An unknowing brush with greatness

UK. Bath, England. 1994. Magnum member group photograph taken in 1994 at launch of George Rodger's exhibition at the Royal Photographic society. Left to right: Eugene RICHARDS, Fred MAYER, Richard KALVAR, ABBAS, Patrick ZACHMANN, Howard SQUADRON, David Alan HARVEY, Micha BAR'AM, Burt GLINN, David HURN, Thomas HOEPKER, Phillip Jones GRIFFITHS, Chris STEELE-PERKINS, Susan MEISELAS, Leonard FREED, Jinx RIDGER, Martine FRANCK, George RODGER, Henri CARTIER-BRESSON, Elliott ERWITT, Eve ARNOLD, Eli REED, Peter MARLOW, Bruno BARBEY, Phillip Jones GRIFFITHS, Sebastiao SALGADO, Larry TOWELL, Costa MANOS, Rene BURRI, Paul LOWE, Donovan WYLIE, Carl DE KEYZER, Hiroji KUBOTA, Nikos ECONOMOPOULOS and Dennis STOCK. Photograph © Peter Lavery.
UK. Bath, England. 1994. Magnum member group photograph taken in 1994 at launch of George Rodger’s exhibition at the Royal Photographic society. Left to right: Eugene RICHARDS, Fred MAYER, Richard KALVAR, ABBAS, Patrick ZACHMANN, Howard SQUADRON, David Alan HARVEY, Micha BAR’AM, Burt GLINN, David HURN, Thomas HOEPKER, Phillip Jones GRIFFITHS, Chris STEELE-PERKINS, Susan MEISELAS, Leonard FREED, Jinx RIDGER, Martine FRANCK, George RODGER, Henri CARTIER-BRESSON, Elliott ERWITT, Eve ARNOLD, Eli REED, Peter MARLOW, Bruno BARBEY, Phillip Jones GRIFFITHS, Sebastiao SALGADO, Larry TOWELL, Costa MANOS, Rene BURRI, Paul LOWE, Donovan WYLIE, Carl DE KEYZER, Hiroji KUBOTA, Nikos ECONOMOPOULOS and Dennis STOCK. Photograph © Peter Lavery.

 

Back in 1994 when I was 20 and just properly starting off taking photographs I joined the then great Royal Photographic Society and quickly applied for my LRPS.
I decided to drop my portfolio up to the octagon in Bath where they would be critiqued by a panel of experts and peers.

All was good. I went to my assessment where they talked through the images and basically said they were ok and reached the heady heights required.

A week or so later I went back to Bath to collect the box of prints.

As I walked round searching for the right place to be, I headed towards the main octagon gallery as this was an area I knew and had been where my assessment had been. I wandered aimlessly through a door and into the big room where there was this big group of mainly older chaps mulling around and talking about life and photography.

Turns out it would seem that I had just stumbled into a meeting of Magnum, possibly the greatest group of contemporary photographers of the 20th century, celebrating the launch of a retrospective by one of their founders a George Roger. Everyone was friendly, said hello and pointed me in the right direction for the office I should have been looking for.

I suppose in hindsight I should’ve been awestruck, and now in retrospect I think I am a bit and rue a missed opportunity to speak with people long gone who are now my artistic heros and inspiration. You can’t go back in time, but if you could then this would be one of those moments I would certainly do differently.

Later on that day, I was wandering round Bath and sat down outside the abbey to have a pasty for my lunch. An older heavily bearded man sat down next to me, saw my RPS sticker on my folder and asked if he could have a look. He was very complementary, asked questions about what I was doing and trying to say and was generally very nice. This man was Micha Bar am.

So, after missing my big opportunity, I ended up with a smaller but all together more rewarding moment after all.