Fotonow and Camper Obscura

Predator or collaborator?
– John Blyth

Fotonow is a non-profit organisation which focuses on community interest in the south west, including workshops at schools and residential homes, communicating with a broad and diverse range of communities. Founded by Matthew Pontin and Jonathan Blyth, both passionate photographers and educators, they aim to create new opportunities for the public to become social motivated, helping the community to explore its visual culture. The company has been successfully running for 5 years and has recently been recognised as a sustainable social enterprise.

During our lecture with Matthew and John, they explained to us their ups and downs in creating the company, in which at one point, they had literally both emptied out their bank accounts in order to create a proposal, as well as travel from one side of England to another in a car that was falling apart, all in order to achieve their goals. This came to show you me that if you’re persistent and passionate enough in what you’re doing, and you believe in yourself and the cause, you will eventually achieve what you’re aiming to to achieve.

ImageFotonow have also created a project called “Camper Obscura” this is the act of turning buildings into cameras (a pinhole camera). This project was inspired by an old photographer Daniel Meadows, and his project “The Bus”. Meadows travelled around in the bus to different towns and cities, advertising it as “The Free Photographic Omnibus” and letting countless amounts of people enter the bus that was not only his vehicle or his home, but his camera, documenting the many people her had come across on his journey through photos, whilst also bringing the community together. Meadows also said “Each of us is unique, we are all special”, words that truly evokes his philosophy, as well as being inspirational to both me and Fotonow. Matt an John went on to meet a man named Derek, who in the 1980s, was an engineer who collected obscura paraphernalia and created a camera out of a caravan. After meeting Derek, he gave his old camera to John and Matt and they set out on creating their own caravan camera, the camper obscura that they now travel to different communities in and create workshops that evokes the community, treading in both Derek and Meadow’s footsteps. Fotonow gave us two very thoughtful quotes for us to contemplate, the first was asking if we were a “Predator or collaborator” referring to the public and whether we plan and taking photos of them like they’re our prey without them realising, or whether we plan on working with them. The second quote was “Learn to cultivate your audience”. This is something I would now consider very important after this lecture, and something I feel I should always bare in mind with my practice.


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