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By Margaret Warren, 2013
For the last 35 years we have continued to hold our meetings in the club's rooms in Front Street, Tynemouth, where we had moved to in 1957, but we have witnessed many changes in photography over that time.
In the 1980s it was expensive to produce colour prints, so in 1985 the committee sanctioned the allocation of £600 to be spent on equipping and restocking the dark room so that members could process their own colour prints and pay the Club for the materials used. At the time membership fees were £6 per year, so £600 was quite a considerable sum of money. It is recorded that the Treasurer made no objection to the expenditure.
In July of 1989 the committee drew up a no smoking rule. Smoking was not to be allowed beyond the entrance vestibule. At the September meeting a member expressed "disquiet regarding the rights of minorities within the Society", however, the no smoking rule was retained.
In 1990 the second floor accommodation was revamped. A new dark room was created and the old one turned into a work room. At the same time the Atkinson Room was turned into an exhibition room where members could display their prints. This idea never really took off and although some members took the trouble to set up exhibitions, very few members took time to climb the stairs to view them. The fact that the room was very cold during the winter may have been part of the reason why people did not venture upstairs on a Thursday night. It is interesting to note that by 2000/2001, the season when the Digital Section first appeared on the syllabus, the dark room was only being used by two members. Over the following years the use of the dark room continued to declined and by 2005, it and the adjoining work room had become storage areas, with the Atkinson Room only used for committee meetings and for the annual display of prints from the Record Group's archive.
At this point it is important to remember the small teams of members, who over the years who have given freely of their time and expertise, to work during the summer break, to maintain and improve the Club Rooms. Without them our premises would be in a sorry state.
Since 1978, the number of sub-groups within the main society has increased, but the Portrait Group, despite efforts to revive it in 2010, has disappeared from the syllabus. Members interested in portrait photography now tend to get together in informal groups to use professional studios, which are equipped with the most up to date equipment.
The Nature Group first appeared on the syllabus in 1995 and was formed by a group of members whose special interest was in natural history photography. Their monthly meetings have always included evenings with talks from visiting wild life photographers and nights where group members have shared their work, be it in the form of prints or projected images, with the rest of the group. Visits have always been organised by this group, usually by car or shared cars, to locations with possibilities for wild life photography. A yearly visit to the Farne Islands has almost become a tradition. Images produced by group members have always featured in Tynemouth's internal competitions and have always done well when included in external competition entries.
At the AGM in April 2000, it was reported that the Digital Day, which had been organised had been very successful and it was suggested that a digital group should be formed. On the 29th August 2000, a group named The Digital Art Group held its inaugural meeting, with 9 members attending. During the 2000/2001 season, 4 more meetings with visiting speakers were held, with attendances varying between 5 and 14 members. By April 2002, it was reported at the AGM that the group had been disbanded due to "lack of enthusiasm". However, it did reappear on the syllabus for the 2002/03 season, renamed the Digital Group. The opening meeting of the season was attended by 7 members. In March 2003, efforts were being made to acquire a digital projector and laptop computer. These were purchased in time for the start of the 2003/04 season and meetings were scheduled for the 4th Tuesday of the month. By the 2012/13 season, with almost all members of the Club producing digital images, the role of the Digital Group, had in the main, become one of providing practical instruction in the use of computer programmes to enhance images, rather than the use of digital cameras. To reflect this changing role, the section was once again renamed, this time as the Digital and Practical Group.
The Art Group was formed during the season 2000/2001 by a member whose interests included not only photography, but painting and drawing. The group presented its first report to the AGM in 2001 and staged its first exhibition of work in August 2001. Initially an exhibition was staged twice a year, however, in recent years only one exhibition has been held, over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
The Record Group has continued to add to its collection of images of the former Borough of Tynemouth. Twice over the last 35 years volunteers have set out on projects to update the collection of images. During the 1980/81 season, a group of members were each allocated a small area of Tynemouth to photograph. Again in 2002, a group set out on a similar project, but this time the images were to be used in our Centenary Book, Photographs of the Borough of Tynemouth Past and Present, published for us by North Tyneside Libraries. In the book images from the archive were used alongside the new ones which had, as far as possible, been taken from the same location. By 2013 the archive collection had grown to nearly 2000 images, all of which have been copied and stored on disc. Occasionally, on very special occasions, the glass slide projector (affectionately known as "Big Bertha") has been dusted down and we have been treated to an evening of nostalgia. For many years the section has held an exhibition of archive material in the Atkinson room while the Art Section have staged their Annual Exhibition in the main room on the 1st floor.
