Many years ago I joined a second photographic club. Only one of3women and50 odd( very odd ) men.
I sat at the back and no-one spoke. I was persistent. Or probably thick!
The 3rd week someone actually spoketo me.
He said I’d had my 2 free weeks and if I wanted to come again I’d have to join. I paid up and he asked me what camera I had. I sensed he thought I was joking when I told him. Later I saw him and some cronieswatching me and muttering. I was right.
Every week they had a competition, and I watched.. The pictures, my favouriteblack and white- were wonderful, convinced me mine could never be as good.
The same few men entered the competition every week. Others sat around discussing and wearing new equipment like fine jewellery. Cameras I could never dream of affording- ever.
My equipment -my outfit- my pride and joy, and all of £40.00 worth, consisted of a Zenit B, a Chinon lightmeter, both of which I still have, and an old dented Gnome enlarger I’d bought for 15.00, complete with a Nikon 2.8 lens.
I practiced in my loft when the children were in bed, coming down the ladder with a bucketful of soaking prints to rinse in the shower and slap on the tiles to dry.. My children thought I was a really clever mummy. My husbanddidn’t mindsometimesbecoming a ‘darkroom widower’.
I stubbornly continued my Monday nights and was eventually on nodding terms with the two women. One night one of them asked why I never showedanything. I said something on the lines of, “I’m not much good yet”, but said I’d take a sample on condition that she didn’t show the others. I chickened out and went empty handed. A couple of weeks later she turned up at my house.
I showed her what I’d done and she said she was impressed. I didn’t believe her, I thought she was afraid I was fed up with the club and would leave. She turned out to be the competition secretary and was aiming to get the three women in the club to prove themselves equal to the men
Shehelped me pick something out for the annual portrait challenge, tellingme how to mount them.
I entered two pictures, (anonymously as per the rules)- my first ever. And then forgot about them during the summer break.
September, a man from the club phoned and asked me to bring mynegative to the club on the first night to prove the picture was mine. I was - unusual for me – quite rude to him.
I had won thehideous Hilda Gilda Rose bowl -first prize for the best black and white portrait of the year. I hid it behind an armchair until I left the club later that year..
The judges were all men. (That’s how I first met Andy Fell. He was one of the judges.)
I learned a lot by watching. andAnd joined another club in Coventry - progressing to judging slide showsaroundCity, all great fun.
Some years ago I started a new small camera club, and remembering my experience, where every member is deemed equal whether their camera is the dinkiest compact ever, or the latest performing - art blast of the year.
Technically the big expensive ones are more versatile, but overthe years I’ve seen some really professional ‘jokes’.
Proving that the person behind the lens is master
Published in Amateur Photography Magazine.