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Chris Renk
CREDIT: Chris Renk

Volunteering Week

Celebrating our volunteers

At the RPS we have over 500 volunteers who generously and passionately dedicate their time and energy to our organisation. Every day, volunteers assist with many of our departments in a wide variety of roles.  

To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 – 7 June 2020), we've asked members of our volunteering community to share their work and what volunteering with the RPS means to them. We hope this provides insight and inspiration to existing and prospective volunteers with the RPS and beyond. 

Dr Alan Hodgson ASIS HonFRPS holds the position of President at the RPS. Chris Renk is the Chapter Organiser of the Germany Chapter. 

Self Portrait

When did you become a volunteer? 

Alan Hodgson: I was a Scout leader in the 1980s and volunteering started from there. I have since been a volunteer with a number of professional associations based in the UK and US. I started with the RPS on a Group committee around 2006 and it has flowed from there. 

Chris Renk: I became a member of the Society in 2013 whilst living in the UK. I returned to Germany in 2014 and was asked to join by the Germany Chapter so I then took over the role in 2015. 

What does your volunteering work involve? 

AH: For about 10 years it involved speaking, organising and chairing meetings and one-day conferences. My longest standing commitment has been as a regular speaker at the annual Good Picture meeting. 

In 2017 this took a sharp turn when I became a Trustee of the RPS. It has been a busy time and I spend a lot of time in front of a computer! I really value the interaction with other members and volunteers, and sharing my reflections on President’s News. 

CR: My work as a volunteer for the Germany Chapter is very diverse. Besides the tasks of Chapter Organiser, I administrate the website of the Germany Chapter and generate its content. Furthermore, I am responsible for the creation of the eMagazine and the eNewsletter. I take care of the interests of our members which are spread all over GermanyDenmark, Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden.

Chrisrenk Portfolio 2

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?  

AH: First and foremost, it’s about giving back. I started work in the photographic industry in 1982 and it has been a great ride, if a little rocky in parts. I have seen, learnt and done so much and it is a privilege to give something back. 

Secondly, it is the people I have met and worked with along the way. I am by nature a watcher and listener which gives me the chance to soak up their experiences and wisdom. I have also been around long enough to see the offspring of my peer group earning awards in their own right; something I find satisfying. 

CR: The interaction with people with the same attitude, interest and devotion. Furthermore, I appreciate the exchange with British culture and its citizens, which the Society offers to a great extent. 

A Chimney In My Mirror

How do you balance volunteering and your other commitments? 

AH: Primarily by forward planning. I like to plan my commitments a year in advance so I can keep time slots clear, particularly if I was working abroad. When I ran for President Elect, I had a two-year plan to park my print consultancy business. This rather hit the rocks when I unexpectedly took on the Presidency last November. Now it gets balanced by long hours! 

CR:Well, sometimes I ask myself how I manage to make it all work. I can't remember a weekend that I wasn't involved in any of the chapter's activities. I only manage this by a strict division of tasks and time. A further balance is the support of my wife, who willingly gives me the freedom to do voluntary work for the Society! Without this, the workload would not be manageable. 

Chrisrenk Portfolio 1

Tell us about your personal photographic practice. 

AH: Over the last 20 years I have been first and foremost a printer, constructing and fixing print solutions in a variety of industries. I have spent a lot of time in portrait reproduction for identity documents and inkjet printing technologies. A common theme has been educating customers in the capabilities of the full imaging chain; from image capture to the final print.  

I do minimal post processing, mainly cropping and curves shape modification, much as I would have done with an enlarger 30 years ago. I do this mainly in RAW conversion and very little Photoshop work. I still use Photoshop 7, which must be around 20 years old as it does pretty much all I need. 

I have a long-term plan to return to image capture with twilight photography, building my own optics and cameras. 

CR: I came to photography through my work in 1995, where I focused on taking photos for documentation and observations. It was only after moving to England in 2006 that I decided to focus more on photography as an art and began to take photos in all fields. Nowadays I photograph landscapes, wildlife, nature as well as architecture and peopleI occasionally take on assignments from the advertising industry. 

Venus As A Banana

Who or what are you inspired by? 

AH: My own eyesight is not very sharp so I am inspired by those who overcome much worse difficulties to achieve in photography. I have worked with a number of one-eyed photographers who produce exceptional work. Overcoming difficulties and partial ability is much wider than this, and a further source of inspiration. I have also met some wonderful photographers with partial abilities spanning a wide range of conditions. Photography for inclusion is another source of inspiration. 

CR:In the beginning, I was inspired by the photographs of the Godfather of black and white landscape photography, Ansel Adams. Today I get my inspiration from the beauty of our planet Earth and its inhabitants. Every day I am fascinated anew by the diversity of its fauna, flora, wildlife, and its people. 

Do you have any advice to people considering volunteering? 

AH: Do it. The fulfilment is there for those that look for it. You give it; you get it back. Just do it. 

CR: As a volunteer, you should bring along the following qualifications: 

  • Team spirit and willingness to integrate. 
  • Curiosity and adaptability. 
  • Commitment and reliability. 

Furthermore, your expectation should be only focused on the overall objectives of the Society, laid down in its Royal Charter. 

Learn more about Volunteering here

Photos: 1) Alan Hodgson, Self portrait; 2) Chris Renk; 3) Alan Hodgson, A chimney in my mirror; 4) Chris Renk; 5) Alan Hodgson, Venus as a banana; 6) Chris Renk