NECCC Observations and Camera Clubs in General

Discussion in 'New England' started by gr82bart, Jul 19, 2008.

  1. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I had the pleasure of attending the New England Camera Club Council's annual conference at UMass Amherst last weekend as a speaker. This is fairly large event with about 1000 people attending from all over New England.

    My topic was "Film is Alive!" It was a basic survey of traditional film photography and practices despite the fact digital would 'make it easier' in most cases, about committed traditional resources, showcased some traditional and historical prints, talked about a bit about anecdotal trends in film equipment, and what camera clubs can do to contribute to keeping traditional film use around - print exchanges, traveling camera, scavenger hunts, workshops, specific film based competitions. You can imagine it was a tough subject for this demographic! Kodak, APUG, Lomographic Society, AlternativePhotography.com, Freestyle, Photographer's Formulary, Bostick & Sullivan, several print exchange prints, a few of my favourite traditional film based photographers like Robb Kendrick and Sasha Dean Biyan featured prominently. I had about 20, 25 and 10 attendees for my three sessions, which isn't too bad considering I was expecting no one to show up!

    Here are some of my observations:

    • This is definitely a digital only event. I did not see a single film based session. Speaker after speaker talked about digital equipment and Photoshop techniques, or why digital was better than film.
    • It's definitely a geriatric based organization. Most of the young people attending were either female models for their 'model shoots' or kids of attendees/organizers who were the behind the scenes volunteers.
    • There was a print competition that Gene and Dave went to. One can see that for this crowd, photography is becoming about Photoshop skills. It's not about taking photos, it's about manipulation, correcting and editing in the computer with Photoshop. They should call it a Photoshop print competition - really, who are they fooling here? But, there were gems - a stereophotography display was very neat, there was a real platinum print, and there were several real prints - one overall winner actually being a traditional film based print.
    • Camera Clubs are about the image at the end of the day. I know there's a thread here about process, but to the vast majority of CC members, there is only one photographic process, and that is Photoshop. All other processes are marginalized.
    • The vendors area was very digital based. Hunt's had some 35mm film for sale. The rest was a computer hardware and software show, much like most photography trade shows these days.
    • The 'professionals' attending are wedding, portrait, highschool senior, catalog, travel, outdoor, low end commercial based types. So, I'm going to write something controversial here, but these folks aren't really "artists", aren't they?
    • Many of the keynote speakers were 'professional' speakers sponsored by - guess who? - companies that have a vested interest in digital based photography. Kodak was not a sponsor, but Fuji sponsored a prominent session on Digital Nature Photography with several photographers parading a host of digital workflows.
    So there are CC members that will insist that everyone (film, digital, both) is welcome to these events. That's true. And the attendees, organizers and NECCC execs I met were absolutely first class, friendly, nice people.

    I think what the CC leadership and NECCC organizers fail to realize is the subtle 'vibe' that they are giving out to non-digital photographers. Much the same vibe in many of the internet photography forums. Everyone is welcome, but most, if not all, of the discussions is about digital. Another example is the 'loaner program' they had by Nikon and Canon. Guess how many film cameras there were for loaning? Throw in a couple folks who say things like: "You still shoot film?", "I completely switched and I don't understand why anyone would go back", "I went all digital and was so glad.", etc... and it really doesn't make for a welcoming environment for anyone that shoots film.

    [aside]
    Speakers are provided with rooms. There happened to be a floor party the first night I was there and naturally I went. It was right outside my door - who could resist. We introduced ourselves, etc... and when it came to my turn, I mentioned I was speaking on "Film is Alive!" to which one of the NECCC execs said "So you must be talking about fiction then?" to a chorus of yuk yuks and chuckles. Nice.
    [/aside]

    Another issue for CC's is the fact they have lost significant numbers of members - almost all of their film based members and most of their youngsters. Camera Clubs are no longer about the entire gamut of photography, but about digital photography. Those that practice other forms are marginalized, and so, why would they continue to be members?

    I do hope next year to push for cyanotype workshops, darkroom classes, talks on ToyCameras, making a pinhole camera, etc... I may reach out to NE APUG locals. In my talks I mentioned that if CC's are to be one steward of photography, they must find ways to include all types of photography into their programming. On the other hand, if we in APUG are also stewards, of traditional film based photography, then we too must find ways to reach out.

    Regardless, I did have a good time, I met lots of good people who genuinely like photography and I met several people who love traditional film based photography too.

    BTW UMass Amherst is a great place for a weekend photo get together.

    Regards, Art.
     
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  2. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    You forgot to mention that a couple of film photographers snuck into your talk on Sat afternoon! :wink:
    And yes UMass would be a good place for a photo shoot... that giant concrete monstrosity has plenty of good angles and lighting for interesting shots.

    gene
     
  3. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    D'oh!

