Those were the days
by Colin Doeg
Reproduced from in focus 44 (Apr. 1992)
Colin recalls the formation of BSoUP 25 years
ago this year .
Really Peter Scoones and I should be writing this
together. Because the launching of BSoUP and its early success was
very much a joint effort.
However, it happened by accident. Peter and I had
each entered a photographic competition run by a diving magazine
which, sadly, is no longer in existence. After the contest had been
judged, some transparencies were posted by mistake to my home. They
belonged to a photographer called Peter Scoones.
I didn't know him at the time, but I knew that he
had won a gold medal for an 8 mm film at the Brighton Film Festival a
short time before! And I knew I wanted to meet him, especially as he
did not live far away - North London compared with South London,
where I was living.
So off I went with the trannies. I knocked at the
door of his house ... and we never got off the doorstep for something
like three hours. We were too busy talking about underwater
photography and another idea which had been buzzing around in each of
our minds - an organisation for underwater photographers.
We found we both complemented and inspired each
other in our ideas, our contacts, and in the skills and enthusiasm
necessary to launch such a body.
The outcome of that chat and subsequent phone calls
was a notice sent to many diving clubs and people who we knew which
"Because of the widespread interest among British
divers in underwater photography it is proposed to hold a meeting to
discuss the formation of a society to enable closer co-operation
among all those interested in this branch of photography."
"The proposed society would also foster and
stimulate interest in underwater photography in all its aspects."
"The idea of forming such a society has resulted
from talks with many divers. The general feeling is that a society
should provide a forum for the discussion of ideas and problems
associated with underwater photography in any way."
"It should also foster interest in all aspects of
underwater photography as an art by holding exhibitions of work
representative of the trends and techniques".
"The society would also be concerned with
developing techniques and equipment for use underwater".
"in particular, the society would be open to anyone
interested in underwater photography and not in any way limited to an
Recipients of the notice were urged to display it
on their club notice boards and then Peter and I waited for the
It came in the form of a meeting in Peter Scoones'
front room attended by 16 people. Among them were Dr John Betts, Mike
Busuttili, Tim Glover, Geoff Harwood, Kendall McDonald and John
The minutes record that the meeting was "called to
bring together a society for underwater photographers and others
interested in the field."
They went on to state that the meeting started with
an 'informal discussion' - you should have been present for some of
them -on items that those present considered such a society should
We were thrilled by our visions of the future. And
our ideas were suitably wide-ranging and far-sighted. They were:
* Making an arrangement with a photographic agency
to handle member's work.
* Formation of a print/slide clinic to help members
who would like advice on their work.
* A postal portfolio of underwater photographs.
* The holding of meetings to discuss problems,
exchange ideas and show photographs and films.
* Formation of a Technical Exchange Service to put
members in touch with others who wanted assistance or had information
that might help others.
* Investigation of the possibility of underwater
photo-safaris to more equable climates.
* Provision of a forum where members could air
their views and complaints.
It was agreed that the Society should be called The
British Society of Underwater Photographers and Kendall MacDonald,
with the agile mind of a Fleet Street national newspaper editor,
promptly pointed out that it would be known henceforth as BSoUP,
which a pretty good description of the stuff we dived in and which we
attempted to get recognisable images.
The annual subscription was set at three guineas
"payable in advance". Now there was a touch of class. Guineas. For
those who haven't heard the term, a guinea was one pound sterling and
one shilling in real money.
The first officials were:
Chairman: Colin Doeg
Secretary: Peter Scoones
Treasurer: Juliet Scoones
Committee Members: Geoff Harwood, Tim Glover,
Kendall MacDonald, Don Allen and Phil Smith.
It was decided to hold the first meeting of the
Society on 5 December 1967 at 7.30 for 8.00 p.m. Members were asked
to bring six pictures for display ... and so began the scurrilous
suggestion that BSoUP was only formed so that we could show each
other our prints and slides! It was also decided that the Society
should have a symbol. Various members undertook to think of
Kendall MacDonald went back to the newsroom of the
now defunct London Evening News and explained the problem to one of
the newspaper's artists. Without hesitation, he said "This is what
The genius then did a few scribbles on a piece of
paper .. And so was born the outline of a fish in the middle of a
With a burst of generosity, we rewarded the
designer with a packet of twenty fags for his work. Today the
creation of a logo and a house style would cost a packet ... of
For those involved at the outset, they were
exciting times as we bubbled over with our visions of the future.
Some have been achieved already. In fact most have. Others are still
to be fully met.
Above all ease commercialism and competitiveness
had not emerged to the same extent, so everyone was eager to share
ideas, talk about techniques and help each other produce better
Because those were days when it was a triumph to
produce a recognisable image of the underwater world .. even if it
took you several years to manage it the first time. The formation of
BSoUP and the forum it provided began to help people to produce
satisfactory results much more quickly.
Over the years, underwater photography has leapt
ahead, but I always hope that those who take it up will continue to
have as much fun and excitement as the founders of the Society, which
is now world-wide in its membership and influence.
Reproduced from in focus 44. MarApr.
92 with kind permission of Colin Doeg.