FMP Week 19: Royal Photographic Society South West Visual Art Group Members Day 13-01-2019

Following developments in my project work during Surfaces and Strategies module last summer I reviewed my membership of the Royal Photographic Society’s groups and joined both the Analogue and Visual Art groups. My intention is to broaden my knowledge of these areas and gain information to further my development. I have attended a couple of events run by the South West branch of the Visual Art group as a non-member before with guest speakers. Not having attended a ‘members’ day I decided to go along and find out more hoping to not only see the work of others but also possibly make contacts with photographers whose experience may have benefits for me.

In preparation I contacted Linda Wevill FRPS who organises the group to enquire about the day and what was expected of members who might want to present and to explain that I could only stay for the first part of the day. Encouraged by her response but somewhat daunted by the ‘usual’ presentation style of 50×40 mount size to be able to show images on the display structure available, I ventured along with a selection non compliant sized images from my final major project work. I was not necessarily intending to present but had a small portfolio along just in case. 

Offered the first presentation slot on arrival flattery turned immediately to realisation and a burst of anxiety as I had no experience of the expectations of organisers and audience for presentations. Politely declining and then accepting third proved to be the right way to go. Being able to witness two speakers and their distinctly different approaches to visual art not only gave me information about practicalities such as timing and how an assistant supported them by displaying the images once the presenters had shown and described them (each image was individually presented on a baize surface brightly lit from above and below), but also gave me some confidence about presenting images of beach rubbish and recycling facilities.

With no written or rehearsed script (not my usual style) I ascended the stage with a hastily conceived plan in mind. While introducing myself and the project I presented a mounted image of a disbanded rowing boat on a beach to set the scene. Cameraless images of individual pieces of debris found on the beach came next with the DSLR images of recycling facilities following. The images were laid one by one on a long table in contrast to the stand used to display the mounted offering of others.

Describing the images and how I made and processed them came easily and with a level of humour as I encouraged audience participation by welcoming suggestions as to what they depicted. Once identified questions flowed which I was pleased to find I could answer about the methods used including reassuring concerned questioners about my health and safety measures when shooting. It ended very quickly and just within the allotted 10 minutes. I had felt a little anxiety to start with being in front of an audience of about 50 photographers and guests of whom I had only met two before. Their reception was welcoming and put me at ease while presenting. During the break the audience were able to look at the work of all the people who had just presented. While I looked at others work I noted significant interest in mine and received a number of enquiries and positive comments over coffee.

I have two regrets both of which can be rectified before a ‘next time’. Firstly my portfolio was too hastily selected and prepared, falling short of the professional standards of others. Secondly, in the heat of the moment I did not think to ask if anyone could record my presentation on my phone to provide material from which I could learn and improve my presentation skills and also present in my course work. On realising this my colleague kindly took a couple of photographs during the break when I was discussing some of the images.

Sarah Newton 2019, talking about my work at the RPS South West Visual Art Members Day 13-01-2019

I was pleased I had plucked up courage with a ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ attitude. It certainly paid off with this experience giving me confidence that not only do the images provoke intrigue and encourage investigation and discourse but also reinforce the awareness of the impact of debris and in particular plastics, on land and in marine environments. However, while spontaneous presentations come naturally to some speakers I will be mindful of preparing thoroughly for future events where I am sure I will be presenting.

RPS South West Visual Art Group. Available at: http://rps.org/special-interest-groups/visual-art/about/south-west-visual-art-group [accessed 02/02/19].

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