The Video Group, formed in 1959, was originally known as the Cine Group. However, reflecting technological innovations in film making over the last 35 years, the group has changed its name twice. It first appears as the Cine and Video Group in the report of the AGM in 1988 and in 2002 the word "cine" was removed. As technology changed, so has the equipment required to produce and show films. The group has reacted quickly to acquire funds to buy new projection equipment etc. In May 2009 the group celebrated its 50th anniversary with a show of work by members and a buffet supper at the Arts Centre at Seaton Delaval. Over the years the section has continued to produce excellent travelogue, documentary and nature films. Comedy films have been one of the group's specialities, proving that, as well as being excellent film makers, Video Section members also have acting and script writing talents. Outdoor filming has always been one of their activities and a film has usually been made to record one of their summer outings. Their films have achieved success when entered into national and interclub competitions. The group's work has been shared with the Photographic Section at an annual joint meeting.
Thursday evenings have traditionally been the main Photographic Society meeting night. The number of members attending meetings has fluctuated over the last 35 years, but, it probably reached its height in the mid 1980s, with a weekly average of around 50 people. This coincided with a period when the total membership, over all sections, hovered at around 112. By 1983, Tynemouth was the largest of all the 77 clubs of to the Northern Counties Photographic Federation. However, despite the large membership and attendances on Thursday evenings, the Secretary commented at the AGM in 1983, that "steps were needed to encourage members to take and submit pictures" for competitions, "instead of being content to look at other peoples" and that "Tynemouth should be known for our excellent pictures rather than our excellent hospitality and clubrooms". If this admonishment had any effect is not recorded in subsequent reports.
By 1992, concern was being expressed about falling membership numbers, with "the costs of photography as a hobby", being cited as a possible reason. Since the year 2000 overall membership has hovered around 60. Membership of the Photographic section in the 2012/13 season was back up to over 40, with attendances on Thursday nights been around 50% or more of the group.
Our Syllabus Secretaries have continued to provide a mixed program of lectures, competitions and social events each year, with many old favourites, such as "Judge for Yourself", "My 10 Favourite Pictures", and the auction being retained from pre 1978 days. Competitions, internal inter-club and national, have continued to feature as Club activities, but have varied in popularity over the years, with attendances on competition nights reflecting their popularity. In 1986, set subjects for club competitions were abolished except for the President's Trophy Competition. Despite this, in 1992, the minutes record that some new members felt that "the competitions were too serious and off putting for them". By the end of the 1990s, most judging evenings had a more relaxed atmosphere, with judges offering constructive comments and often adding a little humour . These evenings were and continue to be, amongst of the best attended of the season. By 2005 digital equipment was finding regular use at the meetings as more members and speakers used digital presentations. During the 2007/08 season there were more digital files entered in the Seasonal Projected Image Competition, (the renamed Seasonal Slide Competition), than conventional slides. The trend to digital continued and by the 2012/13 season, only two workers used film, one producing colour slides and another prints, (but even he owned and used a digital camera).
By 2000 the Photographic Society's Annual Exhibition had reduced in scale from a fourteen day event, with different presentations every evening in the club rooms, to a preview night in the club rooms, followed by the transfer of the exhibition to the Central Library in North Shields and then onto two other venues in North Tyneside.
The publication of the summer newsletter, The Film Pack, has continued over the last 35 years, but since the advent of email fewer hard copies have been needed and it can also be read on the club's web site.
Summer outings, which in 1978 could still almost fill a coach with members and friends, have declined in popularity over the years. This may have been due to increased car ownership among members, but by 2000, summer outings were usually evening affairs when members arranged to meet up with their cameras at a pre-arranged location for a short walk. Unfortunately attendance at these evenings has, over time, dwindled down to only a handful of folk.
The club celebrated the Millennium by taking part in "Focus 2000", a show staged at the Whitley Bay Playhouse, in cooperation with Whitley Bay Photographic Society and Newcastle Amateur Cine/Video Association. The event, open to the public, showcased all forms of photography and video.
Planning for the Club's Centenary Year celebrations in 2003 were underway by autumn 2000. These were to take the form of a Centenary Dinner at the Grand Hotel, Tynemouth, with local TV personality and historian, John Grundy, as the after dinner speaker, a Civic Reception, the production of the Centenary Book and the commissioning of souvenir mugs. In addition another event was organised at the Whitley Bay Playhouse entitled "One Hundred Wonderful Years", showcasing the work of our club members over the years, plus a talk by Arthur Edwards, chief photographer at The Sun newspaper, who travelled from London to give a talk about his work.
Ten years on and it was decided to hold another dinner at the Grand Hotel, this time to celebrate the Club's 110th Anniversary. The committee felt that it was too long to wait for another 15 years before we had another party! It proved to be a very enjoyable occasion with a lovely meal, a huge raffle (with prizes donated by many businesses both local and national), a cake made and decorated by Dorothy Wilson and boxes of notelets for each guest, printed with images from the Club's archive collection. No after dinner speaker was arranged, but Howard Wilson unearthed some archive footage of club activities on DVDs which were shown to conclude the evening.