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Please note: RPS House is closed for our exhibition install. We will be open again from 10am on Friday 9th August 2024.

The Decisive Moment September 2020 Edition 20; Boris Johnson by Tony Johnson
CREDIT: Tony Johnson

The Decisive Moment September 2020

Boris Johnson - Tony Johnson

This edition features distinctions panels from Ronen Tivony FRPS and Neil Milne ARPS, including insights from the photographers and also Simon Leach FRPS, the Documentary Distinctions Panel Chair. Peter Bartlett ARPS and Ian Wright ARPS both submitted projects for inclusion in the journal and we spoke to Ian Day FRPS about photojournalism at The Yorkshire Post and hear from the staff photographers about some of their favourite images.

Welcome to another Decisive Moment. This edition is a little more varied as, despite the constraints of Covid-19, there is a lot happening. 

Last month, we completed a successful on-line AGM followed by our first Engagement Talk. In summary, the current committee remains in place, our membership and finances remain strong; we are delivering our plan, with more online events and workshops. We can only do this through the work of our volunteers, so a big “Thank you” to those on the Group committee, those volunteering to deliver Decisive Moment and the Newsletter, and those who run our regional sub-groups. On that note, I am pleased that Thames Valley has been resurrected, thanks to Philip and Graham, and we have a new group, jointly with Contemporary, in Central region. Other regions are using a combination of Zoom or Flickr to continue their virtual activities. Anyone wanting to volunteer their time, especially to help with next year’s Documentary Photographer of the Year (DPOTY) competition, should contact me directly. 

Our Engagement Talks are now up and running. We started with two of the DPOTY finalists Andrew Wood and Lina Geoushy, and continue with John Bulmer (sold out), Margaret Mitchell, Mik Critchlow, and Jim Mortram in the next few weeks.  We already have Arteh Odjidja confirmed for February 2021. All are bookable online, but reservations fill up fast. These talks aim to engage with established and upcoming photographers, working on documentary or long-term projects, as part of our educational role and to form connections with the wider photographic community. 

We have run half a dozen, online, documentary workshops, with consistently positive feedback. These too can be booked via our events page. They provide in-depth training covering the planning, execution, and completion of a project.  While they are targeted at documentary work, they are equally applicable to long-term projects in travel or contemporary genres. We emphasise the importance of full engagement and focus, having a clear intent and narrative, established by conducting research and becoming an ‘expert’ on your chosen project. It is clear from the work of established photographers and the expectations of those aspiring to Associateship or Fellowship Distinction that this is as critical as the quality of the images; that depth and connection are critical to the work and evident in the images. Simon Leach, Chair of the Documentary distinctions, explains this using the successful Fellowship of Ronen Tivony, in Applied (Photojournalism) as an example. Our workshops explain how to do this in the planning stage, in the field work, and the final edit and sequencing. 

Sadly, we recently lost one of the icons of British documentary photography, Chris Killip.  He was one of world’s best.  His seminal book, In Flagrante, stands out as work of social documentary.  As Chris himself stated: ‘I wanted to record people’s lives because I valued them. I wanted them to be remembered. If you take a photograph of someone they are immortalised, they’re there forever. For me that was important, that you’re acknowledging people’s lives, and also contextualising people’s lives.’  Chris was important, he should be remembered forever. 

Finally, a plea; we hope to run the DPOTY competition again next year, but it depends entirely on finding some volunteers. We can split the work into management activities (eg communications, planning, submissions). Please contact me directly if you can help. Thank you. 


Mark A Phillips ARPS

Chair, Documentary Group