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Review of SPA 2018 Biennial Exhibition Colour Prints

I’ve never been keen on falling foul of libel laws, so there will, necessarily, be a lack of detail in this week’s blog! This week we had the chance to look at the winning and ‘accepted’ colour print images for this year’s Surrey Photographic Association Biennial Exhibition. Well, we didn’t quite get to see the prints themselves, just a PDI of them! The award-winning prints can be viewed here. It was a splendidly interactive evening and a wonderful no-holds-barred opportunity to say what you really thought about other people’s photos. Naturally, we flexed our commenting muscles and, where appropriate, even laid into photos taken by esteemed judges of previous Photocraft competitions. It didn’t seem to matter how many letters the photographers had after their names (and some had a veritable plethora). If we were underwhelmed by an image, we said so!

Actually, it turned out, Surrey Photographic Association is a bit of a misnomer. The SPA goes well beyond Surrey, even into North London and West Sussex. One of the clubs represented in the Biennial was Ludshott Photographic Club – none of us was sure where that was (in fact, it’s on the Hampshire/Surrey border). It was fascinating to see the range of photography that made it to the Biennial. I guess every camera group, Photocraft included, can get into a fairly predictable rut, with some styles of photography less evident. There is, arguably, a greater chance of success for more unusual photos in the Biennial.

I was unsure how far some of the photos were staged – set up for photographers at special photo shoots. You may be interested in this newly published article from travel photographer, Etienne Bossot, in which he suggests that staged travel photos drain away photographic creativity. Some of the images were from far flung places. I wonder how many air-miles were involved and how ‘green’ the photography was? There were also quite a few children captured in these exotic locations. I wasn’t sure about the ethics attaching to some of these images – had permission been properly sought from parents or was a double standard operating, whereby pictures could be taken there which would be considered inappropriate here? Other photos had been taken much nearer to home. Newhaven lighthouse seemed to crop up particularly often. We were puzzled by the location of Marloes Sands, but it turns out that it’s in Pembrokeshire.

We went in alphabetical order through the SPA member clubs (through most letters of the alphabet). When we had only just arrived at ‘G’ by coffee time, I started to suspect a plot to avoid us ever seeing the Photocraft images; but things sped up after the break. It was then we discovered that Mandy B’s photo had been apparently misattributed in the SPA slide show – hopefully that will be soon rectified! Looking at photos from the other clubs reinforced our sense that Photocraft regularly punches above its weight. We can certainly hold our own alongside other clubs and we will have a chance to prove that at the next SPA Biennial! Do put it in your diary – it will be held in April 2020.