** FBPE - finished in style! **

11th September 2016
I am super thrilled to become only the 25th photographer to achieve the Fellowship of the British Photographic Exhibitions (FBPE) since 1999. A "Fellowship" is the Holy Grail - the highest Award that is made by most photographic bodies, and this is effectively my 3rd - following the FIPF and the MPAGB.

Exhibition Photography is what 'floats my boat' - it is the main outlet for my photographs. I only discovered National and International Exhibitions in approximately January 2012, but there was nobody else in Northern Ireland Club Photography that seemed to know much about them. After a bit of research, I found an 'online' Club called DAPA that had a small membership who were all entering National and International Exhibitions. The members were extremely helpful in providing all the relevant information and answering all the questions that a 'newbie' needed.
In January 2012 I therefore entered my first National Exhibition, and sent off 8 mounted prints to the Southport National Exhibition. To my huge surprise, I managed to get 4 prints accepted and won my first award - a PAGB Ribbon for "Johnny Fee."

Johnny Fee:



Vale of Evesham was the next exhibition in February 2012, and I managed 8 acceptances and another Award - with a ribbon for "Out of the Blue."

Out of the Blue :



A couple of exhibitions later, in Solihull (another PRINT exhibition) I really got the bug when I won 4 Medals and 2 Commended - a total of 6 awards!

Seana:



Stephen:



The Boxer:



(Interestingly, this print scored 10/15 in a local NIPA competition, but yet came 1st in a National Exhibition, scoring 15/15 - not once, but twice!!)

Very quickly I was able to start applying for the first Distinction level - the BPE1* - which is awarded for 25 acceptances in National Exhibitions. BPE2* then required 50 acceptances; BPE3* required 100; BPE4* required 200; and BPE5* required 300.

In the local Northern Ireland Exhibition organised by NIPA, I had come 1st and 2nd on a couple of occasions - but in the 2012 Great Barr Exhibition in Birmingham, I had the thrill of getting 1st and 2nd in mono prints in a National Exhibition - Gold and Silver Medals for "The Boxer" and "Stephen."

My name started becoming more 'known' in UK photography circles, and I started receiving invitations to camera clubs outside N.I for the first time. In the very next Exhibition, Bromsgrove National Exhibition 2012, I had 11 acceptances and an incredible 8 awards - with 'Double Gold' - for "Underground Glamour" and "Subway Muscle!"

Underground Glamour:



Subway Muscle:



For various reasons, I decided to start a new Camera Club in N.I in the Summer of 2012 - a small club for people that were already at a 'good' level of photography, and who wished to gain Photographic Distinctions and join me on the exhibition circuit. Thus, Catchlight Camera Club was formed in September 2012. Unfortunately this raised a conflict of interest between my membership of DAPA, and my membership of Catchlight, and I had to give up my membership of DAPA, but I will always be grateful for the help and guidance I received from the members there.
(By taking part in National and International Exhibitions, the members of Catchlight Camera Club were able to see (and understand) the standard of "Exhibition" Photography - and this played no small part in the Club becoming the first ever Club from N.I to win National Silverware in Competition. There are now approximately 8-10 members who regularly enter the BPE National Exhibitions. It has also been the Top Club in N.I for 3 years running.)


And so it went on - these National Exhibitions run throughout the Calendar Year -
Everyone who enters these exhibitions receives either a printed or CD Catalogue, with all of the accepted and awarded images on display. My success continued, and by 2014 I achieved the coveted BPE5* - something which less than 100 people had managed at that time.

The final 2 hurdles were the Associateship and Fellowship of the BPE. The Awards are quite unique, in that they are not awarded at the potential whim of one set of judges - they are 'achieved' by passing set targets. The ABPE for instance requires another 100 acceptances after BPE5*, along with 20 separate awards with at least 10 different images. By and large it is the 'Awards' requirement that makes the award so difficult for most people to achieve. Up to August 2015, only 38 people had managed it so far.

The Fellowship is a different kettle of fish altogether - it not only requires a further 100 acceptances after the Associateship, but it needs a total of 30 awards with at least 15 different images - and ALL 30 awards need to be by images that have not previously been awarded. This is the catch - 30 awards is hard enough to come by - but to get them with brand new images AFTER reaching the level of ABPE requires a bit of doing!

And so, here we are in September 2016, and I have finally achieved the Fellowship of the BPE. I had recently been awarded both Gold and Silver Medals for Mono Prints in the Cotswold Monochrome Print Exhibition 2016 - with "In the Hood" and "Fredau in Natural Light."

In the Hood:



Fredau in Natural Light:



I needed only 1 more award to hit the target, and I knew that the SRGB Print Exhibition in the North West was my best opportunity. I am lucky to be sponsored by a major paper manufacturer in Fotospeed, and I have a good supply of all their fantastic ranges of paper. I print on an Epson 3880, and mount the prints on fantastic mounts and self-adhesive backing boards supplied by Paper Spectrum.
I sent off 9 prints and couldn't believe it when I received word that not only had all 9 prints been accepted, but that I had won Double Gold Awards, a Bronze Award, and 3 other awards. And so it was, that I can claim to have crossed the winning line in fitting style!
Almost 5 years of exhibition entries - a total of 533 acceptances - 149 Awards - and rather fittingly, in the 25th year of BPE Exhibitions, I have become the 25th Fellow of the BPE!

Ode to Nestor - Gold Award SRGB Print Exhibition 2016



Indian Queen - Gold Award SRGB Print Exhibition 2016



Uwimana - PAGB Ribbon



Thank you to everyone that has supported and encouraged me during the whole process. I will continue to enter the Print Exhibitions but will now retire from the PDI exhibitions. If anyone wants further information or guidance on these National Exhibitions, do not hesitate to contact me. I am, and always have been, willing to share the knowledge and the skills required to improve.

Ross McKelvey FBPE MPAGB EFIAP/S FIPF