In memory of Bridget Bishop

Photo Co-op 1987, Cotswold’s retreat, Bridget located back row middle

Bridget Bishop – AKA Corry Bevington, her professional name – joined the Wandsworth Photography Co-operative in the early 1980’s. The co-operative started life as a voluntary group looking for ways to use photography as part of its community activism. Bridget contributed to their first publication, a calendar with the title Views on Wandsworth.  In this publication the photos disturbingly featured the damage caused to public services imposed by the trailblazing, Thatcherism-infused Wandsworth Council in this south west London borough. It was followed by The Big (Red) Bus calendar through which it campaigned to retain conductors during a time when buses were being converted to single person operation.  Bridget also contributed to exhibitions for the local Community Health Council – then the mechanism for public involvement in the NHS – and photographs for the Wandsworth community newspaper, Pavement.

In 1983, the ‘Photo Co-op’ as it soon became known and seeking to expand beyond the geographical limits of local activism, restyled itself by dropping borough identification. Bridget, with younger photographers Sarah Saunders and Gina Glover, applied for, and received, a small grant from the Greater London Council Arts and Recreation Committee. The technical basis of the grant was to produce photographs for a picture library, initially to be based on the documentation of the then occupied South London Woman’s Hospital plus exhibitions for community groups. (The hospital was later converted into flats and a branch of Tesco while GLC met its untimely end at the hand of the Thatcher government.) 

For more than a decade before Bridget was already established as a professional photographer working largely in a studio environment, and her seniority in the field contributed a skill set and track record of professionalism which her younger colleagues lacked. She was also a very experienced black and white photographic printer with much-envied darkroom.

In 1984 the still newish group applied for more substantial funding, managing to attract two full-time salaries, this to be shared among six photographers, as well as sufficient money to acquire a small shop-front office premises in Webb’s Road, Battersea, and to set up a small darkroom and employ a part-time co-ordinator and education worker, positions soon filled by Chris Boot and Luis Bustamenti.

By 1991 Photo Co-op, having demonstrated a half decade of competence and achievement, and armed with a fresh business plan, applied for funding by the Foundation of Sports and the Arts and the London Arts Board, the aim being to set up a more larger and more ambitious photography centre containing revenue-generating darkrooms, studio hire, exhibition space and photo library. A new name, Photofusion, represented the group’s many-stranded perspective on photography which could now be achieved on a much larger, better located site, alongside community collaborations in off-site locations and through travelling exhibitions. The new name also marked the transition from co-operative to a non-profitmaking limited company, a recognition that not everyone in an expanding organisation would want should equal management responsibility or financial risk. At this point Chris Boot moved on, to run the esteemed photography co-operative Magnum, while Julia Martin, one of the newer photographers to the original group, took the managerial helm, with Bridget, Gina, Janis Grant, and others in support. 

The new centre, which was to see progressive expansion in scale and remit over the ensuing decades, which Bridget gave critical support and a balancing role on its board of directors. Bridget also designed all the early exhibitions shown at Photofusion and contributed to its important Education and Darkroom Committee. 

Bridget contributed to the life and work of Photofusion despite two personal tragedies; first the loss of her devoted husband Graham, an exceptionally talented designer, and then her enterprising daughter Sarah, who died through exposure while camping in Scotland. Throughout every circumstance Bridget maintained the presence of a person of quiet, professional but determined demeanour. She was both a ‘doer’ and a ‘giver’, with generous personal qualities which shone through with her relationships with younger Photofusion staff who so valued her input. Eventually, as physical movement became more difficult for her and her contribution began to fade, the appreciation of her remained long-lasting and embedded. Bridget’s involvement brought with it not just a taste of her professionalism but also sense of stability, an anchor in rough seas. In this way Bridget’s good qualities were foundational to everything that Photofusion achieved, both from its early years to the present.

Text by Gina Glover, founder member, Geof Rayner, former chair, Photofusion Board of Directors.

You can access the Photography Co-operatives archive through their website here.