Vernon Dewhurst

Topic: Courses
Subject: Photography
Status: Student
Time period: 1960s

Vernon Dewhurst studied Photography at the Regent Street Polytechnic in the 1960s. In this excerpt he discusses the teaching staff on the photography course.

309 Regent Street has a long history with Photography.  In 1848 Europe's first photographic studio opened at the Royal Polytechnic Institution on its roof and members of the public could come and have their portraits taken.  Charles Dickens was among the customers.  In 1852 photography classes began.  Quintin Hogg continued these classes when he acquired the building.  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.  The head of the School of Photography whilst Vernon Dewhurst was studying was Margaret Harker, Britain's first female professor of photography.  

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I: Can you tell me a bit about the types of things you were learning - the courses, the sort of modules on the course?
VD: It was fairly basic to start off with.  In fact I think most of us found it too basic in that we were learning things we already knew, but presumably the course had to be based on it for people arriving with no knowledge whatsoever. I know the first year we did find it quite boring, because we weren’t doing very much and it was all sort of fairly routine stuff.  The practical side of it was learning processing and printing, developing the films and printing the films just black and white at that stage and then we started I think mainly in the second year going out and doing things like architectural photography with big cameras and then in the third year we did colour processing and printing.  They had these enormous printing machines for printing colour, it was very sort of comparatively primitive at that stage.  The whole process I think took about an hour and a half, so you were shut up for I think about 40 minutes in the dark in the first stage of that process, you had to go into the darkroom with your prints that you were developing, put them on the machine in the dark and then wait until they’d gone through 2 or 3 of the baths before you could actually turn the light on and that the dark side of the machine was actually known as the boudoir because of course the girls and the boys tried to get in there together if you fancied somebody. 40 minutes in the dark with somebody who you quite liked was quite an incentive.  
I: And what was the actual course title?  Was it a diploma?
VD: It’s a diploma, there was no degree at that time.

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