Interview with Sarah Wyld
When did you join the Photo Co-op?
I joined the Photo Co-op right from the off - February 1979. It was initiated by an architect, Martin Lipson. We had our very first meeting in the Battersea Arts Centre. I think that's when I first met Gina Glover. We were a bunch of people who were interested in using photography as a useful tool within the community. Some had very little experience of doing photography, some had more. I had some experience in photography and it was what I really wanted to do, still is.
The person with the most experience in photography was Tom Ang who has gone on to publish squillions of books about photography. Others had more experience in local activism. Others, like Gina, were artists. There was a lovely bloke called Abdul Chowdry who was very involved from the start and I've lost touch with him.
What was your role in the Photo Co-op?
Well - I took photographs, we had meetings in my house and I got involved with local issues. I taught Gina to develop black and white film. Later on I did teaching through the Photo Co-op and subsequently through Photofusion (which Photo Co-op grew into). We provided photography workers (including myself) for the Moving Picture Photography Project (MPPP). We took cameras and a portable darkroom round youth clubs. It was funded by ILEA I think (Inner London Education Authority).
What was the first major project you worked on?
The first major project I worked on with the Photo Co-op was an exhibition we did for the United Nations International Year of the Child, 1979. We learned a lot about layout, design & stuff doing that - I recall that all the pictures were printed exactly the same size.
We made calendars, 'Views on Wandsworth'. We campaigned to keep the Battersea Arts Centre open.
The Photo Co-op was very very special to me in the early days. At last I had found a bunch of really lovely & interesting people who shared my ideas about how photography could be used. I was no longer a lonely photographer! We shared skills, ideas and learnt from each other. I had previously had a bit of work published, but with the Photo Co-op library this became much more.
What was going on in society at the time?
Margaret Bloody Thatcher, that's what! As well as Wandsworth Council turning Tory, cuts etc.
What was special to you about the Co-op?
When the Co-op started there wasn't hardly anything like it around. In 1982-ish I started work full time with a community photography project in Woolwich Dockyard, known as TIPP (The Independent Photography Project). It shared many ideals with the Co-op. It was through my community photography background with the Co-op that I got the job. Gradually there were more like minded groups such as Blackfriars Photography Project, Monocrone and more. We all grouped together including the Co-op & TIPP & created a large exhibition of work at The South London Gallery. In the early 80s, it was formally opened by Bert Hardy, Picture Post photographer now deceased. TIPP's contribution was work produced by people with learning disabilities that had been coming to regular sessions taught by myself and the Co-op's was a documentation of Garratt Lane in Wandsworth.
Through the Co-op I worked weekly for years with a group of people with mental health needs, patients of Springfield Hospital.
"At last I had found a bunch of really lovely & interesting people who shared my ideas about how photography could be used. I was no longer a lonely photographer!"