NECCC Observations and Camera Clubs in General
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.
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.
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.
Last edited by gr82bart; 07-19-2008 at 12:03 PM. Click to view previous post history.
You forgot to mention that a couple of film photographers snuck into your talk on Sat afternoon!
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.
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
"I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc
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?
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.
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.
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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.
Originally Posted by gr82bart
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.
Originally Posted by JBrunner
Last edited by gr82bart; 07-19-2008 at 12:44 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Originally Posted by ulf_forever
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.
I'm afraid you're way to late if you wanted to duck this trend. . .it has already happened.
Last edited by gr82bart; 07-19-2008 at 12:43 PM. Click to view previous post history.
You are a good man, Art.
Originally Posted by gr82bart
I don't know about good; definitely flawed.
Originally Posted by JBrunner