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Photography in Gibraltar before the GPS was formed

 

            In 1940 a camera club was formed by a group of Gibraltarians who held their meetings at the now defunct Calpe Institute. This club was never firmly established and more often than not it was closed due to lack of support from both local photographers and those from the Services. The problem was very likely due to the fact that no photographer in Gibraltar had the experience of organising and running successfully a club of this nature.

            In 1960, after having run for some months with a very small membership, the club closed, never to re-open. Its assets, about £30, were placed in a suspended account and held by the Committee of the Calpe Institute. Any hopes of re-forming the club were dashed by the closing of the Calpe Institute itself.

            During most of this time, the United Services Camera Club based at the Command Education Centre, ran successfully under various names, though with a small membership. The Club was not open to local civilians. This Club was closed in July 1964 by the Command Education Officer as a result of poor administration in the Club’s affairs, and re-opened in October 1964.

 

Formation of the Gibraltar Photographic Society

 

            In October 1964, a Sergeant K Lloyd of the Middlesex Regiment and member of the United Services Camera Club, and local photographer Mr Albert Pizzarello put on an exhibition at the John Mackintosh Hall with a view of generating interest in the formation of a Service/civilian club. The venture proved successful and that same month a meeting was held at the John Mackintosh Hall with the aim of forming a camera club which would be open to everyone in Gibraltar, including servicemen and UK based civilians. The club was to be called The John Mackintosh Hall Camera Club, and would incorporate the United Services Camera Club. A caretaker Committee was formed and a provisional programme arranged.

            In January 1965, the first Annual General Meeting took place and the following officers appointed :

 

            Chairman :                                - Wing Commander P A Rumbold Scott, RAF

            Secretary & A/Chairman          - A A Hammon, Esq

            Treasurer & A/Secretary          - Staff Sergeant C P Berry, RAOC

            Syllabus Secretary                    - A J Pizzarello, Esq

            House Member                        - A Perera, Esq

            Committee Members                - T Adamberry, Esq

                                                            - M M Bonilla, Esq

                                                            - Sgt K Lloyd was co-opted to the Committee.

 

            The Chairman due to his appointment as Senior Air Staff Officer, RAF North Front, was frequently away from Gibraltar and so his duties were in the main carried out by Mr Hammon. As a result, S/Sgt Berry usually carried out the task of Secretary as well as that of Treasurer. Lectures, initial organisation and instruction were generally carried out by Messrs Berry and Pizzarello.

            Later that year the Committee decided to change the name of the Club to that of The Gibraltar Photographic Society. An application for affiliation to The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain was accepted. The aims of the Society were as follows :

            (a) To stimulate and promote amateur photographic activity within Gibraltar

            (b) To provide a congenial club atmosphere where enthusiasts can meet others similarly inclined.

            (c) To instruct, guide and assist novices in basic theoretical and practical photographic work

            (d) To cater for the intermediate and advanced amateur photographer by means of lectures, demonstrations, visual aids, instruction and discussion

            (e) To work in close liaison with the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, to   promote the advancement of, and maintain a high standard of amateur photography in Gibraltar.

 

            Subscriptions were set at 5 shillings (25p) a month for full members and 2 shillings and 6 pence (12½p) for those under the age of 18. Meetings were held on Wednesdays at fortnightly intervals, with a short recess during the Summer. Several local professional photographers were elected to Honorary Membership, and Lady Lathbury, the Governor’s wife, accepted to become patroness of the Society.

 

To the present

 

            By February 1966, the membership of the Society stood at around 40, with the average attendance at meetings between 20 and 25. Initially, novices were placed into groups with an intermediate or advanced worker nominated as group leader whose duty was to instruct the novices. Printing was carried out in the group leader’s own darkroom or at the John Mackintosh Hall. This system worked but with great difficulty, and was eventually abandoned. Competitions for black and white prints were held about once a month, and based on set themes. Entries were limited to 4 prints per person, and the print size restricted to 9 x 7 inches. It was not till 1974 that the first slides competition was held. This was just a one-off event. It was not till 1977 that regular slides competitions were incorporated into the annual programme, whilst the first colour prints competitions were not introduced till 1979. Initially, beginners had to compete in the same group as everybody else, but in 1973 they were provided with their own set of competitions.

