About Us

/About Us
About Us 2018-03-14T08:50:37+00:00

The Disabled Photographers’ Society is a registered charity formed in 1968 to help make photography accessible to those with disabilities.

The society has developed a broad knowledge of various ways to make photography accessible. Often with a few simple modifications, we can open up a whole new world of possibilities to those who would otherwise struggle to operate a camera.

The society is run by a team of dedicated volunteers, most of whom are disabled photographers themselves.

We act as a source of information on all aspects of photography for people with disabilities.

The Society was formed in 1968 by Arthur Scrase, Chairman of the Ham Photographic Club (now long disbanded). Three ex-servicemen living in at the Royal Star & Garter Home, Richmond had an interest in photography and, although severely disabled, they were able to attend meetings with the help of St. John’s Ambulance staff, who brought them along to the meetings. However, owing to the severity of their disabilities, they were unable to operate conventional cameras.

Another photographic society in the area was the Richmond & Twickenham P.S. who, at times, provided lecturers and judges for the Ham club. One of these lecturers, named Harry Wells, was an engineer, who ran the apprentice programme for C.A.V. Ltd. at Acton, London. Harry offered to try and find a way to adapt a normal camera for disabled use and began work on the project with his apprentices. The camera selected for modification was a Konica C35, a compact film model with auto exposure.

Within a period of about three months, a working prototype was produced. The shutter was fired by an air release which could be held in the hand, or by a suction release which could be operated my mouth. The film wind-on was achieved by a small solenoid-operated electric motor, which was powered by a 12 volt car battery stored under a wheelchair. If the wheelchair was electrically operated itself, the power was taken directly from its power source.

Further developments took place on camera operation and enquiries began to come in from other people with disabilities who wanted to take up photography. So it was that the Society came into being. It was originally called “Photography for the Disabled”, but the name was changed in the late 1970’s to the present one.

In 1988 the founder, Arthur Scrase, died and the Society was restructured with a larger committee. Apart from the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, other posts were created to ensure the continued smooth running of the charity, as technical enquiries, specialist adaptations, supply of darkroom and camera equipment, repairs to equipment donated to the Society and press and public relations.

The society has continually developed over the ensuing years and its members now embrace the latest digital technologies. In some ways the digital revolution has made things easier. But even this has brought with it a new set of problems, such ss equipment cost and the need for some computer skills in order to be fully able to utilise the technology. Little wonder then some members still choose to use film, both print and slide varieties, for many reasons, and they are still catered for within the society competition’s and exhibition.

The technology and fashions may change but the Disabled Photographers’ society founding and overriding principle, of helping the disabled to take up and to continue to enjoy photography, remains unchanged and is a constant challenge.

In common with most societies, clubs and institutions the Disabled Photographers’ Society has a set of rules, or constitution, within which the elected committee runs the society, in the best interests of its members.

The founders of the DPS laid down the original constitution in 1968 and it has been amended several times during the forty-year history of the society.

The first amendment we have a record for was in 1973, when the society was known as “Photography for the disabled”. Changes made included the name of the bank used by the society and the month in which the AGM was to be held. Some more small amendments were made in 1996, by which time the current name for the Society had been adopted.

Late in 2007 it was felt by many that the language used in the constitution was out dated and that it did not reflect the modern world or the technology that we use in photography today. Accordingly a review of the constitution was undertaken and some amendments were proposed.

It was also felt that as a society we had expanded and that we now needed to reflect this in our constitution. Unfortunately things are not that simple in UK law. We had a monumental struggle to change even one or two words in some of the original rules but we finally agreed some amendments, to existing parts of the constitution with the charity commission. These changes were mainly in the language and terminology used to describe persons with disabilities. We were also able to add some further amplification of the aims and work of the society, to reflect what we actually do today.

The amended constitution was presented to the AGM held in Pitstone, on Sunday May 11th 2008. It was agreed unanimously by those present and has now been adopted by the society as its constitution.

If you wish to download the Constitution please visit our Downloads page.

