When the Bangor and North Down Camera Club invited Jim Maginn to be their guest speaker they anticipated a thought provoking evening and they certainly weren’t disappointed!
In the second part of the evening Jim instigated a lively debate by stating that he strongly disagreed with the regular competitions which are a large part of any club’s programme. In particular he criticised the method of judging a photographer’s ability on just one image, insisting instead that a much wider body of work should be considered. In his opinion each photographer should be striving to find and develop his or her own style and then using it as a voice to express their ideas. This, he concluded could not be done by looking at a single image.
Several members were quick to point out that competition was only a small part of the activities within the club . The Wednesday evening tutorial sessions and the regular outings were cited as examples of the wider reach of the annual programme. A good natured exchange of views provided a stimulating night for the packed Ward Avenue headquarters.
Earlier in the evening Jim, who lectures in photography at the University of Ulster, had outlined his curriculum vitae. From O Level art to a Fine Arts course at Sheffield University he had travelled to Boston where he spent four years honing his craft and developing his style. However it was when he returned to the UK, to Newport in Gwent to complete a degree course that he began to study in depth the powerful medium that photography could be. His work involved documenting the lives of alcoholics and heroin addicts and afforded Jim an added insight into the ethical values involved in such sensitive work.
Back in Belfast he went to work with Photoworks North , an Arts Council sponsored scheme to provide support to photographers who are not necessarily involved with clubs. As well as a regular magazine and a dedicated gallery the movement was lobbying for a full degree course in photography to be offered in Northern Ireland. This was successfully achieved and is now in its fifth year of existence in Belfast .
As well as teaching Jim has produced a valuable archive of traditional music which is accessible on his website (www.jimmaginn.com) and still undertakes ventures which involve merging photography with other visual arts such as painting and sculpture. A recent example was The Irregulars – a portfolio of the customers of the John Hewitt bar in Belfast . The portraits, captured as digital images by Jim were then offered to artists as source material. The venture was very successful- in fact no fewer than three of Jim’s images appeared as paintings in the recent Royal Ulster Academy exhibition