I am an enthusiastic member of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) and especially enjoy outings with the Visual Journalism Group. I am also an enthusiastic member of the Reigate Photographic Society which meets every Monday evening less than 5 miles from where I live.
I hope that nobody will be upset by this, but my experience tells me that the majority of the members of traditional camera clubs also qualify to be members of SAGA or even dare I say it, for a free bus pass. The one exception seems to be the Visual Journalism Group of the RPS that appeals to a wide age range. This is no doubt helped by the fact that it is part of the RPS, effectively the governing body for photographers in the UK and awarding much sought after distinctions.
However, I digress. Recently, I was introduced by a fellow student at college ( a young lady of Polish extraction) to Photography Meetups. This, for the uninitiated, is one of these new words (a bit like bookazines – that another fellow Polish student also introduced me to). Basically, it is organised via the web. You have to sign up to a group in your area or one that does the type of photography that you are interested in. Then you simply book in for any event that you like the look of – pay the modest fee (if there is one) and attend. There is no commitment, no annual fee or any other strings.
In the era of Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr and the like, you can see the attraction. The downside might be that because there is no commitment, you might not get to know your fellow meetupers. But again in my experience, they are a very friendly lot, passionate about photography and keen to learn and share ideas.
So where does the future lie? Will the “no strings attached” meetup groups replace the traditional camera clubs?
I really don’t know the answer but there is a conundrum here. Although the meetups seem free and easy for the participants, someone has to organise them. The workload is significant and unlike a camera club where you can expect a good percentage of members to attend, you might do all the work and then find that it has to be cancelled as there is insufficient interest.
My belief is that each has much to learn from the other. If camera clubs organise events, as they do on a regular basis and invite other people to come along without commitment via a meetup web site, there is a good chance that many people will eventually join the club. On the other side some of those who feel that their camera club has become a bit stale might benefit from finding a meetup group and going along.
I think the whole thing is quite exciting and I have attached a shot from my first studio meetup. A great event. You can see other shots in the gallery.