JOHN HENSHALL awarded Honorary MA by UCA

John Henshall was awarded a Master of Arts Honorary Degree by the University for the Creative Arts – one of the leading institutions in the UK specifically focused on the creative arts, media and communication – at its awards ceremony at Guildford Cathedral on 30 June 2009. The award was made in recognition of the profound influence John has had in the development of digital photography technologies throughout the past twenty years.

This influence, based upon an in-depth knowledge of digital technology and his understanding of the photographic process and market, led to his involvement as a key influencer with the research and development centres for several of the companies that pioneered the digital photography revolution, as well as providing the knowledge and vision to photographers, laboratories and institutions both here in the UK and internationally on how this technology would revolutionise their business, and how they should best 'go digital'.

This included major seminars in the UK, USA and Australia, where John organised workshops and development sessions involving the heads of companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Kodak, Nikon and others. John also worked extensively in helping different sectors such as the police and armed forces understand how digital technologies would change their work and lives and help them achieve their objectives.

More recently, John has focused more on the development of in-camera firmware, and has worked closely in the development of technologies embedded in digital cameras. John has also been included in a small group of digital printing influencers selected by Hewlett Packard.

John is currently very active in the development of digital imaging products and is effective at providing a link between hardware and software suppliers in different parts of the market. He also specialises in Stock Photography for major on-line photo libraries. (See

Transcript of ceremony at Guildford Cathedral

Professor Elaine Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University for the Creative Arts:

"I now invite Brian Whitehead, lecturer in graphic design, to present John Henshall for the award of Master of Arts in honoris causa."

Brian Whitehead, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, UCA:

"Vice-Chancellor, Governors of the University, Mayor of Guildford, Mayor of Epsom and Ewell, Ladies and Gentlemen, Graduands.

I would like to pay tribute to John Henshall.

John's career in television and photography has been extensive.

As a digital imaging evangelist he fueled important dialogue during the monumental shift from analogue to digital photography. His passion and outspoken views on the subject have informed and encouraged opinion for over two decades. John is an international authority on his subject – moderating and speaking at conferences world wide.

John Henshall is currently CEO of Electronic Photo-Imaging – the EPI-centre – founded in 1993 as an independent consultancy in the art and science of digital imaging.

He has been awarded Fellowships by the

  • Royal Photographic Society (FRPS)
  • Royal Geographical Society (FRGS)
  • British Professional Photographers Associates (FBPPA)
  • British Institute of Professional Photography (FBIPP) – where he served as President in 1991 and 1992
  • Guild of Television Cameramen (FGTC) – of which he is currently Co-Vice Chairman and which he helped to found in 1972.

John's earliest influence came from his father – a talented artist and calligrapher in his own right – also named John Henshall.

John was selected at the age of nineteen to work for the BBC, in whose college he was trained and spent fifteen years as a staff cameraman at the new Television Centre in West London. There he worked with the great and the good on the major drama and light entertainment programmes of the 1960s and 1970s. This exposed him to a work ethos dedicated to excellence and to self-directed creative responsibility.

He left the BBC in 1976 to run Telefex – an optical effects company involved in many programmes including the BBC's Top of the Pops. This led to John becoming the Director of Photography on numerous early music videos for many famous artists including Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Blondie, David Bowie and Elton John.

In 1988 John was appointed Director of Photography for the television series Spitting Image – a popular British political satire, using the life size caricature puppets created by Fluck & Law. The series was nominated 10 times for BAFTA Awards.

In 1992, when President of the British Institute of Professional Photography, John was invited by Eastman Kodak to visit their Center for Creative Imaging in Camden, Maine, USA. This extraordinary experience introduced him to many world leading research and development experts and contacts in the embryonic field of digital imaging. There he tested the first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera – which delivered the 'fantastic' high resolution of 1.3 megapixels and cost a 'mere' 15,000 UK pounds at the time. (Incidentally this image is smaller in size than that delivered by today's mobile phones.)

