Rhonda Wilson MBE (1953 – 2014) was a champion of photography, best known for being the creative force behind the Rhubarb-Rhubarb International Festival of the Image. 

Image: © Max Kandhola

Image: © Max Kandhola

Over the course of  her life, Rhonda contributed to the photographic landscape in a number of ways. She was a photographer, writer, editor, educator and creative whirlwind. 

The various facets of her career-life included being on the editorial board and director of the celebrated Ten.8 magazine. For twelve years, she was a part-time lecturer at the Nottingham Trent University, where she performed a key role in transforming the photography curriculum, with the introduction of  survival strategies and professional practice. She was well known as a popular and inspirational teacher. Her impact at the Nottingham Trent University was immediate and long-lasting.

“Rhonda would pave the way forward with her inspired talks and focused insight into the business world of photography,” says Max Kandhola, current course leader of the BA (Hons) Photography programme. “There was always a vision and a journey, and there was no obstacle.”

Rhonda’s commitment to photographers was matched by her commitment to the city of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, where she lived. She was instrumental in producing The People and the City exhibition to support Birmingham’s bid for Capital of Culture, which was staged in London in 2008. A year later she curated and produced the Obama’s People exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, attracting more than 100,000 visitors.

In 1993, Rhonda Wilson authored Seeing The Light: The Photographers' Guide to Enterprise – a groundbreaking publication at the time, which sold out very quickly, and spurred the founding of the training and development agency, Seeing the Light. With Rhonda at its helm, the company produced Agents of Change – The 5th National Photography Conference, The Page, The Wall, The Internet conference, and many more projects in collaboration with other Birmingham-based companies.

One of its most notable achievements was the Rhubarb-Rhubarb International Festival of the Image – an annual, three-day portfolio review that brought hundreds of photographers and industry specialists from around the world to Birmingham (UK). It was considered the best of its kind in Europe, and quickly built up a respected international profile.

Throughout the early 2000’s Rhonda Wilson's company was given many different awards for its achievements.  In the New Year’s Honours List of 2005, Rhonda was awarded an MBE for her contribution to photography and international trade.

Text: Originally written by Debra Klomp Ching and Max Kandhola, for the British Journal of Photography.