SPS History from the Archives
Founded in 1890
The closing years of the 19th Century saw important advances in photography.
But - the first steps were taken in the 1830s with Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre. Photography evolved with the ‘Wet Plate’ collodian process on glass. In the Great Exhibition of 1851 photography was exhibited both as a science and an art form. By the 1880s the ‘Dry Plate’ silver bromide gelatine, also on glass, was becoming the established process. At the end of that decade, in Rochester New York, photography was to make a change that would last for a 100 years.
George Eastman, a manufacturer of dry plates, acquired the patents for roll film and coined the name KODAK. In 1889 he introduced a roll film camera a design that became a standard. It was probably this significant change that gave rise to the Southport Photographic Society in 1890. The Southport Scientific Society was founded in the same year and it too continues today.
The 19th Century also gave birth to two other icons of photography -
1889 Kodak Roll Film Camera George Eastman 1900 Box Brownie
A major camera/film development came in 1924 when Leitz designed a precision 35mm film camera called the LEICA – (Lei)tz and (Ca)mera. The 35mm size continued into the 21st century with sensors called ‘full frame’ in quality digital Cameras.
John T Rigby
SPS President 1925–26
His archived work covers twenty years from 1921 to 1946
In addition to his work for SPS he was Secretary to a national
Postal Photographic Club.
Postal comments on Back to Port 1946 included: “The picture is worthwhile even though the most suitable lighting was absent. There is some light on the water which could be emphasised.” C W Garratt.
There were up to 30 Club members and a print portfolio was circulated each month. Each image had a comment sheet for criticisms and hints for improvements. There was a fine of sixpence for not complying with the portfolio circulation dates. J T Rigby would be in wonder with the internet and its very many photo critique sites.
1920s Lantern Slide Shirdley Hill Mother
Sunlit Glade Conway Castle North Wales
Snowdonia Bromoil creates soft painterly Coquette (Connie Rigby 1945)
effect images used by Pictorialists
Picture left is Harbour Lyme Regis 1938
These prints were a gift to SPS from J T Rigby’s daughter Connie Rigby. As a child she was photographed as Coquette above
1943 Front Page News
The Southport Visiter
In 2010 an old newspaper cutting from October 1943 came into the Archives. In this year WW2 was raging - the Russians retake Stalingrad - in the Pacific the Americans engage in bitter fighting with the Japanese - it is a world war. The Southport Visiter headline reports the British Eighth Army fighting in Italy.
Surprisingly on this front page is a main item, with photograph, of the opening of The Southport Photographic Society’s Open Exhibition. The press report says that this is the first time since 1911 that SPS has organised -
“An Exhibition open to all amateur photographers in the British Isles”.
It is perhaps a clear sign that the tide of war was turning and that SPS was already organising for peacetime.
1943 WW2 Homefront Life
At this stage of the war there was rationing of petrol – most food – clothing – sweets – and furniture. Most things were in short supply and had to be queued for or were unobtainable. Special ‘utility furniture’ was produced.
It is remarkable, against this background, that SPS was able to organise a National Photographic Exhibition. Some award winners came from Cambridge, Chesterfield, and Devonshire. (This note is by the Hon Historian who was a child during the war.)
For the two years 1942 – 1944 the SPS Presidents were Mr W Martland and Mr R Jones.
Vera Beckett ARPS
Vera was President of Southport Photographic Society in 1951–52.
Her monochrome prints were widely exhibited and were selected for a
Royal Photographic Society Exhibition.
1957 “Tugs” on the River Mersey
1963 Winter Promenade 1949 Lancashire Lad
1961 Barbara 1954 Clare
Mary Hirst ARPS
1952 'Mary Hirst ARPS at Styhead Pass' by Bill Hirst FRPS
Bill and Mary Hirst were both accomplished landscape photographers. In their day few could better them in monochrome landscape prints. When Mary died Bill gave a special trophy for the SPS landscape competition. It takes the form of a small mounted rock which Bill chose from a mountain stream which was on one of their favourite walks.
Valley of Shadows Lochside Homestead
The above images are part of the SPS Archive of many original Mary Hirst prints.
Both Mary and Bill were active members of SPS. Bill was President in1953-54.
Mrs T Knight
Mrs Knight was SPS President in the 1956-57 Season.
Due to the formalities of her day she was only addressed as Mrs Knight.
Medieval Fire Engine, Lavenham
1947 Gossip Mrs T Knight Nature Study
Mr G A Rimmer
President of SPS in the 1981-82 Season.
1970 Chamonix 1970 Chamonix Church
Dick Lorch APAGB
Dick Lorch was SPS President in 1959-60 and 1995-96.
He died, age 92, on Christmas Eve 2000.
He had been an SPS member for almost 50 years.
Photo by Keith Suddaby
Storm Brewing Shining Monument
Another keen photographer who learnt his craft in the RAF.
Later he did work for the Southport “Visiter”
Valerie 1960s Jane 1968
Lady with Hat Meditation
Dogs Choir Boy
David Gwynne FRPS APAGB
David was a former Head of the Photographic Dept at Southport College and SPS President in 1982-83
He was an enthusiastic colour worker (film) and his images show that creative photography was well established with film and darkroom skills. Photo manipulation did not start with the digital age.
1988 Fishermen at Loch Duich
This creative image was accepted and won awards at 15 exhibitions
1986 Family Deer Outing 1979 Sky Pattern
1980s Strawberries Grasshopper 1988 Church Porch Tarleton
Silver Birch Wasdale Birches 1992 D I Y
2003 National Print Champions
Saturday 25th October 2003 - 33 of the best British Photographic Clubs competed
in the annual PAGB British Print Championships. Southport won first place.
