The Club was founded in 1891 as the Hove Camera Club, and was affiliated to the Royal Photographic Society, with meetings held at Hove Town Hall. In 1904, the Club moved into its own leased premises in Hove (including space for a darkroom). The membership was 92, and the annual subscription was 10 shillings. Annual Exhibitions were held in Hove Town Hall in conjunction with the Southsea and Southampton Societies, and known as the ‘Southern Exhibitions’. In 1912 the Club moved to Brighton, and altered its name to the Hove and Brighton Camera Club.
In November 1915 an extraordinary meeting was held at which it was decided that, for the duration of the war, the clubrooms would be relinquished and the activities of the Club restricted to circulation of its very successful portfolio.
In the mid-1920s the Club moved to new, spacious quarters in East Street, Brighton. These were open almost every evening, and became very much a social centre – members would pop in for a half hour or so to chat about photography, perhaps followed by a game of bridge or table tennis; this settled pattern continued until 1939. Throughout the Second World War the Club continued to function actively in spite of the difficulties, with members of the forces stationed locally being welcomed as honorary members. The coming of peace brought with it a large increase in membership, which grew to about 300 in the 1950s. The meeting room became inadequate, but the Club was fortunate in obtaining regular use of the admirable accommodation of the Royal Pavilion for its weekly meetings.
In 1965 the Club was given notice to quit its East Street premises owing to redevelopment, which, after 30 years of tenure, came as something of a shock. The Club relocated to St Georges Place until 1972. For the next few years, meetings were held at various venues, such as the King and Queen pub, and the Ralli Hall in Hove, followed by rooms at the Sussex County Cricket Ground. The Old Market Arts Centre project in Hove came into being in the late 1970s, and meetings started there in 1979, with a darkroom being completed by our members in 1981. Unfortunately, the project failed, and in 1982 the Club commenced using the English Language Centre in Hove.
During this period and into the 1990s, the membership slowly declined to well under 100.
With renewed interest in photography driven by the advent of the digital camera, the Club’s membership is growing once more, with every year bringing new members: at the start of the 2007–2008 season, the Club had 110 members – of these, 87 have joined since 2000. (Of the remainder, three joined in the 1950s, four in the 1970s, five in the 1980s and 11 in the 1990s.) This popularity had a downside: the Club outgrew its premises, so, in 2008, after 26 years at the English Language Centre, it has moved once more, this time to the Hove Methodist Church Hall.
Encouraged by the Club, many of our recent members have rapidly developed, gaining photographic qualifications and exhibiting nationally and internationally. For example, in 2006 the Surrey Photographic Association (SPA) hung 10 of our photographs in its popular annual exhibition; in 2007, it accepted 21 Brighton entries – most from recent members. And our local pub has seen a 40% increase in profits on Tuesday nights!
A Measure of Success
The Club has always held an annual exhibition open to the public. For many years, the Brighton Public Art Galleries in Church Street were used, but, with changing times and constraints on public expenditure by local government, this venue closed. Exhibitions were then held in Brighton Polytechnic’s Faculty of Art galleries in Grand Parade up to 1991, when the Club held its very successful Centenary Exhibition. However, owing to the change in status from polytechnic to university, this also became unavailable – but we had the good fortune to be offered the use of the Art Galleries at Hove Museum, followed in turn by the First Light Galleries, in Nile Street, for a couple of years, and so to 1997 with a new venue at the Burstow Gallery, Brighton College. This was followed by The Gardener Arts Gallery at Sussex University, and in recent years by The Grange, Rottingdean.
In addition to the Annual Exhibition, members have had great success not only locally but also on the national and international scene, and the high photographic standards of our Club are widely acknowledged, with our programme and associated facilities being amongst the best available. Over a third of our members have Royal Photographic Society distinctions (Licentiateships, Associateships and Fellowships), but we always have time for and actively encourage the photographic novice.