Photography row fuels shock RPS resignations
September 28, 2010
The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) insists that its Visual Journalism Group will survive despite the sudden resignation of three committee members, including its chairman, following a fall out with RPS bosses.
The Visual Journalism Group?s chairman Malcolm Bassett-Smith (pictured) resigned last week, along with his wife who serves as honorary treasurer and Peter Dewhirst, editor of the group?s newsletter.
Bassett-Smith, who worked for the group on a voluntary basis, criticised the society for being ?two-faced?, praising his work in public but privately condemning his behaviour.
He felt he was not given a free rein to carry out his duties, citing his team?s overall responsibility for editing the newsletter as one area in which he felt restricted.
A row with the society over use of pictures on the group?s website escalated the controversy.
Bassett-Smith was left incensed when RPS bosses stopped him using two pictures he had chosen for a banner to promote the group on its website.
The images, taken by fellow committee member Peter Dewhirst, show protesters in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, the scene of British soldier repatriations.
Bassett-Smith blasted the RPS for effectively ?censoring? the photos, one of which shows a protester being led away by police.
However, the RPS felt the pictures might have unfairly implicated the protesters shown.
RPS president Rosemary Wilman told us: ?As an educational charity The Society has a clear responsibility not to publish imagery whose meaning may be open to more than one interpretation.?
Wilman praised Bassett-Smith for helping revive the group after it had lain ?dormant? for years and expressed sadness that he views the ?support? offered by herself, RPS Trustee Derek Birch and director general Stuart Blake as ?criticism?.
In a statement published on the group?s website after the resignations, the RPS said: ?Malcolm and his newly-formed committee have organised a series of very successful events that enthused all those who attended.
?Some of the proposed activities outside these events unfortunately contravened The Society?s principles and other regulations which apply to The Society, which may have contributed to the resignations of Peter, Kathy and Malcolm.?
In a resignation letter posted by Bassett-Smith on the group?s website ? later moved by the RPS to a separate ?members? area – Bassett-Smith had written: ?Almost throughout the period of the VJ group?s rebirth we have seen public pats on the back, but the reality is that behind closed doors I was receiving criticising at every turn. Everything possible was done to accommodate the RPS hierarchy, but as soon as one problem was eradicated another always seemed to take its place.?
Bassett-Smith said he has now quit the RPS, having first signed up as a member in 1990.
Wilman added: ?In continuing its mission to promote the art and science of photography The Royal Photographic Society relies heavily upon the work of its very many, often long-serving, volunteers.
?As President of the Society I am of course saddened when any volunteer feels under-appreciated and [I] met with Mr Bassett-Smith to try and resolve his grievances. I?d like to extend him every good wish for his future in visual journalism.?
As part of Bassett-Smith?s efforts to revive the group he organised a series of events, one of which was a talk by keen photographer and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey.
It took place in Fleet Street, London during the summer.
The RPS confirmed that the group ?will continue to function, despite the resignations? and has appointed Lionel Squire as acting chairman.