The DPS relies upon volunteers for 100% of its activities, as we are not allowed, by our constitution, to employ paid staff.

We have a very diverse membership, drawn from all areas of society and we have numerous people within our ranks who have a great variety of skills, in addition to photography. Many of our members already assist the DPS as committee members or as volunteers at various events.

This does not mean that we do not have a need for additional help on a regular or intermittent basis!

We would particularly like to hear from our members, or other interested parties, if they have any of the following skills and if they can volunteer to assist the DPS in the following areas:

To help in developing new ways of raising funds for the DPS and sponsorship of the society.

Are you numerate and good with finances? Can you help with our accounting procedures and provide management accounts on a regular basis.

On an occasional basis when required in various locations within the UK.

Any interested parties for any of the above should contact us in the first instance by using the Contact Form on our Contact page.

You can make a big difference, to so many, by helping just a little.

The DPS aims to provide service of a standard acceptable to all our members. If we fail to do this we want to know about it. This will enable us not only to deal with the specific problem, but also to avoid it happening again.

This complaints procedure sets out how to take up matters if you think the service you have received from the DPS is unsatisfactory.

Initially, we would expect members of the society with issues about the operations and service of the DPS to raise their concerns informally through a committee member/the chairman. Details of current committee members/the chairman are available from the contacts page. The committee member/Chairman may take the matter up with the whole committee or with an appropriate officer. The complainant should be given a response within a month, of the complaint being raised.

Additionally, and/or in the event of that informal complaint not being resolved to the satisfaction of the member, a formal complaint can be made in writing to the General Secretary of the society, through the PO Box address, the complaints procedure can be downloaded from our Downloads page:

The Disabled Photographers Society
37 Orchard Close
New Barn

In such an event, the General Secretary will convene a sub-committee of three members from the main committee; without vested interest in the complaint. They will consider the matter; taking evidence from all parties and responding to the complaint with their comments and outcomes. Again this would be within a month of the issue being raised.

Meet Our Team

Michael Birbeck FRPS FBPPA FDPS
Michael Birbeck FRPS FBPPA FDPSPresident

Mike Birbeck broke his back in a flying accident in 1982 whilst serving in the RAF. Since that time, all of his photography has been from a wheelchair.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS), the British Professional Photographers Associates (FBPPA) and the Disabled Photographers’ Society (FDPS). He is a member of the Licentiate Panel at the RPS. He has been on the organising committee of the Disabled Photographers’ Society since 1998, was Chairman for 10 years from 1994 to 2004, and has been President of that Society since then, and in 2008 he was made Honorary Life President.

In 2005 he was awarded the RPS Hood medal for services to photography. He has won many medals and awards, including Gold medals from FIAP, the RPS and the PAGB. He has been lecturing and judging since 1985. He teaches photography from his own small studio. His main interests are ‘people’ photography, both posed and candid, and travel photography.

Tom Molloy FDPS
Tom Molloy FDPSChairman

I live in Coventry in the midlands of England. I first joined the DPS in 1999 after becoming disabled through developing Rheumatoid arthritis, in a very acute form. Until then I led a varied and very active life, holding a commercial pilots licence and being a director of two aviation companies.

During my time as a pilot I met DPS member John Miller and had often flown him around on photographic trips, which rekindled an earlier interest in photography and so led to my joining the DPS, when I could no longer fly.

When I left School I trained and worked within the hotel industry and eventually taking on the role of a regional manager for an international hotel chain. I also had an interest in computers and with the help of a part time university course I also qualified in computer programming, using COBOL, an early computer language still used today. So digital photography was a more natural progression for me than for some people.

Then in the 1980’s I got the flying bug, and that took over my life. My other passion was mountain biking and I once took part in a 500 mile sponsored bike ride across Israel, which raised half a million pounds for a children’s charity.

My aviation interests remain, but in a purely photographic form now. I also very much enjoy motor sport photography, as well as steam trains and our industrial heritage. I can also be found in a studio working with models, during the colder months, when it’s not so comfortable outside.

