Jack Lanagan (1930-2016) obituary

07 August 2016

Society news

Members of the Australian Chapter of RPS have been deeply saddened by the death of their Convenor, Jack Lanagan ARPS, on 28 July 2016.

Jack gave enormous support to the RPS and to its Australian members for thirty years. He was a foundation member of the (then) Victorian Chapter in 1986, and was Convenor of the Chapter (now renamed the Australian Chapter) from 1994 to the present. Thus he has led the Chapter for 22 of its 30 years, and the Chapter’s stability and longevity owes much to his warm personality and practical guidance.

As Convenor he arranged most of the Chapter meetings and also headed its Digital Group. With his many contacts in the local photographic world he was able to attract interesting and stimulating guest speakers, and arrange visits to photographic studios as well as academic institutions, especially the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (now RMIT University) where he worked for many years. Jack and his wife Ann – who is also Editor of the Chapter’s monthly Newsletter – made their home available for many of our Chapter and Digital Group meetings, so for many years it has been the focal point for RPS activities in Australia.

As photographic technology changed from film to digital, Jack was instrumental in establishing the Chapter’s Digital Group at an early stage, so the transition to digital imaging for Chapter members was greatly assisted by the sharing of information and expertise which these meetings fostered. Again, the warm welcome to their home which Jack and Ann gave to members and the friendly atmosphere they created added greatly to the pleasures of coping with pixels. Morning tea, followed by a ‘show-and-tell’ session or a discussion of a particular aspect of digital processing, then an informal lunch with lots of wide-ranging conversation all added up to many pleasant gatherings.

For a number of years Jack organised the Chapter’s annual print exhibitions; these were a most important feature of the Chapter which promoted the RPS to a wider public. In those years it was Jack who planned the exhibition layout, printed the catalogue and image labels, and made sure everything went smoothly.

Jack had joined the RPS in 1982 when on a visit to the Octagon in Bath, and he gained his ARPS in 1983. But as well as being such a staunch supporter of the RPS, he was also active in his local Rosanna Camera Club and for many years was a top achiever there, repeatedly winning annual prizes and trophies. He was also a member of the Melbourne Camera Club and was a well-known and highly respected identity in Melbourne photographic circles.

Born in country New South Wales, Jack trained as an engineer then worked and travelled with Ann in England and Canada. They returned to Australia, first to Newcastle in NSW, then to Melbourne where Jack worked at RMIT until retirement – which he phased in over some years. He and Ann travelled widely in Australia and Europe, especially after his retirement, and this gave lots of material for his photography. But the subjects he photographed were quite varied and he made beautifully detailed photographs of flowers and insects as well as wider landscapes and architectural shots.

Jack’s first photographs were monochrome but he became interested in colour quite early, in the days when Kodachrome film was only 5 ASA. In the 1980s he grasped the advent of Cibachrome colour positive processing with great enthusiasm, quickly mastered the process and became recognised in those early days as its leading exponent amongst amateur photographers in Melbourne. He automated the Cibachrome process in his home darkroom, with equipment which he designed and built himself, drawing on his engineering background as well as his photographic expertise. His design enabled him to control the key variables of temperature and duration of the staged processing and this led to consistent quality of the final print, making some truly beautiful images.

But come the digital revolution, and Jack saw the writing on the wall sooner than most and embraced the new technology. The high standard of his Cibachrome prints set the standard for his digital printing too, and he maintained this while applying the ever-increasing capabilities and complexities of successive generations of Photoshop. He was especially happy to share his expertise with others in the Chapter, a generosity much appreciated.

As Convenor of the Chapter, Jack was always open to suggestions and very willing to consider different ways of doing things, a quality which enabled the Chapter to initiate novel projects and become recognised as one of the most active of the RPS Chapters over a long period. His quiet leadership and supportive approach encouraged others to expand their photographic horizons too. And above all, he greatly enjoyed the friendships and fellowship which developed within the Chapter; these were very important to him.

We in the Australian Chapter are greaty saddened by Jack’s passing, but the memories of his warm friendship and of his long and loyal contribution to the RPS in Australia will endure.

Elaine Herbert ARPS
Hon. Secretary, Australian Chapter

Image: Max Melvin ARPS