The first annual Gateshead Camera Club (GCC) exhibition was held on 4 March 1903 at Bewick Assembly Rooms, High West Street, Gateshead. It was opened by Walter de Lancey Wilson, Mayor of Gateshead. The following day, the Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported that 'members are to be complimented upon the excellence of their initial show'.
Records of meetings from 1922 show a keen band of members enjoying Club outings to Winlaton Mill, Prudhoe and, on one occasion, a day trip to Seaton Sluice. Even in 1922 fund raising was an essential, and the annual Whist Drive and Dance, held at Bensham Grove Settlement, was a very popular event. Tickets were 2 shillings (10p) each and the evening raised £14.15s.0d (£14.75) for Club funds. In fact whist drives were an integral part of the syllabus with two or three held throughout the year.
In 1923 a National Photographic Exhibition was arranged at the Shipley Art Gallery. It cost advanced workers 1/- (5p) for each print entered and beginners paid 6d (2½p) - it seems only the wealthy could afford to be interested in photography those days. 1926 shows the Club keen to recruit some lady members, and the syllabus of that year proclaims boldly on the front cover "ladies are specially invited to join". By 1935 the desire for lady members led to them being offered a yearly subscription of 5/- (25p), the chaps had to fork out an extra half-crown (12½p) for their membership - no equality in 1935.
Talks and outings were generally politely recorded as "being much enjoyed by members" although a 1946 talk on "aerial photography in warfare" was reported to be "too technical and rather uninteresting". A trip to North Shields Fish Quay in May of the same year reports "very little activity - no-one made any exposures". The report book of 1952 has two photographic records of members attending outings. Seven went to Lambton Castle on 7 June and nine are pictured at Saltwell Park on the 6 September. All are formally dressed with white shirt and tie and a smattering of trilbys. Mr Judd obviously travelled to the castle outing on his motorcycle and he is pictured with his flying jacket and goggles. It shows the importance of photography as a historical record, and it is nice to be able to put a face to two of the names that are important to Club History, through the competition trophies they presented to the Club, Mr A W Trueman and Mr R Warden.
The advent of colour photography and the “new” lantern slide material was decidedly controversial, with many committee meetings held to discuss the implications - indeed in much the same way that we are now debating the latest innovations like digital imaging. I wonder what people will make of our records of these events in fifty years time.
How photography has progressed, particularly in the last ten years. Photographs can be checked for subject matter, sharpness and exposure in the camera immediately after they have been taken. We are no longer limited by 36 exposures but can keep taking shots for many hundreds, even thousands of exposures. A colour picture taken at ISO 100 can be followed by a monochrome exposure at ISO 1600. One camera suffices for all types of photography. Printing is no longer confined to a darkroom with trays of (unpleasant) chemicals: It can now be done anywhere. The artistic effects which can be brought about with the latest computer software are virtually limitless.
Where will photography be at the end of the next 100 years?