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It all seemed pretty daunting but to be honest, there is a lot of help and advice available which I made the best of and in the end I found the process enjoyable if a little nerve racking waiting for the comments/verdict.
Here’s how I put my panel together. So initially, after reading the RPS Distinctions Hardbook I took a look at the RPS website to see what standard of work would be necessary. Some seemed of a very high standard, some just pretty good which made me feel a bit more like I had a chance! Next for me, was to decide what I wanted to show in my panel. I put together around 30 slides and whittled those down into 3 groups (themes) of 5 which I took along to one of the RPS Awards workshops at Princes Risborough. I figured if I could get some idea of the types of images/panel I needed to put together from someone who had sat on the panels ‘in judgement’ it would be useful.
The workshop was great. It all started with a short display of successful LRPS and ARPS panels. The prints were first and most were pretty good, some full panels, a few with additional options. A couple of ARPS panels were quite heavily/constructively critiqued. The acceptable standard for ARPS was pretty high. Then onto the slides. The APRS and LRPS groups were then split and I had some 1 to 1 time with an ‘assessor’. I showed him my 15 images suggesting these were my strongest based on three ideas.
To my surprise, rather than suggesting I take themes one, two or three and further developing one of them, he suggested that I already had 8 good images plus 2 that were slightly less strong and that together they would make a strong if slightly unconventional panel. He felt there was a small risk in being unconventional but that presenting something different in his view would play to my strengths. His advice was helpful but ultimately he left the decision up to me. So I went home excited and full of confidence, and on the look out for one or two better images to complete the panel. All I had to decide was which ones, and then in what order the slides should be shown. Yeh, right! The confidence evaporated as soon as I showed my prospective panel to some experienced ARPS and one FRPS awardees. Everyone thought the panel less coherent than it needed to be and very risky.
In presenting a prints panel, it’s relatively easy to demonstrate coherence across 10 images, but of course very obvious if there is none! With slides, and I guess now with digital image projection, it can be more difficult to show this coherence but on the other hand, it did give me a chance to present something different. Anyway, in the end, I selected the final two images and then placed the 10 images into what I hoped would be the correct order. I submitted my application and then just waited!
When the day of the assessment came, I went along. You don’t have to but I would recommend it. So what of the standard? Well, there seemed to be one small group that were very poor – just average snapshots really. It was pretty obvious they would fail. Equally, there were three panels that for me stood out and I was confident that they’d pass. The guy sat next to me and I shared our thoughts, which were pretty much in unison. Of the remaining panels, it seemed to both of us which were ‘in’ and which ‘out’. Fortunately we both thought we were ‘in’ - which we in deed we were.
My workshop assessor was right and my panel did stand out as being very different. To my surprise, one of the panel members asked me if I would provide my panel for the RPS to use as part of their roving ‘this is what a successful LRPS panel looks like’ roadshow. A surprising but proud moment for me.