The Royal Photographic Society today

The Photographic Society was founded very soon after photography was discovered, and amongst its membership can boast the names of several of the pioneers in the craft. (See The Photographic Society) Its patron is HM The Queen.

The RPS currently has over ten thousand members all over the world, and continues to enjoy prestige as the world's leading photographic Society.

With such a diverse membership controversy and hotly argued opposing opinions remain a sign of a healthy, democratic body, and meetings of Council can still have the heated debate that was characteristic a hundred years ago. Indeed, just occasionally even the same issues and party fragmentation can rear their ugly heads!

But it is a very different Society even from from what it was even as recently as the early seventies, when members of Council attended meetings in "proper dress". In the mid seventies the author was invited, along with some others, to join the membership of Council, and remembers being advised by the then President that it was not quite the done thing to speak at Council meetings until one had been there some time! Now, Council meetings are a very different matter!

The Society occupied premises in various parts of London until 1980, when it moved to its new headquarters in Bath. Since then its activities have expanded enormously, as has its influence. It has regular exhibitions at Bath, and a full programme of events all over the United Kingdom. The Society's Photographic Journal has been published regularly since the earliest days of photography.

Though the Society owns many priceless treasures relating to the history of photography, this aspect has always been a drain on its resources. The entire collection in in the process of being moved to the National Museum of Photography Film and Television in Bradford. This positive move will enable the Museum to do what it does best, and also allow the Society to concentrate upon its educational activities.

As part of its strategy to encourage high standards, the Society awards distinctions to members who are able to produce evidence of outstanding ability in any major branch of photography. These distinctions are the Licentiateship (LRPS), Associateship (ARPS) and Fellow (FRPS), the latter being the highest. These distinctions are much valued throughout the world, and though members are encouraged to work towards these distinctions, they are not awarded lightly.

The Society (or RPS as it is more generally known) has fifteen groups catering for specialised interests, which any member may join. Of particular interest to users of these pages may be the Society's Historical Group, which has amongst its membership distinguished photographic historians.

For anyone who has an interest in photography, membership is highly recommended. One does not have to be an expert; in fact, we have a large number for whom photography is still very much a new avenue to explore. Nor does one need to be resident in England - a great number of members are overseas.

The RPS is on the web. See The RPS page
or e-mail the Secretary General: RPS Centre for further details.

© Robert Leggat, 2003.