Photographic Clubs in Cambridgeshire
Photographic Clubs are generally considered to be a meeting place and knowledge network for amateur rather than professional photographers. However this is not always the case, and some of the professionals listed on this site were very involved in supporting the work of local camera clubs and photographic societies and in helping other photographers. Also it is possible that family and local historians may, in their research, come across some of the work of the more active amateurs connected with local photographic clubs over the years, often images mounted in a very professional fashion, or with postcard printed backs to prints. For these reasons we have included information on Cambridgeshire Photographic Clubs.
This page is a work in progress and we would welcome more information from any of the clubs listed here about their backgrounds, especially those where we have shown little more than a society name.
Within a few years of the introduction of photography, small groups of practitioners in the UK were getting together to solve problems, learn from each other and promote their art or science. Photography was well represented at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Nationally the Photographic Society, later to become the Royal Photographic Society, was inaugurated in 1854. This was at a public meeting held at the rooms of the Society of Arts, John-Street, Adelphi, on Thursday, the 20th January 1854 to which all persons interested in the progress of the photographic art were invited.
In 1866 the Cambridge Chronicle reported:
"The Taste for Photography. Never was a taste so catholic as that which has united in the bonds of brotherhood the disciples of this new iconolatry. Several priests of the Church of Rome have been amongst the most active contributors to the progress of the new art-science. An Archbishop of the English Church is one of its zealous devotees. Clergymen of the English Church, and ministers of dissenting congregations are amongst its numerous adherents. The army, from the general to the private, furnishes recruits. Doctors, lawyers, and scientific and literary men are prominent in its pursuit. The senior wrangler of last year is an accomplished photographer. Every trade, no matter how lowly, every profession, no matter how engrossing, is compelled to afford some leisure to the earnest amateur in photography. Even royalty has not disdained to yield to the fascinations which surround the camera, and dark rooms are found attached to more than one royal palace. Societies have started into existence to discuss the processes, and aid each other in the practice of the new art. The Photographic Society of London, with the sovereign of the realm for its patron, the ex-Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer for its president, and noblemen, artists, and men of science for its council, has a roll of nearly four hundred members, including every grade of society. A dozen other local societies with similar aim are scattered throughout the country. Similar associations are spread over continental Europe and America, and in all these the professional photographer and the amateur, the artist whose aim is to produce pictures, and the devotee of science, whose only object is to penetrate the arcana of nature, vie with each other in the ardour with which they pursue the several branches which photography opens to them. The wealthy amateur, to whom an hour’s exertion was scarcely before known, will toil in the burning sun, up mountain steeps, in close tents, or improvised dark rooms, with an energy and an ardour unknown to him who lives by the sweat of his brow."
Although a number of provincial photographic clubs were already established, for example in Manchester, Leeds and Norwich, it took some while before the idea took off in Cambridgeshire.
By the 1880s a Cambridge University Photographic Society had been established. It was still running at the end of that decade when the Cambridge Chronicle on 29 Nov 1889 P4 reported
By the 1890s a photographic club had also been established for the town of Cambridge, the Cambridge Camera Club, with rooms in Jesus Lane. The following three reports appeared in the local press in 1890 and 1891.
"Cambridge Camera Club. A number of members of the above club spent a very enjoyable evening on Monday when a collection of over one hundred photographic views, kindly lent by the Editor of Amateur Photography Mr CW Hastings were exhibited by a powerful lantern by Mr WH Hayles". Cambridge Independent Press 6 Sept 1890 P8
"Cambridge Camera Club. On Monday evening an address upon photography was given in connection with the Cambridge Camera Club by Mr H Smith". Cambridge Independent Press 10 Jan 1891 P8
"Cambridge Camera Club. The first quarterly competition of the Cambridge Camera Club was held on Tuesday at the Societies rooms, Jesus Lane. Mr WH Hayles won a certificate for lantern slides and Mr P Salmon for figure study. There was a good attendance of members, many of the exhibits being of praiseworthy character". Cambridge Independent Press 27 June 1891 p8.