John then started writing his monthly articles about digital imaging in The Photographer magazine – aimed at some ten thousand professional photographers. His column was called John Henshall's Chip Shop – a play on the word 'chip' as in microchip.

At first John's articles were met with skepticism, opposition and even hostility – particularly from sectors of the photographic industry.

This media exposure brought him both fame and notoriety. At exhibitions and conferences it was a case of – "There goes John Henshall ... the Heretic" or, on the other hand, "... the Prophet".

Reputedly, Fuji's boss of professional imaging at the time blamed John for killing off his film sales. On reflection, John had not 'invented' digital imaging but he was 'the' major advocate for 'going digital'. He predicted that the use of the 'Pixel' (derived from the words 'Picture' and 'Element') would ultimately lead to the decline of the photo-chemical industry.

John argued that this was not a threat but a major opportunity for the future of photography.

Recognising this, Kodak's manager of professional imaging, Tony Eatough (who is in the audience today), engaged John as a consultant advisor to Kodak at a very early stage.

More recently, John has conducted research in China and Korea for a company which specialises in developing digital camera firmware. This technology is embedded into over two thirds of all digital cameras, helping improve the pictures as they are taken. It is already resident in most of the cameras owned by members of this very audience today.

During the 1990s John was invited to organise and moderate the Digital Imaging sessions at the prestigious Seybold digital publishing conferences in New York, Boston and San Francisco. Keynote speakers at these events were figures like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. John arranged for world leading experts to participate in these – and he can be credited for facilitating important developmental dialogue between some of the major digital imaging companies. The list of people, companies and products are too numerous to list here – suffice it to say that it was comprehensive and truly impressive.

'All's well that ends well,' as we all know – and today digital cameras are ubiquitous. They are the de facto means of photography and John's predictions have proved to be correct. His articles appear on his website at and are well worth a read.

I therefore request the Vice-Chancellor to confer the award of Master of Arts in honoris causa upon John Henshall."

About Brian Whitehead

Brian Whitehead is a Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design BA Hons at the University for the Creative Arts Epsom Campus. In the mid nineteen nineties he was editor of The Photographer magazine, working with John Henshall for two years. Brian was therefore eminently suited to deliver the oration about John Henshall's work at the conferment ceremony at Guildford Cathedral on 30 June 2009.

About the University for the Creative Arts - UCA

The University for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone & Rochester provides inspiring courses in art, design, architecture, media and communication. Formed through the union of The Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College and the Kent Institute of Art & Design, this new University has an outstanding heritage spanning 150 years. With around 6,500 students enrolled on more than 80 different courses, the University is one of the UK's leading providers of specialist art and design education, offering strengths in art, design, architecture, media and communication.

Press releases

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John_Henshall_MA_UCA_1 (3356 x 2237 pixels as 1.1MB JPEG file)
John Henshall (right) receives Honorary Master of Arts (MA) degree from Professor Elaine Thomas (left), Vice-Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) at the ceremony at Guildford Cathedral.

John_Henshall_MA_UCA_2 (1636 x 1284 pixels as 428KB JPEG file)
John Henshall (left) who received a Honorary Master of Arts (MA) degree from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) at a ceremony at Guildford Cathedral with Brian Whitehead (right) Senior Lecturer in Graphics at UCA Epsom, who delivered the oration about John Henshall's life and work.

Useful links

UCA website

UCA website about Honorary Graduates 2209

UCA History

About UCA Chairman of the Board of Governors, Lloyd Grossman

Wikipedia about UCA

Press coverage (USA)

Imaging Insider (1)

PMA Newsline

SLR Photography Guide

Imaging Insider (2)

Photo News Today

Pro Photo Home


PMA Newsline International

Celebrity Pursuits

Printing News

Press coverage (UK)

The Oxford Times


The Decisive Moment

Guild of Television Cameramen

John Henshall's biography.

John Henshall's influencers.

John Henshall's early music videos.

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