The first exhibition was held in Bangor Town Hall in 1962. Fifty years on the club is thriving and this year has a record membership of eighty. This includes photographers varying in experience from beginners, who are warmly welcomed, to experienced professionals.
The first meeting of the club took place on the 5th May 1961, with the inaugural Annual General Meeting taking place just a few months later on the 4th August 1961. In its first year the annual cost of membership was one guinea- needless to say it has gone up a bit since then! Even in those early days the club quickly grew to a membership of 68 within the first few months. The numbers have varied throughout the club’s long history; the current membership is at an all time high of 80 active participants.
There are none of the founder members still involved given the time that has passed, however one of the founder members, the late Audrey Argue still features in the club’s annual programme. Audrey was well known in the area as a vice principal at Glenlola School; she was also a keen photographer and an animal lover and the club still runs the Audrey Argue Trophy every year, a competition for photographs of animals.
Whilst we no longer have any founding members, there are a number with more than twenty five years membership of the club including Gerry Coe (our club President), Ray Magill, Ralph Bennett, Alastair Bell, Mandy Milliken, Laurance Henderson and David Best. They have obviously seen many changes in photography over those years. In the early years the work of the club would have been based on film photography, mainly still photographs (although also some cine).
There was a strong focus on black & white photography processed and printed by the members themselves, often in their own darkrooms. Nowadays that has all changed; there are a few die-hard film workers, but the vast majority of members work with digital photography. The technology may have progressed, but the club has always sought to develop the skills of its members in all areas of photography and core skills such as good composition and lighting remain as important as ever.
The club has been based in many premises during its 50 year history. Beginning in the studio of a Mr Stevens at 98b Princetown Road, other premises followed in Princetown Road and Clifton Road before the club settled in a building then known as the Project Bangor Hall in Dufferin Avenue in 1981.
In August 1989 we moved to the top floor of the Naval Club building (Mountbatten House) on Princetown Terrace where we were to remain for 8 years, a stay which allowed the club to provide more permanent facilities such as a darkroom, studio lighting and print mounting facilities to members.
In 1997 this building was demolished and the club used a number of temporary premises such as the Good Templar Hall and the Marquis Hall for the next few years. In 2003 with the invaluable support of North Down Borough Council the club moved into its current premises at Ward Avenue.
Clubroom at Ward Avenue
The building was originally a toilet block, and was converted by the hard work of the members into the exemplary club rooms we enjoy today. These new club rooms were officially opened by Lady Mayoress Wilson on 31st October 2003.
Once again we have been able to build permanent facilities such as studio lighting and print mounting for the use of members. The club’s current premises are without doubt the best of any photographic club in Northern Ireland.
Committee Meeting in the Rubble