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Detailed career information
After three years as an aerial photographer in the Royal Air Force, a further three years was spent at Guildford College of Art in the School of Photography.
The Head of School, Ifor Thomas, was a gifted teacher, every day was sheer enjoyment. In my third year my grant ceased; I survived doing advertising photography for the chairman of the governors, the CEO of an advertising agency. This was supplemented by paid writing for the photographic press. Ifor's wife Joy introduced us to the Harmonograph, prompting thoughts about how to make one without pendulums and which started me making drawing machines and many years later led to my Ph. D.
RAF technical training was so thorough that I was able to help younger students on the course and this aptitude for teaching eventually led to me starting two schools of photography at Derby College of Art and Manchester Regional College of Art. From Derby in 1964 I was awarded a Kodak Scholarship in Colour Photography at Rochester USA, which helped me both as a teacher and professionally. The skills acquired gave me the confidence to hire Country Life Studios for an advertising commission.
Professional practice was fitted in around my teaching whilst writing about students' work in the press which established the courses. Both schools enjoyed a reputation for creative work. Manchester probably had the largest photographic school in Europe at the time with 10,000 sq. ft. of space and a capital budget in 1965 of £100,000.
It was luck to be in the right place at the right time and I benefitted from the warm support of the visionary principal John Holden. Whilst at Manchester I designed courses in colour photography for the RAF Officers and NCO's from RAF Cosford. This led to interest in colour measurement which resulted in my CNAA M.Phil science degree.
Professional practice in Singapore and London was followed in 1981 by joining Newport School of Art as Head of the B.A. Hons Graphic Design School where I was tasked with bringing the course out of the 60's into the 80's and introducing new technology. We were amongst the first graphic design schools to use computer driven tape-slide work, computer typesetting and Apple Macintosh machines. Many of the computers were paid for by the school doing commissions for the Newport companies STC and Inmos. Introducing computers to art colleges was not easy, with staff being particularly resistant to change.
After early retirement, I practiced as an architectural photographer where the work demanded a super- wide angle camera so I designed and built one leading to a camera making business. The engineering skills were of help later with the precision work on drawing machines.
Following a move to Hay on Wye, I began a small publishing company. Our first book was 'The Curate's Kingdom' documenting the life of St. Mary's parish church where a black poodle called Jimmy was designated the curate to the charismatic but eccentric vicar. Other titles follwed, see 'Writing'.
It was during this time, 2009/11, that I spent 22 months doing my Ph.D at Manchester MIRIAD who welcomed me back and generously paid for the greater part of my fees on account of the reputation of my photography course in the 70's. The credit for this degree is owed to the support of the Computer Arts Society and to Penelope and Adam Woolfitt who were instrumental in introducing me to the CAS.
The seven drawing machines and four programmers involved in my degree were acquired by the Science Museum in Kensington. Since then I have been building others and this work continues.
photo Ginny Weatherall
During a long career, I have established two schools of photography, one school of design, built cameras, written and published books, practiced as a freelance, bred dogs and hand reared lions and tigers.
The interest in drawing machines runs throughout my career, motivated by curiosity about how simple instructions can give rise to complex images. In 2011 this resulted in a Ph.D in Professional Practice at Manchester MIRIAD entitled. 'Programmable Analogue Drawing Machines'.