A Short History of LIP, by Virginia Khuri

London Independent Photography was formed on July 29, 1987, and was conceived of by Janet Hall and myself under the inspiration of the workshops organized by Paul Hill at the Photographers Place. What began as a small group of twenty-six founder members has now grown to over four hundred. Since many newer members will not have had the benefit of such a workshop experience, I think it is important at this stage to restate that original impulse and then to trace the growth of LIP over the years.

Behind the workshops conducted in the 1970’s and 80’s was the conviction that photographic images can mirror the personal experience and feelings of the photographer and that making them can be a means to personal growth, that “what is deeply and personally true to an individual can be explored through a photographic participation in life.” * Those workshops’ intention was always to foster such individual explorations in a non-competitive, supportive informal community setting. It is this, which LIP seeks to continue. As stated by American photographer Robert Adams in his book, Why People Photograph, “your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people’s pictures too – photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny, but that carry with them a reminder of community.” **

Thus the LIP community exists to encourage and support individual photographers; whether just beginning or well advanced, all benefit from shared reactions to each other’s work. The very first such group event held at Hammersmith and West London College on 25 September, called a ‘blu-tac’ exhibition, brought together fifty individuals to share their work. This proved so successful that such events were held quarterly at The Drill Hall in London until that venue became no longer available. While it lasted it was an invaluable way for members to keep up with each other. In addition, from the beginning informal meetings were held once a month, first at the Photographers’ Gallery, then at various locations in central London including St. Martins School of Art. Soon satellite groups were set up across London. Now there are eight groups actively meeting to discuss work and even mounting group exhibitions locally.

From the beginning LIP’s mission has been to instruct, inform and inspire and it was felt that workshops were essential to this educational purpose. Thus, over the years, day-long workshops have been conducted by such luminaries as Paul Hill, John Blakemore, Thomas Cooper and Martin Parr, and more recently Joy Gregory on beauty, an ‘out and about day’ with Mike Seaborne, and Brian Harris on reportage as well as occasional practical ‘hands on’ days. There have also been weekend workshops held at Brunnel University and Photofusion as well as joint residential ones with Independent Photography in the South East (IPSE). Half-day workshops take place with the Curator of Photographs in the print room of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Evening talks, an extension to the workshops, were originally held at the Photographers Gallery, then at St. Martins in the Field crypt and now at Rudolf Steiner House. In the past we heard Cole Weston talk about his father’s work, a survey of contemporary European photography, and most recently Martin Parr, the first speaker for the annual Janet Hall Memorial Lecture, which will be given this year by Paul Hill.

At two years old, LIP held its first exhibition of members from 23 May to 3 July 1989 at the Mermaid Theatre, Blackfriars. The purpose was to show the very best of members’ work as selected by Mark Hayworth-Booth, Curator of Photographs at the V&A and Peter Turner, Editor of Creative Camera. Its aim was also to raise public awareness of the possibilities of photography as a medium of individual expression, of ‘personal truth’. Since then there have been 19 annual exhibitions of members’ work at various locations: The Barbican Library, The Swiss Cottage Library, The Metro Cinema and finally for the past few years at a more permanent space in Cottons Atrium on the South Bank. The images to be shown are always selected by people renowned in the photographic field.

The Millennium Project and exhibition was an important milestone for it put LIP permanently on the map, locally and nationally. Sponsored by Arts 4All, “Countdown 2000” was a year-long daily documentation of the year1999, the results of which were exhibited at the Oxo Gallery from 30 August – 10 September 2000 and can still be viewed on the LIP website.

LIP’s publicity began as a simple quarterly newsletter called LIPservice, which was typed and photocopied for members. It carried the program, listings of interest to members as well as comments on current exhibitions and workshops and often lively debate on photographic issues. It has now matured into a nationally circulated and respected magazine – with full colour reproduction made possible by the digital revolution and subscriptions from the increased membership, but it still carries the mission to instruct, inform and inspire both members and wider public through work that is always informed by ‘personal truth’.

The newest development in LIP is its website. Something we could not have imagined in LIP’s early days has evolved to become a very important means of communication to both members and a wider public. There is now a constantly accessible programme of activities, updated notices to members including members’ exhibitions, an archive of back issues of the magazine, portfolios of members’ work with links to their websites, an archive of the disproportionately large number of individual exhibitions undertaken by our members and most recently added a Members Forum for lively discussions of photographic topics.

The fact that LIP exists is only due to the dedication and generosity of those who volunteer their time and expertise. Over the years there have been many, too many to name here, but all must be thanked for their part in bringing LIP this far; LIP can now be seen to be a fully mature member of the arts community.


Virginia Khuri, January 2008


*Realizing Personal Truths in Photography
by William Bishop, Inscape Publishing, 22a Gladwell Road London N8 9AA editor@inscapephotography.co.uk

**Why People Photograph
by Robert Adams, Aperture, NY 1996