Two journeys towards ARPS with Habip Kocak and Ian Bray

Last week’s meeting – Two journeys towards ARPS with Habip Kocak and Ian Bray


Ian (myself – apologies for writing in the third person) ran through his journey to an ARPS which started unknowingly with producing calendars for family and friends over several years. Then 11 months ago he put in a panel of six flowers on black background for OPS’s panel competition which was complimented by the judge. Shortly afterwards he attended the first meeting of the OPS Portfolio Group, an initiative of Phil Joyce’s, where members met to discuss tips, plans and ideas for applying for a ‘distinction’.

Guided and encouraged by the group he decided to go for an Associate distinction in Visual Art at the RPS. He also gained invaluable advice by attending an RPS Advisory Day where he presented his panel and was given an expert critique by an RPS advisor. Taking on board this advice he adapted the panel then attended a 1 to 1 session with another advisor who suggested some further changes and once these were done he went back to the OPS Portfolio Group for advice on the edited panel.

The group gave very helpful advice and an unwelcomed, but crucial, one – get rid of what was his favourite image. After agonising about ‘killing his darling’ he saw the sense of dumping it.

There were some nail-biting moments at the Assessment Day when the panel of judges disagreed about the merit of his application but in the end an ARPS was awarded.

What he learnt from the process was:

  • Study the required standard – it is about reaching that standard
  • Kill you darlings – it is not about the best images you’ve got
  • Statement of intent: Start and end with a strong statement. Develop the concept in photographic terms, not ‘technical’ terms.
  • Check the panel:
    • Print post card sized images, lay them out and move them around
    • Set your panel up in Lightroom in three rows of five, view from a distance to see if it looks cohesive etc.
  • Coherence: panel needs to be cohesive in terms of exposure, ratio, flow etc
  • Prints: select three images of different tonalities and colours, print them on three different papers to see which one works best. Use a mount that is sympathetic with the images. Use a backing board to keep them flat

Habip`s ARPS was in Applied and Portraiture photography. He started his presentation by warmly thanking Phil and Magda for inspiring him and helping him throughout the process. Habip is an accomplished street photographer, especially in street portraiture and this his ARPS theme was black and white portraits of people living in their own living spaces and environment in his native Turkey. The title of his theme was ‘Geography is Destiny’, a quote from the 14th century philosopher Ibn-i Haldun who believed that the fate of a people is closely connected with the geography of their homeland.

The selection of the images began with a bank of over 300 images taken in the Turkish city of Istanbul and throughout the country. He said that he asked friends to help him make the selection as the task was too vast for himself.

Before his assessment Habip had a 1 to 1 with the portrait photographer Trevor Yerbury who encouraged Habip a lot with his comments. However at the ARPS assessment the panel did not pass as the judges wanted the editing of the images to be much lighter and less ‘contrasty’ than Habip’s preferred style. The judges though did strongly recommend that the panel be re-submitted.

He showed his first panel of portraits and compared it to his second submission. Habip had re-edited 12 of the original images and introduced three extra photos and went through the before and after of each image asking for any comments.

Habip explained that he wants to capture people’s feelings in his portraiture, and this is more important to him than other issues such as a style that tends to be high contrast and dark.

Quite rightly the judges gave his panel an Associate distinction, though one complained that there were not enough portraits of women in the panel.

Asked if he was going to go for an FRPS Habip enthusiastically said yes and that he is considering doing an FRPS based on street protests. Watch this space.

For those thinking about doing a distinction then the Zoom meetings occur on the third Sunday, every 2 months effective 20 March from 14:00 to 16:00. Please contact Phil Joyce if you are interested.

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