Meet the society giving amateur photographers a voice in the city – for over 150 years

Kelpies - Steve Jackson
Kelpies - Steve Jackson

For over 150 years, Sheffield Photographic Society has been giving amateur photographers in the city a voice.

Today the society, one of the largest photographic societies in the UK, has close to 100 members that come together weekly to share their work and their passion.

Stairway to Heaven - Dave Elliott

Stairway to Heaven - Dave Elliott

“We’re a community, and one of the oldest photographic societies in the world,” explains the society’s publicity officer, John Gorman.

“We have members of all ages, ranging from their 20s to their 90s, with one vital thing that joins us together – our love of photography.”

The society just recently held its 14th annual Perspectives exhibition at the Winter Garden, which saw 38 of the society’s members show a panel of their own selection of prints, covering a wide range of contemporary photographic styles, including landscapes, portraits, wildlife, urban, macro and creative images in both colour and black and white. Each member’s panel also included a short narrative about themselves, and their images.

“This is an important event on our calendar, and is in fact probably our most popular annual exhibition,” explains John, who joined the society five years ago, along with his wife June.

Victoria Quays Sheffield - Mike Newman

Victoria Quays Sheffield - Mike Newman

“It gives our members the opportunity to show their work off in a terrific city-centre venue with a lot of footfall, meaning their work is seen by countless people over the course of a two week period.

“Members of our society are usually on hand each lunchtime throughout these free exhibitions, to assist visitor’s appreciation of the images, or simply to chat about photography.

“We believe it is a fairly unique exhibition amongst camera clubs as it is non-competitive, allowing our members each to choose what images to exhibit on their panel.”

The society's other major exhibition is the annual exhibition, which takes place each spring in Sheffield Cathedral.

“This is our showcase exhibition, where members submit their work to be assessed by a visiting photographic judge who selects the images to be displayed in a wide variety of disciplines - colour, mono, wildlife, record, and portrait, etc,” says John, aged 75.

“In each discipline the judge selects a winner who receives the category trophy. We have 18 trophies to be competed for, many of which date back to the 1930's.”

The society’s main season runs from September to May, when its members meet each Tuesday evening at St Peter’s Church Hall, on Reney Avenue. These meetings are a mix of talks by visiting speakers, competitions and member’s evenings.

During the summer months, with many members unable to attend weekly meetings due to holidays and events, weekend outings and evening visits are instead arranged to local places of interest.

“The group is entirely self-funded, with members paying annual fees, which pay for our visiting lecturers and other expenses, so we're lucky that we’re able to have quite a big programme of events running throughout the year.

“We also enable our members to present their own work at these weekly sessions, presenting anything from 20 to 200 of their images and giving them a chance to explore their work with the group, and receive feedback.

“We also have an online forum for people who want to discuss things further, in more details.”

John joined Sheffield Photographic Society after visiting one of their annual exhibitions, and being impressed by the warm greeting he received from its members.

“I’d not long since retired and I was keen to find a photographic club I could join, as I'd always had an interest in photography – one I hadn't previously been able to explore – and knew locally of a few clubs,” says John, who now lives in Rotherham.

“When I saw that Sheffield Photographic Society was hosting one of its exhibitions, I decided to pop along.

“As soon as I walked in the door, this guy – who I now consider one of my best friends – came straight over to me and introduced himself.  He walked me around the exhibition, talked everything through with me, and gave me such a good impression. I took my wife June back the following weekend, and we were greeted in this same manner. After that, joining was a no-brainer.

“The society is made up of terrific people. There’s no clique, everyone is genuinely welcome, and warm, and it’s a wonderful place to share and learn.

“Joining the society is honestly the best thing I've ever done.”

Call membership secretary Judy Smith on 0114 2303980 for details.