Stafford Photographic Society was formed in 1895. It is one of the oldest photographic societies in the Midlands. A young man named Charles Fowke was primarily responsible for its formation. He gathered together other photographic enthusiasts and started the YMCA Amateur Photographic Society, so called because they met at the YMCA in Gaol Road. The first President was Henry Cliff, pictured on the left in the picture above and in front of him is W. Kirkham, the President in 1898 when it became the Stafford Photographic Society.
In 1903 the Society moved to the old Police Barracks at Austin Friars and established a Tuesday meeting night. In 1906, when Charles Fowke, now a professional photographer in the town, became President he offered his studio and darkroom facilities at Victoria Road to the club. Early meetings tended to be of a technical nature with members giving talks and demonstrations on such things as bromide and gaslight prints, lantern slide making and portrait lighting using magnesium ribbon. Summer outings were organised and the picture above was taken in 1907 at an outing to Alton which included lady guests. Tripods and box cameras are much in evidence.
The First World War put a temporary halt on activities after 1916 and another move took place when the club restarted in 1921 when the President, S.T. Davies, another professional photographer, offered his studio in Foregate Street for meetings. Twenty four members enrolled at 5/- a year and ladies were cordially invited also to join.
Flashlight photography was demonstrated in 1923 and the post-war programme included invited speakers. In 1924 Bernard Sinkinson began giving lecturettes. Ultimately he became President of the Stafford Photographic Society six times and President of the Royal Photographic Society in the 1950s. Picnics and cycle outings were very popular in the 1920s. They took place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
In 1927 the name S. D. Barnwell appears as Secretary of the Society. He was a member for over 50 years, 31 of those as Secretary – a record in club history. The club moved premises again to the Friend’s Mission Hall in Stafford. where it remained until the 1950s. During the Second World War meetings were fortnightly, in spite of blackouts and food shortages.
A lady Treasurer , Miss G. G. Andrews was appointed in 1941and in 1945 the club celebrated 50 years with a Jubilee Exhibition and a supper when a congratulatory telegram from the RPS was read out.
A Cine Group was formed in 1946 and a second night – Thursday – was held for activities.
Membership increased and brought problems of accommodation, causing the club to move several more times in the 1950s as membership was 124 members in 1959. The Diamond Jubilee of the Society was celebrated in 1955 at the Royal Oak Hotel in Stafford.
The club flourished in the 1960s and A Roll of Honour Book was presented to the club by A.A.Beazor in 1967. This continues to be kept up to date.
Over the years the club logo was the Broad Eye Windmill and this changed only in 1968 to the film strip logo. The 1970s brought set subject competitions in both prints and slides. In the 1980s audio visual presentations became popular and the first woman President, Mrs P Hill was elected in 1988.
The Society celebrated its centenary in 1995 with an exhibition in the Guild Hall, Stafford, a History of the Society booklet and a centenary cake and wine for members.
The current club logo illustrates the digital changes of the new century and the Society continues to have success in local and national competitions. It continues to maintain a high standard of photography through its talented and dedicated members.
Jones Gillian (1995) Stafford Photographic Society : A History of the Society