to couch, and sleeping in cars. The effects are still the same. It is no surprise that unhoused people are the most vulnerable to the Covid virus. There are so many reasons someone can become homeless: a bereavement, a relationship breakdown, the loss of a job, struggling with addiction. In many areas the rising price of homes and lack of affordable housing contributes. It is not just bad luck. In Yorkshire, the rise of homelessness has gone hand in hand with well paid professionals flocking to the area and driving up house prices. There is an on-going need for affordable housing3 across the whole Richmondshire district. Prices have inched higher and higher and more properties are second homes. From 2010 to 2016, rural local authorities recorded a 32% rise4 in cases of homelessness. I then heard about The Jonas Centre, which helps the rural homeless, and is ten minutes from where I live.

1  www.businessfast.co.uk/is-the-second-home-market-damaging-uk-nationalparks 2  Figures from Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) 3  11.3% of households live in affordable housing, mainly renting from social housing landlords (2011 Census). 4  www.rsnonline.org.uk/rural-homelessness-an-invisible-issue 14


Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

The moors just above the centre. The road leads out to the town of Richmond and Army base at Catterick

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

‘This has saved me in more ways than you could realise’ - Matthew* Adam* is a builder, now out of work. He was living in the back of his van when lockdown began. With the two public health crises of homelessness and coronavirus colliding head-on, he was referred to The Jonas Centre. I first met him on Good Friday. He had arrived on Thursday and was just settling in. I asked Adam what he missed the most. He looked at me, and then down at the ground... ’My one-yearold son’. The Jonas Centre sits in the heart of Wensleydale. This tranquil site with log cabins seems far removed from a pandemic. People often assume there is no poverty in a place like this. The holiday centre offers subsidised cabins for underprivileged families, carers who need a break, adults with special needs and those with disabilities, alongside regular rate holidays. It has now turned itself into a makeshift shelter offering its log cabins to individuals and families who are homeless in the Richmondshire district. When the crisis began Simon Eastwood, the centre director, acted early saying ‘I knew we were going to have to shut down. We had log cabins here that were sitting empty’. He said to the council ‘We’ve worked with you before, providing for the homeless. We want to do it again’. Matthew* became homeless after his relationship broke down. He was struggling with alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and combat trauma. ‘I couldn’t pay my rent or pay my rates or anything like that. So that’s how I ended up on the streets.’ Three of the men here are exforces. The virus has meant that those who were already struggling have become homeless. Jonny* explains ‘I was evicted from my property last month and was in the process of looking for a private rent, until we went on lockdown’.

* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals 18


Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

The cabins offer a safe space to socially distance and each resident has their own cabin. Built in the 1970s, they have recently been renovated. The internet comes from a red public phone box. The men have laundry facilities, a fridge, a TV, and heating. But there are still problems. For many of the men it is hard to adjust to this very different lifestyle, and the worry of what will happen next hangs over them. There is a very real possibility of large numbers of people becoming homeless as a result of loss of income during the coronavirus crisis. Almost 17 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks. ‘Hopefully at the end of the pandemic, homeless people won’t have to go back to the streets’ said Matthew*, one of the homeless residents of The Jonas Centre. Lord Bird, The Big Issue founder has said ‘We cannot allow the streets to return to where they were pre-Covid-19. I want the government to say “okay, we will not allow this situation to happen again”. It is crucial that they survive to come out the other side too’. Coronavirus has already taken the lives of thousands. Now is the time to stop it affecting the futures of thousands more people. The Jonas Trust charity is a Wensleydale business located at Redmire, near Leyburn, in the Yorkshire Dales. The centre still has room for people or families who find themselves homeless during the pandemic.

The Jonas Centre

www.jonascentre.org

Shelter www.shelter.org.uk Crisis www.crisis.org.uk SASH www.sash-uk.org.uk Rural Services Network

www.rsnonline.org.uk

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

I asked Adam* what he missed the most. He looked at me, and then down at the ground... ’My one-year-old son’

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

I asked the men to put meaningful possessions outside their cabins. The answer was almost always the same, ‘I don’t have anything’ A phone. Sunglasses. A key. A rucksack. A watch.

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

Simon runs the centre. He has had to furlough most of his staff and wanted to do something to help the homeless during the pandemic

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

Eric is a volunteer at the centre he is currently looking after the animals and the grounds. He is ex-army and has connected well with the men who are were also in the army

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

Each man has his own cabin The cabins can sleep a family of five

A new arrival settles in

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

The internet for the centre comes from the only phone at the site An old red phone box

Many of the men are ex-army Many of the men also have PTSD, anxiety, and combat trauma

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

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Cabin Fever - Joanne Coates

About The part where we write about ourselves as artists/photographers is always tough. I’m still based in the rural North of England in communities where blowing your own trumpet is frowned upon. I am from a working class background and use documentary photography as a way of telling stories. My main interests are rurality, working life and class inequality. My work has previously been exhibited in the UK and internationally. I am a member of the Trace, Form and Women Photograph collectives. I am also the director of the arts organisation Lens Think, which encourages people to meet, share, grow ideas and develop photography in the North of England. It aims to fight for class equality and a more creative industry through participation and radical community arts. What is next? Next year is going to be very unpredictable. I am going to be working with Scottish multi-instrumentalist and contemporary composer Erland Cooper on a piece of work that will consist of audio recordings and images. The work will look at gender roles around farming. I will be based in Northumberland until the end of October. The paid residency, with Berwick Visual Arts in partnership with Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy and the Institute for Creative Arts Practice, will explore how artists and academics can collaborate to inform and develop new approaches to rural research. This is really a chance to experiment and focus on a new body of work. Alongside this I will continue to look at the after-effects of the pandemic on the farming industry in the North East and Yorkshire. I have set up partnerships with fruit pickers and agricultural firms. This will take on the form of a documentary photo essay. The North East Contemporary Visual Arts Network (NECVAN) has awarded me with a creative space residency and I want to look at how to engage communities in a safe but socially distanced way. Lastly, I have been commissioned by New Creatives North on a talent development scheme to make brand new work in film. The programme is co-funded by Arts Council England and BBC Arts. I will be making an immersive documentary short around farming and mental health. All of this will be challenging in our current climate, but I am looking forward to making it work. Social Media: Twitter // JoanneRCoates

