It was only seven years after the end of the Second World War, but to those of us who were teenagers all that seemed very remote in 1953 except that butter and sugar were still strictly rationed, although we hardly remembered when it wasn’t. Television sets were a rarity, nobody had even heard of computers and “mobile phones” were simply two words that were mutually exclusive. Recreation had to be sought in very different and much simpler ways from those that have since become commonplace.
It was in this context that Michael Glover, and one or two friends who were showing an interest in photography, were persuaded to advertise for likeminded people in the Ilkley Gazette. No fewer than twenty people turned up on a cold and wet evening on 6th February 1953, and the Ilkley Camera Club was formed. The first Chairman was to be Tom Haigh and Hon. Secretary Michael Glover.
From the outset, the membership included both sexes from wide ranging backgrounds and ages. It was an admirable beginning. The first fixed venue for the Club’s regular Friday meetings was to be the Church Institute on Leeds Road (more recently the HQ of the Ilkley Operatic and Dramatic Society), and there are memories of the sometimes temperamental coal fire and the motley array of chairs provided for our use. One recalls, too in later years, the member who always arrived early in order to secure the only armchair!
Within a remarkably short period, the Club was well on its feet and included some already competent photographers as well as some budding ones. There were people of varied experience on the first committee, and they created the basis for the high quality of members’ work, and their competitive successes, in later years. Tom Haigh was perhaps the moving spirit; he was always ready to advise and help the newer members whilst himself being an outstanding photographer.
Colin Duncan, who for many years was the Club’s “Hon Lanternist” (appointed, says Michael Glover, because he was the only member who could offer the use of a projector at the time!) worked hard and long in a practical manner, constructing a screen and a projector stand and other practical items for the weekly meetings. Harold Fairbrother, soon to retire from his bank managership, was the first Hon. Treasurer, and was another who was always ready to help the younger ones with any problems.
The members were producing sufficient work by the autumn of their first year to encourage them to hold their 1st Annual Exhibition in November which (I see from the catalogue) was opened by my father, who was then the Chairman of Ilkley UDC. The astonishing number of 93 monochrome prints was displayed, produced by 19 members, as against 61 colour transparencies from 7 members. Within seven years of being founded, the Club entry of monochrome prints won the Keighley Trophy at the annual Yorkshire Photographic Union Exhibition at Scarborough. This was a real feather in Ilkley’s cap, for there was competition from a great number of clubs in those days, the majority of which were long established. Subsequently, Club members have been honoured with many more YPU awards, the 1990s being a particularly fruitful period.
The founding of the Club occurred just as colour photography was gaining in popularity amongst amateur photographers, hence the need for a projector: for this was well before the days of home colour printing. Quite soon, however, Ilkley had a group of highly competent colour workers, and the Club was partly instrumental in setting up the Inter Club Colour Slide Competition in the early ’60s, which still exists, and which has been keenly contested for many years by clubs throughout the region.
Success in this field, and in monochrome photography, created a demand from other clubs for our members to give lectures and to act as judges, something which continues to this day. Gradually, colour printing was introduced and soon became popular. Within the Club there were those, including another of our founder members, who were receiving national and international recognition of their colour photography, as well as becoming Associates and Fellows of the Royal Photographic Society.
During the past few years we have seen the increasing involvement of members in digital photography and the signs are that this medium will transcend all others before long. Already some excellent work is being produced, some of it from those who have previously excelled in conventional techniques.
Despite many similar clubs struggling, and several closing, in these times when there are so many other diversions available to people, Ilkley Camera Club has continued to flourish and has a current membership of 72, with a regular attendance of between 40 and 50. This is not only because the Club has some good and keen workers, but mostly because its committee members (some of whom have held various offices over a period of many years) work devotedly for the well being of the Club, something which has been true from the outset and to mention any names would be inappropriate for fear of excluding somebody!
Our first 50 years have seen a huge change in photographic techniques, whoever would have thought that single lens reflex cameras would become the norm, quickly followed by through the lens metering, auto focusing, and now digital cameras? There may be some of our present members who will see our centenary. What a tale they will have to tell!
With thanks to John Hardy – Founder member and President 1963-1964
(Article written for the Golden Jubilee Exhibition 2003)