The Camera Club was founded in 1885 when the editor of Amateur Photographer magazine, J Harris Stone, called together the most prominent photographers of that time, to create a group that aimed at being “A Social, Scientific and Artistic Centre for Amateur Photographers and others interested in Art and Science.” A subscription paid for the rent of premises on Bedford Street near The Strand, where the club established nine model darkrooms.
In 1891 we moved to more spacious premises in Charing Cross Road which included a 27’ studio and four darkrooms. At this time, photography was going through a rapid evolution, gaining popularity as the meeting point of science and art. We later amalgamated with the Blenheim Club in 1908, but preferring independence, then president F.J. Mortimer led a move to John Street Adelphi where the club had excellent facilities, a billiard room, library and dining room. Despite slight bomb damage in the First World War, the Camera Club stayed there until further bombing in the Second World War in April 1941.
The Camera Club reopened the following year at 11 Grosvenor Street and despite wartime conditions, the club continued to thrive with studio, pictorial, 35mm and colour photography groups. Darkroom hire was 2½ p per hour!
In 1946 The Camera Club moved again to Manchester Square where it remained until 1969, when we moved into premises over the Photographers Gallery in Great Newport Street. Although smaller, these premises were still popular with members. We held regular demonstrations on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and ran popular studio groups in glamour, portraiture and figure photography.
In 1990 we purchased our present property, which had been a pickle factory. One of its workers was Charlie Chaplin’s father. Charlie Chaplin and his father lived across the road from the pickle factory that became our current premises; visitors to the Club will notice the Blue Plaque that signifies this. From the original three floors, a further fourth floor was added and we moved in on January 1991. We now have four darkrooms and two studios, as well as a digital suite and exhibition gallery.
Notable members of The Camera Club
Many of the most influential figures in photography were members of The Camera Club, including:
- The Royal photographer Marcus Adams
- Leading portrait photographer of 1920s and 30s celebrities, Bertram Park
- His wife and equally renowned photographer to the elite, Yvonne Gregory
- Famous pictorial photographer and founding member of The Linked Ring, Alfred Horsley Hinton
- Technical innovator and boundary-pushing photographer FJ Mortimer
- One of the most well-known photographers of fine artists, Jorge Lewinski
Even one of the most famous names in photographer, Cecil Beaton, held an exhibition at The Camera Club gallery.