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Not just any old AGM!
By Hilary Barton
Posted on 6/15/2021 11:00 PM
The Chair, Paul Shelley, conducted the official business of the AGM quickly and efficiently.  The (now ex-) Secretary, Mike Kingston, will post official minutes on the website shortly.  They will be found, with the papers for the AGM, under the Member Info tab (Documents - AGMs - 2021-06-15).

We swiftly moved on to short presentations by each member of the committee and support team who talked about their roles in the Society and something about themselves, their photographic and other interests.

Paul Shelley kicked things off.  He must have thought that the role of the Chair was self-explanatory because he launched straight into his passion for cycling.  The image (below left) shows some members of the Quest Cycling Club.  Paul is the middle cyclist, clad in fetching magenta lycra.  He cycles two or three times a week, mainly off-road, and annoys his fellow cyclists by taking with him his camera and insisting on stopping for interesting shots for his daily entry on Blipfoto.  Paul comes from Woodford Green and considers himself an Essex/East London man.  He is great at engaging people for environmental portraits and classic street photography.  He is always striving for greater creativity.


Our Teasurer, Alan Larsen, explained that his role is not about keeping the score on what has already happened, but is about looking forward and keeping a rolling forecast of the Society's financial position.  The Treasurer doesn't take the financial decisions but advises the committee, which does take the decisions, on the financial implications.  In the spare moments from this onerous task, Alan loves to walk and to visit galleries, concerts and exhibitions.  The grid (above right) contains 6 of his architectural images of museums and concert halls in London.  He also does a difficult crossword every day and likes to cook simple, colourful, healthy meals with which he can have a glass of wine.

Programme Organiser, Gerard Ryan, thanked the people who have helped him to put together such an interesting programme in such a difficult year.  He took over Events at short notice after Richard Eyers, who himself had only just taken over the role, was promoted and could no longer devote enough time to it.  Gerard had barely started the role when the pandemic struck and all arrangements had to be re-arranged.  Despite that we have had wonderful speakers and involved many members of the Society in a successful storytelling project.  Together with John, Paul and Richard, Zoom has been made to work well for us, and with the use of Photoentry as well, we have made the "Washing Line" into a popular and participative activity.  We have a great programme lined up for the next few months, starting with a photo walk around Canary Wharf, led by Lisa Christie, a 3 corners event being masterminded by Nick Bowman, and a new Society project to be announced later by Richard Eyers, as well as a line-up of interesting external speakers.  More volunteers are always welcome, for example, to have a stand-by presentation ready in case a speaker cancels, or to write a blog report.  Gerard is passionate about taking photos that both tell stories and express emotions.  His images are very wide ranging, from the mystical image of the Ganges at dawn (below left) to telling commentaries on run-down housing estates in Sheffield.


Resources Manager, Dennis Law, has been frustrated this year by our inability to return to the church hall.  However, he has recently spent a Society meeting evening in the church hall preparing for our return hopefully in August.  We will need to restrict numbers in the hall, which will require a more strictly adhered to booking system, a different arrangement of chairs and catering facilities, and, technically the most challenging, the ability to have members also join the meeting using Zoom.  So Dennis has his work cut out over the next few weeks, and he can be guaranteed to supply biscuits and cake as well!  Dennis has been interested in photography since he left school, but he became interested in writing only 5 years ago.  He is building a website to showcase his poetry writing.  You can see a screen shot (above right).  The website is called "Just George" (George is Dennis' middle name) and you can find it here.  Dennis would love us to look at his website and any feedback is welcome.

Webmaster, John Murray, has been in his role for 5 years.  During John's final year in the role, Lance Bennett has volunteered to shadow John so that he can take over seamlessly at the next AGM.  John has designed and implemented great changes to our use of the internet during his tenure.  Prior to lockdown we migrated from a Weebly website and a separate membership management system to our current website, ClubExpress, which incorporates the membership management system.  ClubExpress has its quirks and is not always intuitive, but it is serving us well.  The great majority of Society members use it, posting images, participating in discussions on the forums and interest groups, finding out about and signing up for Events and volunteering opportunities, reading blog reports about meetings they have missed, and following links to our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr pages.  It is also the main way in which we attract new members.  John masterminded our immediate transfer to Zoom after lockdown last March and organised training to make the transition as easy as possible.  He also introduced PhotoEntry which has made submission to competitions much more efficient.  John is an IT professional.  When not working for his clients or for the Society, he is active in his local parish church in South East London.  The image of the stained glass in Coventry Cathedral (below left) is symbolic of his work for the church.  John also loves walking and exploring in wilder environments, but has had to use urban landscapes as a substitute recently.  His family tease him about his interest in steam trains for which he is always on the look out.