            Since its founding, the Society has held an annual exhibition. At first this consisted of black and white prints, but in 1977 two other sections were added : a colour prints section and one for beginners. The addition of a slides section had to wait till 1986. The size and popularity of the exhibition grew to such an extent that since 1982 two exhibition rooms have been required for it. Problems with the judging of the annual exhibition resulted in the Society getting in touch with the Royal Photographic Society in 1982 with a view of their providing an adjudicator. This they did and have continued to do so up to the present, resulting in our forging very close links with this world-renowned organisation.

            In 1968 the Society only had one challenge trophy in its possession : The Society Challenge Cup, which was presented to the winner of the competitions held during the year. By 1980 the total had increased to 11 as the number of competitions and the number of sections in the annual exhibition increased. In 1985, the late Alex Perera presented a trophy he had made himself for the award of the title of Photographer of the Year to the person obtaining the highest aggregate of points in competitions during the course of the year. Today the total number of challenge trophies is 20!

            The logo of the Society was designed by Mr A Harper in 1977 and the proof drawing made by Mr A Ryman MBE. Also in that year the Society made its first application for funds from the Government Cultural Grants Committee and succeeded in obtaining the sum of £90. Thanks to subsequent grants from this Committee, the Society has been able to purchase much needed equipment, and more recently for the purchase of books to help establish a good reference library. Also in 1977 first contacts were made with the Malta Photographic Society. This was the first of many such contacts with other clubs and societies, especially from U.K., with the view of exchanging ideas and holding competitions. In 1986 the Society became members of the Southern Photographic Federation of Great Britain, and through them affiliated to the Photographic Alliance of  Great Britain. As members of the SPF the Society has competed every year in their league competitions. Contacts with Spanish clubs in La Linea and Algeciras were established in 1984, and a few competitions and exhibitions have been held with them since then.

            In 1981 the Society held its first basic course on photography, aimed at members who were beginners, but also opened to the general public. These successful courses have been kept up to the present.

            In 1976 a need was felt for updating and extending the statute of the Society. A new statute was voted in April of that year. Minor revisions were made in 1982 and in 1983  with respect to classes of membership, and again in 1984 with respect to the use of the darkroom and equipment. In 1990 further changes were made with respect to the use of the Society’s equipment and premises, and lastly in 1994 with respect of classes of membership once again.

            The 150th anniversary of the invention of photography was marked in1989 by the Society holding a special exhibition. For this exhibition copy prints of early historical photographs were purchased from the RPS, and exhibited together with hundreds of old and personal photographs loaned by members of the public, depicting family photos and old views of Gibraltar. The exhibition was a great success.

            First enquiries on the acquisition of premises were made in 1985, and at the end of that year, during the opening of a special exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of the Society, the then Minister for Education Mr G Mascarenhas announced that we were being offered premises at Wellington Front.  These premises were officially handed over in January 1986, and works on refurbishing them commenced in April. By March 1987 the bulk of the works were over in the main hall, and the first Annual General Meeting held there that month. Works still continued in refurbishing the rest of the premises, and in fitting out a darkroom. The darkroom at John Mackintosh Hall was demolished in December 1989, and it was not till August 1990 that the one at Wellington Front became operational. The official opening of the premises was held on 26th November 1990, and carried out by H.E. the Governor Sir Derek Reffell. This coincided with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Society. The acquisition of  the premises resulted in the Society being able to extend its activities without restrictions, and in the acquisition of the type of equipment which would have been impossible to obtain otherwise.

            At present the Society is self sufficient in terms of darkroom, audio-visual and studio facilities. The Society has also embraced the advent of digital imaging without any reservations; in all competitions digitally processed and manipulated images are accepted on a par with traditionally processed ones. With the help of awards from the Government Cultural Grants Committee, the Society has purchased three computers, two printers, two slides/negative scanner, a flat-bed scanner and a digital projector. In the programme of events for the year, a significant amount of time is dedicated to learning how to use imaging programmes, and the hardware.