Photography News 04

Opinion

13

SPEAKERS’ CORNER

How friendly is your club? A riposte! This is your chance to climb up on your soapbox and have a rant. Last issue, Del Barrett asked camera clubs to look at how friendly they are to newmembers; this issue, Ian Thompson responds

groups for beginners, wildlife, portraiture, etc, all of whom meet on nights additional to our weekly Thursday offerings. There is a wonderful buzz from the membership who (appear to!) really enjoy the way the club handles itself. Specifically, ‘advice’ on what constitutes a ‘good’ picture is forbidden. Instead we criticise each others’ work objectively, suggesting courteously how we might improve it in our opinion, leaving the author to decide on the finished product because it must please them before it pleases anyone else. After all, if you don’t use photography to make a living (and 99% of our members don’t), it’s likely that you take pictures for family record or hedonistic reasons. Club competitions should come behind these needs, though it must be said that gaining a ‘place’ in a competition is a very useful fillip to one’s confidence! Now, I’m not saying that ours is the best or a universal formula: very obviously there has to be enthusiasm from within to effect change of this nature and there has to be time available to those so charged. Also, I believe that once a certain critical mass is achieved, the funds available for speakers and the broad enthusiasm of the audience produce a snowball effect. Beacon Camera Club is blessed with a wonderful set of members who have much desire to see the club flourish and deliver upon its maxim of ‘educating the public in the art and science of photography’. Long may it continue.

a completely web-based method of competition entry, even for prints. I know this sounds strange, but it allows us to project a reference image for the audience while a judge is talking about the small piece of paper in the corner of the room. At the same time, a new chairman, publicity guru, members’ secretary, programme secretary, etc, all climbed into their respective saddles. The combination of this enthusiastic and skilled team produced results almost from the word go. We stuck out our necks and organised successful, big ticketed events – Joe Cornish, Laurie Campbell, our own dear Will Cheung, etc.; we registered the club as a charity so we could benefit from gift aid; we introduced fun into the equation – club nights are no longer grey, stuffy gatherings, humour abounds; we insist that visiting judges preview the work to be judged – if they won’t, they don’t get booked; we run a feedback section on our forum where members can compliment or gripe about speakers and judges; on competition nights, members score the entries on optical-mark forms so we can avail ourselves of crowd statistics, which help us select material for external competitions. We’ve formed relationships with local newspapers, shops, district councils, other charities and even the local radio station, all of whom give our club wonderful free exposure… and the list goes on. Over the last five years – no doubt connected to the above – the club has grown from 40 members to 120, of age range 14 to 96, and now we offer sub-

Words by Ian Thompson ARPS

Whilstmany clubs come out of the same mould, there are exceptions and they shine like beacons in the night

Well, Del, I sympathise with you for – in the main – you’re not wrong. Your experiences in photo- clubland are enough to make anyone tear out their hair. These days I am an accredited MCPF circuit judge and in my travels around the Midlands’ clubs I am sad to say that I have witnessed many scenarios of the type you describe. It’s almost as if there is some tacit set of rules which govern the make-up and constitution of the ‘generic camera club’. But whilst many clubs come out of the mould you describe, there are exceptions and like well-run pubs that buck the national bankruptcy trend, they shine like beacons in the night. Ha! I’ve always wanted to use that phrase as a lead-in to describe the success of the club that is unfortunate enough to have me as a member. So here goes… I joined the Beacon Camera Club five years ago in an attempt to paddle free from the photographic doldrums which had captured me throughout the years of job, children and mortgage. What I found was a bunch of folk equally split into those keen to embrace a new recruit and those who were not bothered. Despite this, I paidmy subs andpersevered, watching and listening, finding out how things worked. The ‘keen’ were great – very supportive and considerate of a new member; the ‘not bothered’ offered little in the way of encouragement. During the first year of my membership I received from members many conflicting pieces of advice as to what constituted a ‘good’ picture. Worse – most of the visiting competition judges were lazy and inconsistent, usually ‘winging it’ on the night of the competition and denigrating our efforts with a wave of the hand. I found their lack of both consideration and constructive criticism particularly hard to swallow. What is the point of entering a club competition if you don’t get some kind of advice from those-who-know as to how to make improvements? I entered a few competitions and did reasonably well but felt let down by both the club and the judging process: the former was not a particularly sociable place to be and the latter just made me cross! As they say, if you want to see change, you have to get involved so I offered to become involved in the workings of the committee. Time went on and circumstance dictated almost a complete change of personnel in the club committee, which had changed little for four or five years – small clubs always have this problem, don’t they? Portfolios were allotted to committee members: I became internal competition secretary and set about renovating the methods used to manage competition entries. Being slightly techno- savvy, I proposed a new website, with a forum and

IMAGES Dedicated and enthusiastic club member Ian Thompson’s image, Blown away.

Niggled by negative club members? Enthusiastic about exciting exhibition developments? Share it with us and all of clubland. Drop us a line at opinion@ photography-news.co.uk. WHATDO YOUTHINK?

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Issue 4 | Photography News

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