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Mike Birbeck

Mike Birbeck, supporter of disabled photographers has died


Mike Birbeck FRPS passed away on Saturday, 30 January 2021. He will be sorely missed by his many family, friends and colleagues as well as by admirers of his photography.

In 1982, whilst serving in the RAF and shortly after marrying Gillian, Mike’s back was broken in a flying accident. Hence, all his photography was from a wheelchair.

He gained many distinctions; FRPS from the Royal Photographic Society, FBPPA from the British Professional Photographers’ Association and the FDPS from the Disabled Photographers’ Society, besides winning many medals including Golds from FIAP, RPS and PAGB. In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious RPS Hood Medal for services to Photography honouring his dedication to The Disabled Photographers’ Society and its members.

He served as a member of the RPS Licentiate Panel and later in the Associate and Fellowship team of their ‘Applied’ Distinctions Panel. Mike was also Honorary Life President of the Disabled Photographers’ Society after serving on their committee as Chairman for 10 years and before that had many different roles on the organising committee.  He also sat on their Distinction Panel. He was also a Fotospeed Photographer and lecturer, preferring the printed image.

He has been a member of Basingstoke Camera Club (serving in most capacities) and Havant Camera Club and has been a member of Taunton Camera Club since 2006, where he served as Chairman for a few years.

Mike started lecturing and judging from 1985, being on the WCPF and PAGB lists of lecturers and judges. He held one-man exhibitions at home and abroad and also taught photography, especially to those with disabilities. Together, he and Gillian manned the hugely successful Disabled Photographers’ stand at the Photography Show, NEC, for nearly 20 years.

Photographically, Mike’s main interests were travel, portrait and candid people photography but he also enjoyed sailing (he had to be winched in), archery, his beloved BMW adapted trike, flying a microlight and listening to music, especially the Blues genre and the Eagles. He also enjoyed playing the blues harmonica and in later years had started building model railways.

Mike and Gillian enjoyed travelling around Europe in their specially adapted camper van, indulging in their love of photography and music events. As already mentioned, Mike had a rather wonderful three-wheeled motorbike adapted to take a wheelchair and very often, you would see him travelling along our West Country roads.   Although he was long term disabled, that didn’t stop him from enjoying life and helping others. Taunton Camera Club will be all the poorer for not having Mike around and we offer our special condolences to Gillian. 

Rest in Peace, Mike!

Pauline Watling

Side image: Mike Birbeck with Charlie Waite at the Disabled Photographers Society 50th anniversary.