Instagram // JoanneRCoates

Website: www.joannecoates.co.uk 31


Documentary Distinctions

RPS Documentary Distinctions Advisory Day In February of this year, the Western Region hosted the first Documentary Distinctions Advisory Day at RPS HQ in Bristol, organised by Michelle Whitmore ARPS and Suzanne Johnson LRPS. Leading the day were Simon Leach FRPS, Documentary Distinctions Panel Chair, and Steve Smith FRPS, one of the Documentary Distinctions Panel Members. As well as many photographers seeking advice and observers, the day was attended by the Documentary Group Chair, Mark Phillips ARPS and DM Editor, Dave Thorp. The Royal Photographic Society launched its new Documentary genre distinction at the end of 2019, defined as ‘Photography which communicates a clear narrative through visual literacy’. This feature aims to expand on the key points raised during the first dedicated Advisory day. It is intended to supplement, not replace, the definitive guidance published by the RPS Distinctions team and highlights additional sources of information that may be helpful to those aspiring for a distinction in Documentary. The Documentary Special Interest Group aims to support members achieve RPS Distinctions by helping members undertake high-quality documentary photography projects generally. Specific advice on distinctions is provided by the Distinctions Team and we aim to continue to work with them to help you in your journey. Our 2020-2021 Plan, through its goals to Promote, Educate and Encourage, includes a range of activities intended to assist photographers as they develop their practice and showcase highquality photographic work and thinking. A series of workshops and features are planned, covering the lifecycle of a project from initial idea and intent, developing narrative, conducting research, through execution, to editing, sequencing and ‘getting it out there’.

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Documentary Distinctions

Photography which communicates a clear narrative through visual literacy The February Advisory Day started with introductions from Simon Leach, Steve Smith, and Mark Phillips, and a talk through some successful Associate panels. The RPS website currently includes examples by Chon Kit Han ARPS, Phillip Butler ARPS and Brian Morgan ARPS. In this edition of The Decisive Moment, we also feature successful Documentary Panels by Liz Vaz ARPS and Ron Evans APRS as well as documentary work by Jo Kearney ARPS, who you can watch discussing her ARPS project with Peter Hayes FRPS on the RPS website. RPS Members can also read Gemma Padley’s interview with Simon Leach FRPS in the December 2019 edition of the RPS Journal, which covers similar themes to the introduction he gave on the day. Applying for a distinction is a personal education process; looking at subjects that you are passionate about and using photography to show how you see things. Good documentary photography is knowing how to tell a story and the submission, both the images and statement of intent, plays a part in that.

Simon Leach discusses Ron Evans’ successful ARPS panel 35


Documentary Distinctions

Documentary Submissions The big difference between documentary and other distinction genres is embedded in the heart of the definition - ‘communicates a clear narrative through visual literacy’. A successful panel is more than just a collection of ‘record shots’, the images need to convey a clear intent. The RPS have recently published a set of genre definitions and guidelines aimed at ARPS submissions, which includes the following guidelines: • Concepts could include events, objects, people or places which are explored through the photographer’s immersion in the subject. • A submission regarding a particular place may have one aim but may need to clearly show many different aspects or objectives of that place; the landscape, it’s people, it’s history, a geographical aspect etc. to avoid a repetitive element. • A submission may be an opportunity to communicate 15 different visual elements of your aim and objectives within your chosen subject. • Studying other bodies of work by Documentary Photographers may help, not to replicate, but to inspire. Find elements that could develop your own approach and understanding to Documentary Photography. • It is advisable to avoid stereotypical images produced at workshops, course or tours. Although images produced at workshops, courses and tours are accepted. Documentary projects are unlikely to be successful from a single visit or a couple of short visits; it is more about a real in-depth engagement and understanding of your subject. • How accessible is your chosen subject matter? • Are you photographing from outside or from within? • Can you return to it to shoot more images as required? • How has the subject been covered previously? How does this inform your work?

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Documentary Distinctions

‘So what transforms these simple records into pictures of lasting merit? It comes down to the choice of subject. The photographer must have intense curiosity, not just passing visual interest, in the theme of the pictures. This curiosity leads to intense examination, reading, talking, research and many, many failed attempts over a long period of time.’ David Hurn - from ‘On being a photographer’

Developing the Project There was a great deal of useful feedback on the day which we’ve tried to capture the essence of here, though it can be no substitute for specific comments on your own work from a distinctions panel member. The team offer online advice and, more recently, one to one portfolio reviews online to help shape the project, identifying gaps or even shifting focus to another genre. The challenges of the documentary genre mean that the intent, narrative and the images required to convey them are likely to change as the project progresses. Many of the projects we’ve published in DM have followed this path, for example, Alys Tomlinson’s Ex-Voto. Plan on attending an Advisory day early in your project rather than treating it as a ‘mock exam’ for the assessment itself. There are many other ways of developing a project idea including: researching how the topic has been covered previously, by photographers or in other fields; using peer review events run by local groups or organisations like Photo Scratch. Research also plays an important part; it defines the context for the project, and it is also important to understand what others have already done and what approach they took.

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Documentary Distinctions

A successful panel is more than just a collection of ‘record shots’, the images need to convey a clear intent Statement of Intent The statement of intent requires photographers to explain their idea clearly and convincingly in a maximum of 150 words. There is no minimum word count and a succinct statement could be more effective than a lengthy one. Technical information about how the project was shot is generally superfluous and does not need to be included. Candidates need to be clear on what their project is about and why they are presenting it. As a starting point, you may consider trying to articulate this in one sentence, finding 3 or 4 images that tell this story and then building the panel and statement from there. Technical Aspects During the Advisory Day, observations were made about how an individual project might fit with the genre, the coherence of the panel and the strength of narrative, as well as more technical aspects such as point of focus, attention to highlights, consistency of colour and tone, colour balance across the panel, and challenges of dealing with lighting or the subject. The example panels included in this issue illustrate many of these points. The Associate distinction requires a body of work of a high standard demonstrating a high level of technical ability using techniques and photographic practices appropriate to the subject. The Fellowship requires a distinctive, distinguished and cohesive body of work throughout the project, demonstrating the highest level of technical ability using techniques and photographic practices appropriate to the subject.

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Documentary Distinctions

Narrative and Visual Literacy The documentary genre presents the challenge of conveying the intent through a visual narrative. During the advisory day there was a lot of discussion about the terms used in the Documentary definition. Although definitions of ‘Narrative’ and ‘Visual Literacy’ are easy to find, understanding how to apply them to documentary projects isn’t always clear. During the discussion on the day, Mark Phillips offered the following suggestion: “Narrative may be simply communication that tells a story, or may ask questions, but above all, it makes us think. It is important to get your work out, test your ability to construct a narrative and get feedback. Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image. Like writing and music, you can build competence in visual literacy by studying the work of others, going to exhibitions looking at photo books, and then putting this into practice in your own work. You cannot write good stories if you have not read much; you cannot compose music unless you have listened to others. Photography is no different – you need to learn how photographic techniques and symbolism can convey meaning.” The RPS Documentary Group website includes a range of resources, and suggested references, to explore these concepts further, and to understand how to apply them in practice. This resource will be expanded regularly, so it might be worth bookmarking for future reference.

Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image

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Documentary Distinctions

ARPS The Associate distinction requires applicants to submit a body of work/project consisting of 15 images and a written Statement of Intent. The images must be of a high standard. Associate Criteria • A Statement of Intent that defines the purpose of the work, identifying its aims and objectives. • A cohesive body of work that depicts and communicates the aims and objectives set out in the Statement of Intent. • A body of work that communicates an individual’s vision and understanding. • A high level of technical ability using techniques and photographic practices appropriate to the subject. • An appropriate and high level of understanding of craft and artistic presentation. The latest, definitive sources of advice relating to distinctions can be found on the RPS Website: rps.org/qualifications

Steve Smith at the Documentary Distinctions Advisory Day, February 2020

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Documentary Distinctions

Suzanne Johnson, Steve Smith, Simon Leach and Michelle Whitmore

FRPS The Fellowship distinction requires applicants to submit a body of work/project consisting of 20 or 21 images and a written Statement of Intent. Submissions are open to everyone (New for 2020). Fellowship Criteria • A submission that demonstrates a distinctive and distinguished body of work. • A Statement of Intent that defines the purpose of the work, identifying its aims and objectives. • A cohesive body of work that depicts and communicates the aims and objectives set out in the Statement of intent. • A body of work that communicates and individual’s vision and understanding. • The highest level of technical ability using techniques and photographic practices appropriate to the subject. • An appropriate and high level of understanding of craft and artistic presentation.

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

Liz Vaz ARPS

Today one in three young adults has a tattoo and it has become a far more acceptable form of expression than when I was growing up in the 70s. I am intrigued by the resurgence of this ancient art and have explored it through attending tattoo conventions. I discovered a thriving industry, skilled artists and people who are immensely proud of their tattoos. Many had beautiful depictions of spiritual traditions, geometric patterns or animals, while others were focused on representing a personal narrative, often returning many times to add to their ‘collection’. 42


ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

The tattooing process itself requires trust between the artist and customer for what is typically a session of several hours. Once a tattoo is complete there is pride, confidence, and ownership of the finished product. In my images, I showcase the journey from a virgin piece of skin to the final work of art.

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

I first went to a tattoo convention several years ago at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton. I had seen it advertised in a random internet search and thought it could be really interesting as a photo opportunity. I did not plan to go in as I felt intimidated by all the confident people with their amazing tattoos and cool accoutrements. Instead, I planned to surreptitiously take pictures as tattooed people stood in line to go into the venue or smoked and chatted outside. However, the thought of the interesting pictures to be had inside was too tempting, and so I went in. At a tattoo convention, tattoo artists sell their services. Many customers already have tattoos but pay to have additional ones put on in sessions often lasting several hours. My biggest surprise was how professional the tattoos looked. Some really were impressive works of art. I came home with some interesting images but there were many challenges for me, so the pictures were not good technically. There was little light, except spotlights for the tattoo artists, and no natural light. My widest aperture setting was f/4 which made things even more difficult. There was a lot of clutter around the tattoo artists such as posters advertising services and equipment which made the images look too busy. In addition, I was too hesitant and shy and stood too far back from the action to get many impactful images. A few months later I attended another convention, since, on reflection, I felt I had rarely been to an event that provided so many compelling photo prospects. I loved the colour, the beauty in some of the designs and how welcoming the people were. I was hooked. I took a 20mm f/2.8 prime lens and several others. This time I got closer to the action, asking permission of

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ARPS Panel - Liz Vaz ARPS

course, and started getting some more satisfactory pictures. I attended a few more conventions over the next year or so and then decided to submit my Associate portfolio. My first panel did not pass. One comment was there was repetition in the images and a second that more variety of depth of field would improve it. Printing quality in a couple of images was also mentioned. I was deflated as I had spent a lot of time editing the images, trying to make accurate selections, and otherwise trying to put together what I thought was an engaging panel. After about a year, I had another go. I met with one of the members of Amersham Photo Society, Paul Mitchell FRPS, who provided invaluable guidance. I bought an f/1.7 prime lens with the aim of introducing images with more impactful depth of field. I attended another couple of conventions, focusing on looking out for some striking scenarios and compositions. Once I felt I had the images I wanted, my approach to assembling the panel was much more natural. First time round, I had put close ups on the top row and the finished tattoo images on the bottom. This time I assembled the 15 in a set which looked good together rather than using any kind of systematic approach. I also spent less time editing the pictures because they were better in the first place. I did not eliminate the ugly backgrounds, but instead darkened them down, so there was much less post-processing work required. I was very particular with print quality and kept reprinting till I felt the pictures looked both good and consistent as a panel. The panel passed in February this year at the second attempt.

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Documentary Photography Resources The Documentary Group section of the Royal Photographic Society website now includes pages containing a variety of resources for the Documentary Group community. We will update and develop this space with recommended and useful documentary photography resources. Please let us know what else you would like to see and get in touch if you would like to help with this project. The aim is to identify books and other resources that people have found useful and to provide a little background. This is not a formal RPS or documentary endorsement of the book or resource; but think of it more as a growing catalogue that might be worth exploring. We have added a list of on-line picture archives that can serve as a source of inspiration or as research material for your documentary projects. There are reference books recommended by members on undertaking documentary photography projects. Feel free to let us know of other quality books on the practice of documentary photography, so we can add to this guide with more books and reviews. We have started with a small collection of books and resources on street photography. Street photography can be thought of as sitting within the broader documentary field, but with a specific context - of being ‘taken on the street’ or in ‘a public place’, and so representing a little of human life today and what it is has to offer visually. Street images can, and do, span both ‘documentation’ and ‘art’. For those interested or looking to develop their skills there are many books and photobooks to inform and inspire. To start with is a small list of books written largely about or for street photography and a few web-based resources.

