Based on an original article by Michael J. Webster from Hertfordshire Countryside talking about the first 60 years of the club Tom Derbyshire has updated it to 2014.
From any point of view, 1937 was an eventful year, the most memorable occurrence being the Coronation of King George VI.
The more senior intellects amongst us will additionally recall that in the same year Joe Louis was also crowned undisputed king of the ring, the Hindenburg exploded in New Jersey, Chamberlain took over from Baldwin in No. 10 and Sunderland beat Preston North End 3:1 in the F.A. Cup. Far more significantly, storm clouds were gathering over Europe, but even this didn't preclude a small band of around 20 enthusiastic and dedicated amateur photographers joining forces to form the Society which we are honouring this year.
Their first inaugural meeting was held at Woodman's Café with the first general meeting being held on Monday October 11th 1937. The prime movers were a Mr. Roy Macey and Mr. A.T. Earland who were to be elected Secretary and President respectively. A Miss A. Taylor was the first lady to be elected onto the Committee. Subscriptions were fixed at 10/- (50p) for seniors and 5/- (25p) for the under 18s. It is interesting to note that the average weekly wage was £3 but the cost of equipment at the time was of course also relative. A two-and-a-quarter inch square lever wind Rolleiflex model was listed new at £25 and a Leica could be purchased for £34. It is also worthy of note that Ilford's HP2film was billed at the time as 'extremely fast' at 80 ASA, and Kodachrome and Agfacolor film had been on the market for less than two years.
The forming of the Society was something of an historic venture for Hemel Hempstead. Apart from filling a void, it laid down realistic foundations of high quality for what was to later prove a very worthwhile organisation holding tangible objectives which strive for ever increasing standards of photographic excellence. The main priority of the Society has always been to advance the cause of amateur photography and to encourage a wider participation. Nothing has changed in this respect today. After the first General Meeting, there were 39 enrolments. Activities were to be divided equally between competition nights and lectures.
The first milestone was passed for the HHPS in 1939 when it held its first exhibition over February 24/25th in the Town Hall with a display of 94 prints and over 40 transparencies and lantern slides. The judging was performed by a Mr. Harold Ranson, an Honorary Member. For the second exhibition, held over May 17/18th 1940 at the Marlowes Baptist Hall, the number of entries had fallen to 62. Mr. H. Colman, who judged the event, stated that the standard was very high and worthy of more support than that accorded by the general public. The Second World War effectively stifled any further activities of the Society, and, as with so many other organisations, meetings were suspended for its duration.
February 1946 brought about a reformation, with Mr. R. A. Shuffrey ARPS being elected President and Mr. W.G. Stanners Secretary. Subscriptions were raised to 15/- (75p) and 7/6d (37.5p) with many of the lectures being delivered by the Society's own members. It was a Mr. L. Barrett who in 1949 enjoyed the most success, receiving the first three awards, and two commendations together with the best print in the exhibition. High accolades indeed but it was with deep regret that his death was announced in
1952. As a past President, Mr. Barrett's passing prompted the Society to make reservation for his permanent remembrance by opening a subscription list for the purchase of a suitable trophy to bear his name. The 'Barrett Shield' has since been competed for annually by way of healthy rivalry in the advanced section for black and white prints.
A similar situation was adopted when Mr. R. A. Shuffrey died a short while afterwards. The shield which now bears his name is still competed for each year by entrants in the general section for black and white prints.
1959 saw the election of founder members Mr. Alf Brown and Mr. Sid Goodwin to the status of Honorary Life Members. This was at a time when the total membership numbered 42. This total was to see much fluctuation but it rose to 57 in 1960 prior to declining a little in the subsequent years. Mr. Gordon Giles ARPS, APAGB was elected President in 1963 and he was the first member to be awarded the newly introduced, and much coveted ‘Glendenning Rose Bowl' in 1966 for the best landscape in the exhibition. Another trophy in memory of a past and very active member, this award pays tribute Mr. H. W. Glendenning. The same year was to become another landmark in the Society's history for it was the occasion when the HHPS became involved in the formation of the Chiltern Association of Camera Clubs. Further involvement within the regional framework was to follow when it became affiliated to the North West London Federation of Camera Clubs, the East Anglian Federation of Photographic Societies, and the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain.
