Chorley Photographic Society,
Chorley, Lancs, UK.

A History - by John Hurley.

A History of Chorley Photographic Society.

The following is an extract from the “Centenary Exhibition” booklet dated March 1997 in which John Hurley, a member of CPS at that time, gives some insight into club’s history.

George Eastman came on the scene in 1885 and introduced a flexible roll of paper coated with gelatine emulsion and in 1888 he began the marketing of the first Kodak camera with a developing and printing service. A year later the first celluloid roll film was introduced, this being followed by the Box Brownie in 1900. Photography as we know it today was born.

It was around this time that tremendous interest was shown in this newly emerging science and groups of interested people began to form societies. Because of the nature
of photography at this time, serious photography was the realm of the well to do and many founding members of societies were landed gentry, doctors and the clergy.

The earliest written evidence of the CPS was discovered by the late Jim Kelly in the form of two lengthy articles from the Chorley Guardian newspaper dated 1895 and 1896. In these articles the society is referred to as The Chorley Photographic and Sketching Society. There are no records before this time so we can only presume that the Sketching Society may well predate the birth of popular photography. The first of these articles describes a meeting at which a photographic plate is developed and a photograph produced. Many of the invited guests were amazed at this process and indeed today people are intrigued when they see the process for the first time.

In 1896 the Society, still known as a sketching society, unveiled an exhibition of its work. The exhibition was opened by the Mayor at a venue that appears to be long gone. One amusing remark made by the President of the Society was that he apologised to the meeting for the fact that there were no examples of his own work in the exhibition, a situation which is still evident today!

The popularity of amateur photography at the turn of the century can be seen by the formation of the Lancashire and Cheshire Photographic Union in 1905. Chorley Photographic Society is listed in the Amateur Photographer magazine of 24th April 1906 as being one of the founding 36 clubs that formed the L&CPU. The aim of the L&CPU, in modern terms its “Mission Statement!” is “To foster and encourage the advancement of this science and practice the art of photography. William Tansley has the honour of being the father of the Union and remained the secretary and president until 1913. Today the L&CPU consists of some 105 clubs and societies and Chorley Photographic Society remains one of its most active supporters providing lectures, competition judges, a recent president of the Union and venues for its events. Another pointer to the success of Chorley Photographic Society is the number of times that it has won the much coveted Tansley Shield, awarded each year to the club which produces the best monochrome photograph.

The club has also been a long time member of another group of photographic societies which mainly represents central Lancashire societies and is known as the Inter Club
Photographic Alliance. The ICPA annually presents a magnificent silver trophy contained in a glass case. Our Society has managed to win this a least once during each decade of this century.

Further references to Chorley Photographic Society can be found in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Meetings were by arrangement which seems to suggest that they may not have been weekly meetings. It is evident from these references that Chorley Photographic Society led, and still today leads, a nomadic life, having held meetings at six locations since I joined the Society not too many years ago. In 1931 the Society met on alternate Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 Park Road; I wonder how many people turned up on a Tuesday when the meeting day was a Wednesday? At that time the secretary was listed as being F. Sellers and to this day the Society presents a rather fine award called the “Frank Sellers” Trophy. The “Amateur Photographer” in May 1931 refers to a Sunday meeting of the Society in Ambleside. I wonder if any of the photographs taken survive in an album tucked away in someone’s loft?

References cease in 1941 and it can only be assumed that, in line with many societies at that time, its activities were suspended for the duration of the war. Records began again in the early 1960’s with correspondence regarding lectures and events and detailed results of competitions. Looking through these records it is evident that around this time the Society was strong with many working members. I joined the Society as a school lad in the early 1970’s and even then the processing of colour materials at home was a task undertaken only by a handful of amateurs. I remember that the Secretary, Arthur Holt, was the manager of the local Knitting factory and one evening we visited his factory to photograph knitting machines.

It was at this time that the Society almost went out of existence and it is due to the efforts of Allan Rogerson, a one time owner of a local bicycle shop, who, with only a handful of members, totalling a mere six at one stage, saved the Society from extinction. In recognition of his service and contribution, Allan is the only lifetime member of the Society.

Where do we go from here? People are worried by the emergence of digital imaging and the use of computers in the world of photography. However, looking back, the two main requirements of photography have not changed since the 1800’s, in that all that is needed is an image forming system, i.e. a lens and a medium to record the image, which in this modern age is a silicon chip.”

This article has proved of great interest to me with regard to Frank Sellers who was a relative. Frank was an accomplished photographer and according to the family, he rented a studio at 10 Park Road, which is where the Society held their meetings in 1931. Frank apparently held a number of exhibitions at Astley Hall. With some of his photos being donated to them in the past, we were able to show selected pieces of his work in our own exhibition held a few years ago at Astley Hall. Hopefully further research will reveal more of Frank’s photos and maybe even information on other past members who kept the Society alive over the years. If anyone has information that may be of interest, please let me know and I will feature it in one of our up-dates.