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Contact: doc@rps.org


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ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Ron Evans ARPS - He’s in the Dark

I grew up in the southern part of America in Arkansas, and the photographs you are viewing today are reflective of the area in which I lived. The images were all made using a 35mm camera and Tri-X film, and were developed in my darkroom using D-76 one to one. For this submission to the RPS I have scanned the negatives and then made prints on HahnemĂźhle baryta paper, which closely resemble my larger silver gelatin prints. 60


ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

The word intent, as defined by The Oxford English Dictionary is ‘intention and purpose’ followed by the synonyms objective and aim. These fifteen documentary photographs are of ordinary and everyday events, taken from life. So my ‘intention and purpose’ in making this work, from my limited perspective, is clarity and a straight forward way of working. Additionally it’s my hope the photographs are original, worth seeing and not boring. 61


ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Full Moon, Winter, Arkansas

Blackbird Migration, Arkansas River, 2017

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ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Growing up in the southern United States in the state of Arkansas, I became used to people using figures of speech, like “to be in the dark”. In my case, when I was 25, playing guitar in a rock & roll band in Little Rock, Arkansas, I suffered a terrible accident to my left hand, which left me with two fingers twisted upside down at the joints and steel pins inserted to straighten them. Unable to play, I remember going to the camera store in Little Rock and buying my first ‘real’ camera, a Minolta SRT-101. Knowing nothing about cameras or photography, I bought it because I liked the way it felt in my hand! Along with the camera, I bought a stainless steel Nikkor developing tank and reels, four rolls of Tri-X film, an Omega condenser enlarger and trays, a timer and safelight, plus all the proper chemistry to become an alchemist. To me, and thousands of other photographers, my goal was to transform a thin layer of silver halide crystals into a beautiful silver print that I could hold in my hands. Of course, as a novice printmaker and new camera owner, it was hard for me to know what a ‘beautiful print’ looked like. In October 2019, I travelled to Bristol to attend a book event at the RPS held in conjunction with the Martin Parr Foundation. It was a lovely occurrence with several photographers giving talks about their work, including Stephen Gill, who presented work from his new book, The Pillar. The book and the images are remarkable, as is the man who made them. I bought three copies, with two destined as gifts for friends. On that same trip, I had taken fifteen prints from my long continuing series of photographs made in Arkansas. I left them with Dr Michael Pritchard to be considered for the Documentary ARPS distinction.

James with Hunting Dog, Redfield, Arkansas

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ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Dobbins Store, Allison, Arkansas

I was honoured to be told in February that I had received the Associateship distinction, which can mean only one thing; the bottle of Macallan single malt whisky had found its way to the panel of fellows, and performed its magic! By that, I mean to say that photographers should believe in their work, even if others do not. Photographs are subjective and are subject to the beliefs and feelings of the people viewing them, which is why a panel acting as judges is more democratic. Having no formal education in photography is something I regret. Over the years, I have learned by looking at other people’s work, making mistakes, and printing my pictures. During the early 1970s, I subscribed to the few serious photography magazines that were available; publications like Camera which was published in Lucerne, Switzerland and was edited by Allan Porter, an American who had a talent for design. The reproduction of photographs was sheet feed gravure, absolutely superb for that period. A fanciful jest, perhaps, but I wonder if Gerhard Steidl was their printer? I also subscribed to Creative Camera, published in the UK in the silver cover days. It was a very important publication which allowed me to become acquainted with the work of many UK photographers then working, though it also included work from elsewhere. I also took the US Aperture Magazine; the latest issue of Aperture, #238, sits on my desk as I write this.

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Tree in Fog - Lake Conway, Arkansas

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ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Sisters on their front porch, N.W. Arkansas

The Dugger Brothers, White County Fair, Arkansas

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Patrick diving, Scott, Arkansas

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Man hunting for diamonds, Arkansas

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Gravedigger, eastern Arkansas

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The crop-duster incident, Arkansas

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Farm dog chasing my car, Denmark, Arkansas

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ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Interview by Gerry Phillipson LRPS What inspired you to document the area in which you live? It seemed the most natural place to make photographs. No one was telling me what to photograph and my guides were pictures I had seen in books and magazines that had an impact on me emotionally and visually. When you live in a place like Arkansas you know the lay of the land and the people there. Some you may know personally. You also know something about the local customs. In the end, it’s about access; if people are suspicious of your intentions it’s going to be hard to get pictures that appear natural and believable. I grew up in Arkansas and know the area very well, so I went out with my camera searching as a hunter would. The state of Arkansas promotes itself as “The Natural State” due to its raw beauty. It’s greener than most areas of America and is full of farmland, streams, lakes, and forests. The first photograph in my panel, “Full moon in winter,” is an example of this natural beauty. It’s also one of the rare times I set up a tripod to make a picture, the few leaves still attached are soft due to the wind. Why did you decide to work in black and white? Is the answer print-related? Yes, physical prints are very important in my work as a photographer. I grew up seeing the weekly Life magazine, which contained stunning picture essays that were generally in black and white. So I thought black and white was the thing I wanted to do photographically. I could also manage the whole process myself, the film development and the printing. Colour was much more difficult and more expensive, but basically, I just wanted to work in monochrome. Setting aside the questions of black and white versus colour, I do enjoy making something with my own hands. Pictures that would not exist in the world if I did not take the time to go out and make them. Why did you decide to include one photo in colour? Well, I see in colour and thought it would add a little interest to the submission, being the final image on the panel. I do make photographs in colour, and don’t recoil from it, though my preference remains black and white. Years ago, someone asked me what my favourite colour was and I answered “grey.” He immediately started laughing and said, “That’s not a colour!” To which I replied, “Since I’m not colour blind, it must be.” Which photograph from your panel gives you most satisfaction? It’s probably the image of the three pigs, for several reasons. One morning, I drove out from Little Rock intending to explore the western part of the State. After lunch, I turned onto an unmarked dirt road and passed several small farms and homes. Then, up ahead, I noticed a farmer walking towards his mailbox. I stopped the car, got out, walked up to him, and said “hello”. Just for conversation, I then asked him how far away the next town was although I was in absolutely no hurry to get there. As he answered I glanced over the barbed wire fence and noticed a wooden pigsty with three large pigs rooting around in the dirt, stirring up dust. The scene was something I had never witnessed before, and having my camera on my shoulder I raised it, focused, and clicked off a shot. The sound of the shutter caught the attention of the pigs. One moved back into the darkness, while the other two peered out at me. One appeared to be smiling. Advancing the film, I made a second exposure, at which point all three bolted out of the small shelter and ran up the hill towards a barn. The amused farmer said, “I believe they like you!” After developing the film that night, I thought the second shot was a good photograph. The next day, I went into the darkroom and made a print of it. Not being a purist, I cropped the 35mm Tri-X negative as a square thinking it focused attention just on the denizens. A year later, I moved to Dallas, and once I was settled, decided to drive down to The University of Texas in Austin, where Russell Lee taught photography. Russell was one of the Farm Security 72


ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Three Pigs, Arkansas

Administration (FSA) photographers who worked alongside Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. I knew some of his documentary work through books, and admired it, so I went into the journalism department, asked if he was in, and was eventually able to meet him. During that first meeting, he asked if I had brought any work with me. I told him I had some prints out in the car. He looked through them all slowly and, then, pulled out the print of the three pigs. “I’ve seen a lot of pig pictures in my days as a photographer,” he said, “probably hundreds, and this may be the best one I’ve seen. It has mystery to it, with the snout showing from the pig back in the darkness. It has atmosphere to it, with all the dust swirling around in the air, and it’s somewhat surreal with the pig smiling at left. In some ways, it reminds me of a Dürer etching. This is your best picture by far of the batch you have shown me. The next time you come through Austin I would like you to stop by the department and show me some new work. I would enjoy seeing what you find interesting.” With that, I thanked him, and handed him the pig print and said, “I would really like you to have this” and he said “Thank you. I’m going to show it to my students tomorrow.” So that is why this particular photograph gives me some satisfaction. The fact that it just happened out of the blue, something I wasn’t expecting. And it wouldn’t have happened if I had just driven past the farmer and not stopped. When Russell Lee told me it was the best picture of pigs he had ever seen it was such a great compliment. That is the kind of thing that inspires you to continue working in photography, as with the ARPS documentary honour granted by a panel of photographers that I have never met but feel close affinity too. 73


ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Which photograph from the panel did you find the most difficult to achieve? If the definition of the word ‘difficult’ includes the idea of ‘skill to accomplish’, I would say the photograph of the farm dog chasing my car. I was in the small town of Denmark, in the north-east of Arkansas, searching an abandoned cemetery for the grave of my great-great-grandfather, Perry Evans. After several hours, I gave up and started back down the road towards Little Rock. Within the first hundred yards, I could see a large dog, in the front yard of a farmhouse, just starting his run out towards the highway to give chase. As I came closer to the dog I could see that no cars were coming down the highway from the opposite direction so I moved into the opposite lane and slowed down to his speed. On the seat next to me was my Leica M6, so I reached for it, brought it up to the open window, and squeezed off one shot without lifting the camera to my eye. Then I moved back over to the right side of the road. At the time I thought, there is no way this picture is going to turn out well; the exposure will be off, as well as the focus. When I developed the film and saw that the frame was almost perfect I thought, how lucky can you be? If you could rework the panel what changes would you now make? When putting together my panel, I began with around thirty-five images from the Arkansas series made over many years. My younger brother lives there and I always photograph when I am back in my home state. I first selected what I thought were the strongest fifteen individual images, spread them out on a table, and sequenced them into what I thought was a logical arrangement. The next day, I looked at them again and changed four of the pictures into a different order. The day after that, I decided to replace three others which seemed to work better in the sequencing scheme. This went on for about a week and a half. In the end, I decided to send a sample from around the state, with about half of them from my original ‘strongest’ pictures. I wanted to include photographs that had people in them, and eight of the fifteen do so. If I was to start all over again, I guess the panel might be different. This process had value for me, as it makes you ask why you made each picture in the first place, and what attracts you to it now. Would the results have been different at the distinction judging with a different set of pictures? Maybe. If the judging panel does not agree with what you send, you should still believe in your work and try again. Do you have a “one that got away,” photo that didn’t make it into the panel? This is the best photo I decided not to include. It was made during Thanksgiving weekend in Stuttgart, Arkansas, at the annual ‘World Championship Duck Calling Contest’. Duck hunting is a main attraction in the Fall months, and this competition brings in people from all over the country who sit behind a blind (stacked hay bales) and call ducks. I do believe this is a good photograph and seriously considered including it in the documentary panel but also thought that, without knowing the background, it would be somewhat mysterious.

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Junior World Champion, receiving a kiss from Miss Mallard at the World Championship Duck Calling Contest, Main Street, Stuttgart, Arkansas


ARPS Panel - Ron Evans ARPS

Magnolia tree in snow, North Little Rock, Arkansas

Spring, Little Rock, Arkansas

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Photographing Balykchy Jo Kearney ARPS

Jo Kearney is a video journalist and photographer. She has worked as a video journalist for the international news agency Associated Press TV for more than 25 years filming news and features. She has been based in Asia and the Middle East covering global news stories. She now lives in the UK and has spent the past 3 years covering Brexit among other things. Photography is her passion and when she is able to Jo travels to carry out photo projects. Her main photographic interests are travel, portraiture and documentary. She has long had a fascination for the Soviet Union and in 1992 spent 8 months travelling around it following the fall of communism. Since then she has returned to photograph in the former Soviet republics and has recently done projects in Kyrgyzstan. In this edition of The Decisive Moment we take a look at one of those projects, Balykchy - Portrait of a Former Industrial City. This feature starts with Jo’s account of how the project came to life, from initial idea through to its execution and is followed by a presentation of the project itself. www.jokearneyphotography.com

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

My guidebook described Balykchy as a “warts-and-all symbol of decline in a postSoviet transitional state” with its rusting relics of communism. It also didn’t recommend staying overnight. Pictures of rusting boats in the abandoned port and crumbling statues of Lenin piqued my interest. I’d spent six months travelling around the Soviet Union in 1992 and I had an eerie fascination with all things communism particularly after having grown up in West Berlin in the 1970s. On my first trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2016 I passed through Balykchy a couple of times as it is on the crossroads of the main artery that travels east and south. I’d stopped and spent a few hours photographing there but hadn’t really got under the surface of the place. At that time, the main aim of my trip was to photograph the nomad people at Lake Song-Kul. But I decided to revisit Kyrgyzstan and I wanted to find a story to photograph in Balykchy.

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

I spent some time researching Balykchy and found that mass unemployment since the break-up of the Soviet Union had led to the departure of working age adults to find work in Russia and Kazakhstan. Many had left their children with their ageing parents and when I read this, I decided to make this my story. There didn’t seem to be any organisations to contact in Balykchy, but I did find the details for a journalist living in the capital who mentioned a government-funded day centre for pensioners operating in the town. After numerous emails and phone calls I finally got hold of someone and was told I could visit the centre. In September 2018 I flew into Manas International Airport on Turkish Airlines and took a taxi to the bus station in Bishkek where minibuses depart for the two to three-hour journey to Balykchy and Lake Issyk-Kul. I’d been told by the charity that my translator, Azamat, would meet me at the bus station. I disembarked and saw a middle-aged man waiting expectantly. He introduced himself and helped carry my bags to his ancient Volkswagen Golf with its cracked windows. I don’t think it would have got us far if we’d had to travel around Kyrgyzstan, but it did the job of transporting me around the town. He suggested that the first priority was to find somewhere to stay. I’d already looked online and hadn’t seen anything, but Azamat said there were a couple of hotels and a few bed and breakfast places. I checked into a hotel situated on the edge of the lake which was a reasonable $50 a night. There didn’t seem to be any other guests.

