Society spotlight: DU Photography Association

Maeve Harris shines a light on a society that is worth a thousand words

Founded in 1948, Dublin University Photography Association (DUPA) is a society worth a thousand words. What began as “quite a niche society”, according to Vicky Salganik, DUPA Travel Officer, “with a predominantly male committee”, has transformed into one largely run by female officers. This year, DUPA boasts a majority-female committee, a far cry from the society’s initial makeup. As Salganik put it, it’s undergone “a bit of a rebrand”. Regardless, it seems as though the association’s main goal has remained the same: “to make photography accessible to anyone regardless of what equipment or technical skill set they have!” 

 “DUPA prides itself on offering a deeper sense of belonging to its members.” 

Though one might gravitate towards DUPA to further develop photography skills, Salganik claims that its “members are what makes DUPA the fun that it is.” And while the calibre of talent may seem daunting, the only requirement for joining the team is a thirst for picture taking. In fact, no experience with photography is required. “When I joined I didn’t even own a camera, all I had was a mere interest in photography,” Salganik reveals. “Fast forward to today, being a photographer is honestly my only personality trait.” 

While joining a new society can be unnerving for many, especially as a Fresher, DUPA prides itself on offering a deeper sense of belonging to its members. “DUPA gives the opportunity to improve members’ photography skills in the traditional way through classes and workshops, but also in a more casual and social setting through photowalks across different spots in Dublin,” Salganik explains. She describes it as more of a community than a cut-and-dry photography society: “I can vouch for DUPA in that it offers much more to members than simply teaching them about photography. It’s how I’ve made some of my best friends and finally came into my own after I struggled with settling in when I moved to Dublin.” Similarly to other societies, it aims to create an environment with which to inspire creativity, as well as provide the tools for members to thrive within the photography scene. For many, particularly international students, the society helps familiarise students with Dublin City on a geographical and cultural scale.

“We have a range of speakers who give talks and workshops.”

Throughout the year, members of DUPA are constantly planning the next event, eager to teach prospective photographers the ins and outs of picture taking. “We hold a variety of different events,” Salganik explains. “Firstly we do DSLR, darkroom and editing classes. We also have a range of speakers who give talks and workshops.” Photowalks are also held on a biweekly basis, in addition to the seven exhibitions that take place throughout the academic year, during which DUPA offers collaborative events with different societies. In terms of events outside of campus, the society’s biggest event is the End of Year Exhibition. Last year, this came in the form of a two-day-long exhibit in the Copper House Gallery. Additionally, the society offers an annual trip abroad, with the society most recently heading to Berlin in September 2019. While the trip is one of the more coveted events DUPA holds, Salganik explains how the society must adapt to changing circumstances. “As Travel Officer, I think that this year will have to be different, perhaps opting for a day trip within Ireland instead” — music to Simon Harris’ ears. 

As Covid-19 rears its ugly head and looms over us all, DUPA is no exception to its wrath. “A lot of things will have to be done differently this year”, Salganik admits. “The exhibitions are probably going to be most affected by Covid this year.” Though a lot of the work the society does can be done on a socially-distanced scale, events will take the biggest hit. “They are such an integral part of the society and there is no feeling quite like seeing your work in print. The buzz of walking around a packed space full of photography and free wine — it’s going to be hard to recreate.” 

Be that as it may, Salganik explains how proposed ideas could save traditionally close-quartered exhibits. “Elzbieta, this year’s chair, is hoping to try and make use of the outdoor spaces in Trinity like the Rose Garden.” Some things which remain the same, however, are the desire for photo-consumption, and the value of viewing original works of art. “We’ve also just launched our first virtual exhibition titled Home. Niamh Barry, our exhibitions officer, put together a phenomenal digital gallery exhibiting members’ photos that reflect their meaning of ‘home’”. Unsurprisingly, Zoom played a big part in facilitating the event. “We had a launch party over Zoom where members had a chance to speak about their photos. We all agreed that hearing the story behind the photos allowed us to connect with our members more so than before,” Salganik explains. ‘Home’ will be on display for the next month and the link can be accessed by anyone on the DUPA Facebook page.

“We have lots of cameras, lenses and other accessories like lights and tripods that are available for our members to borrow for free.”

And before you go out and preemptively buy a camera to showcase your amazing skills for all of DUPA to see, Salganik wants you to know that you don’t have to have all, or any, of the resources to produce your art. “We have lots of cameras, lenses and other accessories like lights and tripods that are available for our members to borrow for free, all that has to be put down is a deposit which is fully refundable once the equipment is returned.” With a society that provides the skillset and the resources for members to showcase their talents, there is no excuse not to take the plunge and join DUPA. 

Even Salganik, a veteran member, admits to feeling uneasy about joining the society with little to no previous experience. “I was so nervous joining DUPA at the Freshers’ Fair, I thought it would be embarrassing to join when I didn’t own a camera or ‘take photography seriously’, but it truly doesn’t matter, photography is meant to be fun.” Even if you are not keen on snapping your own photos, there is a place for you in DUPA. “Taking photos for memories, taking photos for a living, even just appreciating photos, they all come from a universal place of simply liking photography. I started from that place and now I shoot people’s graduations, events, and I’m photo editor for Trinity News. Photography is like my second job now and I can only credit this to the encouragement and confidence that I gained from joining DUPA.”

Maeve Harris

Maeve Harris is the Life Editor of Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature.