Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The return of the curse of the camera club

'The return of the curse of the camera club' sounds like the title to a bad horror movie. However, a horror movie is usually bad fiction while the typical British camera club is, unfortunately, all too much bad fact.  This post is the sequel to a horror story I related here in an earlier blog post. (see 14/11/2015).

That post resulted in a large number of views and many messages agreeing with my assessment of the British camera club world. Please note that I say British, my many experiences of speaking to and conducting workshops for, photographic groups in other parts of Europe and the USA are very different. 
Mechelen, Belgium, 2016

I have been involved in a number of exhibitions in north Wales over the last year which resulted in several organisations asking me to speak at their meetings. In addition, the spin off from my retrospective exhibition also resulted in a number of speaking engagements to groups who wanted to hear the big talk I gave at the National Library of Wales as part of that. None of these were camera clubs, just organisations that have an interest in art, culture and history generally. The talks were all well received. Over thirty years as a university lecturer has given me the skills to deliver quite a decent talk. 
Helsinki, Finland, 2016

I have ended up giving the same talk, one about the history of 19th. century photography in north Wales three times in a fairly short period, including twice in a month in the same town. So, when the local camera club contacted me and asked me to give the same talk to them I had to think about it. After all, they had the opportunity, twice in one month to attend the talk at other societies meetings as they are open to all and did I really want to give the same talk, in the same small town, all over again? So, despite my long-standing aversion to and refusal to talk to camera clubs, I relented but offered instead to give my 'big talk' about six decades of my work and if they agreed to that, I would give the history talk to them at a later date. An offer you couldn't refuse one would have thought, two talks for the price of one. (Actually, probably no price at all as I tend to speak for free to societies that I think are genuinely interested and worthy and just charge my usual fees to larger institutions). 
Rievaulx Abbey, north Yorkshire, 2016

In my e mail to them offering to talk I also suggested they might want to visit an exhibition in a gallery only twenty minutes from their town by a prominent, long standing, (Welsh) member of Magnum. The gallery is run by one of my ex-students and she had pulled off a coup for north Wales in getting the work there. I only mentioned it because this was the camera club who have told me in the past that they don't bother to go to see exhibitions unless they are very local. As they hadn't seen this then, even twenty minutes away is obviously too far for them. Knowing that British camera clubs are also blinkered as to what goes on in the real photography world I suggested visits to the National Library of Wales to see their fine and important photography collection and a visit to Cardiff to see David Hurn's 'Swaps' exhibition where they can see the prints he has collected from some of the worlds greatest documentary photographers. My suggestions were obviously a bit too radical for them and they suspected that my talk might be about photography, not cameras or technique. They were not having any of that, oh dear me no and they refused my offer. 
Betws y coed, Conwy, north Wales, 2015
Rather like the woman in the photograph opposite, they sit in their meeting rooms with their heads buried in the club rule book and their eyes blinkered to all the real, great photography that surrounds them. All very sad and yet predictable I'm afraid and another example of the strange attitudes that seem to pervade British camera clubs. As I have said here before, I do try, I do offer to encourage, enthuse and educate but when they are clearly not really interested in photography, only playing with cameras and gimmicky effects, such as producing grotesque, over-photoshopped sunsets etc., there's little I can do. Just don't say I didn't offer.

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