Camera Club: What I've Learnt
Photography can be a social and solitary activity - both of which I have been able to enjoy during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to my local camera club. Before March 2020 the majority of my photos were taken with a companion, with the odd food shoot on my own. It was a good balance. I equally enjoyed having the input from others and the quiet lonesome practice of my craft.
When the UK entered its first lockdown all my shoots were at home on my own. It wasn’t long until I found my work started to lack the aspect of development that comes from creative conversations. In September I joined my local camera club. All the meetings were being held on Zoom, a huge advantage for a busy millennial, and had a catalog of speakers and competitions lined up for the next six months. I’ve been to camera club meetings before and I’ll admit I was worried it was going to be another stereotypical group of grumpy old men complaining about each others work and dismissing anything to do with women and modern day photography.
I was wrong.
Surprisingly Mold Camera Club has an even split of men and women covering a wide range of ages groups. Not so surprisingly I was the youngest - I had expected this knowing that my generation had never really been into congregating in a church hall on a Monday night let alone joining a Zoom call with a bunch of strangers. To add to the surprise they were nice and had a sense of humour - You’ve got to have a laugh if you’re being openly stalked on the internet as your induction. You may ask why on earth I thought this was a surprise but if you’d attended the other club meetings I’d been to you would understand. Not only are they a great group of people, they are actually interested in photography and were open to learning about Instagram and food photography - something I was very quickly coerced into doing presentations on.
Both of my talks were really well received and not only that, through other talks I got to hear from photographers that I had never have “met” before. These ranged from underwater photographers to documentary photographers. All giving snippets of their craft and enjoying the companionship of their fellow ‘togs’.
When there’s not a talk taking place, the club are having their images judged by an independent member of the UK Club Photography Group. Usually a selection of three images are entered into a General or Advanced category. I’d proudly been told I would be submitting to the Advanced category and chose three of my favourite photos.
I scored well! Even though I missed the first competition entry I’d somehow ended up in the Top 10 on the points leader board. My images were what I would call “camera club safe”. Let me explain this. Over the following months I decided to enter a mix of images; commercial photos taken for TPT and images taken as my hobby. I noticed a trend that my commercial work wasn’t as well received as my hobby photos.
Admittedly some of my commercial work takes into consideration social media crops and shooting images that are attractive when viewed on a phone, but when taken away from that environment they caused confusion for the judges with one even questioning a crop of one of my images. In contrast my hobby photos weren’t taken with these factors in mind - they were just images I enjoyed taking for the love of photography. They didn’t do a job, they didn’t sell a product, they didn’t represent a brand. They were just my photos and they scored well.
For the first time I began to see a divide in my photography and realised that shooting to suit social media isn’t always the best course of action. I also learnt that camera clubs aren’t stuffy as they once were perceived - they’re a community of friendly likeminded people open to learning and volunteering their knowledge and time for the fun of it. In a time when so many can feel lonely my camera club has given me something so priceless - let’s ignore the £25 membership fee - in the form of knowledge, friendships and structure.
As a creative person this is so valuable.