These two societies disappeared during the 1890s but a third emerged: the Camera Club of the Young Mens’ Christian Association. In 1898 the membership of this Club stood at 29. It was described as the “only camera club in the town” and was in a strong financial position. Mr WH Hayles was the Secretary. (Cambridge Independent Press 21 Oct 1898 p7.) The YMCA Camera Club was still operating as late as 1904. Other names associated with the Club were: AW Goatcher , SJ Sowdon, A Smith and John Johnson. Mr DJ Scott, of the firm of Scott and Wilkinson, assisted with some competition judging. There is a photograph of members of the YMCA Camera Club, taken outside their premises in 1901 reference 1047/8/4 in the Cambridgeshire Archives. The photograph lists the names of 13 of the 15 men included in the photograph, but does not apply a name to each individual. The photograph was reproduced in the Cambridge Daily News 9 December 1939 page 5.
A letter to the Editor was published in the Cambridge Daily News on Sat 30 Sept 1899 p3: "WHY NOT A PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY? TO THE EDITOR. Sir. - Now that the winter evenings are drawing in upon us, many young men, and, indeed, older ones too, are thinking of how best to spend a little of their spare time. Cambridge is generally considered to be behind the times, and in the matter of a photographic society the assertion is certainly true. I am perfectly well aware of the fact that a small society exists within the walls of the YMCA, but for a town like Cambridge that is, in my humble opinion, not enough. We want a free and open society, i.e., one that does not necessitate one’s belonging to a certain religious sect and I am looking anxiously forward for someone to call a meeting for the purpose of seeing if such a society cannot be formed. About eight years ago we had a fairly good society in the town but the members (or was it the officers?) ceased to give it any attention, and it died, with plenty of money in its pocket, so to speak, for, if I mistake not, a substantial sum was handed over to the hospital. There was membership, I believe, of about 25. Since then photography has advanced and become advanced and become simplified, with the result that many others have joined the ranks. Can Cambridge support such a society? I hear some ask. In reply, I beg to state that, according to the latest returns, there are at least 20 towns of the same size as Cambridge, and no fewer than 28 towns of smaller size, all now supporting photographic societies. In addition to the large number of clubs now existing, many provincial newspapers are devoting weekly or monthly columns to the art of photography, and I venture to say we could do with such a column in this town. We have some good amateurs as well as professionals in the town if they would but come forward. One gentleman has made his name by patenting a camera front, (Editor’s note – this was FH Sanderson) another is a well-known writer on photography (Editor’s Note - this was PR Salmon who wrote extensively on photography in the name of Richard Penlake), another a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, (Editor’s note – was this GH Tindall of Ely? ) whilst many others hold high awards. Next year the Photographic Convention is to be held at Newcastle, and Oxford is hinted at as being the next, and why should not Cambridge follow? A convention here would be the means of bringing into the town between two and three hundred visitors, the majority of whom stay the week. Now then, ye disciples of the black art, stir yourselves, and see if a society cannot be established, and, at least, one night a week devoted to the art that is so dear to many of us. I enclose my card, and remain yours &c. HELIOS. Cambridge. September 30th, 1899".
In the meantime during the summer of 1901 what was described as “the first photographic exhibition of importance in Cambridge” was held. This was an addition to the annual flower show organised by the Cambridge and District United Horticultural Society. Over 300 persons paid for admission and 128 pictures were entered for competition. The exhibition was deemed a success and was repeated the following year.
The Cambridge Independent Press reported on 13 September 1901:
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION. This innovation met with a fair amount of success. The entries were not very large, but the exhibits were, generally speaking, of very fair merit. No awards were made in the architecture division. Apparently too little attention had been paid to light and shade, for which some of the studies allowed plenty of scope. The portrait and figure studies were particularly fine. Miss Fletcher won the silver medal ; Mr. J. Johnson carried off the bronze medal, and Miss Ella M. Johnson was highly commended. There were no awards for flower studies. In the juniors’ class Mr. H. Clayton’s exhibit was far and away the best. Mr. George Pammenter was placed second, and Mr HH Shearman was commended. Some fine pictures were shown in the landscape and seascape class. Mr Alphonso Smith’s set carried off the silver medal, and Mr John Johnson the bronze medal. Messrs Victor K. Kingsland and Alfred E. Swannell were highly commended. This class included the best photograph of the exhibition, Mr J. Johnson taking off the challenge cup given by Mr Arthur W Smith with a seascape entitled, “Cromer.” There were several not for competition exhibits, and the show on the whole reflected great credit on the hon. Secretaries, Messrs C.S. Addison and A. J. Mouel.
