The Camera Club: London's best-kept photographic secret
Tucked away in a quiet backstreet in Kennington, South London, is one of the wonders of the photographic world. Here, in a former pickle factory where Charlie Chaplin's dad once pickled for a living, is Britain's oldest photographic club still in existence. The Camera Club, founded by leading enthusiasts of the day, including Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, started life in 1885 following an exchange of correspondence in Amateur Photographer magazine.
In 1885 correspondence from the Amateur Photographer Magazine led to the formation of The Camera Club. A subscription paid for the rent of the Bedford Street premises where the club established Nine Model Darkrooms. The Camera Club aimed at being “A Social, Scientific and Artistic Centre for Amateur Photographers and others interested in Art and Science.”
Fast forward 130 years and several changes of addresses, The Camera Club is thriving and is still offering those model darkrooms for members' use. There are also studios, digital facilities and a wonderful photographic archive. The members' room is available for reading and social occasions and there is a homely atmosphere, including a kitchen were you can make your own coffee or tea.
Since starting my new relationship with Neil , I thought I should join the club in order to develop some film processing skills. These techniques eluded me over several decades of using film cameras and, I am ashamed to say, I relied entirely on commercial facilities.
Now I shall go on a familiarisation course at The Camera Club and look forward to renting the darkrooms for Neil's output. This new interest will also inject some life into my old Leica IIIf, M3 and MP collection.
The great wonder is that after a century and a third, The Camera Club is still there and still doing what it originally set out to do. With all these facilities, the annual subscription of £115 seems something of a bargain. Of course, there are rental prices for darkrooms, studios and equipment but, for many who don't have their own facilities, this is a cheap way to a professional setup. Not only that, there are many social occasions, including a monthly meeting, where members can mingle and learn.