Donald Lush

Topic: Courses
Subject: Film and Photographic Arts
Status: Student
Time period: 1980s

Donald Lush studied Film and Photographic Arts at PCL in the early 1980s.

Photography has always been a key subject at the University. The Royal Polytechnic Institute at 309 Regent Street was the home of the first photographic studio in Europe and classes in photography began in 1852.  Hogg continued these classes when he acquired the building under the auspices of Howard Farmer.  In 1943 Margaret Harker joined the Poly staff becoming Britain's first female professor in photography.  She later became head of the school. In 1960 the Poly established its first full time 3 year diploma in photography and in 1966 the World's first BSc in the subject.  Originally based at Regent Street and then Little Titchfield Street, photography is now at our Harrow campus.

In this excerpts he discusses the structure of the course and teaching methods and the photographic assignments set by Derek Drage.

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I: What was the course that you took? 
DL: The course was Bachelor of Arts in Film and Photographic Arts and it was structured so that in the first year you studied both film and photography, so we spent time in the film studios and then time in the photography studios.  Then you majored in the second and third years in one or the other.  There was a parallel course called Photo Science which was…people in the basement of this building [Little Titchfield Street] used to fire bullets through apples and photograph it and stuff like that.  Very, very…build their own cameras and do very, really interesting techy things, but we were the artists, we were the creative side of it.  It was kind of unique, yes it was unique in that there was a theory course that went with it.  It was, we were told time and time again throughout the course that this is not a vocational course, it’s not training, it’s about ideas really, it’s about expressing ideas through photography. 

DL: The creative side, I remember we had a most fantastic guy called Derek Drage who was very, very influential on the first year of the course particularly and a wonderful teacher, absolutely wonderful, incredibly encouraging and very, very creative and he used to set little weekend briefs.  So on Friday we would meet for ten minutes and he’d say, “Weekend project, here’s a roll of film, I want to see what you’ve got on Monday.”  One of the ones he did was to photograph five minutes, which was great, I had loads of fun with that.  What I did was rubbish, but another one was to make a complete image out of a contact sheet if you know what I mean by that and I think there was another one to do with portraits that we had to do and he would just keep saying if anyone got stuck he would just give them a roll of film and small idea and say, “Go away and come back with some pictures.”

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