Park Street Camera Club was formed in 1962 and met above an electrical shop at 1-2 Park Street Lane (now Park Street Guns, see photo). The Club Chairman at that time was Mr. D.S. Bithell who actually owned the shop. The Club then moved to various premises in Park Street - Homewood School in Hazel Road, a dancing school in Orchard Drive, which was the home of the then Chairman, John King and his wife, where they met in a hut at the end of their garden. After this they moved to the old Primary School in Branch Road and finally to St. Stephen Parish Centre in Bricket Wood, where we still meet today (see photo). Unfortunately, we do not have the dates when they moved from each venue.
One of our longest standing members is John Rolfe, who actually joined the Camera Club in 1980 when it met in Orchard Drive. At our Christmas Social in December 2011 it was announced that he is now to become our new Club President.
Looking at the inscriptions on all of our Competition Cups, the earliest is dated 1963, which we believe means that it was the 1962-63 competition year, therefore, 2012 will be the 50th Anniversary of the Club.
In 2001 and 2007, the Club received grants from ‘Awards for All’. These went to the purchase of club equipment to bring the club into the digital age of photography, a series of training sessions on digital photography for, not only our own members but, any interested members of the local community. We also arranged outings for our members to places of photographic interest.
From my 1980 diary I recorded my first visit to the Camera Club on the 7 February. We met then in a small damp outbuilding in Orchard Drive, when the electric heater was switched on the old armchairs actually steamed. Although I had taken slides since 1958, my first SLR was an EXA 2B. Kodachrome film was expensive so it was used very sparingly. My first forays into competitions were slide battles with neighbouring clubs, and colour printing was in its infancy. Rita Quarterman was the Club’s first Chairlady.
We enjoyed the social side, visiting places like Canterbury by coach (when at least four members took cameras but forgot to include film). Some members gained photographic honours – Terry Day his LRPS, Derek Dixon his CPAGB and then DPAGB, Jill and Peter Hobson their LRPS and CPAGB but most were content to remain without awards. As a geographer I had always taken a keen interest in our landscapes. I donated a cup and initiated a competition for landscapes and shortly afterwards we launched the Inter-club Landscapes Competition which is still flourishing.
Our standard in competitions was largely rather modest, but occasionally we shone eg in XRR’s Pre-Visions and Chilterns Rosebowl competitions. We have established long-term friendly rivalries such as the bi-annual slide and print battles v Harpenden PS. Above all the club remained small and essentially friendly, sharing our hobby and moving with the times to the digital age. Thirty plus members still meet each Thursday, still enjoy the social side, still compete with mixed success and the standard of our work has improved considerably. Fifty years on, Thursday evenings remain the same pleasurable ones, in the best surroundings we have ever enjoyed, and with the most talented set of photographers ever.
It is an honour to be Chairman at the beginning of this our 50th Anniversary Year and I look forward to sharing our celebratory events with you all.
Cameras are still at the heart of our hobby and the skills of composing a good image are timeless but little else in photography is the same as it was when the club started. We are all now having to deal with very different challenges from those which faced us when we produced prints in the darkroom. For us old timers nothing will match the magic of the print beginning to appear as you sloshed some noxious chemicals around in your bathroom. Having said that, the change to digital has liberated us from the cost of film so we can take many more pictures and risk more tricky situations - who would have thought you can get a colour picture, hand-held, when it is almost dark and no flash! We can then apply all sorts of wonders on the computer to enhance the image, to create something which is very different from a traditional photograph or just rescue something you didn’t get quite right in the first place. Our print competitions are much more vibrant as colour is now no more expensive than black and white to print and Audio Visual sequences can contain effects never dreamed of when we were still editing the sound track with a razor blade. I don’t think we have had a picture taken on a phone entered for one of our competitions yet, but I suspect I won’t be able to recognise it as different from the other images when it does happen.
Life has certainly changed since John joined the club and much of its continued success is due to his efforts. He was programme secretary for many years, ensuring there was always something interesting for us at our club nights. He combined this with also being Chairman for a considerable period and now is our President – services to the club which should not go unrecognised.
I am sure the club will prosper in the next few years and we can look forward to our 100th anniversary by which time I am sure photography will have completely changed again!