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Society History

A Brief History of the Society

Rochdale Photographic Society dates back to 1890 when a local newspaper announced that a meeting was to be held for the formation of a society to promote the art of photography. Mr. J. A. Bright M.P. (son of the Rochdale mill owner Mr. John Bright M.P.) was elected President, a post he held for fourteen years, and was followed by another long serving President, Mr. I. Renshaw until his death in 1921. Since 1890 there have been one hundred elected Presidents (to society year 2018/2019) who, with fluctuating membership numbers, have kept the Society alive, even through the war years.

In 1892 the Society was given permission to use the Rochdale Coat of Arms which we still proudly bear on our letterheads and website.

There have been numerous venues for meetings in and around the town from hotels, schools, above shops, British Legion club, Liberal Club etc. and in 1972 about eight members met in a pigeon ridden loft down an alley! An interesting link with the excellent venue we now have here at the Unitarian Church is that in the 1890’s the Reverend Spedding of this Church was a committee member!

During the inter war years membership grew significantly and the Scott family, who were proprietors of the Rochdale Observer, gave the Annual Competition depicting local scenes widespread coverage in their newspaper. Afterwards the prints were usually given to the Art Gallery thus building up a unique collection of photographs recording the changing face of Rochdale.

It is interesting to think back over the one hundred and twenty nine years (to 2019) to each stage as it came along, from black and white to colour images, from dark room days to the simplicity of seeing our images within seconds of taking the picture and the ability to share them virtually anywhere on Earth via the Internet! Whatever next in the long running history of Rochdale Photographic Society?

To give you a flavour of the significance of early photography to Rochdale, a taste of the journey in technical development over the years in photography, and a short profile of Rochdale Photographic Society, please access the document "Early Photography In Rochdale Through To The Present" that is shown in the "Available Downloads" box on this page.

Amended May 2019 by EW