Those were the days (early days of BSoUP) part 1

by Colin Doeg

Reproduced from in focus 44 (Apr. 1992)

Colin recalls the formation of BSoUP 25 years ago this year [1992].

Really Peter Scoones and I should be writing this together. Because the launching of BSoUP and its early success was very much a joint effort.

However, it happened by accident. Peter and I had each entered a photographic competition run by a diving magazine which, sadly, is no longer in existence. After the contest had been judged, some transparencies were posted by mistake to my home. They belonged to a photographer called Peter Scoones.

I didn’t know him at the time, but I knew that he had won a gold medal for an 8 mm film at the Brighton Film Festival a short time before! And I knew I wanted to meet him, especially as he did not live far away – North London compared with South London, where I was living.

So off I went with the trannies. I knocked at the door of his house … and we never got off the doorstep for something like three hours. We were too busy talking about underwater photography and another idea which had been buzzing around in each of our minds – an organisation for underwater photographers.

We found we both complemented and inspired each other in our ideas, our contacts, and in the skills and enthusiasm necessary to launch such a body.

The outcome of that chat and subsequent phone calls was a notice sent to many diving clubs and people who we knew which declared

“Because of the widespread interest among British divers in underwater photography it is proposed to hold a meeting to discuss the formation of a society to enable closer co-operation among all those interested in this branch of photography.”

“The proposed society would also foster and stimulate interest in underwater photography in all its aspects.”

“The idea of forming such a society has resulted from talks with many divers. The general feeling is that a society should provide a forum for the discussion of ideas and problems associated with underwater photography in any way.”

“It should also foster interest in all aspects of underwater photography as an art by holding exhibitions of work representative of the trends and techniques”.

“The society would also be concerned with developing techniques and equipment for use underwater”.

“in particular, the society would be open to anyone interested in underwater photography and not in any way limited to an experienced few.”

Recipients of the notice were urged to display it on their club notice boards and then Peter and I waited for the response.


It came in the form of a meeting in Peter Scoones’ front room attended by 16 people. Among them were Dr John Betts, Mike Busuttili, Tim Glover, Geoff Harwood, Kendall McDonald and John Meredith.

The minutes record that the meeting was “called to bring together a society for underwater photographers and others interested in the field.”

They went on to state that the meeting started with an ‘informal discussion’ – you should have been present for some of them -on items that those present considered such a society should attempt.”

We were thrilled by our visions of the future. And our ideas were suitably wide-ranging and far-sighted. They were:

* Making an arrangement with a photographic agency to handle member’s work.

* Formation of a print/slide clinic to help members who would like advice on their work.

* A postal portfolio of underwater photographs.

* The holding of meetings to discuss problems, exchange ideas and show photographs and films.

* Formation of a Technical Exchange Service to put members in touch with others who wanted assistance or had information that might help others.

* Investigation of the possibility of underwater photo-safaris to more equable climates.

* Provision of a forum where members could air their views and complaints.

BSoUP christened

It was agreed that the Society should be called The British Society of Underwater Photographers and Kendall MacDonald, with the agile mind of a Fleet Street national newspaper editor, promptly pointed out that it would be known henceforth as BSoUP, which a pretty good description of the stuff we dived in and which we attempted to get recognisable images.

The annual subscription was set at three guineas “payable in advance”. Now there was a touch of class. Guineas. For those who haven’t heard the term, a guinea was one pound sterling and one shilling in real money.

The first officials were:

Chairman: Colin Doeg

Secretary: Peter Scoones

Treasurer: Juliet Scoones

Committee Members: Geoff Harwood, Tim Glover, Kendall MacDonald, Don Allen and Phil Smith.

It was decided to hold the first meeting of the Society on 5 December 1967 at 7.30 for 8.00 p.m. Members were asked to bring six pictures for display … and so began the scurrilous suggestion that BSoUP was only formed so that we could show each other our prints and slides! It was also decided that the Society should have a symbol. Various members undertook to think of ideas.

BSoUP logo

Kendall MacDonald went back to the newsroom of the now defunct London Evening News and explained the problem to one of the newspaper’s artists. Without hesitation, he said “This is what you want”

The genius then did a few scribbles on a piece of paper .. And so was born the outline of a fish in the middle of a frame sight.

With a burst of generosity, we rewarded the designer with a packet of twenty fags for his work. Today the creation of a logo and a house style would cost a packet … of money.

Early days

For those involved at the outset, they were exciting times as we bubbled over with our visions of the future. Some have been achieved already. In fact most have. Others are still to be fully met.

Above all ease commercialism and competitiveness had not emerged to the same extent, so everyone was eager to share ideas, talk about techniques and help each other produce better results.

Because those were days when it was a triumph to produce a recognisable image of the underwater world .. even if it took you several years to manage it the first time. The formation of BSoUP and the forum it provided began to help people to produce satisfactory results much more quickly.

Over the years, underwater photography has leapt ahead, but I always hope that those who take it up will continue to have as much fun and excitement as the founders of the Society, which is now world-wide in its membership and influence.

Reproduced from in focus 44. MarApr. 92 with kind permission of Colin Doeg.