    Yes papagene and gatsby, how could I forget them? Both came out on Saturday and we hit the nightlife of downtown Amherst! I beleive we ODed on ice cream and a lime rickey. Gene pointed out all his past haunts and it was a great evening. In fact, had they not come out, I would have had to suffer through an awards ceremony and (apparently I found out the next morning) a very badly botched Digital Nature Photography presentation by outdoor photographer George Lepp. They're saviours!

    BTW did I mention one critic who graded my presentation with a bunch of ZZZZ's?

    Regards, Art.
     
  4. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    One thing I have to add is how well organized this event was. Antoinette and Susan run a tight ship. They have well coordinated volunteers; nicely orchestrated events; LOTS of communication with the latest news and information; thorough follow up with all the speakers; clear directions on what to bring, where to go, when events are for the attendees; arranged very inexpensive or free accommodations for speakers and attendees; contests with a clear set of rules, known judges and published winners and their photographs; open meeting areas so that people can network with others; orientation for newbies; a vendor area; great facilities albeit a bit far to walk for a couple venues; organizers who were NOT speakers or attendess and vice versa, and who weren't selling anything or their business; and finally lots of and lost of integrated marketing materials from posters, to a website, to pocket cards, to mailed printed materials that had up to date and current information.

    Organizers (even those who claim to organize these things for 20+ years) of similar events should look into the practices of the NECCC (and f295) to get a hint (or a clue). NECCC has a lot of best practices.

    Regards, Art.
     
  5. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The 'professionals' attending are wedding, portrait, highschool senior, catalog, travel, outdoor, low end commercial based types. So, I'm going to write something controversial here, but these folks aren't really "artists", aren't they?

    Not controversial, but kind of wrong headed. Most artist have to do something else to make a living. I would be willing to bet that the percentage of artists in this group is more or less the same as any other.

    I couldn't get by on only my artistic endeavors, so I shoot other kinds of photography to get by, and some of it is electronic. I don't talk much about it here, because it isn't the place. I am no less an artist for doing commercial work to fund my art, than the percentage of "artists" in that group.
     
  6. ulf_forever

    ulf_forever Member

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    I seem to recall an event just a little over a month ago that was reaching out to both film and digital. I guess right now a film only event wouldn't be economical so it has to be together. However, there were sessions that covered both topics. Great sessions, I must add. There were lot of film people there but some supposed film people vindictively decided not to attend. Is this the best way to support efforts by anyone that wants to keep film alive??? And BTW, CC no longer stands for Camera Club, it's Computer Club in this modern day and time! I'm afraid you're way to late if you wanted to duck this trend. . .it has already happened.
    Carol
     
  7. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    You're absolutely right JB and what I wrote is very poorly worded. The pros at this type of event are not pushing the artistic merits of photography per se as they are 'a set of rules to get generally good images'. My bad.

    Regards, Art.
     
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  8. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Generally speaking, just because there's a film based conference doesn't mean we all have to attend it to support film based photography. Especially if the event is poorly run by a crook. I can recall such an event.

    Then I am sure a crook won't bother next year. Particularly if it affects his or her sales, and not film photography in general.

    Regards, Art.
     
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  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You are a good man, Art.
     
  10. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I don't know about good; definitely flawed. :D

    Regards, Art.
     
  11. Nikon07

    Nikon07 Member

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    Art,
    I introduced you as a speaker for your Sunday morning NECCC “Film is Alive” program, which I really enjoyed. I read with interest your perspective on the conference. Sad but true. Unfortunately, in camera clubs, Photoshop is where it’s at. I too get somewhat annoyed when former darkroom printers say they’ve gone entirely digital and would never go back. Hey, since artificial insemination was developed, does that mean they’ll never go back to sex??? That being said I always enjoy the conference. Over the last 40+ years I’ve been involved in photography and the 20 odd years I’ve worked at the conference I’ve seen a lot of changes. One thing remains the same however, and that is the wonderful people. I was glad to read that your overall impression of how the event was handled was positive. It takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of hours to put it all together.
    Ironically the digital technology that threatens analog photography may be the same technology that brings together those of us who are interested in the enjoyment and exploration of all the traditional methods. Web sites, blogs and email can only be a plus for those who enjoy the total picture in the craft of photography (pun intended).
    Incidentally I know Susan very well, and although she is not a co chairman for next years conference she still wields a very big stick. If you’re interested in doing a “how to” workshop I’ll talk to her about it. Personally I’d like to see one on the wet plate process but give it some thought and I’ll mention it to Susan.

    Best Regards
    Dave

    PS: Sorry I missed you at the party. My room was just down the hall but I hit the sack at 11:00. Sounds like you could have used another film person there.
     
