Laura Cartledge discovers how a historic society has developed.
If a photograph can say a hundred words, the Eastbourne Photographic Society should write a book.
“At the very least it dates back to 1892 which is probably one of the oldest clubs in the country,” reveals chairman Martin Heaps, who believes that in this snap happy time the society is as important as ever.
“The number of photos taken each day is in its millions but how many of them are viewed again or printed off?” he asks. “For me you can never beat a print. It’s when the image is put in a frame that you can look at it for a while and enjoy it.”
But the society is not just for pleasure – it plays for points too.
“It’s quite a successful club locally, we compete with each other and nationally as well,” says Martin. “We’ve won the regional Ross Cup two years on the run which then qualifies you to enter the national competition, which is being held in Lancashire this year in October.
“When you consider the majority of people who contribute are amateurs, and have a job, the quality is amazing,” he enthuses. “And we are against some groups who are almost professionals.”
With nearly a hundred members, the society benefits from a wide range of ages and experience.
“Our eldest member is in her early 80s, as she keeps reminding me, and the youngest is in her 20s,” reveals Martin. “While we do have a competitive group of people, I think the majority are there to improve their photography and speak to people that enjoy it as well.
“We all get a bit ‘anoraky’ about it,” he smiles. “Having said that it’s not about expensive equipment. We do get what we call ‘lens envy’ and I think most members have a look at what other people are using.
“But just because you have a good camera doesn’t mean you can take a good picture.”
The trick, according to Martin, is being able ‘to see the picture’.
“I see so many pictures when I am on the bus because of the elevated position and always try to remember where they are so I can go back,” he admits. “I have a bee in my bonnet because we see the same things quite often, like the Seven Sisters or Red Arrows, but with a hundred different members we have a hundred different viewpoints.
“We can take everyone to the same spot and end up with different images.
“There are some people who might only like landscapes, while some only like portraits,” says Martin, “our job is to encourage them to try to broaden their photography.”
So what is Martin’s view of digital photography and the editing programmes that come with it?
“Even with modern cameras there is a lot that comes down to the person behind it,” he replies. “At the end of the day my view is it is about the image – however you get there is up to you.
“We have one guy who is in his mid 70s and he is a whiz on the computer. We’ll ask ‘how did you do that?’
“He is just one of those people who say ‘I don’t know, I just fiddled with the dials’.
“And we had people hanging on with slides until last year would you believe it,” reveals Martin. “They believe that it is proper photography because you have to get it right in the camera.”
To encompass all tastes, the society prides itself on having a varied programme which means ‘no two weeks are the same’.
“It keeps us on our toes,” he admits. “We have had highly respected photographers come and do talks.”
However, there is a darker side to the society.
“Our claim to fame is that Bodkin Adams was once a member,” reveals Martin, adding that Bodkin was a notorious doctor, convicted fraudster and suspected serial killer. “One of our current members used to work in a camera shop and used to serve him,” says Martin, “she remembers him as a polite, well spoken man.”
Less criminal is the way some of the members approach competitions.
“Nowadays a lot of the judges have their own websites and they will show their own photos,” he explains. “Some people will suss out what they like and submit something that fits.
“So if there are a lot of black and white landscapes you might see a lot of black and white landscapes submitted.”
It would seem, despite being more than 122 years old, the societies story is far from over.
Annual membership costs £44. For more information on Eastbourne’s Photographic Society, visit www.epscameraclub.co.uk