Jo Bradford: 'Darkrooms and Smart Phones' or 'Expect the Unexpected'

You know when you have listened to a cracking good speaker when the room is buzzing both at the break and at the end of the evening and when members are queuing up to buy the speaker's book. And that's what happened last night. It's probably true to say that Jo Bradford is a one-off. Here was someone who from a very early age in South Africa had immersed herself in photography and cameras and had gone on to take a Masters in Photography, in which she gained a distinction, by having a project which didn't rely on any camera at all. Completely darkroom based, Jo created 'fake space' images which blended both art and science by use of photograms - the placing of objects on light-sensitive emulsion and applying filters, dodging and burning to make starbursts, planets and galaxies. This may sound somewhat crazy, especially when we heard about Jo's attempts to collect genuine meteor dust to sprinkle on her photo paper to create authentic colours but this lead to a residency at the Natural History Museum where she was able to build a darkroom and actually work with real meteorite dust.

Serendipity mixed with sheer talent and an engaging personality all came together following her degree with stints as a professional photographer for film companies producing wildlife programmes that needed accompanying images and books. But it was her love of Dartmoor and the birth of her children that changed her from 'Analogue Jo' to 'Digital Jo'.

Equipped with an iphone5, she undertook a year-long project - a smartphone image a day for a year recording her impressions of Dartmoor and then uploaded them to Instagram. The rest, as they say is history. Her pictures went viral and lead to a solo show for the National Park of Dartmoor and a chart-topping book on how to take good images using a smartphone. Add to that commissions from Terence Conran for images using her darkroom-based techniques and you have a photographer who can operate successfully at both ends of the photography spectrum.

Delivering her life story at breakneck speed in an engaging self-deprecating way, this was a speaker the club would be delighted to have back to share her smartphone-specific presentation - something everyone endorsed at the end of a highly satisfying evening. Jo's Instagram images can be seen on her website