Friday 14th September – An evening with Billy Rily


Once the official season begins at the Bangor and North Down Camera Club premises in Ward Avenue, it can be assured that when guest speakers are invited to give presentations, the clubroom will be packed to the doors. This certainly was the case on Friday evening when Billy Rily was our presenter.

A slideshow of some of his personal and client work was shown at the early part of the evening.

Billy has been a life-long friend and colleague of our President, Gerry Coe; indeed, he worked with Gerry in Robert Anderson Photography, more recently known as Anderson McMeekin and now known as Blacksheep, at the tender age of 15 as tea-boy, ascending up the ranks to be chief photographer, before setting up a private business. He has now been in the photography business for 45 years.

He comes from the Newcastle area and having retired from full time professional photography, is now a tutor at Newry Campus SRC, teaching photography.

He described the early age of 9 years old when he was inspired by a Box Brownie film camera given to him by his late mother.

His commercial photography regularly involved the use of 5″x4″ plate cameras. He recollected some of his early experiences, in particular the day when he was required to photograph a corpse at an autopsy in a morgue using the plate camera mounted directly above the body. Whilst up on stepladders and head under the black cloth used to shield the light from the viewing screen, the corpse burped, and the reaction of alarm of all the officials standing around caused panic and the camera collapsed on the body and got broken.

Billy’s view was that until the era of digital, photography using film and chemical development and printing became very static. Back in those old days he recalled having to roll and unroll 60″ wide prints in and out of the chemical developer, checking progress then a dash to the fixer tray and final washing. Amber finger tips and nails were a mark of the trade. After 15 years using digital cameras he says he will never return to the old methods.

His photographic career encompassed the period of the “troubles” and his assignments took him to all parts of the province. During this period he experienced the most difficult subjects including human remains.

Whilst he began freelance life as a wedding photographer, he now only does wedding shoots for friends and family. Everyone who now has a digital camera considers themselves as a wedding photographer, even having a supply of business cards.

The second half of the evening was devoted to a lively question and answer session with audience members. A debate arose on the merits if shooting JPG files versus RAW format. Billy’s view is that the mainly uses JPG.

As Gerry Coe closed the evening, he revealed a photograph taken which included them both when he was the tea-boy and he had ample black hair. Billy’s late brother Ted, was responsible for all the trophy engraving for our club.

An excellent evening enjoyed by all.

David Roberts

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