A Snapshot of our Times

Cape camera clubs share insights into their photographic pursuits

There’s one undeniable truth about photographers: They are all geeks, every last one of them, and they will continue to geek out on the pros and cons of Nikon vs. Canon vs. the iPhone long after everyone else has gone home. They’ll pontificate about digital vs. film, or the use of apps vs. no apps. They’ll talk ad infinitum about what even constitutes a photograph. What if it’s projected? Is it still a photograph? For these people there’s only one hope: a camera club. Antoinette Gombeda, board member of the New England Camera Club Council (NECCC), the mothership for approximately 70 camera clubs across New England, says camera clubs were made for photographers so they don’t bore anyone with their conversations. “In a camera club, everyone is interested in the same thing, and they bring people together to learn about photography,” says Gombeda.  

The digital revolution democratized photography even more than it already was. While most everyone already owned a camera and was familiar with capturing light to make visual impressions (though they might not have been aware that’s actually what they were doing), now people can access the most powerful equipment and digital editing tools that were once available only to professional photographers and designers. Access to this technology has had a curious effect on the glut of images being produced not only on the Cape but also around the world. An enormous number of images—both creative and hackneyed—are being unleashed by what the camera manufacturers generally define as “enthusiasts” or “hobbyists.” Images as garish as Elvis painted on black velvet compete for our attention along with the most powerfully sublime artistic photographic statements imaginable. 

Members of the three largest camera clubs residing on the Cape were interviewed for this story.  A snapshot—pun intended—of these groups uncovers some interesting observations. First, while there is a wide range of image quality produced by the members, many of the images are surprisingly very good, worthy of a home on someone’s wall. And with the majority of members being of retirement age, they demolish the notion that seniors are illiterate when it comes to the digital world. Finally, just as photographers adjust their camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to capture an image, each of these three camera clubs balance their own blend of education, competition and community to offer members their own unique experience.