Sheffield Photographic Society is holding its annual exhibition this week in a very significant year — its 150th anniversary.
On show in The Workstation Gallery on Paternoster Row are 180 print images, including trophy winners, commended and selected prints representing members’ work over the past year.
Sheffield Photographic Society was formed in 1864, making it one of the oldest clubs of its type in the world. It also claims to be one of the largest and most thriving photographic societies in the UK with more than 100 members who include enthusiastic amateurs, professional and semi-professionals using mainly digital equipment.
Holding an annual exhibition is a tradition almost as long-standing, dating back to 1882 when the first took place at the Cutlers Hall.
Sheffield Photographic Society was founded in a landmark year - 1864 saw the Great Sheffield Flood, the birth of artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Louis Lumiere, French inventor, photography pioneer and film maker.
It was the early days of photography, when prominent members of the Sheffield community with a keen interest in this new pastime, joined together for regular meetings. The Society met weekly in various venues in the city including the Masonic Hall.
The first members were Dr John Ryan, Dr TFM Griffiths, the Medical Officer of Health for Sheffield, CJ Fleming, an artist and engraver, Theophilus Smith, a well known designer and modeller and several professional photographers.
Very little is known about the subjects that engaged the attention of members during the early period but two excursions were arranged in the following year and a visit to Roche Abbey is to replicated by current members for the 150th anniversary.
In 1902 new rules admitted lady members to the society and it was recorded that they were “hard workers and produced pictures of a high quality”. A Miss Johnson joined the society the following year remained a member for 50 years.
In the 1860s many innovations took place, not least the introduction of the newly sized 6ins x 4ins photograph, corresponding to the standard print we get today, 140 years later. The year 1907 saw the introduction of the Bromiol process which was used by society members to achieve special artistic effects to their prints. It is also the year that Lumiere brothers’ autoplates went on sale which were well used by the society.
Since the first lantern slides and Kodak’s box brownie, many further innovations in cameras have moved photography on from film to digital as it is today.
A special Now and Then Exhibition of images down the years will be held from July 7-14 at Sheffield Cathedral, also marking its 150th year anniversary.
The annual exhibition continues at the Workstation until Sunday.