Croydon Camera Club History 1980-1990
The Croydon Camera Club went into the 84/85 Session with one of the best Syllabuses for many a long year. A memorable evening from the Calvert brothers introduced many members to modern computerised A.V. There were visits from Gordon Langsbury one of the top nature photographers in the country, Bill Garden, a top exhibitor, Clive Harrison, George Morris, and "the other" Roy King FRPS, who produced the most sensitive landscapes and brilliant A.V.'s. Although he lived in Croydon he had unfortunately joined the Carshalton Club.
The well known names were not only necessary at that time to attract new members. They were also designed to re-stimulate what was left of the Clubs advanced photographers, and it worked.
To cap this magnificent programme Harold Stillwell had the idea of one extra important lecture a year, open to other Clubs, to put Croydon's name back on the map, under the title of The Wratten Lecture, using a name that was still associated with the Club after three generations.
On November 14th 1984 Heather Angell FRPS, President of the Royal Photographic Society gave her illustrated talk "Water Magic" to 100 members and guests. This was a splendid inaugural Wratten Lecture which achieved all its aims, set up and most efficiently organised by Tessa Most.
November of 1984 would have had some of the Club's earlier members, who had fought against admitting women members, turning in their graves. Following Heather Angell, on the next Wednesday meeting there was a lecture by Joan Wakelin FRPS, it was always a memorable and often emotional event to hear this unique lady and see her pictures. The week after saw Hazell Hayward FRPS judge a competition evening. Truly, November was a ladies month and in these times ladies in the audience were by no means always outnumbered by the gentlemen.
At the start of the 84/85 season another innovation took place. Three senior members of the Club formed a group to assess, in public on a Wednesday evening, prints and slides from members who wished to be considered for promotion or for new comers to be graded. The Club was fortunate to be able to call upon a panel as experienced as Alan Richards FRPS, Brian Most FRPS and Harold Stillwell. On that first assessment they promoted among others Jean Duthoit and Roy King to the advanced prints class. The bringing back to the Croydon Camera Club of Alan Richards was another of Harold Stillwell's achievements in rescuing the Club.
Alan, who like Harold Stillwell, had done so much for the Club in the 1960's and 1970's, was a professional portrait photographer. Some Clubs actually bar professionals from membership, which seems very short sighted indeed. The value in the 1980's to Croydon of such as Alan Richards, Clifford Milborrow, Tom Samson and briefly Mike James, was tremendous.
By the end of 1984 so many new members had joined that there were reports of a shortage of tea cups, and an outing took place 'In Search of King Alfred' to Harold Stillwell’s country.
Not everything went right though. Because of the new spirit, the Club had a year earlier decided to re-enter the South London Federation Inter-Club competition. For many years the Club had been in and out of these competitions, although Croydon had been instrumental in founding this Federation. The reason for the S.L.F's existence was mainly its inter—club competitions in slides and prints, which lead up to a Finals Day in the spring and an A.V. competition in the winter. They also hold an Autumn Gathering and a useful meeting of Syllabus Secretaries for them to share notes. For £5 per year membership was good value.
However the vote to return to the South London print and slide competition had not been unanimous. When it happened the Competition Secretary was not enthusiastic, nor was the Syllabus Secretary and the imposition of SLF judges was criticised. So the Club did not do well and didn't enter again for another six years.
An Annual Exhibition was held in January 1985 in the Sun Lounge of the Fairfield Halls, after a lapse of a several years, with funds received from the Midland Bank and Handford Photography, the company that Tom Samson was associated with. Sir George Pollock judged the competition and another innovation was the top print award going to the best panel of prints. Each member had the opportunity of filling a 5' x 3' panel however he or she 1iked.
The winner of this new competition was Sam Tanner, who was in the Preliminary Class. But the award was clearly deserved and Sam was soon promoted to Intermediate Class. His panel was a most sensitive treatment of pictures of disabled children and in fact was part of an Exhibition that Sam had put together and had had widespread coverage. One of the virtues of the Croydon Camera Club at this time was the variety of photographs being produced. No—one else at the Club took pictures like Sam Tanner. At the same Exhibition, Pat Agacy again won the Stillwell Trophy for a set of 3 slides, this time a panel of 'Hands'.
At the end of the 84/85 year Council minutes reported argument about the organisation of the Club's internal competitions. This was between the winners and points seekers and those who didn't really want to see winners and losers but who wished to have discussions and non—competitive criticisms. The non competitive members were in the ascendancy, but Cups still had to be given at the end of the year. So a system was devised of asking judges to award labels to favoured pictures, with no first second and thirds, and the cups going to those who had accumulated the most labels during the year. The competition rules also confirmed at that time that slides shouldn't also be entered as prints and vice versa, as members shouldn't be chasing labels. If the Club had seen a picture once, there was no need to see it again.
Membership had increased dramatically. Talent was coming into the Preliminary Class, Sam Tanner, Michael and Betty Shave being examples, but sadly the death was reported of Leslie Kelemen.
At the end of the Season Ian Coulling and Alan Richards had the most advanced print labels and Ian Coulling, Michael Hope and Brian Most were top of the advanced slides.
The 84/85 Session ended as always with the AGM. Harold Stillwell was persuaded to stay for one more year, although not being able to attend every Wednesday. This later brought a move to change the constitution of the Club, which possibly rather unusually provides for an elected President, who chairs all meetings, and a non—elected Vice—Chairman, chosen from the Council who operates in the President's absence. The possible change, debated but not agreed, was to make the President more of a figurehead, by having an elected Chairman. The majority opinion concluded that a system, however unusual, which had worked for 95 years, should not be changed just because the present holder of the President’s chair happened to live a hundred miles away from Croydon.
Significant events also occurred at this AGM, Tessa Most whose two years as Syllabus Secretary had done wonders for the Club retired again and was replaced by Alan Richards, who also had the right contacts to make a first rate Syllabus and had been bequeathed the next years programme almost ready prepared by Tessa Most.
The Club found it had more nominations for Council members than there were vacancies and an election had to be held. Surprise and seemingly some embarrassment was caused to the Chairman of the evening, as Stuart Pickford, twice past President, failed to get elected. Stuart Pickford, for personal reasons, had been unable to attend many Wednesday Club evenings in the previous year and as the Club now had a preponderance of new members, relatively few of these knew him. However he was later to be made an Honorary Life Member of the Club, and was always in the background writing letters to the Secretary about the running of the Club, and he was to become the Club Auctioneer for a number of years.
A notable arrival on Council was Clifford Fifield, who as an accountant by profession, was thought by some to be a possible future Treasurer, and they were not wrong. Another change was that Peter Fenner stood down as Secretary as he was moving from Croydon and Liz Malarkey once more came back to fill that job.