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In my first years of photography a camera club was the much promoted method of gaining knowledge. So I joined one - a very small one at a local hospital. My mum knew the wife of one of the key members. He was a lovely old guy and welcomed me with open arms...the trouble is it was generally just a social gathering for oldies to get together away from the "other half".
Much of the work was far from creative...and hardly anyone knew much more than how to develop and print. The highlight was "glamour night" where a "girl next door" would be brought along to sit in front of a standard lighting set up and each person would take it in turns to plug the cable in and take a few photos. I soon got bored.
I joined a much larger one. And the initial reaction was stuffy...you soon saw a hierarchy of "the club competition winner", "the organiser" "the equipment specialist". No one wanted to know what I was there for, just what gear I had...when it was found I just had an OM-1 with a 50mm f/1.8 I was ignored by the Contax and Leica owners. The also had studio flash sessions on the schedule...and several shot at the same time taking photos of an uncomfortable looking girl. It put me off for a long time.
I later bought an Agfa movie camera that had time lapse and decided to join a cine club. It was a totally different feeling. The guy who organised it was the head of the Prisoner Fan club...the member were all into creativity. The buzz was special. I wanted to go back. I felt part of it...even though my camera was basic, and I had no experience of editing. In my mind that's how camera clubs should be. And those who are members should work to make newcomers welcome.
I've been to a few in the last decade and they still have that overall mood that is not really welcoming to the first timer. I think much is down to people's social skills - we get the same issue on here when a newcomer posts.
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Quote: I joined a much larger one. And the initial reaction was stuffy...you soon saw a hierarchy of "the club competition winner", "the organiser" "the equipment specialist".
My experience of this was different. I joined the local camera club after seeing its exhibition at the local library. I thought that the pictures hung were mind-blowing. I was 15 years old at the time and had just bought my first own camera - a humble Coronet box camera.
I was welcomed with open arms at my first visit - camera included - they even waived my first year's subscription in view of my 30 bob a week wage at the time.
I was given valuable advice on D&P and within a few weeks I was loading my Johnson 120 film spiral in the cupboard under the stairs. Followed by making contact prints on Kodak Velox paper.
I left the club within the year when starting my engineering studies.
When I re-joined the club some years later it had sadly deteriorated - most of the knowledgeable members had left - some to join the "Royal", the two or three professionals to concentrate on their careers.
Gradually other members drifted away, the atmosphere completely changed for the worst.
Eventually the club folded up.
Taken during my first year with the club - with my Coronet box camera - scanned recently from the original 6x6 Velox contact prints which were made over 60 years ago:
Mags and Charlie the Cat:
Over my years as an amateur, I was a member of several clubs and all were welcoming.
One used to have its formal talks in one of the university lecture rooms and there's one incident I shall never forget. When a middle-aged woman came into the room part-way through the talk and sat on he own at the back, one of the old hands went up to her and said something like, "don't worry, dear, they're not always as bad as this one. You've just chosen the wrong evening for your first visit but the tea-break isn't far away." Unfortunately the old hand was talking to the speaker's wife!
Some clubs have a mentor scheme where new members have at least one friend on their first night.
It's very interesting to read the negative comments about clubs. The truth is you only get out of it what you put in. If you don't like the programme then put yourself forward as the programme secretary and change it! If you don't like the images then put yours forward so people can see something different. I am chair of our club and we have about 70 members. A club is for everyone not just a committee who work damned hard all year round to provide entertainment for the members. Stop slating them, join in and make a difference. They only stay the same because it will always be the same people year in, year out trying their darndest to please everyone at great personal cost of time, effort and no financial gain!
Quote: It's very interesting to read the negative comments about clubs. The truth is you only get out of it what you put in. If you don't like the programme then put yourself forward as the programme secretary and change it! If you don't like the images then put yours forward so people can see something different. I am chair of our club and we have about 70 members. A club is for everyone not just a committee who work damned hard all year round to provide entertainment for the members. Stop slating them, join in and make a difference. They only stay the same because it will always be the same people year in, year out trying their darndest to please everyone at great personal cost of time, effort and no financial gain!
Perhaps I was just unlucky and nobody tried harder to fit in to the club than I did. Somebody else joined the club I discussed above a short time after me and left for the same reasons as me.
I would have to say that the both of us never got out what we put into it and I understand that its now struggling.
Clubs navigate a delicate line between low membership fees, a participative community contribution and a simple varied schedule to keep a wide variety of members interested.