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Pensioners at a day centre

Our first stop was the day centre, a large ramshackle bungalow, where pensioners gathered for warmth, a hot meal and tea and coffee. They were a merry bunch made up of Russians and Central Asians reflecting the migration that took place during Soviet times. Many lived on their own as their children were scattered across the former Soviet Union, so the centre provided a lifeline for them.

Kasimbek Jumaliev with Sabirjan Ibrahamov at a day centre for pensioners 79


Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

I spent a few hours with them and took some photos to send to the centre’s organisation and while I was there I met Olga Ogarkova, who invited me to her home, mentioning that her elderly neighbour cared for her grandchildren as her daughter was working away. The following day after a freezing swim in the lake, Azamat collected me up from my hotel and we drove to Ogarkova’s home, a tsarist era bungalow in a dusty street. Visiting her home gave an insight to life in Balykchy. She told me about life during Soviet times and how everyone had a job and been able to eat well. She produced photos taken during holidays in Moscow and Uzbekistan and was happy for me to photograph her looking at them. She prepared food for us - eggs from the chickens in the garden and ripe tomatoes from her vegetable bed with fresh bread. She introduced me to her neighbour Valentina Pogojeva who was happy to be photographed with her grandchildren after they returned from school. After a few days I had photographs of some of the pensioners in their homes plus the devastated industrial infrastructure of the town, but I only had one example of a grandparent caring full time for their grandchildren. Then Azamat had an idea. He contacted the local government social security office and told them that I had come from the capital to write a report on the situation. Within a few hours we were given the addresses of two families. We drove to the outskirts of the town and found Samira Omuralieva and her three grandchildren living in a rundown bungalow. They were happy to let me photograph them so I took pictures of them sitting around their kitchen table and together on the sofa. Then we visited Gulbubu Sarapldinova and her grandsons Aktan, 11, and Akbar, 10. We found them digging potatoes in the garden. Sarapldinova’s son and daughter-in-law had left several years ago and not returned and she was left to raise her grandsons. They made ends meet by keeping animals and growing vegetables. I took photos of the boys helping their grandmother dig potatoes and looking after the animals. I’d spent just under a week in Balykchy working on the project, but I had a couple more projects to photograph so I said goodbye to Azamat and joined another driver to travel south to my next stop Min Kush, a former uranium mining town. Opposite page Top: Olga Ogarkova’s old photos that show life during Soviet times Middle: Valentina Palamar looking at photos of life during the Soviet Union when travel was subsidised Bottom: 93 year old Yekatarina Zinchenko with a photo of herself during Soviet times when she worked in a military canteen Her daughter lives thousands of miles away in Vladivostock

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Balykchy - Portrait of a Former Soviet Industrial City

Balykchy was once one of Kyrgyzstan’s industrial powerhouses, situated on the banks of a giant alpine lake. Today, more than a quarter of a century after the break-up of the USSR, it is a Soviet ghost town. It now represents a symbol of communist decay. Hulls of ships and cranes rust at the port and factories lie in ruins; parks that were once the pride of the city are filled with weeds and statues of Lenin crumble. Balykchy, meaning fisherman in the Kyrgyz language, derives its name from the city’s fishing and boatbuilding heritage. It was devastated by the break-up of the Soviet Union which brought an end to trade links and financial backing from Moscow. As factories dwindled to a halt people lost their jobs and the town eventually went from full employment to almost nothing. Today there are a few private restaurants and shops serving tourists travelling to the resorts that lie further east along Lake Issyk-Kul, the world’s second biggest alpine lake. People set up stalls selling fruit and dried fish to motorists, but the fish comes from China and not the lake. There’s also a brisk trade to be done at the town market selling goods imported from China. Many young people are forced to leave their country and find work in Russia and Kazakhstan, often leaving their children with their ageing parents. These pensioners continue to cling to communist ideals and dream of Soviet times when food and housing was cheap and they could afford to travel to Moscow and Kiev. They struggle to survive on meagre pensions and are forced to take over the full-time care of their grandchildren.

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Lena helping her grandmother, Valentina Pogojeva, with the housework

Valentina Pogojeva has acted as a full-time mother to her two grandchildren Dasha and Lena since they were both 10 months old. Her daughter, Nadejda Mahortova, works for an engineering company in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The girls have different fathers and neither keeps in touch, which is all too common in Kyrgyzstan these days. Their mother returns home for 3 days each month. ‘She comes laden with presents and plays with them,’ explained Valentina, ‘but to know your children you have to see them every day.’ Sometimes the girls call Valentina mummy and other times granny. She gets them ready for school, cooks their meals and helps with homework. Valentina says the school has offered to help but she feels there are more deserving cases. She says they manage okay with her daughter’s income which they supplement by keeping chickens and growing vegetables in her small garden. In the summer holidays one of the churches paid for the girls to attend a camp which gave Valentina a well-earned rest. ‘You can always tell the children who don’t live with their parents,’ she explained: ‘They watch other pupils being picked up by their parents and you can see the sadness in their eyes. Many also have behavioural problems as their grandparents can’t always control them.’

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Dasha and Lena looking a photos of their mother who is working in Almaty, Kazakhstan

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Valentina Pogojevo with her grand daughters Dasha and Lena She cares for them full time while her daughter works in Almaty, Kazakhstan

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Valentina Palamar, 63, in her one-room flat with her grandson

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Olga Ogarkova, 61, looking at photos from Soviet times Her husband Oleg Moiseenko, 70, looks on

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Photographing Balykchy - Jo Kearney ARPS

Valentina Palamar, 63, lives in a dilapidated Soviet-era apartment block. The balconies look so precarious that they might fall off and the crumbling stairwells are dark and eerie, even in the daytime. Valentina’s one-room flat is next to her daughter’s which is convenient as it means she can help look after her three grandchildren. Her daughter is divorced and works as a primary school teacher and earns only $50 a month so Valentina also contributes some of her $100 pension from her years working as a nurse. The flats have no heating or running hot water so it’s bitterly cold in winter. But Valentina takes me to the balcony to show me the view of the lake and the mountains. ‘We don’t have it so bad,’ she said, ‘and I have my health.’ Still, life was better during Soviet times, she says showing me holiday photos of trips to Kiev and Tashkent. ‘In those days we could afford to travel. I even went to Bulgaria with the young communists.’ Olga Ogarkova, 61, lives with her husband Oleg in a pretty mud-walled bungalow more reminiscent of Russian tsarist times than Soviet. In the ramshackle garden are wooden racks of apricots and slices of apples drying in the sun. Olga points to her fruit trees and tomato plants. She also keeps hens which give them plenty of eggs. Her husband has diabetes so most of their $100 a month pension goes on prescription drugs. ‘During Soviet times life was good,’ said Olga. ‘We all had jobs and a reason to get up in the morning. We could travel to Moscow, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan’, she said showing me photos of her travels and May Day marches during the Brezhnev era. ‘My husband even went to Germany. Now young people just hang around and drink vodka there’s nothing for them to do.’ On the outskirts of Balykchy Samira Omuralieva lives in a crumbling white-washed mud bungalow with her grandchildren, Six-year-old Adinai was propped up at the kitchen table beside her two sisters Aklai, 15, and Ryana, 12. Flies buzzed around a plate of dried bread and a pile of chicken bones left over from lunch. Adinai was born with brain damage and needs regular physiotherapy, which is why the girls’ mother Diana, who is divorced, has been forced to work in Turkey as a nanny to pay the medical bills. The girls’ father isn’t around so Samira and the two older girls take care of Adinai. ‘Money is very tight but what can we do’ says Samira.