Hilary Barton joined the Society in 2011 and was previously Auditor and Treasurer before becoming Membership Manager a year ago.  The role involves answering enquiries from potential new members and then helping them to participate fully in the Society when they join.  She manages the membership database and encourages people to renew their membership each year.  She is also an administrator on the website and can help with any practical difficulties using it, and often writes meeting blog reports if noone else volunteers.  She had two careers, 20 years in Finance in the City, then 20 years as beef farmer, before retiring to the Chilterns 4 years ago.  Her great love is travelling off the beaten track.  She fell in love with both the polar regions and with photography on board a Russian icebreaker (above right) on an expedition to Antarctica in 2010.  She particularly likes to turn her images into photobooks and showed a few of the many books she has made over the past 10 years.  Since lockdown, rather than penguins and polar bears, she has been taking photographs of the wildlife in the Chiltern woodlands and members will be familiar with photos of her hares, red kites, muntjac, pheasants, woodpeckers and nuthatches, which she also posts on Blipfoto every day.  Following a Society evening about MA and BA courses that members have taken, she signed up for the OCA BA Hons in Photography and is half way through the Foundation course.

Since passing the Programme role to Gerard, Richard Eyers has had a roving role on the Committee.  He worked with Gerard, John and Paul on the successful storytelling project.  He works in the Oil industry and spent several years in Nigeria.  On returning to London, he joined the Society which was very welcoming and helped him to settle back into the UK.  He now lives in the north east of England outside Durham.  He also started posting a daily image to Blipfoto over a year ago, and the discipline of taking an image every day has filled him with enthusiasm for photography in general and his "home patch" in particular.  He recalled how he used to get in the car and drive to beauty spots to take photos, ignoring the wonderful scenery that he could step into outside his front door (below left).  He has just taken the major step of being accepted into the part-time 2 year UAL/LCC MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography starting in October, which he doesn't think he would ever have done without the inspiration and support from the Society.


Rob Wilkinson is already responsible for internal competitions and will also add the responsibility for external competitions as Susi Luard steps down.  He will be addressing the opportunities and challenges of external competitions once lockdown is fully over.  He will also be grappling with how to reintroduce print competitions when our meetings are hybrid meetings between the church hall and Zoom.  Competition nights are team activities and he thanked John, Brian, Kate, Dennis and Ben for their practical support.  Rob also took over his role at short notice after joining the Society in 2018, and he also posts daily on Blipfoto.  Rob originally comes from Accrington but now lives on the south bank of the Thames in Central London.  His photography recently has focused on the birds and wildlife on the Thames near his home.  He has developed an expertise in photographing birds in flight with interesting London and river backgrounds.  Rather than street photgraphy, he is also interested in London architecture photography.  He likes to enter competitions and feels he has more success in external competitions than in Society competitions.  Indeed he has won the annual photography competition of The London Society for two years running (this year's winner is above right).

Our new Secretary, Karen Neal, lives in Putney and is an IT manager in real estate.  She has a wide range of interests, including art, live music, family and friends, musical theatre, gardens and stately homes, and takes her camera with her wherever she goes.  She is a member of the RA, RHS, Kew and the V&A.  She has always loved photography, starting with a Zenith and using Nikon (or her iPhone) now.  15 years ago she went through a stressful period caring for her parents and photography gave her an escape.  Much of her photography is in wheelchair-friendly places that she can visit with her parents, especially Kew Gardens, Wisley and Richmond Park.  She seeks colour and loves refections, as you can see in her image of the Still Pond in the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park (below left).  She appreciates the friendly welcome she has received in the Society having previously experienced a much less welcoming previous Society.


Finally, the newest member of the committee, Lisa Christie, is originally from Liverpool but now lives in Bethnal Green.  She works in marketing for a renewable energy company and is looking forward to visiting wind farms when it is allowed.  She joined in lockdown and has only met Paul and Gerard in person, but hopes to meet many more members at the Canary Wharf photowalk that she is organising on 6th July.  Gardening and horticulture is a recent interest as 5 years ago she met and married her husband Neil who is a landscape gardener, and she is now taking an interesting course at the RHS.  She has a long-standing interest in food and wine and has amassed a collection of 150 recipe books.  She enjoys giving dinner parties and eating out and trying new food.  During lockdown in East London she has explored everything it has to offer and has been fascinated by the constant change (as seen in the image of the area near the Olympic Park above right).  She is looking forward to the further re-opening of galleries, museums, cinema and art venues.  She will be working with Chris Jepson (who sadly couldn't attend this evening) on Social Media, raising our profile and attracting new members.

Finally we looked at future projects.  Natalie Robinson sent in a note about the Barbican Exhibition which should have been held in 2020 but which was deferred.  When the Barbican Library is fully operational they will reschedule deferred events and we will be able to start planning for our next exhibition there.  Paul regretted that he couldn't actually hand the trophy to the winner of the dpi competition, Nick BowmanRichard Eyers announced that our next big project which will be Photobooks.  The theme will be built into the programme.  We have just had a presentation from Hoxton Mini Press which was useful to anyone who aspires to publish a book.  There will be future evenings on the use of software such as blurb, on handmade books involving printing, hand-binding and stitching, and the importance of editing and sequencing.  The short term goal will be to encourage as many members as possible to produce photobooks.  The longer term goal will be to publish a Society photobook to which all members can contribute in a participatory, non-competitive way.  Richard will start a discussion in the Forum and ask people to contribute their experience and ideas and possible speakers on the subject.

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