Camera club’s pioneering work in city of Leeds
Movie buffs may be well acquainted with Leeds’ claims to be the birthplace of film.
Louis Le Prince is credited by some as being the “father of cinematography” for his moving images of Leeds Bridge in 1888.
But the city’s pioneering tradition in photography is less well known.
Leeds Photographic Society (LPS) was formed in 1852 and they say it is the world’s oldest organised photographic society.
It’s formation pre-dates even the Royal Photographic Society (see panel, right) and it has been teaching camera skills in the city for more than 160 years.
Current president Howard Gould said: “I suspect not many people know that Leeds has the world’s first organised photographic society. The photographic side of things hasn’t had the same publicity as perhaps the moving image has.
“It’s amazing to think LPS has been going for more than 160 years and that we have had a group of people in Leeds who are keen to keep photography going.”
The society has witnessed many changes during its history from early film processing to the advent of digital photography.
Mr Gould said: “Obviously if one went back some years a lot of photography was done with film,print slides and chemicals. Now virtually all members’ photography is digital.”
Mr Gould, a retired computing lecturer from Leeds Beckett University, has been a member of LPS for four years and became its president in April.
The society has around 80 members and is one of the larger photographic clubs.
Its main event is its annual exhibition in May at Salts Mill, as part of the Saltaire Arts Trail. But Mr Gould would like to see it have a big exhibition in Leeds.
The president said: “It’s a bit of a shame our annual exhibition doesn’t actually take place in Leeds. It takes place at Saltaire.
“Although an interesting setting, the society is also keen to host an exhibition in Leeds, if a suitable venue can be found”
He also wants to grow the membership of LPS and to boost its profile.
The society has a diverse range of members, including some younger ones, but the majority are on the older side.
Mr Gould wants to bring in more younger members to help keep the society running for many more years. He believes youth is key to maintaining the club’s longevity.
He said: “I only got into it more when I retired. I wish I had joined years ago. I think you would learn so much more and it would give you more time to develop your skills and knowledge, rather than just wait until you retire.”
The club hones its skills by running internal competitions and by competing against other local clubs.
It also invites amateur and professional photographers to share their expertise during a series of winter talks at its base at St Edmund’s Church Hall in Roundhay. It has already lined up renowned landscape photographer Charlie Waite for next season.
Mr Gould believes the passion of speakers and members to share their skills is one of the reasons of its long success.
He said: “I think it is because they are a friendly group of people that have a genuine interest in photography and helping people to improve their photography.
“I think one of the reasons that it has kept going so long is that you are in a group of people who are helping, inspiring and supporting you.”
Leeds Photographic Society (LPS) was established in 1852.
It is thought to be the world’s oldest organised photographic society.
It even pre-dates the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), which was formed a year later.
But the LPS became a section of the Leeds Field Naturalist Club in 1878 and was re-established as an independent society in 1881.
So the RPS has been going the longest in the same form.
Joining the LPS was no easy matter in the early days. Prospective members had to be elected by a ballot of existing members, and it was considered a great honour to be elected.
The rules were quite strict and visiting speakers could be fined two shillings and sixpence for not turning up without sufficient notice.
But the club is much more informal and friendly these days.
People can come along to taster sessions before deciding to join. They pay a nominal fee for the sessions but this is refundable if they decide to join.
The club meets on Tuesday evenings at St Edmund’s Church Hall, Lidgett Park Road in Roundhay. It meets weekly during the winter programme (September to April) and fortnightly during the summer (end of April to end of July before breaking for the holidays.
The society’s annual membership fee is £50. People can simply go along to meetings or see lps1852.org for more information.