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Samira with her 3 grandchildren, Ryana, Adinai and Aklai

Aklai holding a photo of her mother who is working as a nanny in Ankara, Turkey 91


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Aklai helps care for her younger sister Adinai who is disabled Her mother is away working in Turkey as a nanny to help provide money for physiotherapy

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Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Eagle Hunters of the Altai Mountains Gary Jones ARPS In November 2019, I took a flight from my home in Hong Kong to the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. From there I flew on to Ölgii, the capital of the Banyan-Ölgii Aimag province of western Mongolia. After another 5 hour trip by truck, across harsh, unforgiving terrain and a temperature of -30 degrees, I finally reached my destination, and home for the next 10 days, a tiny collection of gers (sometimes called yurts) at the foot of the mighty Altai Mountains. My purpose – to photograph the traditional Kazakh Eagle Hunters for which this region is famed. With the advance of the Russian empire into Kazakhstan more than two centuries ago, many Kazakhs moved across the border into western Mongolia where they settled in the region of Bayan Ulgii. Here they have hunted on horseback across mountains and steppes for rabbits, marmots, foxes and even wolves, with trained golden eagles. The fur of these animals is an integral part of traditional Kazakh clothing. Eagles are taken from the wild when they are 4 years old. They are kept in the hunters’ homes and become a part of the family. Only the smaller female eagles are used by the hunters. After around 10 years of service, the eagles are released back into the wild. As well as following the hunt out on the steppe, I spent a good deal of my time in the homes of the hunters and their families. The conditions can be extremely harsh and unforgiving. Despite that, they are a most welcoming, friendly and humble people and it was a great honour to spend time with them documenting their dayto-day life. www.gazjonesphoto.com

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Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Erjan receives his eagle after a successful catch

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Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Erjan

Koshegen surveys the steppe for likely prey

Sixty-three-year-old Koshegen is called ‘Ata’, which means grandfather. He has lived in the mountains his whole life, his face hardened by the harsh elements and his demeanour quiet and reserved.

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Batuhan


Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Koshegen

Koshegen

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Akhbota releases her eagle from the mountain slopes.

Akhbota, 14, is one of only a few eagle huntresses in the region. Traditionally eagle hunting has been reserved for men but since the success of the film ‘The Eagle Huntress’ about Aisholpan Nurgaiv, it has become more accepted for fathers to pass on the skill of eagle hunting to their daughters. 99


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Serikjan on horseback with his eagle. This giant of a man was an epic subject to photograph. Only one horse in the village is able to carry him on hunts due to his massive presence. Despite his size, he was a gentle, humble character. Eagle hunters ride Siberian ponies. They are extremely hardy and strong enough to survive outdoors in -40 degree temperatures.

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Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Janibek arrives for lunch

A quick lunch of yak meat, yak milk, yak cheese and bread

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Serikjan prepares lunch

Serikjan aka ‘The Mountain’ is also a Champion Kazakh Wrestler

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Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Mereke and her husband, Nazkhan, in their bedroom. As the wife and mother of one of the Altai Mountain eagle hunting families, it is Mereke’s responsibility to milk the yaks each morning and prepare all the food for the family

Mereke’s three-year-old son, Ramazan

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Four-year-old Uljan, granddaughter of Koshegen


Eagle Hunters - Gary Jones ARPS

Eagle Hunters race across the steppe

Eagle Hunters race across the steppe on their tough Siberian ponies

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

COVID London Charles Ashton ARPS In March the COVID-19 crisis was building. I suspected the lockdown was coming and headed to London to document what turned out to be the last day before life dramatically changed. I found a city with tension in the air. Some people were wearing masks, some were dashing around making efforts to keep their distance. Others continued pretty much as usual. It was a sunny Monday and, clearly, there were far fewer people around than usual, driven by apprehension rather than guidance. I arrived in Paddington, took the Underground to Aldgate East, walked up Brick Lane and then to St Paul’s before crossing the Millennium Bridge to the Tate. I chose these locations as they are my usual haunts for street photography, and I have images of the same locations in normal times for comparison. I chose monochrome as I felt it represented the mood of the day and suited the strong lighting conditions with lots of contrast and shadows. I aimed to give the viewer a street level view that captured the edgy atmosphere of the day.

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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COVID London - Charles Ashton ARPS

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New RPS Documentary Courses The Coronavirus pandemic has imposed severe restrictions on our ability to leave our homes and do what we love to do: take and make photographs. The RPS has proactively responded to these unprecedented times, offering a variety of talks, workshops, and events online. In addition to events organised by the RPS centrally, many of the Society’s Regional Groups, International Chapters and Specialist Groups have also moved their regular meetings online. The RPS website ‘What’s On’ page contains the latest information about all these activities. The positive response to this by so many of its members demonstrates both a need for, and appreciation of approaching education creatively. For those of us who are geographically distant from the RPS Headquarters in Bristol this upsurge in online events offers an opportunity to expand our knowledge without the usual travel and time costs. Our Chair, Mark Philips says: ‘The RPS Documentary Group has, for some time, been planning a workshop series dedicated to working on documentary projects. Our intent was to address a gap for those who have not studied documentary photography in depth, but who want something to help their understanding and build their skills and confidence. We are pleased to announce that they will be starting shortly and initially be held online. We hope to hold the first workshop in late July. Please check our RPS Documentary Events listings for details. These workshops are intended as affordable practical guidance for those considering or already working on documentary projects. The aim is to address some of the challenges in three areas: starting out (defining your intent, planning and research for the project), working on projects (shooting to a narrative, keeping it going and field work) and finishing off (the edit, sequencing and get your work out there). We are delighted to be working with Jon Cunningham, professional photographer, tutor and founder of photography holiday business, Creative Escapes to put on this series. Jon and his team bring extensive and professional photographic teaching expertise to deliver this.’ 118


