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Photograph of a green, red and blue tartan ribbon against a black backdrop.
CREDIT: The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A

Annual lectures

Daguerreotype of Larry Schaaf in a beret.
CREDIT: Copyright Mike Robinson

The Colin Ford Lecture

The Royal Photographic Society's Colin Ford Medal, linked to a biennial series of lectures, is given to people who are eminent in the field of photohistory. 

Colin Ford was curator at the National Portrait Gallery and founding director of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television at Bradford (later the National Media Museum). Ford has also published many books on the history of photography, including An Early Victorian Album: the Photographic Masterpieces of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson and The Cameron collection, an album of photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron. He has a special interest in Hungarian photography, and together with Péter Baki and George Szirtes curated the exhibition Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the Twentieth Century at the Royal Academy. 

Previous Colin Ford lectures have been given by the poet George Szirtes and curator Robert Gurbo. The 2020 lecture, on The Future of the Past: The William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné, was given by Professor Larry Schaaf (shown in the image) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The lecture is available to download as a podcast here.

A silver medal with 'The Hurter and Driffield Medal' around the top.

The Hurter & Driffield Lecture

Following years of collaboration in their free time, Dr Ferdinand Hurter, the chemist at an alkali works in Widnes, and Mr David Vero Driffield, the works foreman, published a paper in 1890 on their photographic investigations. The introduction stated: 'The production of a perfect picture by means of photography is an art; the production of a technically perfect negative is a science.'

The publication in Liverpool upset many people; the authorities in London, magazine editors and members of photographic societies challenged their conclusions and for eight years, Hurter and Driffield toiled to defend their principles. Peace was restored when The Royal Photographic Society invited the two men to London to present aspects of their recent work. By then, Hurter was very ill and died a few weeks later.

In 1898, a working party set up by the RPS Council made three suggestions – to publish a volume on their investigations, or to establish an archive of their papers and to establish a lecture in their memory. All three recommendations were accepted.

Nowadays the lecture is held every two years and the speaker receives a silver medal featuring an image of the famous H&D characteristic curve. As a general rule, the lecture addresses an important aspect of photographic progress. The 2019 lecture was given by filmmaker Anthony Geffen. 

Thanks to Dr Ron Callendar, the H&D oracle, for the above.