Paul Adams ADPS FDPS DPAGBSecretary

I live in New Barn, near Longfield, in Kent. I think I joined the society in 2004 and have been General Secretary since 2008.

During my working life I was a headmaster in south-east London; but following the onset of muscular dystrophy I have had to retire. However, as the old cliché goes … ‘I don’t know how I found the time to go to work’.

I have been active in photographic circles in the south-east for about 20 years; as a member at Bexleyheath Photographic Society and as a Premier Judge for the Kent area.

I have a wide photographic interest and will take photographs of anything; quite often getting strange looks from passers-by for so doing. My intention is to produce an image, with sound technique, that has impact for the viewer and attracts their attention. I use Canon equipment.

My first preference is for black and white photography. It seems most like ‘real’ photography and the prints displayed show the power of this conventional medium. More recently, I have taken to digital imaging and sequencing slides with music.

My likes are travel and books, and my dislikes are angry people and bureaucracy.

Martin Saych LDPS ADPS
Martin Saych LDPS ADPSTreasurer

Eric BennettQuarterly Competitions Co-ordinator

Eddie CurrallMembership Secretary

Tony Beck
Tony BeckWebmaster

My name is Tony Beck, I served in the RAF for 16 years before suffering a brain tumour in 2005 which has left me permanently needing a wheelchair for mobility.

Following a long and arduous recovery I needed to find a hobby in order to maintain my relative sanity. I decided to take up photography which has now become a major part of my life.

I joined the society in 2008 recently took over the mantle of webmaster looking after the website, gallery and forum. I have many years experience with computer technology and took several web design courses at college in 2007 and have since designed websites for several companies. I have completely re-designed the website, gallery and forum giving it a new fresh look.

My main photographic interest is classic & historic motorsport & aviation and I also dabble in studio and landscape photography.

Gillian Birbeck
Gillian BirbeckEquipment Co-ordinator

Gillian has been a stalwart volunteer and a passionately loyal member of the committee for many years and in addition to being in charge of equipment adaptations and loans, has also been involved with the exhibition, the holiday and the AGM, amongst many other things.

She is a full-time carer for her husband (our President) Mike, and has therefore been physically involved with lots of his duties too.

Gillian is the person members should contact if you would like to discuss any problem you have regarding the mechanics of pressing the shutter button. She is always on the lookout for new devices that could make our members’ lives easier with regard to the actual taking of the photograph and she is always eager to find out from our members any hints or tips they may have.

She has no official disablement so is unable to become a full member of this Society and that is why you never see her photographs in the magazine or in the exhibition.

She gained her Associateship of the RPS with a series of photographs taken from a taxi, loves photography and the DPS, and has been rewarded by us with a lifetime honorary membership in recognition of all the work she has put in to help us through the years.

AgiExhibitions Co-ordinator

Photography was always present in her life, in different shapes and forms. Agi Ch began her photographic journey by helping parents in the darkroom, as well as modelling for various photographers, and eventually started to take images herself. She mainly works with black and white film. Ambiguity, texture, light, forms and shadows – those are the most important aspects of Agi’s photography. She is the organiser of the annual C12 raffle in aid of DPS at The Photography Show and secretary of Frame Creatives – non-profit organisation supporting photographers in West Midlands area.

Kenny Cowle
Kenny CowleMagazine Editor

SandyR LDPSPortfolio Group Co-ordinator

SandyR is a relatively recent addition (2013) to the DPS. He has an interest in Natural History (in the broadest sense) and landscape photography but since joining the DPS has discovered that he also enjoys exploring photography and will now try pretty much any area.

He was very pleased when he gained his LDPS in 2014 and thoroughly reccommends others to consider doing the DPS distinctions.

Since having to give up work as a result of health issues, he has found that photography has been of great benefit and enjoyment for him. He joined in the Electonic Portfolio Group (EPG) when he first joined the DPS, and is now sharing the role of coordinator.