In February 1945 five men met in a house in Bramble Road, Hatfield, to discuss the formation of a St. Albans & District Photographic Society. There was encouraging interest in response to notices printed in the 'Amateur Photographer' and the 'Herts. Advertiser' and a preliminary meeting was held in a school in St. Albans. Records of this meeting list names and addresses of 54 people, mainly men (only 4 appeared to be women). The five original 'founding fathers' with one addition were elected to serve as a committee until the first AGM 6 months later.
The first meeting, attended by 45 people, took place on 21st March 1945, when a collection of prints provided by Ilford were presented and duly criticised by members. Fortnightly meetings were held that summer including two professional trade demonstrations and in May two club wives allowed themselves to be models for 30 enthusiastic members. A talk in June on 'Exposure' was of course photographic exposure.
We were initially affiliated to the East Anglian Federation, but transferred to a newly formed Chilterns Association of Camera Clubs in 1966. Our records provide a fascinating insight into the development of club photography during the second half of the last century. For example:
In 1950 nearly 100 large monochrome prints from 26 members were shown at an exhibition.
By 1959 colour transparencies were gaining in popularity as favoured presentation.
In 1968 club membership peaked at 127, with more transparencies shown than prints.
In 1974 our first colour print competitions were held.
The club had met at three sites in the vicinity of St. Albans City Station, the latest having been the hall of the Conservative Association. One snag here was that the MP became a Minister and we would be summoned at a very short notice whenever he visited to unlock our store cupboard and show there was no IRA bomb concealed in it. In 1993 we sought new premises and moved to our present venue, where we were among the first users of a modern hall on a recently developed estate on the north-east perimeter of the city. This had the advantage of easy parking as well as enabling us to have an annual Celebrity Lecture. Charlie Waite gave us the first in 1994; subsequent speakers have included Gordon Stainforth, Joe Cornish, Andy Rouse and other distinguished photographers.
Membership numbers were declining at the end of the '80s, but have stabilised over recent years, producing a very friendly club with a wide range of photographic interests. As active supporters of the Chilterns Association we remain in contact with a wider photographic world.
In the past few years the club has welcomed the rapid development of digital printing which has greatly widened the scope for photographers. The gradual conversion to digital cameras and the introduction of digital projectors has made transparencies less popular. Some people are still producing prints in the darkroom, but the majority have a digital component in their production.
October 2006: we were awarded a grant from Awards for All and have been able to update our equipment and improve the range quality and scope of activities that we offer.
May 2008 the name of the society was changed to St. Albans Camera Club as part of a modernising programme more in tune with the twenty first century and our digital status.