Last week saw the annual The Societies photography convention take place at the Hilton Metropole hotel in London. This is a yearly event in which both amateur and professional photographers descend upon London from all over the UK and the world. Throughout the week there is a photographic trade show, classes and seminars on various photography related subjects as well as the judging of competitions and qualifications.
When I joined The Societies almost 4 years ago, I joined purely to try and gain qualifications. I was over the moon when I achieved my Licentiate a year after joining, and even more excited when I passed my Associateship a year and a half ago. It was about 6 months after receiving my Associateship, and the 2013 convention, that I made a rather bold decision. I would put in for my Fellowship at the 2014 convention. This was going to be no easy task! The amount of Fellowship holding photographers within The Societies make up less than 1% of the members. This was going to be a daunting task, but I had made the commitment and I was going to stick to it!
Fast forward 1 year and I suddenly found myself sitting in a room with 20 of my images hanging beautifully on the wall as 20×16 inch prints. In the room with me were a few good friends and 5 judges. These 5 judges were all Fellowship holders with The Societies and they were here to judge my images and decide whether or not I was good enough to become one of the “elite” within The Societies. In situations such as this people often describe time as standing still, or the event taking place for a longer period of time than it actually did. I wish that was the case! This was a gruelling, and sweaty, 1 and a half hours where the judges picked over my images. Scrutinised my images and tried to pick them apart to find a reason for me to not be successful. This is, after all, the judging for the highest possible qualification within The Societies that you can achieve by submission of images. They have a reputation and standard to uphold. Pass something substandard and their reputation, as well as The Societies, is in jeopardy. I didn’t, and couldn’t fault them for judging so closely and for taking so long. The judges had their poker faces on and were absolutely not giving anything away. I could only sit there, constantly wipe the sweat off my brow, and hope that I had what it took.
Things only got more stressful when the judges left the room to deliberate for nearly 25 minutes. The longer they took, the more convinced I was that I hadn’t passed. It was an extremely anxious moment when they re-entered the room and a glimmer of hope appeared when they went straight back to scrutinising my images. They had gone away and hadn’t decided I failed! This was the only time I felt somewhat positive. But, again, the more they looked at each image and the longer they took the less hopeful I became.
Finally the moment arrived. The judges had all made their decision and it was time for the vote. The judges all voted by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down decision out of view of everyone except the chair, Damian McGillicudy. Damian looked over the decision of each judge, looked up at the room and said “Unfortunately”… my heart dropped. The colour went out of my face and I felt defeated and deflated. “This is the time when I get to welcome a new Fellow to The Socieites!” What? Had I heard that right? I didn’t even have time to think before I was being hugged and congratulated. I am not going to lie, I cried a little! The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming! Somehow, after less than 4 years, I had joined the ranks of the very people I admired and looked up to. “How was this possible?” I was asking myself.
I have always been the biggest critic of my own work, and I will continue to do so. You always, always, always can improve and whilst I have just been awarded arguably the biggest achievement I could ask for as a photographer I found myself still in shock!
The rest of the week was a real whirlwind. My images went on display for all to see at the convention. I was approached and congratulated by countless people throughout the week. I found myself on stage at the awards dinner have to give a speech. It was all a bit surreal! By now you probably want me to stop rambling, so I will. Below are the 20 images, in the order they were presented, that was judged for my Fellowship. Hope you enjoy them!!
Please leave comments below!
So there you have it! My 20 images that have given me my Fellowship with the SWPP. Now I need to change all my business cards and other things to George Fairbairn FSWPP!! Crazy I know!
Which image is your favourite? Mine is the Hello Bear image, the one of the three guys holding the hearts. Just something about that image I have always loved! Let me know which one is your below!