Some Thoughts On Camera Clubs

Nov 8, 2023

Landscape Photography From Eryri and Anglesey on Video No 216

I saw this on Twitter this morning, and I thought it was interesting that such a large majority agree with my opinion. It’s only just been posted and only got 15 votes so far but nevertheless it’s unlikely that the “No” camp are going to come out the winners in this one.

Of course, this doesn’t extend to every camera club. But, I do find that grassroots members in most clubs tend to agree with this position when engaged in broad discussion on the topic.

However, when it comes to actually making and presenting images, in my experience (reasonably extensive) there is a strong trend towards formulaic and tedious photography in order to comply with “standards” which are applied at club level, and up through regional competition and on to nationals.

Because club-oriented photographers are operating within a structure which has such a strong emphasis on competition and meeting standards laid out by an archaic and long-established set of criteria by which images are judged in this context, I have found that members often find it difficult to operate outside of this conditioning.

Sadly, those photographers at senior and potentially influential levels within regional and national organisations, in my experience, seem to have a little interest in opening up the established “rules” to broader interpretation, thus actively discouraging experimentation and creativity.

It’s depressing that, in the modern age, there seems to be very little evolution towards broader levels of creativity within the camera club structure. The result of this lack of encouragement is that they attract fewer and fewer photographers seeking to learn and improve, along ewith making friends and acquaintances with shared interests. Especially so now that social media offers much broader outlets for this sort of thing.

It seems to me that with dwindling camera club memberships, being very apparent over the last 5 to 10 years, their inability to evolve will be their eventual demise. Several clubs known to me have folded in recent years and the more established clubs’ memberships attract low levels of new, younger members to replace more senior members as time goes by.

And not a single month passes when I don’t have at least one photographer expressing to me their disenchantment at their treatment by image judging processes through the camera club network.

The self-appointed guardians of photography “standards” operating at senior levels of regional and national photographic organisations will eventually end up with smaller and smaller circles of influence, entirely as a result of their ongoing intransigence.

All of that said, it has been my pleasure and privilege to interact with countless grassroots camera club members over the last 5 or 6 years, particularly since I started being asked to make presentations to clubs. Something which I carry out quite regularly with great enthusiasm. Mostly because I get to engage with a wide range of interesting people, plus it allows me to openly criticise the camera club competition judging system itself. Citing countless examples of my own work which I would never bother asking a camera club judge to review, as I would have zero interest in their opinions!

So I get to stand on my soapbox and express my own opinions, whilst doing my bit to encourage grassroots members to throw off the shackles of competition. Emphasising all of the great benefits of being in an active local camera club. I’m associated with a couple of clubs, neither of which will ever see any of my images in competition, but where I thoroughly enjoy working with less experienced photographers to help them gain more enjoyment and make the most of their enthusiasm for photography. Along with the enjoyment of socialising with other like-minded photographers, whilst avoiding the entrenched opinions of the old guard who cannot and will not change tack in the modern photography world.

So, hopefully, all is not lost when it comes to camera clubs.

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