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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.


Paul Cox ARPS

Jana Murray interviews Paul Cox ARPS, Regional Organiser for the RPS Southern Region, and asks him for his advice on how to create a successful ARPS panel.

Q. When did you first become interested in photography?

A. My interest in photography was piqued by the photographer we engaged to shoot my marriage to my first wife in 1980. I have distinct memories of how she organised people (and kids) and managed to obtain some really beautiful images. From that experience I invested in an Olympus 35mm and set about destroying many reels of film.

I didn’t get seriously involved with photography until the late 90s when I finally decided I really needed to understand this phenomenon wrapped up in an enigma; so enrolled on a couple of short courses and ended up taking a degree in photography.


Q. What do you like to photograph?

I like the processes involved with the documentary genre, which takes me into many aspects of image making. I particularly like taking documentary series based on people and/or architecture, but I also have a penchant for long exposure waterscapes and abstracts that can be derived from those types of images.


Q. Can you share three of your favourite images and tell us the idea behind them.

This is from a series I did for the Hampshire/Southampton Fire Service. It’s a favourite because it is emotional, evocative, humble and progressive all in one image. The subject was one of only two firewomen in the Southampton district at the time and this image evokes her pride, strength and femininity in a masculine environment.

This is from a series called ‘Children With Hobbies’. The series was about children who had serious hobbies away from any type of screen and was a comment on the way children from 3 years to their late teens are besotted with computer games and social media, burying their heads in screens of all descriptions. This is a 6-year old girl whose hobby was The Brownies. In the series I photographed each subject with the same backdrop and with a contrasting adultesque pose.

This is from a series called ‘Coast’ where my interpretation is beach-front or promenade beachware shops that have other purposes, like ice cream parlours. This image is a complete contrast to what you would expect to see outside one of these shops, which would normally be children with parents, but here are pensioners deciding what to buy, and a disabled scooter driver to complete the scene.


Q. What advice would you give someone preparing a panel for ARPS?

A. The first consideration I would strongly suggest is to read the distinction advice guide on the RPS website. You’ll get a good appreciation of the process from that document. Then, once you have decided that you want to go for an ARPS, treat the process as a project.

Decide on your subject, research your subject, try to stay emotionally detached (easier said than done) and take your time – an ARPS is not something that can be achieved in a few months.

The next thing is the statement – part of the subject decision process is to write a statement. The statement is probably the most important part of the APRS and is the element by which the submission is judged, i.e. “does the submission meet the statement”. Keep it brief and tight with no room for interpretation. Statements that are too open can be misinterpreted by the assessors, bringing an element of confusion and chance to the assessment process – something the applicant does not want to happen.

Next is don’t be afraid to revise your statement. Periodically stand back and take a look at your project and if it’s not working revise it.

Last but not least, take advice, speak to people who hold the distinction, ask Head Office for help with a mentor. Give yourself every opportunity available for a successful outcome, but don’t be disheartened if the outcome is not successful first time around. Always remember that any criticism is not personal but, at the same time, any two people will give a different opinion.


Q. What is your vision for the Southern Region?

A. In short, my aim is to step up our engagement with the members, improve inclusivity, increase our reach and develop our offering to the members. The Southern Region covers a vast geographic area – Bognor Regis in the East, Bridport in the West, (almost) Reading to the north, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, with approximately 1,000 members. My objective is to make the Region more accessible to all members. My vision is to bring the Region to all parts, not just the main conurbations. We have begun this process by organising our Distinctions Advisory Days each year in (roughly) the four areas, North, South, East and West of the Region, choosing a different location in each area each year, if possible, so as to further improve accessibility. We have begun a volunteer recruitment drive to, hopefully, attract volunteers from the four areas in order that we can organise events closer to the members. More volunteers will lead to an increase in ideas for engagement, which will naturally evolve into more members taking part.


Q.Why did you choose to volunteer as the RPS Southern Region Organiser?

A. Quite simply, I believed that (given my previous experience - business, family and life) I could add value to the organisation and administration of the Region. Fortunately, the people on the Region’s committee thought so too, and the rest is history.


Q. Why would you recommend volunteering and what roles are currently available?

A. Volunteering in the Region gets you involved with the RPS at a different level. You have a voice in the region, you get to help out with events and the organisation of the Region, you get to represent the Region/RPS at events and your camera club (if you belong to one), and you get to see how the RPS works, nuts and bolts. It’s really interesting and rewarding, and challenging. And, it doesn’t take up a lot of your time, unless you want it to. As the saying goes – the more you put in, the more you get out.


Q. What in essence makes a good photo?

A. That is a $64 million question. As a Documentary Photographer, my interpretation of a good photo will be completely different to, say, a Landscape Photographer, or a Wedding Photographer, etc.

However, I come from the school of thought that believes that images should be printed to be appreciated, not just left on your hard drive, or your camera’s (or phone’s) memory card. So, my test is to ask myself the question “would I print and hang or display an image”. If the answer is ‘yes’ then that to me is a good image. If the answer is ‘no’ then I leave it in storage for another time – because many is the time that I have looked into my back catalogue and seen an image with fresh eyes and decided that with a little help it would be a good image – to print.

And the answer the follow-up question is, yes, I do print a lot of my images.


This article was originally published in August 2018