Fortunes rise and fall in photographic societies as with any others. In 1973, the total membership had dwindled to 37 but even this marked something of a watershed. Since that date, the membership total has been in the ascendant right up until the present day when the current figures declare 75 and 5 life members. Some constitutional changes were proposed in 1979 when the office of Chairman was created with Mr. Colin Bolam becoming the first to serve in this office. The current President, Mr. Eric Earl ARPS, APAGB is the first person to have been elected to this office on more than one occasion, and in 1994, Mrs. Sheila Brown LRPS became the Society's first lady Chairman. There are now nine elected officers with six members who serve on the elected committee.
Meetings have been held in various locations over the years. Two Waters Primary School providing the headquarters in 1947 at the then weekly rent of 1/- (5p). In 1963 the Society met at 'Lockers', Bury Hill where the rent was 7/6d (37.5p) per night before taking up the offer of the Post Office Hall at Boxmoor at £1 per night. Due to these premises becoming 'cramped' in 1976, negotiations with Dacorum Borough Council led to the Society taking up the offer of becoming the first 'resident organisation' to hold meetings in the Old Town Hall. This is still the meeting place at the present time, a venue which can only be described as sumptuous in the extreme and virtually tailor made with all facilities at hand which could ever be required. The theatre is ideal for lectures, slide presentations and all competitions. A fully-fitted darkroom has been created on the premises and there is a very busy and extremely sought after studio group with its own facilities too.
Even though we still meet in the Old Town hall there have been changes here to fit in with modernisation attempts by Dacorum Borough Council. We have had to relinquish our dark room and, after holding all our equipment in the vicarage garage for nine months we have been given a new larger storage area in the form of the original public toilets attached to the town hall. We still have the luxury of meeting in a theatre environment but will soon have to hold some meetings in the newly refurbished cellar so that more profitable use of the theatre can be made on the occasional Monday evening.
The major change that has been made, has been brought about by the digital revolution there are now only about five or six members who use film .During the transition from film to digital a new group initially called the “Digital Group” was set up on a separate evening in a separate venue – Leverstock Green Village Hall, A laptop and digital projector was purchased and members were tutored into the delights of Photoshop.
This has now mutated in to “Tips and Techniques Group” it still meets in the same place once a month on a Wednesday evening where the whole range of photographic and digital techniques are discussed.
Another major milestone which came about in the new millennium was the formation of a club website. This was originally quite a simple site designed mainly to show off members images. It was later developed into a much more sophisticated site which gave members and the committee many extra facilities. Committee members got the facility to email just the committee or individual members at the touch of a button and internal competitions were revolutionised where members could complete their entries via the site and results could be displayed for all to see. The image part was much more sophisticated and became transformed into different galleries.
As time has moved on we have realised that a major update for the site was needed this is in progress and should go live by 2015, it will be just as sophisticated but will be much more user friendly
Membership now hovers around the 60 mark. Most recruitment activity takes place in the summer season via an Annual Exhibition which is held in the Marlowes Centre, this is supplemented by two ongoing exhibitions in two local GP surgeries.
Woodman's Cafe was rendered to dust years ago, but since 1937 the Society has grown in more ways than merely membership. Affectionately dubbed 'the Club' by its members, it has epitomised the classic tale of the little acorn, having become a long time ago the fount of photographic knowledge and know-how for all Hemel Hempstead and the immediate surrounds. Expertise is perceptibly passed on to all enquiring members from the ranks of learned and highly respected elders here who themselves have devoted so much time, patience and effort to the club over the years. Meeting in the Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead each Monday evening at 8.00pm, HHPS extends a very cordial welcome to all prospective members both young - and not so young!