Since its founding nearly 80 years ago, the Victoria Camera Club has strived to be a welcoming community for the region’s many photographers.
Growth and evolution have been as constant in the club as the technology used to capture images, and today it counts itself as the largest photography club in B.C. and as far as its members can tell, the second largest in Canada.
As the club nears its official 80th anniversary in 2024, its leadership hopes to grow even more and add that coveted title to its already impressive collection of accolades.
“London, Ont. is number 1, but we are challenging them to a friendly competition to be number 1, with 275 members as our target, and we are at 250 right now,” said club president James Dies.
While they may not be able to claim the title of largest club in Canada for now, the club and its members have plenty of other victories to celebrate. Dies said members regularly enter national and international photography competitions and just as regularly come away with top prizes.
At least one member has had their work displayed in the Smithsonian Institution, and the club as a whole is a member of the Canadian Association for Photographic Art and the Photographic Society of America. Its leadership says the club’s success is thanks to a combination of what it offers to members, and what its home region offers all photographers.
“Our mission is to bring all photographers up to the advanced or intermediate level when they join the club,” said Dies.
“I would say education, training and just the socialization part of being around people with the same interests are the biggest draw to the club,” added treasurer and long-time member Bob Law. “There’s actually been a few marriages from the club.”
The club hosts monthly photo contests, regular technical and artistic workshops both with professional photographer members and photographers from around the world, photo field trips and more. At times, Law said the club can have as many as 30 different events in a week.
The club was one of the first to introduce a drone photography element and smartphone photography has an equal place among its membership as any other form of photography.
Since 1946, the club has published Close-Up, first as a newsletter, then as a full-blown magazine showcasing members’ work, and communicating club news. In 2022, the publication evolved into its current dedicated online blog form, Close-Up Digital, allowing for longer articles freed from the space constraints of print media.
As much as the club has to offer, the benefits the Greater Victoria region offers photographers has played an equally important role in the club’s success over the years.
“We are an older demographic and we live in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, and those two things really make a difference,” said Dies. “Victoria is also an artsy place too. People retire and then they settle here for the arts scene.”
Having a larger number of retirees means there are more people who can spend time and money on photography and participate in club activities. Having no shortage of picturesque landscapes, wildlife, and streetscapes to photograph makes it easy for them to stay busy.
“You can spend days photographing things. There are endless things to photograph and the climate helps you do it year-round,” said Law.
Some of the best photo spots include the Inner Harbour, the Breakwater District, Witty’s Lagoon Park, Thetis Lake Park, Heritage Acres, Butchart Gardens, and Government House.