OPS Weekly Newsletter 3 December

  1. Last week’s meeting – Living and working as a professional photographer in Namibia with Scott Hurd 

Scott was ‘zooming-in’ from his adopted home in Namibia and chatted about his time in and around Oxford many years ago before he started his talk.

He explained Namibia was a highly unequal country with about one million people living in what he called ‘informal settlements’, that’s about 40 percent of the population. It the third lowest densely populated country in the world. He saw education as key to giving people choices in their lives and said many of the poorest children go to school because they get fed and had touching photos of the life of a young Namibian boy from an ‘informal settlement’ getting ready to go to school.

Namibia was at once at war with its rulers, as were many Southern African countries in the sixties, seventies and eighties. These countries were shaking off the chains on colonialism and Apartheid, and one of the leading figures in this liberation struggle was Toivo ya Toivo. Scott had contracted to take some photos of him and he didn’t know how Scott would be viewed given he was a ‘white man’. He wondered whether this ‘liberation’ figure would be a terrorist or a freedom fighter? He turned out to be a very engaging and he and Scott got on very well, so much so that Toivo ya Toivo came to Scott’s house, along with his wife, daughter, and bodyguard, to pick to the photos and drink coffee while they both set about putting the world to rights.

Scott works as a photographer and does what professional photographers do: family shots, baby shots and occasionally weddings. He showed us shots he had taken of an Herero wedding. The wedding starts the day before the ceremony with the groom sending the lobolo (bride price) in the form of a herd of cattle. The bride’s mother then negotiates the price and eventually the number of cattle is agreed.

The next morning the cattle are slaughtered and cooked for the wedding. While all this is going on no one is allowed to see the bride, who is covered with a cloth or sat inside behind a screen. Scott was invited to take a photo of the bride from behind the screen and what a great portrait it was.

Meanwhile a women carried a rib of beef, that has been cooked at the groom’s encampment, to the bride’s house. As soon as the bride eats the rib of beef the marriage is done. The bride in this case was a vegetarian, which goes to show that love really does conquer all.

His next job was for the Namibian Women’s Federation. The Federation is run by woman of Afrikaans descent and to Scott it is like the UK of 50 years ago. Or so he thought. They wanted a calendar. Not any usual calendar, but a nude calendar. The result was all very tastefully done.

In the second half Scott told the story of the digging of a new gold mine in the bush. This was a joint Namibian-Canadian project and Scott was involved in photographing the whole project from the geological survey to the arrival of the Namibian President holding a bar of gold in his hands.

Scott then went on to the work of his wife Judy who is very committed conservationist and animal rescuer. She is one of the leading lights behind Pangolins International set up to protect this critically endangered animal. The Pangolin is the most poached and trafficked animal in the world. Its diet is made up of ants, not any ant, but the type of ant that lives in the area it is from. Other ants will not do, nor will dog or cat food. Therefore the Pangolins cannot be kept in zoos. Scott’s photos of Pangolins have been used around the world, even David Attenborough has used them. Accolade do not come higher than that.

Scott’s final set of photos were from Etosha, the national park in the north of the country, which, like most places that are either large or small, is the size of Wales. Here he showed photos of the usual big game of Africa. But given Scott’s access he also gave us some interesting facts about elephants thanks to his driver Rosie, who was the first female black Namibian tour guide. Her knowledge of elephant behaviour was astounding. She guided Scott to get the shots about elephant behaviour he would have never been able to get on his own.

Scott ended his talk with a taster of the sequel he has. I am sure we will be inviting him back.

  1. Turning Photos into Books with Michelle Peters and A look at Project work and a look at AI with Phil Joyce

Michelle talk is titled ’Turning photos into books’? Michelle will be revisiting her images and telling why it is important to create books of the work one does. Michelle’s interest is mostly photographs taken when she travels and she does enjoy seeing landscapes, cityscapes, and architecture.

She will have a books available to view at break time.

The second half will be presented by Phil, he is planning to talk about project work a brief look at AI and how this effects the future of photography.

  1. Upcoming meetings in November and December


Tuesday 12 December: In the Footsteps of Shackleton with Eddy Lane

The wildlife, frozen landscapes and history from two expeditions to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica

Tuesday 19 December: Christmas Club Night

A social evening where we will run our second group event of sharing and viewing each others images 4/6 per table. And maybe some mince pies and a glass of fizz. Run by Helen Webb

Happy Christmas. and farewell to our first half of the season.


  1. General photographic interest

The question on everybody’s lips… and a chance to give an answer…


Why do photographs of beautiful scenery never do it justice?

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical concepts

I’ve just been looking at my photos from a recent trip to the Grand Canyon and I’m thoroughly unimpressed. Why do photographs of beautiful scenery never do it justice? Alex Robinson, Suffolk

Post your answers (and new questions) below or send them to nq@theguardian.com. A selection will be published next Sunday.


Nixon, Monroe and cheeky male buttocks: the soul-affirming photography of Elliott Erwitt

His shot of Nixon jabbing Khrushchev’s chest was one of his era-defining images, but Erwitt was equal parts eyewitness and dreamer and his delight in humanity may be his final legacy


Robert Mapplethorpe: Subject Object Image review – penises, perfection and Patti Smith

Alison Jacques, London

This being Mapplethorpe, phallic imagery is in abundance – but do we really need a room of dull celebrity portraits?


Wildlife Photographer of the Year – People’s Choice 2023

A shortlist of 25 images has been selected for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People’s Choice award. Vote for your favourite image online, with the winner announced on 7 February 2024. The 25 images are currently on display at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London


‘I thought I knew America’: the mother of all road trips – in pictures

Florence Montmare travelled across 30 different states – meeting Native Americans, gun enthusiasts and immigrants – to take this modern snapshot of her country



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