In the Beginning
The first official Club Camera Tucson (CCT) meeting was held in April 1985. The year before, founder Jeff Albiniak, had taken adult education photography classes taught by local photographer Joe Carder. After the classes ended, the two began discussing the possibilities of starting a camera club. In March 1985, Jeff invited everyone who might be interested to meet. About a dozen people came and there was enough interest to call a follow-up meeting the next month. At the next meeting the club was established.
Jeff was elected president, Barry Jewell vice president, and Barb Jewell, treasurer. Jeff came up with the name Club Camera as a play on Club Med vacation resorts. They decided on two monthly meetings, both competitions. Robin Schultz designed a logo. Later, T-shirts with the logo were made for club members.
The fiscal year was initially set as September through August. Sometime later this was changed to September through June to allow for summer vacations.
A place to meet was a challenge. Early on, CCT used libraries, the Tucson Botanical Gardens, a room at the U of A campus, Mountain View Restaurant (now Guadalajara Grill on Prince Rd.), and a community meeting room at Golden Eagle Distributors. CCT finally made its current meeting home at the JCC.
Adapting to Change
CCT members shared and presented their photos as either “prints” or “slides.” In the early 2000s, member Dr. Everett Gibson, always on the cutting edge of electronics, purchased a Sony digital camera and brought all his equipment to the club for a digital presentation. It was the first time many members had seen digital equipment. Many vowed never to switch from film to digital, but eventually almost all gradually changed to the digital age. To assist in the conversion from film to digital, President Donna Sisley purchased a digital projector in 2003. The club began helping members learn digital technology, including the software to process photographs. Processing has become a much greater part of photography than it was prior to digital.
For many years CCT meetings involved competitions. The name of the judge was not announced in advance of the meeting to prevent members from submitting images to appeal to a particular judge’s preferences. Judges gave a score based on a ranking system and, depending on point totals, members were designated an intermediate, advanced, or master photographer. The atmosphere could be intimidating and judging inconsistent.
Around 2009 emphasis began to shift more toward education than pure competition. CCT scheduled competitions once a month with educational programs in between. Although some members did not like the changes and left the club, the emphasis on education appealed to prospective members and facilitated increased membership.
At about the same time, photo field trips began—some lasting a few hours and others as long as five days. The annual trip to Bosque del Apache each November is one of the favorites. CCT also established Special Interest Groups (SIGs) for digital arts (in 2010) and Portfolios (in 2013). In addition, member slideshows and critiques have become popular by providing a forum for a broader perspective of members’ photography interests and range.
Social aspects of the club began to change too. The holiday party had been the annual award night for best photographers. In 2010 the holiday party became a purely social event, and CCT designated another night later in the year for awards. Increased social interaction also comes through treks, exhibits, special interest groups, and member slide shows.
Looking toward the Future
In November, 2012, several CCT members arranged for well-known photographer, Rick Sammon, to come for a weekend workshop. It was sponsored by Canon Cameras through its Explorer of Light program. Even though Canon paid most of the expenses, CCT took a significant financial risk. The weekend workshop was very well attended and generated awareness and enthusiasm for CCT. Subsequently many other well-known photographers, such as Jack Dykinga and Bruce Taubert, have given presentations to the club.
In 2015, CCT held its first club-sponsored exhibition at the Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort with a dozen members displaying over 40 images. Since then, CCT has exhibited at the Oro Valley Library’s gallery and, beginning in 2016 at the Ranch House Art Gallery at Agua Caliente where members also offer public workshops. In addition to club sponsored exhibitions, members display their photography in various venues on their own.
Learning experiences continue to expand as has membership. CCT has grown to well over 100 members in 2018 from a base of 30 for early years and 70 in 2010. To facilitate communication, CCT has constructed a website to explain its mission, announce meeting dates, programs, treks, and competition guidelines. Winning photos are displayed there as well as links to individual member websites.
Throughout CCT’s history, dedicated volunteers have stepped up to lead the club and inspire members of all abilities to enhance their photographic knowledge and creativity. The level of expertise continues to strengthen. Club Camera Tucson has become an important community resource for photographers with a wide range of interests and abilities.
Historians: Ellen Fisher and Sherry Massie
April 18, 2018