Apart from a short break here and there, I’ve been a member of a couple of camera clubs for over 15 years and I’ve been a visitor to more clubs than I can count.
Camera clubs vary widely in their approach to photography. Some take the ‘hobby’ very seriously indeed whilst others have a more ‘relaxed’ attitude.
However, all clubs have one thing in common and that is a monthly competition. To that end, the club’s management committee select a monthly subject to fit within a particular photographic genre, for example, Monochrome, Landscape, Open( where anything goes), Portrait, Abstract, Creative or Set Subject.
It’s accepted practise that clubs arrange for a photographic judge accredited by the State Camera Club Association to attend the competitions and judge the entries. However, in country areas this is not always possible as there is generally an attendance fee, accommodation and travel expenses associated with having a qualified judge from out of town. Additionally not too many judges are prepared to leave the metropolitan area. It goes without saying that local accredited judges are rare on the ground.
The end result is that many country competitions are judged by painters, sculptors, general artists and people whose occupation is in the field of the arts generally, for example, local art galleries, museums, TAFE institutions and Universities.
There is a major benefit in not using judges from outside the general field of photography. The most significant benefit is that they are not tangled up with the so called rules of photography that theoretically determine what makes a great photograph.
For example, one painter often asked to judge inverts every image on display before commencing her judging. Her rationale is that by doing so she can more easily evaluate the photographers’ understanding of composition.
Often straight horizons, the rule of thirds, balanced lighting and tonal ranges are ignored and as a result, award winners are chosen on their artistic merit and not on their pure technical excelence. That certainly is a positive for club competitions.
In all my years around the clubs, I’ve rarely heard any disparaging remarks about non technical judging. I can’t say the same about the so called professional judges.
That brings me back to the ‘relaxed’ attitude of some clubs. That doesn’t mean that their members aren’t ‘professional’ in their approach to the photographic craft, far from it. It means that all who exhibit in the monthly competitions are on an equal footing.
My local camera club falls comfortably into the ‘relaxed’ attitude category. However, every photographer in the club produces top quality images that would easily equal any work exhibitied at the more ‘serious’ clubs.
These days, exhibited digital images are either projected onto a screen or printed, matted and hung for display. It’s rare for traditional wet darkroom prints to be exhibited as a two year limit from the date the image was made is strictly applied.
As I pointed out in the header, joining your local camera club can be a lot of fun and provides a great opportunity to improve your photography skills.