Whanganui’s Camera Club has a long history. In 2020 it is 126 years old. The earliest accounts of the activities of the Club were recorded in the Wanganui Chronicle where it gave notice of the `newly formed Camera Club meeting on 26 July 1894, at 7.30 pm in the New Zealand Insurance Company buildings. On 8 November 1899 the Chronicle stated that `members of the Wanganui Camera Club were meeting at 8 pm in the Museum'. The club dissolved and was reformed several times due to the intervention of the two World Wars.
The present club was formed in 1949 with twelve members and it has continued to meet regularly. It was a very active club and was responsible for the forming of several other clubs on the west coast. The first meetings were held upstairs above Gemmell's shoe store in Victoria Avenue (in 1999 a women’s fashion clothing store). Later venues included the Weigh Bridge at the wharf, photographer Frank Denton's studio upstairs in the Metcalf Building Victoria Avenue, the Children's Garden Circle in Bell Street, above Hallensteins on the corner of Ridgway and Victoria Avenue (in 1999 Anderson’s for Men) and in Cook’s Gardens where in 1965, with a peak membership of over 100, it built its own clubrooms which it shared with the Chess Club. .
A regional club, it was recognised and well-regarded nationally. Some of its members became the Foundation Members of, gained photographic Honours and held top positions in the Photographic Society of New Zealand which was formed in 1952. One of the club’s and PSNZ's earlier presidents, Dr Bob Anderson Hon PSNZ, in 1967 co-authored the publication Camera in New Zealand, which provided a look at amateur photography in New Zealand. In recent years members Yvonne Cave FPSNZ HonFPSNZ and Arthur Bates APSNZ HonFPSNZ have published books where photography plays a major part.
The Wanganui Salon, a selected exhibition of photographs, was first held in 1956 and exhibited each year in the Sarjeant Gallery. It gained national recognition and the annual Wanganui Salon Convention held on the first weekend in October was attended by photographers from all over New Zealand. After the 35th Salon in 1992 it became a smaller exhibition only Festival of Photography open to photographers in the Whanganui Region and is exhibited in the Community Art Centre, Taupo Quay. In 2019 we ran a national salon again for the first time in 27 years - The Whanganui Salon for digital images under the theme Humanity and Earth.
In 1994 when Cooks Gardens was required for the new city velodrome, the Wanganui District Council bought the clubrooms. The club, with approximately 50 members, moved, for the February 1995 meeting, to a new meeting venue, in the Christ Church Lounge, Wicksteed Street. In 2016 the club purchased the current Clubrooms at 2 Handley Street and lease the grounds from the Whanganui District Council.
Over the years club members have worked on several projects which reflect and record the history of Wanganui. These projects are housed in the Whanganui Regional Museum and include:
1984 Residential Buildings Sound-Slide 72 slides 1984 Commercial Buildings Sound-Slide 80 slides 1988 Wanganui 24 Hours 94 slides and 100+ prints 1990 Street by Street Central City Pt 1: Monochrome images archival quality negatives and proof sheets. Pt 2: Mounted colour images of commercial buildings built in the previous 12 months. 1999 Family Life in Wanganui, an album of 82 scanned photographs with text January 2000 As used in the Millennium Album and Handbook. See also 1981 Salon Catalogue for Derek's synopsis of the history.