Back Row - Trevor Davenport, Ian McLean, Mike Pollitt, Tom Bennett, Bill Hughes
Front Row - Kathryn Scorah, Keith Suddaby, Ian Little, Marco Pozzi, Diane Owen
(Pat Hey, not present for the photograph, was also a team member).
A selection from the SPS portfolio follows:
Morgan Power Slide by Mike Pollitt Portrait of a Marriage by Marco Pozzi
Vicunas in Altiplano by Trevor Davenport Dead Wood by Keith Suddaby
Peach Glow by Dianne Owen Another Fine Mess by Tom Bennett Adonis Blue by Ian McLean
The Baker’s Wife by Bill Hughes Crested Macaque by Jimmy Burke
Images at The Tate by Ian Little Glacier Walk by Pat Hey
Icy Minimalism by Kathryn Scorah
Cliff Martin ARPS DPAGB
Cliff was SPS President in 1986-87 and has been an active member for more than thirty years. A keen fell walker, his monochrome landscape prints have won many awards including Gold Medals at the Handsworth and PAGB Exhibitions. One of his Landscape Prints was chosen for the Royal Photographic Society permanent collection.
Each year, three prints are selected by the RPS for their permanent collection. In 1990 Cliff's print, Raven Scar, one of the two by British photographers, was chosen for this honour, the other going to a member from America. This image has now joined the ranks of the great and is now proudly hanging within the portals of the RPS.
Raven Scar Buckbarrow Crags
Evening Calm Low Close
Newlands Rigg Fold
Contemporary Images from the Archives
There are many hundreds of images stored digitally in the archives and they, too, are part of SPS history. As the Hon. Historian I have selected photographers to reflect the range of subjects taken and photographic styles and techniques used. Tony Thompson (2017).
The selection starts with two members who were awarded the Royal Society’s fellowship distinction FRPS. Keith’s contributions to club photography and awards he has gained are considerable. Giacometti Geometrically is his most successful image.
Dianne Owen gained the ARPS and FRPS in 2008. The two images are from her FRPS panel.
Mike Pollitt’s image was a first digital entry in the National Open Exhibition.
Penny Price’s Lime Street Station shot was the first iPhone image we saw in 2013.
Trevor Davenport, left, is presented with the RPS 2012 Nature GOLD Medal – for White Satin Moth
Somewhere in England by Noel McQueen
On top of the World by Ron Bartle
Fed Up by Pat Parker
Regimental Surgeon by Gary Parker
Levitation by Les Auld
Night Watchman by Brian Tarr
Stinkhorn by Mike Pollitt
The Tiger Moth Display by Ian McLean
Japanese Toad Lily by Tony Duffey
Dark Knights by Christine Wood
Running with the Champion by Chris Mowatt
Out of the Woods by Tony Howard
Proud Stag by Susan Howard
Cottage Rannock Moor by Peter Pauwels
Cameron Green by Alex Anderson
Tulip Annie Schilder by Michele Martin
Albert by Julian Stelling
Seaside Rendezvous by Penny Price
The Pose by Nick Hilton
The Punch by Geoff Ball
Osprey with chick - Florida by Kit Robinson
Chester by Tony Thomas
A Fistful of Dollars by Margaret Powley
Cutty Sark by Sue Dewhurst
Red Squirrel Selfie by Ted Stevens
Queen and Horses by David Coleman
Concentration by David Eacott
Deckchair Friends by Tony Thompson
To Travel in Hope by Norman Rigby
Red Kite by Roy Dorkins
Fisherman Lake Inle by David Wareing
Hawker Hurricane by Peter Biggs
Bee on Willow Herb by Ian Kent
Rose on Rose by Arthur Williams
Winds and Tides by Kath Thomas
34 - 35
Margaret Harker Hon FRPS, Hon FBIPP, D.Hon Art
Margaret Harker was a photographer, lecturer, historian and author. She was the UK's first female professor of photography, founded the country's first photography degree course and was the first woman to be president of the Royal Photographic Society. She was a distinguished photographic historian and was instrumental in the development of photographic education.
Margaret Florence Harker was born on 17th January 1920 at 18 Queens Road, Southport. She was the eldest of three children born to Thomas Henry Harker (1879-1947) and Ethel Dean Harker (1894-1975). She was educated at Howell’s School in Denbighshire and Southport School of Art. Her father was a keen amateur photographer and it was with her parent’s support that she went on to study photography at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster) from 1940-1943.
Margaret Harker joined Southport Photographic Society on 3rd October 1938 at the age of 18.
She was later made an honourable life member and returned to the club in order to help celebrate our centenary in 1990.
In 1943, the same year she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, Margaret Harker became a full time lecturer at Regent Street Polytechnic. In 1959 she was appointed head of the Polytechnic’s School of Photography and was responsible for introducing the first degree courses in photography in the UK – a BSc in photographic science in 1967 and a BA in the photographic arts in 1972. It was the first British institution to award degrees in the subject and in 1972, when it achieved university status as the University of Westminster, she became one of the first six professors.
Within the Royal Photographic Society and outside, in the worlds of photography and academia, Margaret Harker broke down barriers and set precedents that opened doors for those who followed her.
The naming of the 100 Heroines medal after Margaret is entirely appropriate. She was a photographer throughout her life with a determination to get things done and an involvement in photographic education that fits well with the Society’s aims. She showed that women were more than the equal of men and this typifies the spirit that the 100 photographic heroines will embody in their own ways.
For more information:
All images on this website remain the copyright of the author. All rights reserved.
History Section compiled by the Hon Historian Tony Thompson.