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Derryn Vranch
CREDIT: Derryn Vranch

Photography is for everyone

Setting a new inclusive direction for the RPS

The Royal Photographic Society was founded in 1853 to help make the art and science of photography more widely available. 167 years later, the RPS is still firmly committed to that goal - ensuring that everyone can access this dynamic artform, regardless of the colour of their skin, their gender, age or any aspect of their background or circumstance.

For some time, the trustees have been reviewing the RPS's approach to diversity and inclusion, considering all aspects of the charity's operations - including its governance, staffing, membership, education and exhibitions work. We know that there is a lot we need to do to make the organisation more reflective of contemporary society, and we are committed to addressing this over the months and years ahead. 

In particular:

1. Following my appointment as CEO last month, we are creating a new five-year strategy for the RPS, which will guarantee that an ethos of inclusion is embedded into all aspects of our work. The trustees and I have already begun the process of consulting stakeholders. It will not be enough to make our projects 'available' to everyone, it is important that we actively demonstrate that everyone is genuinely welcome and supported, and seek to remove visible and invisible barriers to participation and engagement with us. 

2. One of our current trustees (Andy Golding) has been appointed to lead a working group to measure our progress, with rigour and honesty, working with stakeholders within the RPS, and also independent experts from outside the organisation. 

3. We are actively reviewing recent publications by the RPS to ensure that our current artistic output meets the highest ethical standards. As a result, one publication has already been removed from sale, and we will not hesitate to remove any others that do not meet those high standards. 

4. We have commissioned an independent review of our governance arrangements, and we will publish the results of this in full.

5. We have commissioned a photographic bursary to explore issues and events that followed the death of George Floyd in the US. More details will be announced soon.

Creative and meaningful photography should feature in everyone's lives, empowering people to tell their own stories and shedding new light on issues of importance to society. Inclusivity is a moral obligation, but for the RPS it is also a creative opportunity - to encourage new photographic collaborations and initiatives, and to inspire the highest quality and most relevant art for everyone.

We will share updates of our progress, making certain that it is fully transparent. I hope you will join us on this journey.

Evan Dawson