I completely agree with Kev:
Quote: The reason the clubs close during that period is most members go away on holiday and numbers are a lot smaller, it makes perfect sense for them to use that time to have a break in the season, many members in these clubs will meet on an informal basis, photo clubs are are like any body, you get out what you put in.
The Off seasons work too as it give you time to do other things and then come back fresh after the break.
I was a member of the Laleham camera club and its great and tried the Ashford (Middlesex)Camera club too. Both had excellent friendly people and if i lived closer I'd still be there.
They are a place for joint learning and sharing of a photography passion. But they not a free service and can only exist with membership fees and people who take the time to share.
If you come for a week or 2 that's a week or two where they need to greet and guide you, so their time is then split between that and regular activities of participation & leading the club.
Initially i thought like you, and the joining fee is a sizeable barrier, but after a while i realised I'd learnt way more than I ever expected and met some great people.
I really miss my old one, and think that they are excellent - persevere with yours, join in and get more out.
There are also informal alternative clubs through websites like meetup.com - you could even start your own with this service very easily.
I am a member of a buzzing thriving club in a small town in Derbyshire. the club celebrates its 60th jubilee this year ( so do i) and i have been a member now for 30 years.
now as clubs go, i have seen all types but ours is generally friendly and in fact warmly welcomes beginners, sometimes to the detriment of advanced workers. we have a mix of ages and a good percentage of female members.
there is clearly a large gap in abilities but the more experienced workers try to pull the new ones through and encourage the entering of club, federation,national and international salon. taking distinctions etc. no one is secretive about tecnique and we have regular nights to guide new members in the use of photoshop etc.
there are several groups formed that go on outings at the weekends and other members regularly make trips together to the farnes, appleby, reinactments, goth week ends etc.
there are young and old members and despite being 60, im still happy chasing Goths and steam punks around, keeping up to date and slapping grunge textures on pictures, probably being more creative than some of the younger members so age means nothing.
in terms of equipment, yes it is important to ask new members what they have, its a good way to get chatting to them, gives an insight into where they are at in terms of what they are able to control etc. we also ask about what they take pictures of. i have never experienced camera snobbery because most clubbers are about images and activities. there is a lot of friendly banter about Nikon lenses being like canon lenses that have been rubbed with wire wool etc, but thats just a laugh
now heres the thing.
some chat back, make conversation, join in, bring a friend to sit with until they blend with the rest, ask if they can come out with the groups. in general they stay - and love the club.
others, -- well they maybe are more used to living in cyberspace and texting there partner at the otherside of the table and have little in the way of social skills. they avoid eye contact, lurk in corners, respond with yes and no without conversation. in general make it as hard as possible for people to befriend them. expect everything and give nothing. take the cup of tea but not go and wash up etc. needless to say these people tend not to stay
-- and anyway where did you ever go where the long established members come and hold your hand and suck you straight into the middle of the vortex. its not even like that at the pub. you are going to be overwhelmed whatever you join if you dont give it a fair chance.
where else can you get the opportunity to be involved with photography and -- people real people not faceless avatars. get the chance to interact and learn. our oldest members are in their 80s and still are creative.
you cant please everyone, but hey dont pull them down just because you didnt fit or found it just wasnt for you.
isnt it just the same on here. some meet up and go on meets, arrange to visit their camera clubs etc. i have met and made friends with many epz members. but others prefer to be behind the screen i think.
Quote: its not even like that at the pub. you are going to be overwhelmed whatever you join if you dont give it a fair chance.
A very good point - just like when you get a job with an established company with lots of long serving staff.
Quote: ..... canon lenses that have been rubbed with wire wool
Ah! So that accounts for it!...
(Only kidding - I have a number of both marques... )
Quote: ...lots of long serving staff.
What pub do you go to then, Pete?
Quote: but they got the huff that I wasn't willing to join and only turned up for the portrait night that had been cancelled at a moments notice.
Well, I'm not surprised they got the huff - we had to restrict model sessions to members only, or we would find masses of people turning up for a cheapie portrait/model session, and we wouldn't see them again!
I'd love to join a club but i haven't the confidence and am too shy Working every weekend doesn't help either, but its what i'm contracted to.
Quote: I'd love to join a club but i haven't the confidence and am too shy Working every weekend doesn't help either, but its what i'm contracted to.
Camera clubs are perfect for you then as they can build confidence and are full of shy peaple sharing a hobby they all love. and most clubs I know have meetings mid week and rarely hold anything during the weekend.
Any new experience is daunting to some people, just go along and join and by week 3 you'll be a fully integrated member. Its even possible that some members can even learn something from yourself. Go and enjoy a new exxperience.
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