Overton Photographic Club was founded in the late summer of 1977 by a group of enthusiasts in the village. One of those founder members, David Isaacs, is still a member today. Other founder members included Nick Bale, Mary Taylor, Edwin Holmes, Arthur Turner Howe, Beatrice Elwood, and Mr Humphries our first Chairman.
The Club first met at Overton Community Centre. David remembers, “On the very first evening we were shown how to develop a black-and-white film. We were amazed at how easy it was.
The second evening we sorted out who was going to do what job. I remember that Beatrice took the job of Treasurer, Arthur Club Secretary and I took on the role of Programme Secretary, which I’ve been doing ever since!”
Finding a home
After the first year at the Community Centre, David Isaacs and Bob Gibbs worked at turning the old bathroom at the top of the Community Centre into a darkroom. On finishing the project, the Centre increased the rent, so – as a self-funded club, needing to be cautious with our money – alternative accommodation had to be sought.
For the next four years, our home was the St John’s Ambulance Station on Kingsclere Road, which was made more comfortable with a spot of decorating and some floor felt that had already served its purpose at the local mill.
Current Chairman, Allan Croombs, who has clocked up an impressive 36 years at the Club, remembers,
“When we met at the St John’s Ambulance building we had an abundance of props on hand for our practical evenings, including an old hospital bed and a life-sized skeleton.”
After that, a few seasons at the Scout Hut on Town Meadow followed until a vacant slot opened at the Overton Recreation Centre on Bridge Street where we’ve held our meetings ever since.
David recalls, “At Town Meadow we had some great lectures from the Southern Photographic Federation as it was called in those days. I became the Rep for the Overton Club and we joined in the Photographic Leagues.
We started right at the bottom of what was then called the North Hampshire league, which included Newbury, Winchester, Basingstoke, Andover, Burghfield and Reading. It took many years to find our feet.
After some years, the Leagues were changed to a football-type league, where we started in League 4 out of 6 – so we had progressed just a little.”
Our move to the Overton Recreation Centre marked our progression as a club. We had become respected, having reached League Division One, playing with the big boys like Chichester, Winchester, and Southampton.
Allan: “I think one of our greatest achievements was to rise up the League to Division One. Despite being one of the smaller clubs, we held our own against much larger clubs with a greater amount of work to choose from.”
John Hodge recalls, “The club was about ten years old when I joined. The activities were largely as today, a mix of lectures competitions and some ‘battles’ with other clubs. I remember being intrigued by references to a battle! The whole idea of judges scoring images was totally new to me.
The annual programme used to include President’s Evening where the President would arrange or present something special – I can’t remember what! I can remember one lecturer talking about and actually developing Lith prints in a developing tray.
We did organise a day trip to Normandy one year, all aboard a bus, which was a total disaster as there was heavy rain all day, so we had no photography whatsoever. We had a nice lunch though!”
In the early days, the Club league had two sections: prints and slides.
John remembers, “Projected slides were always a bit of a lottery. Sometimes they would project upside down, sometimes they would start to burn with the heat from the projector bulb and would have to be moved on quickly to protect them! Slides often needed to be cropped, which had to be done by covering up part with aluminium foil.
We used to have an annual battle with Andover for sets of three images on slides. This needed three projectors at once, projecting onto a screen made up from a long sheet. Good fun when one projector would get out of sequence or one of the three images was upside-down.
A few aficionados did AVs, usually with two projectors fading the images alternately and a separate soundtrack on audio equipment, all hugely complex. This is one area which was totally transformed in later years by digital.”
The road to digital
John shares, “Digital began to appear in the Club around the turn of the century. Most people thought that the concept of digital cameras was rather fanciful, but digital scanning and printing began to be adopted first.
This was a great move forward as it enabled relatively easy printing from slides, which were my preferred medium. Colour printing from slides in the darkroom was pretty tricky and expensive, as the chemicals had a very short life compared to negative processing.
The first person in the club to have a digital camera was one-time Chairman, Chris Surtell. He was convinced this would be the future; most of us were sceptical and thought digital would never be able to reach the resolution to match film.
Club member Keith Biggs was one of the leaders on digital, giving talks on how this new technology worked, what pixels were, explaining raw converters etc.
Digital printing in the early days depended on a limited availability of software. My first software was Adobe Photo De-Luxe, a forerunner to Photoshop. I remember the magic of being able to manipulate, cut and paste etc., though complete rubbish compared to now!
I also recall buying a program called Raw Shooter, which had been developed by top photographers, including Andy Rouse. This was later bought by Adobe and merged with their products to become Lightroom. As a Raw Shooter subscriber, I got a complimentary copy of the first Lightroom.
We had to have a big debate as to whether to allow digital prints to compete against darkroom prints – it nearly split the club!
I got my first digital camera in December 2002 – a Nikon Coolpix 5700, remarkably good for that date. However, as the Federation wasn’t into digital projection yet, we used to get our digital images scanned onto slide film so they could be used in competitions.
Over the next few years the transition from film to digital became more complete, but a few photographers still held on to their film and chemicals. A Federation inter-club event called, ‘Farewell to Slides’ was the final event before going over to digital projection.”
Fond memories of past members
Allan remembers Mary Taylor: “Mary was our Treasurer for twenty plus years. She often threatened to resign once her ledger was full, so we often threatened to add more pages! Luckily she took it all in good fun and carried on a lot longer than she should have.”
David remembers, Don Bradshaw: “The club was inspired with the arrival of Donald Bradshaw. He was one of the top black-and-white workers and was winning many of the competitions at Winchester PS where he had been a member.
He was also a member of the Royal Photographic Society and had gained the dizzy heights of LRPS (Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society) – to us mere mortals he was king! As it turned out he was a really nice man also, and his wife Audrey was lovely.
Don over time became President of the Club, only giving up the job after illness made him give up photography. I remember he always said to me, when I can get black and white, and not grey and white, then I would understand the process of printing.”
We also remember Keith Biggs in our tribute page on this website.
John: “Proudest moments must include when we won the Federations Championships Small Clubs section, in both prints and PDIs. This is what first put us on the map as it were, being followed by a repeat the next year and gradual successes in the Leagues.”
A much deserved thanks
As a newer member, it’s easy to take the Club for granted, but much respect goes out to those who have gone before us and who have contributed to its running for so long. As Allan says, ‘The club has always been a warm and welcoming place for like minded people to meet.’ And it continues to be so.
We thank David for his work building the print stands we so regularly use – they look built to last at least another 40 years.
We also thank David and Allan for building our prized illuminated print display box, which always seems coveted by visiting judges and speakers. And for fitting the electric screen and hearing-loop system that makes the club more accessible.
We thank John for his work applying for the Lottery grant that enabled the purchase of our screen, projector, hearing loop and computer. And Sue for her work keeping us all organised and informed.
We’ll let David have the final words…
“Can I just finish by saying the one thing we never forget is our new members, especially those who are joining to learn photography.
We pride ourselves on helping members enjoy photography and progress along with the rest of us. We were a very friendly club when we started back in 1977 and still retain that friendliness today.”