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Cats Protection volunteer wins international prize ...

17 August 2017
Cats Protection volunteer wins international prize ...

A volunteer who for several years has been quietly popping round to fosterers and taking brilliant photographs of branch cats for the website and the annual calendar, has  just heard he has won first prize at a prestigious international audio-visual festival held in Garda, Italy.

Richard Brown, who is Secretary of Sutton Coldfield Photography Club and lives in Erdington, was ‘delighted’ when he received the news by text from the organisers: ‘Congratulations – your entry ‘In Search of Christina’ has been judged the winner.’ And his prize is an impressive medal and a holiday for two at the Poiano resort hotel on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda.

On getting involved with the North Birmingham branch, Richard says: “A few years back, I went along to a Cats Protection volunteer recruitment day held at the Fellowship Hall in Sutton and offered to do a ‘bit of branch photography’. I was early retired, had some good equipment and, needless to say, loved cats. And over time I met most of the other truly dedicated volunteers: fosterers when I was asked to take photos of cats and kittens in their care for the website, and fundraisers and other helpers at events like the garden parties and pub quizzes. But I’ve continued with my other photography interests – chiefly in making audio visual productions - and submitted my sequence ‘In Search of Christina’ to the Garda festival. So the cats will have to do without me for a week in October when I take the holiday! But I'm sure they will manage." 

Richard worked in media production in the civil service until he retired, and adds:”There were around a hundred entries in the competition by AV workers from all over the world, so it's a great accolade. The subject matter – based on a 100-year-old photographic mystery – was a tremendous inspiration.”

Richard first saw Christina’s portrait, a photograph of a beautiful young woman with flowing tresses of golden hair and dressed in red – at the ‘Drawn by Light’ exhibition at the National Media Museum in Bradford in 2015. The photographer, Mervyn O’Gorman, was not well-known. And, it seemed, nothing at all was known about his mesmerising model – other than that her name was Christina.

And that led Richard on a voyage of discovery with his camera in tow – taking in Dorset, London and Buckinghamshire. Frame by frame, he pieced together the life of Christina. His narration and poignant photography obviously proved a winning combination.

A long-time Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, Richard has been a member of Sutton Coldfield Photography Club since 1975, and lectures on audio-visual production as well as regularly being invited to judge local photographic competitions.

But there’s no need to worry about Richard ‘deserting’ his volunteer role with the cats. Mitsy, a youngster with three legs, is his latest muse. She won’t win Richard any holidays or awards but she won his heart when he took her pictures. “And”, says Richard, “putting whatever skills we have to work for needy cats and kittens is rewarding. That is what it is all about – giving what you can, when you can.”

*Anyone wanting to volunteer in any capacity – roles include fostering, fundraising, admin and more – can call the helpline and a volunteer will get in touch.