In 1998, I was working at Jessops cameras in Leicester after finishing at University, not really having a clue about how to take my wonderful photography degree and turn that into a living. Rhonda Wilson had been a tutor to me at Nottingham Trent and had been a wonderful source of inspiration and support.
At that time there was a fantastic centre for photography in Leicester which was for professionals and amateurs alike. Essentially a place for people passionate about photography to hang out and drink wonderful coffee. The centre was set up by Roger Bradley and Anna Smalley. They decided to apply for lottery funding to set up a part-time course for graduates of photography to teach them business skills, something that I was sorely lacking ( but hey I don’t think anything has changed for most graduates of photography, so don’t feel too bad for me!) The centre sadly closed a few years ago, due to lack of funding.
One thing that Rhonda suggested during one of our modules is the opportunity to do work experience, something that I had ( doh..) turned down at University. She set me up with a photographer in London called Jonathan De Villiers, an art photographer who had ended up doing a lot of fashion photography for at that time Sleazenation and Self-Service.
I spent a good week with Jonathan trawling around locations and taking pictures so he’d have something to refer to when it came to arranging the shoots for real. Bird World in Surrey and the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace were two highlights.
After a few days of roaming around, he sent me off to see Steve Lazarides who at the time was the picture editor of Sleazenation magazine who immediately put me to work filing transparencies and prints for a new venture he’d set up with the Sleazenation publisher: PYMCA, which was a youth culture based photo library ( and still is, it’s excellent!!)
After a week of that, I returned to Leicester and a few months later, Steve phoned me with a job offer to be his assistant (nice!)
I kept in contact with Rhonda and last time I saw her was when she was having a party in Hyde Park with her friends and family to celebrate her MBE for services to photography.
Recently I heard that a campaign had been set up to help her as she’s been ill for the past three years and is now facing financial ruin, for example she could lose her home.
Rhonda had a great impact on my life, as she has for many photographers, picture editors, art buyers, film makers…essentially anyone involved in visual media. Anyone that has ever met her can testify to her unwavering passion for photography in all its forms.
Be good, donate: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-rhonda-wilson
There’s lots of prints available, as perks. Mostly for £200, so have a gander. At time of writing, there’s one Brian Griffin print left plus numerous others.