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Georgette Douwma

Winner of BSoUP's Open Portfolio Competition 1984

by Peter Rowlands

Reproduced from in focus 8 (Feb. 1985)

The first BSoUP Open Portfolio Competition was held in December and attracted 28 entries, each of six slides, so the audience, who were the judges had a full evening' s work to establish the overall winner.

The result was a landslide victory for Georgette Douwma, whose entry was a clear 100 points in front of second place Warren Williams. Bill Hewitt was third, closely behind Warren.

Peter Rowlands presenting the cash prize to Georgette for winning the first Open Portfolio Competition.

For those who know Georgette's work, this honour will come as no surprise for she has consistently produced top quality work despite being a 'comparative newcomer', having joined BSoUP only three years ago. Her entries for the 'Focus On' monthly competitions have nearly always come in the first three and to confirm her talent, she was voted 'Best Beginner' at Brighton 1983.

Despite this success in the underwater photography world, Georgette remains a quiet BSoUP member preferring to let her work do the talking, leave. her to concentrate on future images. This quiet exterior is deceptive for it protects an underwater photographer whose determined enthusiasm is infectious and reminiscent of early BSoUP members as they reacted to this new and exciting medium.

For those who know Georgette's work, this honour will come as no surprise for she has consistently produced top quality work despite being a 'comparative newcomer', having joined BSoUP only three years ago. Her entries for the 'Focus On' monthly competitions have nearly always come in the first three and to confirm her talent, she was voted 'Best Beginner' at Brighton 1983.

For those who know Georgette's work, this honour will come as no surprise for she has consistently produced top quality work despite being a 'comparative newcomer', having joined BSoUP only three years ago. Her entries for the 'Focus On' monthly competitions have nearly always come in the first three and to confirm her talent, she was voted 'Best Beginner' at Brighton 1983.

Despite this success in the underwater photography world, Georgette remains a quiet BSoUP member preferring to let her work do the talking, leave. her to concentrate on future images. This quiet exterior is deceptive for it protects an underwater photographer whose determined enthusiasm is infectious and reminiscent of early BSoUP members as they reacted to this new and exciting medium.

Using standard Nikonos equipment, Georgette has produced results in both British and Tropical waters which show a different approach to the medium and which provide a refreshing change to the majority of work. Her work underwater is really a natural progression for she had been involved with art from birth in an artistic family and later attending art college. In addition to this has been taking land shots for many years. It is because of this that she finds it hard to discuss her work at length for, when taking shots, she is merely responding to almost subconscious reactions - pressing the trigger when the subject looks pleasing to her eye. For those of us with a sparse artistic background whose introduction was through diving. we must accept that underwater photography will always be hard work, until we can react to a subject and produce well composed interesting shots.

Originally shooting with colour slide film, Georgette's early work was concentrated on achieving consistent results in a world dominated with seemingly complicated equipment. Her extensive experience in land photography helped to some extent but, in generally she had a great deal of equipment to overcome. She simplified her approach by concentrating on close ups with a single flashgun, taking shots which satisfied her interest in marine biology.

Operating from Lundy and Plymouth in the U.K., her early submissions to BSoUP Slide Clinic showed a new talent with a fresh approach and gave her the beginnings of a competitive spirit. She admits that BSoUP is responsible for this and relies on attending the monthly meetings to provide stimulus and a springboard for her results.

Yet, despite her achievements, Georgette feels that there is still a long way to go. Her Nikonos camera does not give the reflex image so vital when composing so accurately. This has led to extensive use of colour negative film so that re-composition can be done in the darkroom and also, with a wide exposure latitude, she can concentrate much more on the subject and less on the mechanics of exposure. Her early work with transparencies introduced her to Cibachrome for producing colour prints from colour slides but with the advent of negative film, she can produce much more pleasing prints in a fraction of the time with lower contrast and at lower cost.

The use of negative film is mainly responsible for Georgette's performance. When she is happy with her material she produces her best work. If she feels that she has the wrong film it will curb her concentration and this will ultimately show in the results. The limitations of Nikonos camerae are balanced with the latitude of colour negative film to produce a working solution.

However, with the imminent arrival of a housing for her Pentax LX, Georgette is eagerly awaiting the possibilities. The ability to compose in the reflex viewfinder will allow her to use Kodachrome slide film - a film she praises highly for its ultra fine grain and pure colours. This in turn will encourage her to submit her work to agencies - something she has never considered until she joined BSoUP. Most libraries/agencies insist on colour slides from their photographers as the printing industry is geared up to handle these.

Preferring to work with one camera per dive she would look upon a second camera as a means of having extra film or a different film but always the same lens system so that her concentration could he on the subject. Switching from wide angle to close ups during the same dive would add complications which impair the concentration.

When on location, an on-site processing facility would prove useful for the initial rolls but, once it was established that gear was behaving itself, Georgette prefers to save the processing until she can get back to her 6' x 41 darkroom and steam into the films as soon as she returns home. With the rolls of colour negatives dry, she is ready to make contact sheets and then prints of individual frames up to 1011 x 1211. This is an extremely time consuming process but is one she sees as entirely necessary. If slides are required, these are produced using print film (Process C41) and copying the negatives same size. The beauty of colour negative film is that you have a wide exposure latitude when shooting the original and you can then make top quality prints and still be able to make perfectly acceptable slides.

Always an advocate of 'shoot as much film as you can' Georgette, as are we all, is happy if there are 3 or 4 good images on a roll of film. What we must take account of however is the high standard Georgette sets on her work and the enthusiastic effort she applies to the task of producing underwater images. It is this standard which, I feel sure will prove to be a major influence for BSoUP members who appreciate such qualities.

BSoUP Open Portfolio Competition

BSoUP's Open Portfolio Competition Winners 1984-

2014 Mark Drayton

2013 Jackie Campbell

2012 Mark Pickford

2011 Dray van Beeck

2010 Giordano Cipriani

2009 Trevor Rees

2008 JP Trenque

2007 Shannon Conway

2006 Steve Jones

2005 Jane Morgan

2004 Alex Mustard

2003 Charles Hood

2002 Linda Dunk

2001 Tony White

2000 Gary Clark

1999 Guy Middleton

1998 Hilary Driscoll

1997 Malcolm Hey

1996 Linda Dunk

1995 Linda Dunk

1994 Linda Dunk

1993 Linda Pitkin

1992 Charles Hood

1991 Georgette Douwma

1990 Mike Wong

1989 Mike Wong

1988 Mike Wong

1987 Georgette Douwma

1986 Georgette Douwma

1985 Warren Williams

1984 Georgette Douwma


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