In the 10th – and last – of a series of articles celebrating the Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society – which is now in its 126th year – club member Alan Simpson continues to offer an insight into the group’s history. Photo by club member David Tyrrell.
When the opportunity came to move club meetings to Wanstead House Community Centre in 2014 – only 70 years after it was first suggested – the chance was taken. Once there, it was not long before the club had outgrown its ground-floor meeting room and moved into the much larger room in the attic (once the home of the defunct Leytonstone and Wanstead Camera Club). The only downside of the move to Wanstead House was that the change of evening (from Tuesday to Monday) meant several members could no longer attend, including Peter Smith, a long-standing member and former chairman.
Meeting only twice a month, and not at all in some holiday periods, left some members wanting a more regular programme. With this in mind, in 2015, informal get-togethers in the Wanstead House bar were introduced on Tuesday evenings in the weeks with no formal club meeting. Workshops were also organised on the use of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. In addition, David Tachauer, and then Brian McCarthy, took on the role of organising outings to places with photographic potential. These extra activities all proved to be successful and truly meet one of the society’s early aims, viz ‘the discussion of the subjects connected with photography in a social manner and the encouragement of photographic research practice among the members by mutual and friendly assistance’.
The move to Wanstead House, a presence on social media (notably Flickr and Facebook) and an injection of new blood and new ideas into the committee all helped to revive the society’s fortunes, and membership numbers began to rise again – in mid-2018, there were 38 paid-up members (membership now costing £65 per annum; £45 for concessions). Many of the newer members had no background in ‘traditional’ photography, their photographic interest having formed in a world of camera phones, selfies and transient online images. To help these and others develop a wider skills base, the society now places less emphasis on competitions and its programme regularly includes practical hands-on sessions and outings. This is in some way a return to the motives of the society’s early years when the founder members gave instruction and demonstration sessions, but now with greater participation.
To celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary, Dave Tyrell organised an 1893 Foundation Cup inter-club competition. This was held in October 2018, with WWPS battling against local rivals from Loughton Camera Club, Romford Camera Club, Barking Photographic Society, Chingford Photographic Society and Chigwell Camera Club. Alongside the competition, an exhibition of members’ work was on display at Wanstead House for a two-week period.
The society’s founders would be amazed at the developments that have taken place since they formed their club for ‘the advancement of photography, technically and artistically’, in the modern methods of producing photographs and in the ease with which photographs can now be mass-produced. They would no doubt also be amazed that the club they founded 125 years ago is still meeting regularly and fulfilling their original aims.