The Photographic Convention referred to above was the Photographic Convention of Great Britain, founded in 1886 Each year the PCGB chose a town where they would be 'hosted' by a local photographic society for a week-long meeting. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_Convention_of_the_United_Kingdom] .
The Cambridge Independent Press reported on 12 July 1901 p5
"Photographers and Cambridge. - At the annual meeting of the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom held at Oxford on Wednesday morning, under the presidency of William Herschel, a letter was read from Mr FH Sanderson (of the firm of J Palmer Clark) on behalf of a number of residents in Cambridge and district interested the advancement of photography, asking the convention to hold their session in 1902 at Cambridge. Mr. Sanderson, at the President’s request, supported the invitation with a few words, and said he thought it was a fitting time for the two universities to be compared. They had not a strong photographic society at Cambridge, but he could promise the convention a hearty welcome, should they accept the invitation. The President stated that he was recently at Cambridge dining with Sir Robert Ball, and showed him some results of modern photography. The whole of the King’s College Dons showed much warmth in the subject. The invitation having been accepted, at the suggestion of the President it was agreed to return thanks for the invitation through Mr Sanderson, the President, hoping that one result of the visit to Cambridge would be the formation of a good photographic society there. Mr. Sanderson was elected a member of the Council of the Convention, and afterwards at a Council meeting Sir Robert Ball was chosen President for the coming year."
As a result of FH Sanderson’s approach, the 1902 Convention was held in Cambridge. In the absence of an organising local photographic club, the local organising Committee comprised:
FH Sanderson (Chair)
At the Convention, which was attended by some 200 photographers, the following locals were elected to the Convention’s Council for the following year: Dr Bansall, Dr Dutton, PR Salmon, FH Sanderson and GH Tyndall (Ely).
Hot on the heels of the successful Cambridge Meeting of the Photographic Convention of Great Britain, another attempt was made to form a Cambridge Photographic Club. Meetings in September and October 1902 led to the inauguration of the Cambridge and District Photographic Society, whose first meeting was held on 14 October 1902. This Society is still in existence today, having later changed its name to "The Cambridge and District Photographic Club", "The Cambridge Photographic Club" and finally to "The Cambridge Camera Club".
This link will take you to a short history of the Cambridge Camera Club produced by the Club for their Centenary in 2002.
The Club has deposited its first membership list in the Cambridgeshire collection. This link will take you to a list of members from the membership book and later minutes up to the outbreak of WW2 in 1939. (Around one thousand names in a 53 page .pdf).
Also deposited in the Cambridgeshire Collection are the Club’s minute books 1913-1927 and 1934-1946. This link will take you to extracts from these minutes and from local press reports giving an idea of the many activities of the Society during that period. (a 60 page .pdf)
Over the years the Society has operated from the following premises:
Club Room, Prince of Wales PH, Hobsons Passage (with the occasional use of the St Andrews St Lecture Hall) 1902-1913
An important project undertaken by the Society was a collaboration with the Cambridge Antiquarian Society to produce a photographic survey of what is now the southern part of the county of Cambridgeshire. This was part of a much wider photographic survey movement which had emerged at the end of the 19th century, covering British archaeology, geology and ethnography. The level of activity on the survey fluctuated over the years, but it resulted in the production of an important collection of several thousand prints between 1906 and the 1940s, all now deposited with the Cambridgeshire Collection. This paper on the photographic survey is by Mike Petty and was published along with many images from the survey in "Vanishing Cambridgeshire", Mike Petty, Breedon Books Publishing Co Ltd (2006), ISBN 10: 1859835325 ISBN 13: 9781859835326.
