Boston Camera Club History

The Boston Camera Club is the leading amateur photographic organization serving Boston, Massachusetts and vicinity. Founded in 1881, it offers activities of interest to amateur photographers.*

For the complete history including information about the club, its Exhibitions and Salons, Education, and Prominent Members, view the complete history on the Boston Camera Club Wikipedia site.

Photography was introduced worldwide in 1839. For some decades practice was limited largely to professionals because it involved laborious wet-plate processes.

Amateur photography in the United States received major impetus in 1880 when Eastman Kodak introduced dry plates — glass plates with dry emulsion that were easier to handle than wet plates. In 1888 Kodak introduced the first flexible roll photographic medium — first paper and soon film — and third-party processing. These innovations brought photography to the masses. Still, camera club photography typically 

used glass plates until the early 20th century, when the capabilities of film began to approach that of glass. Outside processing of photographs was typically frowned upon in camera clubs until the color photography era.

Boston Society of Amateur Photographers, 1881
The club known today as the Boston Camera Club was founded October 7, 1881 in Boston, Massachusetts as the Boston Society of Amateur Photographers. Accordingly it is the second-oldest continuously extant amateur camera club in the United States.

The club was founded by F. H. Blair, James M. Codman, W. C. Greenough, A. P. Howard, Lucius L. Hubbard, Frederick Ober, and John H. Thurston, with Thurston having the most influential role. At first, temporary officers were elected. The seven men were joined on November 18, 1881 by James F. Babcock (1844–1897), William T. Brigham, Wilfred A. French, and William A. Hovey, at which time permanent officers were elected — Brigham president, Babcock vice president, and French secretary and treasurer.

At first the club met in the offices of the Boston Sunday Budget, and later at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at the time located in Boston.

Boston Camera Club, 1886
As amateur photography in the United States became more widespread, in 1886 the club changed its name to the Boston Camera Club. On April 6, 1887, it incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under the new name,9 stating as its purpose the promotion of "the knowledge of photography in all its branches and the promotion of social intercourse among the amateur photographers of Boston and vicinity.

50 Bromfield Street, 1886–1924
In 1886, the year it became the Boston Camera Club, the club established permanent headquarters at 50 Bromfield Street, Boston. The address may have been selected by its being the place of business of club founder John H. Thurston and club member Charles Henry Currier (1851–1938).

The club had eight rooms:
"There is a well-selected library ...; a large exhibition gallery ...; a studio ... fitted with screens, cameras, and 2 of the finest Dallmeyer portrait lenses, also a fine double stereopticon; an enlarging room, with apparatus for making bromide enlargements, enlarged negatives and lantern slides by the use of an electric arc light; dark rooms ..."

Importantly, at 50 Bromfield Street the Boston Camera Club held public exhibitions of photography featuring works by both its members and prominent guest photographers. The club occupied 50 Bromfield Street until 1924.

 Early 20th-century difficulties
For reasons not yet researched, financial difficulties arose by 1913 and lasted until 1931. Membership in the Boston Camera Club declined and it is believed few regular meetings were held. The club was kept alive by the financial and administrative efforts of Frank Roy Fraprie (1874–1951), Phineas Hubbard (club president 1908–1913 and possibly longer), Horace A. Latimer (1860–1931), and club founder John Thurston. It is believed that in 1924 the club relinquished its rooms at 50 Bromfield Street, and for some years it met at the Boston Young Men's Christian Union (YMCU).

During these years amateur photography in Boston seems to have been dominated by three other organizations — the Boston Young Men's Christian Union Camera Club, a separate entity, extant from 1908 until at least the 1920s; Boston Photo-Clan, extant by 1912 but apparently defunct by about 1921, in which noted Boston photographer John H. Garo was dominant and whose studio were its headquarters; and Boston Arts and Crafts Society.

Horace A. Latimer bequest, 1931
In 1931 a bequest by longstanding club member Horace A. Latimer, an independently wealthy amateur photographer of some renown,20 reinvigorated the Boston Camera Club. With the funds the club would purchase new headquarters. First, however, it moved to 330 Newbury Street, in the Back Bay section of Boston, which it occupied until 1934.

351A Newbury Street, 1934–1980
In 1934 the Boston Camera Club purchased a building at 351A Newbury Street in Back Bay, Boston with part of Horace Latimer's bequest. The club occupied three floors. There were a large and small exhibition gallery, darkroom, library and kitchen. Presumably public exhibitions of photography resumed.

Membership in the club now grew again, for example reaching 286 members in 1946. That year the club decided for tax purposes to sell its 351A building and remain in the building as a lessee.

Growth in the club continued, reaching 555 in 1959 — 492 regular, 51 associate and 4 honorary members — a level the club maintained for some two decades. Besides post-war prosperity, the growth is attributable to the introduction of 35mm film by Kodak in the 1930s, and single lens reflex (SLR) 35mm cameras by Nikon, Pentax and other manufacturers in the 1960s. During this era enthusiasts often sought out instruction in the use of their cameras by joining a camera club.

Brookline, Mass., 1980–present
In 1980 the 351A Newbury Street building was sold and the Boston Camera Club moved from Boston to the adjacent town of Brookline, Mass. In 1997 it moved across town to its current location, still in Brookline.

In the 1980s and 1990s membership again declined dramatically, a trend attributable to camera automation — for example autofocus and programmed exposure, which reduced the need for user instruction — consumer video, and other social factors. Since 2000 membership has increased again to about 150 today, due in large part to the club's emphasis on digital photography.


*This content is taken from the Boston Camera Club Wikipedia site.

This website is hosted by Visual Pursuits, a service provided by Software Pursuits, Inc.