THE CHICHESTER Photographic Society was formed in 1893. A very active and sociable group whose members met once a week, the society organised regular lectures, learning about new photographic techniques and equipment.
The group also went on regular excursions, visiting places such as Midhurst, Hunston and Arundel. The excursions did not always prove popular, however, as the society’s annual reports suggest, regularly acknowledging poor attendance and encouraging members to be more involved.
Annual competitions, as well as regular monthly competitions, were held. Categories for entries in the early period included Seascapes and Landscapes, Architecture, and Lantern Slides.
Some of the members of the society included prominent and well-known characters within the city including George Michael Turnbull. Turnbull had become a member of the club by as early as 1896, if not before. His membership continued until at least 1939, when he would have been around 85 years of age. He was alderman of the city and mayor from 1909 to 1912 and again in 1919.
In 1917 the effects of the First World War seem to have been felt by the society, who seem to have taken a hiatus between March, 1917 and March, 1922. In 1922 the society posted a notice in the local paper inviting both ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMEN’ to attend a meeting at the Technical Institute, North Street, to make arrangements to recommence proceedings.
The group resumed with revived enthusiasm, continuing to hold weekly meetings, regular excursions and lectures. By this time the society had added additional competitions, including the excursion competition – a prize to be given for the best picture taken on each outing.
The monthly competition categories had by this time changed, too, Class A becoming for pictures of any size or subject while Class B was for pictures of any size or subject, but was only open to lady members.
In 1928 the society secured a room of their own at Flint House, South Street. Here, they held an exhibition of old photographs taken by both former and current members.
In the 1930s, the society was flourishing and competitions improved in both the quality and the quantity of entries. A new class of competitions was added, Class C – Enlargements and the remainder of the categories changed. Class A was for those who had already won prizes, while Class B was only open to newcomers.
1938 saw an innovation in the way that competitions were judged. Up until this time entries had been judged by fellow members, however, this changed and after votes had been cast by members, entries was passed to an external expert judge for the final decision.
The Second World War again seemed to have an impact on the society, which only appears to have met on an annual basis from 1940 to 1942. Although the committee was in favour of undertaking excursions, it seems the society was hampered by wartime fuel rations. In 1945, questions were raised as to whether the group should continue to rent the room, and it was decided that notice be given to vacate and put the society’s possessions into store.
Chichester was without a photographic society until 1949 when the Chichester Camera Club was formed. In the early days of the club, fortnightly meetings were held at the Methodist Hall in the Hornet. The club’s first exhibition was held at the Assembly Rooms in 1950. This year also saw the first Regnum Competition.
The Chichester and Bognor Regis camera Clubs staged a print battle between themselves, the winners receiving a shield donated by Charles Howard.
This competition marked the beginning of the Regnum Crouch Group. Today, it is a group that encourages friendly competition between different photography clubs in West Sussex.
Since the 1950s, the Chichester Camera Club has thrived and is now recognised as one of the most successful camera clubs in the country with a reputation for the excellent photography its members create. The club remains as active and social as in its very early days with a lively programme of visiting speakers, competitions and social events.
To celebrate the 125 years of the Chichester Camera Club, there will be an exhibition at the Novium Museum from November 24, 2018, to March 10, 2019.
By Amy Roberts, collections officer and Portia Tremlett, museum assistant at the Novium Museum