Muswell Hill Photographic Society: Where my professional journey began
Thinking back to good times at Muswell Hill Photographic Society, where I have been a member for many years.
This welcoming, local group of photographers of all genres, capabilities and ages has taught me a lot.
In fact if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be a professional photographer. I used to work as a journalist and editor in the City and although my work was sometimes photography-related, it was mainly about finding and telling stories in print.
I lived for Wednesday evenings, when our group would meet in Jackson’s Lane Community Centre, (pic above courtesy of Jackson’s Lane), right next to Highgate tube. I’d rush out of the door from work (which was always tough as being a journalist you were always ‘on deadline’ and had a zillion stories to write!), on the tube and make it just in time for the 8pm start.
All things photography
A rather eclectic bunch of people all with a passion for photography would sit around and talk all things camera-related: colour, lighting, focus, lenses, cameras, aperture, shutter speed, f-stops. I didn’t have many answers but I had so many questions. And I loved it.
After a series of compelling talks by other local photographers in the area it became clear to me that I wanted to do what they did. It became clear to me that I might just be able to actually do what they did, in my specialist niche of families, children and babies. So I changed careers and became a professional photographer. And I haven’t looked back.
Learning from each other
I owe a lot to this group because without their encouragement, tuition, feedback and general positive attitude I wouldn’t have dared dream to think I could quit my day job and become a photographer full time.
As well as practical evenings where we’d test out our photography skills on willing models, we also took part in lots of energetic discussion and debate and had the chance to show off our latest work on the big projector screen.
This in itself was sometimes quite scary; seeing your work projected up onto a huge screen 2m wide, for all your peers to see and critique. We had a rule only to give constructive feedback so that we could learn from others and improve our craft. And this is where many ideas were made and found.
A street photographer’s view on the world is often very different to a landscape photographer, again different to a kids’ photographer. Everyone had something different to bring to the table and that’s what pushed me to try different things.
As anyone who’s ever joined a local club will know, it’s not just about the photography. Sure, you all have something in common. But you also get to know people you may never otherwise have a chance of meeting.
Before lockdown when we actually met in live groups, I’d really enjoy chatting to other club members and making friends, finding out about their lives outside of photography. There were often around 15-20 of us on any one evening. More often than not we’d end up down the pub afterwards to continue the photographic debate (sometimes it was quite heated!).
But I guess it broadened my horizons in all sorts of ways.
Find your passion
You’d be surprised at how many local clubs there are out there. Especially with lockdown and Zoom, there have sprung up all sorts of activities from cooking and knitting to gardening clubs and film clubs.
Soon, some of these groups will start meeting in person again and I can’t encourage you enough to take part, if you can.
The Muswell Hill Photographic Society meets weekly on a Wednesday evening so I could always fit it around my work and often, my kids were in bed by the time I left the house. It was kind of like my sanctuary while I explored a new career.
You don’t, of course, have to do it for career though. Just do it because you love it.