Croydon Camera Club
Croydon Camera Club

Croydon Camera Club History: 1890-2000

The Studio: 1933
Looking up: a licensed bar

The move to no 1 Edridge Road on 29th March, 1933, was to last for 31 years and to prove a period of great stability for the Club, membership of which stood at 91. The subscription remained at 15/- and the redoubtable John Keane was back in the Chair after an absence of two years.

The Studio was aptly named, being a substantial sized room having an open pitched roof with large skylights as befits a place for a painter and sculptor whose works were hung on the walls and objects stood on pedestals. With a penchant for spectacular female torsos, the world of Cyril Saunders Spackman, the studio owner, was a place of interest to all who attended the regular Club Wednesday evening meetings. The licensed bar was a distinguishing feature of the social side and the Club drew strength from the surrounding works of art.

Too many members

So popular did the Club become that as the membership rose to 132 just before the War, it was the actual attendance that strained the accommodation so that when statues were being lifted off pedestals to provide a seat, it was decided by "Spacky" that something must be done and for the first time there is evidence that an application for membership had to be refused and a Mr Warren Peachey was the recipient of the following letter:

"At a meeting of the Council the question of increased membership was discussed and serious consideration given to it in view of our limited accommodation.

You may not know but we have added to our roll considerably during the past few months, and the time has now come when we must consider more the comfort of our members. We are even now doubtful whether we shall be able to seat all our members who desire to bring a lady on Ladies' nights.

It is therefore, with regret that the Council cannot accept your nomination for membership."

Lectures Lectures Lectures

So the unfortunate gentleman missed the first lecture in the new meeting room given by Alfred Oglesby, Manager of Sands Hunter & Co on "Buying and Exchanging Cameras". This was followed by a member, D. Rose, with a lantern lecture of slides of Old Croydon taken from the Photographic Survey of Surrey, and on 17th May E. A. Salt lectured on "Optical Oddments" on which the President John Keane commented that "probably no other club in the world could number one with over a 30-year membership and still be able and willing to give a lecture". Little did he think that Norman Gryspeerdt who had just then been awarded his ARPS would still be lecturing to the Club in 1990 almost 60 years after becoming a member. His speciality was the Bromoil process at which he became an accomplished master, but as a young man his holidays in Europe resulted in a lecture on 24th August, 1933, describing "A Walking Tour in the Black Forest Country".

The Winter Session found the Club in good form and on 4th October, a J. A. Speed FRPS gave a talk "Flight in Natural History", and afterwards was given a lecture on the Salt Shutter Tester! E. A. Salt himself gave the talk on 18th October and a week later the first meeting of the session to admit Ladies had A. Newton Smith of Kodak demonstrating the "Kodascope 8" cine camera for £9.17.6d with a projector at 9 guinees. It is recorded that S.H. Wratten gave the vote of thanks.

In November the Autotype Co demonstrated the "3 Colour Cabro" process capable in skilled hands of giving superb colour prints of a quality hardly surpassed today. An example will be found in the current exhibition. A lantern lecture was given on 22nd November 1933 on "Scottish Castles" by Hugh Macintosh FRIBA, of whom the President said "he is an expert in love with his subject".

Architectural photography

Hugh Macintosh had his architectural practice at 1 Imperial Buildings, East Croydon; it flourishes now at 49/55 Brighton Road under the name of Macintosh Haines and Kennedy.

Hugh Macintosh was a member of the South Eastern Society of Architects and their meetings were held regularly in the Studio, as "Spacky" was also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. From the quite early days therefore there was a link between the architects and photographers, who together became involved in Freemasonry in 1938.

The link between architecture and photography is evident when it is realised that no illustration of architecture reaches the eyes of the public except through the medium of photography. In the 1930's the best known architectural photographers were the partnership of M. O. Dell and H. L. Wainwright, who were appointed official photographers to the "Architectural Review" in 1930 and brought to perfection the stunning illustrations of the architects' white concrete buildings against a blue sky, rendered dramatic black by a strong orange filter. These results were often copied yet remained supreme till the expanded use of colour in the 1970s.

Although the Club retained its link with the original plate makers Wratten and Wainwright with the membership of S. H. Wratten, it did not attract the attention of H. L. Wainwright for membership, though M. O. Dell gave a one-man show to the Club on 22nd July 1931.

1934 Annual Exhibition

The influence of heavy filtration to produce dramatic effects was put to good purpose when the Club had eight prints hung in the first Annual Exhibition of the newly -formed Central Association of Photographic Societies. The Club's own Annual Exhibition on 3rd January, 1934, was held at The Studio and judged by Dudley Johnson with background music provided by "Mr Morgan who kindly loaned his radiogram". There were 103 prints on display and 77 slides. Three members contributed 100 transparencies and one member 100 stereo prints.

Unfortunately for the Club, Mr Johnson did not think much of members' work and remarked: "Many photographers think their work original but such work had been done by their forefathers. Photographers should do something which appealed to their own taste and not consider so much what was that which ought to be done". How true these sentiments are today, over 50 years on.

It became customary after an exhibition for there to be a social evening, an event in the lifestyle of the 1930s which was commonplace, and the Club joined in this habit by holding such a gathering on 17th January when "a good muster of ladies were present including Miss Keane and John Keane Junior, who performed some clever conjuring tricks. Games were played and Mrs Spackman served refreshments". Happy days.

The wonders of Colour Photography, 1934

A local professional and member, John Erith FRPS talked about his work and his studio and on 31st January, the President of the Royal Photographic Society talked about "3 Colours Photography and What it Cannot Do".

We are at this period on the threshold of colour photography becoming as easily available as black and white, and in the amateurs' world, great interest was being aroused by the production of the Leica series of cameras and their use of 35mm film. Croydon was in the forefront of this experimental form and on the 31st October received a second lecture by John St Aubyn who gave up using a 1/4 plate Reflex in favour of a Leica "which he found did everything his Reflex could do but so much easier". He was apparently so impressed with the reception given that on 26th February, 1935, he became a member of the Club.

Another devotee of the Leica was the "Star" press photographer, James Jarche making his debut at Croydon on 21st November, 1934, with his first ever lecture which members found so interesting that he was prevailed upon to continue long after the usual hour. In his summing up of the evening the President said "it was the most interesting and entertaining evening ever given to the Club members". For those privileged in later years to hear James Jarche lecture, the words in 1934 held true for every talk he gave. The hours flew by when listening to his stories and looking at his photographs.