From Starting Out: Building a Photographic Series

Valerie Mather LRPS reports on the pilot of two of these courses, run in conjunction with the Yorkshire Documentary sub-group: These online courses are being built specifically for the RPS and will attempt to address some of the key challenges we all face when making documentary imagery. The first, Building a Photographic Series, aims to equip the photographer with the tools needed to develop meaningful, relevant stories including where to find inspiration, how to create ‘good’ ideas, and storyboarding to test and refine the message. We learned how to test our story ideas, so we develop something meaningful (which resonated with me as so many project ideas fall by the wayside). We were shown resources to help get our ideas flowing, and we gained an understanding of some of the key characteristics of a successful documentary series. The second pilot course, Editing & Sequencing a Series, looked at professional techniques to draw out only the best images, sequencing final selections ‘live’. It explored how photographs should relate to each other. We learned the importance of motifs to link images, using techniques such as colour-matching and signposting. Step-by-step editing of images was followed by a ‘live’ demonstration of how to bring a series together, considering both narrative and visual sequencing. Each all day course used plenty of examples to demonstrate the techniques, with a PDF guide sent at the course end. 119


From Finishing Off: Editing & Sequencing a Series

Our pilot group of ten photographers navigated series from Magnum photographers Alec Soth and Peter van Agtmael, and British photographers like Sophie Gerrard and Sam Gregg. Jon drew from the group a variety of observations that built up into a broader, tangible tool kit of professional documentary photography techniques. Three of my key takeaways from the pilot were: • There must be a connection between the photographer and the subject, otherwise the viewer will spot it. • Always keep in mind that there must be an underlying purpose to each image. • Sequencing is just as important as shooting: a documentary series is there to inform and educate. How we use the tools is what gives each photographer their own signature. It’s what sets our work apart from the rest.

COURSE 1 - ‘STARTING OUT: BUILDING A PHOTOGRAPHIC SERIES’ Pre-registration page: subscribepage.com/rps_building_a_photographic_series COURSE 3 - ‘FINISHING OFF: EDITING & SEQUENCING A SERIES’ Pre-registration page: subscribepage.com/rps_editing_and_sequencing_a_series

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Documentary Online Benelux Chapter eJournal Volume 19 - Summer 2020 The RPS Benelux Chapter eJournal is edited by Armando Jongejan FRPS and published on Issuu. issuu.com/royalphotographicsociety/docs/rps_benelux_chapter_ejounal_ volume_19_summer_2020_ This edition includes features on Bieke Depooter, Katie Waggett’s photo book Sunday Best, Didier Verriest ARPS, and work from the project Damaged Retinas by Katherine Maguire LRPS. Katherine combines two images taken at the same time to attempt to illustrate what it is like to live with damaged retinas: “I suffer from a disease that can cause blood vessels to form on my retinas, which in turn cause damage and leave behind scars. The scarred areas of the retinas are no longer able to process light correctly. The scars have developed on the edge of the macular of each eye. This has resulted in my central vision is being blurred, as the brain uses this vision to focus the light that falls on the rest of the retina, my whole vision becomes blurred.”

Damaged Retinas Katherine Maguire LRPS 121


The Documentary Group Online The documentary group has a presence on the following platforms, come and join in the conversation. We understand that not everyone has a social media profile or wants to create one. That’s why all our profiles are public and can be viewed by everyone, no matter whether you have an account or not. This means you will be able to view all our posts and book on to ticketed events. Checking our RPS page and searching for events is still a good way to keep informed with all that is happening in the Documentary group. If you have any questions you can always e-mail us – all our contact details are listed there.

Facebook Facebook Page - facebook.com/rpsdocumentary Our public Facebook page is new, but it already highlights the successful projects that entered our Documentary Photographer of the Year competition. You can also find albums for the Bi-monthly Competition winners and short texts from our Journal The Decisive Moment (DM) there – these updates are designed to be easy to read on a phone screen that also provides you with the link to the full articles.

Facebook Group - facebook.com/groups/RPSDVJ We also have a closed group Facebook page, exclusively for our members. If you want to join us there, you can share your pictures with us, ask for advice, and engage with our online community.

Instagram @rpsdoc Instagram is an image-based social media platform, so think of our profile as of an online gallery. If you follow us there, you can see pictures from our competition winners, DM contributors and members along with invitations to events and images from these occasions. Instagram is the place where we want to promote the work of our group and our members to the wider public and encourage them to follow and engage with our projects.

Flickr Royal Photographic Society - Documentary Group Documentary Group members run an active group on Flickr with plenty of images and the opportunity to discuss them with the group.

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Contact: docweb@rps.org


#rpsdoc Twitter @rpsdoc Our Twitter page is for short important updates such as events, exhibitions, call for entries or other announcements. If you do not have much time for scrolling on social media but still want to be in on the action, we recommend you to follow us there. We promise we’ll be short and concise.

Issuu Issuu.com - Documentary Group, Royal Photographic Society The Decisive Moment is published on the Issuu platform where you can read each edition online or download pdfs to read offline. Please follow the Documentary Group in Issuu and use the buttons to like and share your favourite editions or individual features - it really helps support the Documentary Group.

Website rps.org/documentary The Documentary Special Interest Group has a section on The Royal Photographic Society website. Here you can learn more about the group, hear about recent news and future events and access an increasing number of documentary photography resources.

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Documentary photography as a practice spans a range of approaches, so makes precise definition difficult. Taken literally, all forms of photography can be described as documentary, in that they document someone, something or some place. As a working definition, the Documentary Group uses the following: “Documentary photography communicates a clear narrative through visual literacy. It can be applied to the photographic documentation of social, cultural, historical and political events. Documentary photographers’ work always has an intent; whether that is to represent daily life, explore a specific subject, deepen our thinking, or influence our opinions.” rps.org/documentary

Facebook

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Flickr

Instagram

Twitter


Members form a dynamic and diverse group of photographers globally who share a common interest in documentary and street photography. We welcome photographers of all skill levels and offer members a diverse programme of workshops, photoshoots, longer-term projects, a prestigious Documentary Photographer of the Year (DPOTY) competition, exhibitions, and a quarterly online journal ‘The Decisive Moment’. Some longer-term collaborative projects are in the pipeline for the future. We have a active membership who participate in regional meetings, regular competitions and exchange ideas online through our social media groups. Overseas members pay £5 per annum for Group membership rather than the £10 paid by UK based members. The Documentary Group is always keen to expand its activities and relies on ideas and volunteer input from its members.

If you’re not a member come and join us. Find us on the RPS website at: rps.org/documentary

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Woodcarver - Ian Wright ARPS

rps.org/documentary

Profile for Documentary Group, Royal Photographic Society

RPS The Decisive Moment - Edition 19 - May 2020