Tim Ewbank has proposed trying to establish a photography club within the Cambridge U3A and has asked for thoughts on the idea. I don’t have much direct experience of photography clubs, but what I do have makes me wary of them. My starting point would be to ditch the word ‘club’ – Photography Group would be better. If the U3A did set up a Group I think its purposes should be to promote an understanding of the particular qualities of the medium and consider: it as a visual art form; its capacity to promote personal creative development; its ability to expand our knowledge and understanding of the world; and its role as a means of communication.
These aspects suggest that the Group might look at the history of the medium, the work of particular photographers, photo books, the relationship with other visual media, critical writing on photography and so on. All areas of photographic practice should be up for debate, but probably excluding technical and commercial work. Among the questions it may seek to answer is, ‘What makes a good photograph?’
I would see meetings of the Group being participative and interactive, with the emphasis on discussion. For example: members leading sessions on their areas of interest; guest speakers addressing particular topics; and group discussions of favourite pictures from the work of acknowledged photographers. The Group would be open to anyone interested in photography, not just those who consider themselves to be photographers.
That is what the Group might be. It should not be about: the latest equipment and how to use it; valuing technique over content; and the safe territory of traditional pictorial photography divorced from context.
Photos from the ‘In Plain View’ Project