Photography for Public Good

Today, photography is easy, point the camera and press a button.

Since the emergence of digital photography cameras are everywhere in the affluent, and just as likely to be found in less fortunate, countries. It is estimated (2020) that over 1.4 trillion photographs are intentionally taken each year.

Most of these billions of photographers are very happy with their pictures. They have wonderful memories of their family, friends, events, holidays and celebrations. These images are personal and treasured.

There is also a growing group of us who take their images to a new level. We learn, compare and strive to understand what makes an image just that bit more special. Is it composition, colour, contrast, subject, action, art, abstract, story? This is where camera clubs, like the Bedford Camera Club, exist to encourage our improvements.

As we progress many of us would also like to know how we can use our photographic skills to help others, especially in genres that capture our interest, be this nature, people, landscapes, the universe etc.

Many organisations are very pleased to receive images that further their cause, be that historical records, current events etc. Normally this is a voluntary activity, very few will pay for the images. You need to be the photographer, own the copyright and be happy to offer publication rights to the organisation. Always be aware of the laws (examples: Police, British Life, IOP, UK Gov) of the country; in the UK I find these laws are just what you would expect when using your common sense.

If you, the photographer, have a skill and are looking for a project to give something to help others, listed below are a few organisations in the UK to consider.

You might think, surely they already have photographs of this or that, but often they welcome more, both more recent images as well as older images that may be from your family archives. All would like some text to accompany each photograph, e.g. where and when taken, details and the photographer’s name. The larger organisations tend to have an online form for adding the text where the image is uploaded. 

Sometimes the same image can be offered to several organisations, for instance, in some circumstances, Historic England, War Memorials, County Archives and the local museum might all profit from a copy of your one image.

I would suggest you don’t send an organisation multiple copies of near-identical shots, but edit carefully and select only the shot that forms a clear record of the subject.

Historic England

Historic England – Photographs of buildings and other historically interesting things in your area. They welcome information and pictures to add to their archives

They are looking for images of listed buildings, scheduled monuments, protected wreck sites, parks & gardens, battlefields, world heritage sites

More details here about where you can take images (typically it is OK from public paths or with landowner’s permission) and how to upload them to their archive.

War Memorials

War Memorials Online – In a similar way to Historic England they welcome up-to-date photographs and reports on the condition of any war memorials you may find. You may even know of a local memorial, e.g. in a Church or school hall, or on the village green, that they are not yet aware of.

National Trust

National Trust – The N.T. tends to use professional, paid photographers to record their sites. But many N.T. locations have their own, small web page, e.g. on Facebook, which welcome photographs from visitors. Sadly these individual websites are not always easy to find and their national website does not help very much. This is the main N.T. Facebook page. If you do have the love of a particular N.T. site do contact their site manager to see if they are interested in your pictures.

County Archives

British counties tend to maintain large archives of their area for up-to-date and historical records. Contact your local county archive service, in Bedfordshire this is The Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service, to enquire about what types of images and what details about each image they would be looking for. 

From my limited experience, they are not looking for pictures of hedgerows and robins which have no local significance, but tend to need images of buildings and structures, e.g. walls, marker posts, milestones, roads, shops etc, and may include some local activity, e.g. local workmen or shoppers at a local market. Often the mundane is overlooked as too commonplace but in 100 years these will become fascinating material for researchers.

Museums

Museums, particularly small and specialised museums, may welcome photographic input. A local authority museum may work with their local Archive service (see “County Archives” on this page) but may still find the need for a photographer to supplement this, e.g. to photograph their own pieces or to create images for a planned exhibition.

Archaeology

Archaeological groups might welcome assistance in recording a local dig or to photograph finds, examples: Bedford Architectural Archaeological & Local History Society and UK Wide

Local Charities

Many small, local charities would welcome a volunteer photographer to record their activities. The charity can use your photographs for newsletters, websites, reports and fund-raising from greeting cards and calendars.

Contact the charity, be it homeless, hospice, animal welfare etc, to find out how you might be able to help.

Weather

The BBC welcome photographs of today’s weather patterns. They select one or two to highlight the weather during the forecast broadcast,  see Weather Watchers

Remember My Baby

Remember My Baby offers a free gift of baby remembrance photography to all UK parents experiencing the loss of their baby before, during or shortly after birth. They seek particularly sensitive, dedicated and competent (both with flash and daylight experience) volunteer photographers to undertake this service at a very traumatic time. This is not something to be undertaken lightly and peer support is available. If accepted you would become part of the volunteer group of photographers and will need to pay a small annual fee (£15/yr in 2021) to cover the group’s costs.

Applications

If you know of any others please do let me know and I can add them to this list

Thank you, Ian Whiting