The Photography Blog: The rise and fall of the camera club
Recently, I visited a well established local camera club to drum up support for a community photography project I was helping with. It struck me how, at 31, I was at least half the age of the typical member and there was almost complete indifference to a great opportunity to contribute their photography skills to a local photography project.
It made me wonder: where were the next generation of members? Why was the room full of mostly retired males? I left wondering if perhaps the era of the traditional camera club in the village hall with its weekly meetings was drawing to a close.
Lets face it, the internet has opened up the playing field of the photography community and this must be a threat to the old style camera club. Websites like Flickr and Photo.net boast millions of users all sharing their ideas, questions and photographs in a generally constructive manner designed to help and inform anyone interested in photography.
Now, I’m not saying that someone sat at home commenting from afar on a picture someone else half way round the world took is the same as attending and being part of a local camera club.
You can’t beat quality face to face interaction on a regular basis, with knowledgeable and helpful local people where the club becomes a part of the local community. The value of this should not be underestimated. The extended online community offered by the internet, from ‘how to’ videos on YouTube (often more ‘How not to’ in my experience…) to forums packed with information is useful, but it’s still learning in a virtual world, rather than the real world.
I’m not convinced it’s curtains for the camera club yet. With some adaptation to the traditional format there is a future for local, community based camera clubs.
Take my local area in Kent; there are photo meet ups and walkabouts regularly organised by members of a Flickr group for east Kent based snappers. There are also new styles of camera club run on a very informal, relaxed basis that meet fortnightly in the pub and simply take part in a fun photo challenge they organised the session before. Both are great alternative, easy formats for people to get involved face to face with their photography on a local level without the formality that a traditional club entails.
And I can see the appeal; there are no membership fees, committees to elect or pressure to attend regularly. You just stick the date in your diary and you’re out there with like minded people talking, learning and shooting some photography. There’s virtually no fear that the club will become some political battleground for a committee of people more interested in bossing other people around than they are in the actual photography.
The trick is meeting friendly, helpful and like-minded people face to face because it’s an ideal way to improve and enjoy our photography, and a good camera club will embrace a variety of genres, skill levels and equipment.
The problem is finding one with friendly, helpful and like-minded people. I know I wouldn’t fit in to a camera club full of guys twice my age, half of whom just want to moan the digital age and the other half who are just there for the tea.
Would I travel further afield to one that was buzzing and full of keen, creative people enjoying their photography? Probably not. I can access a similar community online now and meet them face to face on my own terms when it suits me. I might be missing out on something here but is it not something that can be compensated for through membership of an alternative style of camera club? I’d say it can.
This week I attended the private view of the annual Travel Photographer of The Year awards at the Royal geographic Society. It was a feast of gorgeous imagery from around the world and worth a visit during the period the exhibition’s running; 22 June to 19 August.
We’d love to hear your views on how the traditional camera club can compete against the wider, local and global, community offered via the web.
What makes a good local camera club worth joining?
What do they do to keep new members coming in and offer them something that isn’t available from an online community?
What does your camera club do to keep things fresh and engaging for the members making the effort to turn up every week?
Perhaps you mix both an online photography community with a local one?Tagged in: camera, camera club, Flickr, Photo.net, photography, Photography Blog, pictures
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