The Cambridge Camera Club’s website is http://www.cambcc.org.uk
Cambridge University Photographic Society was formed in 1882, making it the earliest photographic society in Cambridgeshire. Its original object was “to provide facilities for members wishing to practice photography while in residence in the University”. Initially the Society acquired premises at 26 Park Street Cambridge where it operated a studio and dark room. The first President was Mr Scott, MA (Trinity); WS Frost (Caius) was the Vice President; FS Wyllie (Pembroke) was the Hon Secretary and Treasurer and the rest of the Committee comprised: Brogden (Downing), JS Cox (Downing), FW Hilliard (Jesus) and M.Miley (Trinity). (The Photographic Journal 23 June 1882).(There was an Oxford University Photographic Club at least as early as 1886, when the Club had six entries in the Photographic Society of London's annual Exhibition.) In 1888 the officers of CUPS were: President WN Shaw MA, Vice President Rev AT Chapman MA, Committee RM Meyer, ACH Colman, BW Crump, WT Armitage and the Hon Sec was VG Middleton (Yearbook of Photography and Photographic News Almanac 1888 p19).
By May 1891 the CU Photographic Society had moved its studio and operating rooms to St Mary’s Passage, Cambridge, but was somewhat in the doldrums. A Sub Committee under the Vice President GB Atkinson MA (Trinity Hall), including the Secretary, W Jackson (Pembroke) and A Scott MA (Peterhouse), AHL Newstead BA (Christs) and M Horne (Trinity) published a flyer on re-constituting the Society. They envisaged the Society covering the many scientific as well as artistic aspects of photography, becoming a more learned Society, and one which was larger and “more important”. The flyer has survived in the Cambridge Papers at the University Library (J6895) but the immediate outcome of the initiative is not currently known.
The re-constitution initiative can only at best have had a short term impact because the Society folded later in the 19th Century and undergraduate members were admitted to the Cambridge and District Photographic Society from 1905. University Societies come and go depending upon the level of interest in the subject matter by students (and to a lesser extent by Dons). The Society was later re-established and exists today in the form of Cambridge University Photographic Society [PhoCUS] http://www.phocus.org.uk/
In the 1950s Nikolas Pevsner was the Society’s President. By the 1950s the Society operated a dark room in the basement at St Michaels Court, Caius College. In 1979 the Society members temporarily used the facilities of Christs College Photographic Society and in the following year had a new dark room in the basement of the Cambridge Union Society. The Society’s President in the 1960s was Kevin MacDonnell of the Photographer Magazine. In the 1980s Sir George Pollock was the President. A number of famous photographers addressed the Society over the years including David Bailey, Patrick Litchfield, Heather Angel and Cambridge professional Lettuce Ramsey of Ramsey and Muspratt.
Over the years there was a good ongoing relationship with the town’s Cambridge Camera Club, with occasional joint meetings and competitions. In 1979 the Society won the first varsity photographic competition against Oxford.
(Various fliers and term cards in Cambridge Papers Box – Societies 88 and J 6895, Cambridge University Library)
Apparently no longer in existence. Part of the staff social activities connected with Unicam – a company founded in 1934, later Pye Unicam from 1947-1988
The Peterborough Photographic Society has been in continuous existence since it was founded in 1887, apart from a short break during WW1. There is an excellent history of the Society by Peter Harvey on their website http://peterboroughps.org.uk/pps/content/brief-history-peterborough-photographic-society
Formed in 2009 for employees of Perkins Engine Co, Peterborough
http://www.wisbechcameraclub.co.uk/ Founded around 1950.
http://www.elyphotographicclub.co.uk Formed in 1974
http://www.marchcameraclub.org.uk Founded in the 1960s
Established 2014. http://www.gpsoc.org/
http://www.stives-photoclub.org.uk Founded in 1972
http://www.stneots-camera-club.org.uk/ Club constitution is dated 2007
Formed in 2009 ?
Bottisham and Burwell
Established in 1973
Swavesey Camera Club
http://www.eaf.org.uk Formed in 1910
www.FadingImages.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, listing photographers in Cambridgeshire 1840-2000
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