If you are at the stage in your photography where you are considering attaining a Licentiate qualification, with either the BIPP, MPA, SWPP or the RPS, I would certainly encourage you to do so. You will have your own reasons for wanting to do it but for me, it wasn't gaining the qualification so much as the process by which I gained it that made the most difference. I learned so much, about myself, the way I think, how I take images and why as well as what I want to achieve in my photography, that I found it to be thoroughly worthwhile. It also made me appreciate how much work is required to gain such a qualification and to value it more. So, go for it, whatever your reasons for doing so.
I would certainly suggest engaging the support of a mentor at an early planning stage as their help and expertise will be invaluable. The BIPP provides a free mentoring service as part of the program and will try to match you with a mentor chosen for their subject knowledge and expertise in the area of interest to you, from a trained group of Fellows and Associates who volunteer their time and expertise to try and help you to achieve your aim. This is essential as without their support and guidance, you may struggle - or worse, fail and have to re-apply or perhaps even give up trying.
I consider myself very lucky to have benefited from the extraordinary advice and guidance from an eminent BIPP Fellow who acted as my mentor. He was very honest with me and kept asking for more, more, more and better, better, better, really driving me to improve my work. I am so grateful for that experience and with his help and often brutal advice, I sailed through my Licentiateship 'with flying colours'.
Gaining the qualification is not just about the images however. It is essential to present them in a professional manner and also to produce the accompanying documentation of a sufficiently high standard. The BIPP publish guidelines on their website for those considering a qualification so do make sure you read it thoroughly and ask for advice on anything you are not sure of. I cannot comment about the process with other associations so you will need to contact them for details.
A panel of 20 images is required by the BIPP, presented in two rows of ten. It is vital that the images follow a common theme and that they work well as a cohesive body of work. Your mentor will advise and offer help on this. I found this to be the most difficult part, in many ways, as knowing which images to leave out is as important as which to include and the order in which they appear is also significant.
The Working Profile is the written documentation which accompanies the submission. It is an opportunity for you to explain what you do, how you do it and why and offer an insight into your working practices. You are also required to include evidence of published work, a professional indemnity insurance certificate and the overall standard of presentation is taken into account.
Although not compulsory for Licentiate candidates, I would recommend attending the assessment for interview as, regardless of whether you pass or fail, speaking with the assessors is invaluable in itself and I found it to be extremely useful. It may involve a bit of travelling but, in my opinion, it is well worth it. The journey home is a good time to consider their comments and make future plans.
These are some of the images from my qualifying Licentiate panel which I hope may be useful to anyone else either in the process of putting a panel together or who is considering it. They were presented as a panel in two rows of 10 images mounted on snow white board. The panel received a nomination for Best Licentiate in 2005.
2006 - A year after gaining my Licentiate, I was unsuccessful in my attempt for an Associateship. My own feeling was that I had tried to go too quickly and that I should not have allowed myself to be persuaded to apply so soon after gaineing the L and winning several awards. I knew afterwards I had not really follow the same process as I had done previously and so decided to take my time and have another attempt.
2007 - Another year on, after much research and study and taking of new images, I was successful in gaining an Associateship in the Scientific category. This was a real achievement and I was so pleased I had failed the first time as it had allowed me to find out more about what it was I was really trying to investigate. The Scientific category was one in which I felt more comfortable.
2010 - Three years on and another year after successfully completing an MA in Fine Art which in turn was inspired by my experience in gaining the Associateship, I was awarded a Fellowship in the Fine Art category. This was such a big moment as I had put so much time and research into first the MA and then the work submitted for Fellowship, I could not quite believe what I had achieved in just 5 years.