Your Medway Eyes

Your Medway Eyes
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Image by Phil Dillon
Last week, Medway Eyes received an email from Mathew Beech at www.kosmedia.co.uk asking for roughly 750 words about what Medway Eyes is and does. I was happy to provide this on the group’s behalf. It got edited to buggery, unfortunately, so here’s what I actually sent in:

Tell us a bit about yourself. My name is Phil Dillon. I’m a photographer and a member of Medway Eyes.

Describe Medway Eyes to us. Medway Eyes is an independent artists’ collective, mostly made up of photographers and musicians. In our first year, we’ve had three exhibitions, numerous gigs, one arrest, and have put out a compilation album and eZine.

How did you become involved with it? After my first photography exhibition at the Brook Theatre in Chatham, their team offered me the opportunity to exhibit again. I asked if I could put on a group exhibition featuring a number of Medway photographers, and the next thing I knew the submission deadline was looming and I was in The Britannia with photographers Jack Picknell and Alex Turner trying to decide exactly what the brief for a group exhibition should be, and what the group should call itself. It might not be the best name ever, but we’ve settled into it now.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on you? As a group, I suppose the answer must be "each other". Seeing someone else’s take on a Medway view or landmark can be a refreshing, eye-opening thing. That was the basis of the Look At Medway exhibition, I suppose. Personally, I’m influenced by Medway music. I was a musician myself before becoming a photographer, and these days I love taking my camera to gigs.

What has been your biggest success so far? We’re told that the Look At Medway exhibition had more visitors than any other exhibition at the Brook Theatre to date, so that was really encouraging. It was clear to us from listening to visitors that we had created something that people could really relate to. We learned an awful lot about Medway every time one of us popped in for a cup of tea (the gallery space doubles as a cafe).

What have been your biggest challenges? One of our photographers was arrested under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 in July, when he had acted within his rights and within the law. He had simply taken a photograph of a chip shop. It’s a long story. We arranged a photo walk as a peaceful reaction to this and received broad national and local press coverage that drew attention to the issue. That was a challenge, because we’re not legal or PR experts and we had to learn an awful lot in a short space of time.

What are the aims and goals of Medway Eyes for the future? That’s a good question. We’re trying to work out what we want to be, and we’ll be holding a meeting in the New Year to discuss that. We’ve sort of evolved, you see. We have an ongoing multimedia project that we’ve only really put out online teaser material about. That will unravel and become more public as 2010 unfolds. We have an exhibition at the Riverside Country Park (our second there) coming up in June, and we have the blueprint for a festival too. We’ve also found ourselves writing Q&A articles like this, giving radio interviews, putting on gigs (usually for Oxjam) and speaking at colleges over the past year. We’ve also found ourselves attempting to engage with Medway Council, at their invitation, about the regeneration. We feel, like many, that the regeneration is being done to us, rather than for us. We feel strongly about Medway’s heritage, and are appalled at the fate of the Theatre Royal and the planned demolition of the Aveling and Porter building. We’d like to see Sun Pier repaired too. The key to a successful regeneration is the preservation of your heritage. And if you’ve got a waterfront, open it up, don’t hide it behind a bus station or cover it in flats.

What advice would you give aspiring photographers? Learn how your camera works. Try film. You might love it. If you’re shooting digital, take lots of pictures and learn from them. Learn the basic rules but don’t be constrained by them. Try to get it right in-camera. Software doesn’t make poor or average pictures good. And try not to get stuck with one style. Experiment a bit. Finally, join the Medway Towns Group on Flickr. Most of us hang out there and it’s a friendly place.

What do you like to do in your free time? I take photos and go to local gigs. I like to look at other people’s photos, too.

Any final comments? You can find out more about us by visiting our website at www.medwayeyes.co.uk. You can download our birthday bundle for free, consisting of 21 tracks, artwork and an eZine all about our first year. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Thanks to Your Medway for having us, and thanks for reading this.

So, on the one hand, nice to get in the paper and thanks for the exposure. On the other hand, bearing in mind that the paper was presented with a completed article and didn’t have to write anything for itself, I feel we’ve been done a bit of a disservice by lazy journalism and arbitrary editing.

So it goes, and that’s why the people are the new media.

Oh, and I asked them to credit the photo to www.sweetfanny.co.uk and they didn’t.