Croydon Camera Club History 1980-1990
Ninety years of the life of Croydon Camera Club had passed. Periods of fame and glory, also possibly of exclusivity and arrogance, but nevertheless continuity, ninety years of Club photography in Croydon - a record to be proud of.
The early years of technical innovation by members, links with the manufacturing photographic trade, were long past and the interpretation of the Objects of the Club to "...help in the advancement and practice of photography and its applications..." had taken on a different meaning, with rather more emphasis on the resultant image, than the technique of producing it, although the 're-discovery' of old techniques was becoming more fashionable.
Camera Clubs had proliferated and many had declined. Almost everyone could by now afford a camera, but there were increasing demands on peoples leisure times.
The last few years in the Croydon Camera Club had seen successes. Only last year on March 27th 1979, the last PhotEurop Exhibition run by the Croydon Camera Club was held in the Kodak Gallery in Holborn. Harry Cundell was President of the Club, with an experienced Council to support him. Recent programmes had given the Club such speakers and judges as Joan Wakelin, Sir George Pollock, Brian Most, Harold Stillwell, Alan Richards, Edwin Appleton and Majorie Marshall, every one of them names to be seen on the Syllabus again in the next ten years.
This year, in January 1980, there was a successful Exhibition in the Sun Lounge of the Fairfield Halls. The major winners of that Exhibition held on January 7th 1980 were Ian Coulling with a magical slide called 'Magical Trees', an image which was to re—appear and influence other Club members in the next ten years; Pat Agacy with an imaginative set of 3 slides of steel making and the best print from Tony Barden with a rather controversial colour print entitled 'Eggs'. The move from the Arnhem Gallery to the Sun Lounge, both in the Fairfield Halls, and the acceptance of commercial sponsorship, this year from the Midland Bank, were successful innovations masterminded by Liz Malarkey against opposition on Council and were to set the pattern for Club Exhibitions in the next decade.
At the AGM in May 1980 Harold Stillwell was elected an Honorary Life Member and the review of the past year reported good attendances, with defeat in the South London Federation battles, but healthy internal Club competitions, with 33 members entering a total of 229 prints, although the records made little mention of the slide competitions which still seemed to take a back seat to the prints. So the Club wasn't obviously in trouble, but the first clear warning sign was at the AGM, with members gathered at the Selsdon Road Studio, when there was no nomination put forward for Syllabus Secretary and little programme prepared for the next year. Hannah O'Sullivan, the retiring Syllabus Secretary, had given much of her time to the Club but was unable and unwilling to continue in this most difficult of jobs.
Most members who know the workings of Clubs, will agree that the programme is the first of several keys to a successful Club, so not to have a Syllabus Secretary nominated clearly presented a problem. So when at that 1980 AGM up stood Brian Moore and told the Club that he would volunteer for the job as he had previously organised a programme for Croydon Astronomical Society, he was accepted, although not with open arms. Brian Moore had made a name for himself with portraits of the actor Harry H Corbett, and one of some Royal children.
He duly prepared the 1980/81 Syllabus. Having volunteered for the job he was left to get on with it. Little help appeared to be offered from those with Syllabus experience, and the resultant programme was generally considered not very good. Judges were not the usual Camera Club judges, which was not in itself a bad idea, but those that were found were mostly connected with the press, and weren't altogether successful. And there were not many outside speakers on the Syllabus. One notable inclusion was a Bill Chadwick lecture with model entitled 'Figure Study' on October 29th 1980 with entry by membership card only.
Possibly as a consequence of the poor programme, membership dropped sharply from 76 at April 1980 to 56 at the same time in 1981. The figure of 76 members incidentally had been the highest for at least 4 years and was due in many ways to an interesting recruitment drive carried out by Dr Carrick MacDonald, who as Treasurer, could clearly see the Club needed the money. Carrick was an consultant psychiatrist at the Warlingham Park Hospital just outside Croydon and had once given the Club a most interesting lecture on the 'Psychology of Colour'. He is still remembered for his 'Advanced' class prints, which were of the type that either scored 0 or 10 out of 10. They were colour prints, mostly landscapes, but with soft muted colours and such soft focus that it was really believed that he used a piece of bottle glass for a lens. His trade mark was that if you looked carefully you could nearly always find a rabbit somewhere in his pictures (stuffed of course!). His recruiting drive consisted of swamping newsagents windows for miles around with a postcard carrying a miniature of one of his photos and a note about how to join the Club. This seemed to work.
However all this effort was in vain when these new members turned up to the Club and found the promised speaker had failed to turn up or that the evening was uninteresting. They just didn't come again.
A new Leitz Pradovit projector was bought at a cost of £305 to replace a pair of Liesgang's which were running rather hot and suspected of burning slides. The choice of the Pradovit was made on the grounds of Leitz quality and that it ran cooler than any other on the market. This was duly tested by David Malarkey the lanternist and Roy King the Treasurer going up to R.G.Lewis in Holborn (Croydon in those days not having the plethora of photo dealers that it had ten years later) and telling the shop assistant that the Club would buy it only if they could test its temperature with the C.A. temperature slide. So he set up the test there and then and as it passed with flying colours, it was purchased.