  12. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I keep hearing and seeing the same thing - I think it's sorta universal for camera clubs. What they don't get is how much they alienate people who would otherwise love to be more involved.
    I'd try hard to make it if you get them to have any sort of alt process workshop next year.
     
  13. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    :D That's a brilliant analogy! Welcome to APUG. You'll like it here.

    Regards, Art.
     
  14. Drew B.

    Drew B. Subscriber

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    Art...you should have just brought out that big yellow Hassy...and they would have all converted (or reverted back) to film!
     
  15. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

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    LMAO!
     
  16. isaacc7

    isaacc7 Member

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    I admire your pluck to go into a place like that and preach the analog gospel, but that approach has always seemed a bit backwards to me. It's one thing if those people were looking some way of improving their images in a way that analog photography could help, but quite another to offer them something that is quite beside the point in their eyes. It's clear that what many people on this board consider photography and what people in those camera clubs consider photography are very different. Nothing wrong with that in my eyes, but we need to make sure that we don't project our sensibilities onto people that are enjoying themselves in a different way...

    I had several people pick up a 35mm SLR part-way through a photo course I was teaching. The course was a basic one, we concentrated on taking pictures, not printing them. I allowed them to either use slide film in a 35mm slr or a digital SLR. I always used slides to demonstrate things I was talking about. In the 4 terms I taught, 2 or 3 people fell in love with slides and used them instead of the digital camera they started with. Of course I took a lot of pride in the fact that they were able to put down the digital and pick up a film camera and get good results with no problems. It sure made the teacher look good:smile: My point was that they were able to see how analog photography could help them, most of the students did not. No biggie, they all enjoyed the class...


    Isaac
     
  17. DaveOttawa

    DaveOttawa Member

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    "camera" clubs and digital

    As a member of a club in Ottawa I've been following this thread with interest; a few local comments/observations:

    Everyone is referring to the clubs as camera clubs, for some reason the one I belong has called itself for many years a photo club - doesn't mean there isn't a fair amount of gearheadery though!

    The widespread marketing and adoption by consumers of digital cameras (and printers) has led to a significant increase in membership for the club I belong to - as in a more than 100% increase in the last 5 years or so. This is a good thing in general for the club even though it has certainly been accompanied by a large drop in the number of members using film.

    We have a darkroom facility which remains active, it is used by about 15% of the membership which is a proportion that has been fairly steady as the club has grown. What's interesting is that it seems to be younger members (20-30) who are most active in the darkroom. A facility we have that seems to get very use now is our scanning room (film and flatbed scanners), probaly because the slide shooters have all bought dslr's.
     
  18. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    "Camera Clubs" don't have a sterling reputation for advancing photography since 1840.

    Photoshop is just another way to figure out who gets ribbons and who doesn't.

    "There ARE no standards"
    -Jim Dow
     
  19. DaveOttawa

    DaveOttawa Member

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    Ouch!! camera/photo clubs certainly have their faults but I have enjoyed the fellowship of many other local photographers and been exposed to the work of many photographers through membership so I don't consider them all bad.
     
  20. LizzBartlett

    LizzBartlett Member

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    Dave,
    That is an interesting observation. I have seen a similar thing recently. In March my partner and I had the pleasure of working for 5 days with 5 of her students in Death Valley. Young men aged 15-18! They all came armed with decent digital cameras and used them, but what amused me was how they would lay claim to (and then monopolize) one of the 4x5s or a 120, especially once we were in location for the sunrise or sunset. They knew how to use them and the work that I've seen from the trip is pretty darn good.

    There's hope in the younger generation!

    Lizz
     
  21. Skorzen

    Skorzen Member

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    I wish I could have made it to the conference, heck I was probably on campus that week for my day job. Anyway with all of the digital over film hoopla, how about an intro to LF class for people who shoot landscapes? The whole film vs. digital argument in terms of rendering aside I think that some landscape photographers might be interested in exploring some of the very (relatively) low cost ways to get some big time resolution. You can sure buy a lot of 4X5 film and processing for the price of a MF digital back...
     
  22. NavyMoose

    NavyMoose Member

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    Interesting thread. I belong to an active photography group, not a club, we rarely bring prints in for judging. We primarily get together for shooting and holding classes. In the past year, a number of us large format shooters formed a subset group for film shooting.

    We recently held a black and white darkroom workshop with Bill LaPete.

    This past weekend there were two or three film people and ten plus digital folks. The film people went off together and digital went off in their own group. I had my Zone VI with me and I got some chuckles from the digital folks. In November we're doing a film event at Harvard University, at least two large format people will be there :-D

    The lab I use for my processing tells me they're seeing a lot of large format black and white coming in. It made me very happy to hear that.

    I apologize for going slightly off topic.