120 years of focusing on the big picture

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the case of Kirkcaldy Photographic Society make that 120 years!

For the society, formed way back in 1898, and one of the oldest surviving organisations connected to the Lang Toun, celebrates its 120th anniversary in November, and plans to mark the historic occasion with a series of events, displays and exhibitions running through into 2019 charting the pioneering days of photography in the Fife town.

Kirkcaldy Photographic Society's 120th anniversary. He is looking for a group photo of the current members. pictured is Club President Martin Watt. with fellow Photographers.

Kirkcaldy Photographic Society's 120th anniversary. He is looking for a group photo of the current members. pictured is Club President Martin Watt. with fellow Photographers.

What’s more, the eyes of the photographic world will focus on Kirkcaldy during the organisation’s landmark year as the society is given the honour of hosting the 95th Scottish International Salon exhibition – a world renowned and highly respected showcase which draws on the best photographic talent from across more than 50 countries around the globe.

“What a huge honour to have in our anniversary year.

‘‘It’s wonderful and we’re obviously delighted,” Cathy Davis, society secretary, told the Press.

“It’s a very prestigious and recognised competition which is keenly contested and followed in photographic circles.

Kirkcaldy Photographic Society's 120th anniversary. He is looking for a group photo of the current members. pictured is Club President Martin Watt.

Kirkcaldy Photographic Society's 120th anniversary. He is looking for a group photo of the current members. pictured is Club President Martin Watt.

“And to be given the opportunity to host it right here in Kirkcaldy, is wonderful, if also a little nerve wracking.

“But the members are rightly very pleased.

‘‘This will be a boost not just for us but also for the town as a whole.

“People come from all over to view the exhibits – it’s a fantastic tourist attraction in its own right and it’ll be right here in Kirkcaldy.”

And the International Salon will be hosted in the Society’s spiritual home of Kirkcaldy Galleries, Martin Watt, society president confirmed.

“It’s been quite a struggle to find a suitable venue to host the first Salon in Kirkcaldy for 50 years.” explained martin.

“While we haven’t got use of the upper main gallery, we have been granted use of the ground floor activity area in the gallery and so the hard work begins now.

“There are also plans to have a civic reception as part of the International Salon. It really is a big deal for the club and the town.”

It’s all a far cry from that first evening of November 8, 1898, where a number of local amateur camera enthusiasts came together at the Town Hall meeting rooms to formally create Kirkcaldy Photographic Society.

The minimum requirement of 40 members was easily exceeded, with 110 enthusiasts signing up to an annual subscription of seven shillings and sixpence.

The principle aim was formal encouragement of the art of photography, bringing together those interested for mutual improvement and to provide a developing room and ‘if possible’ an enlarging lantern for the use of its members.

The only stipulation was that all members had to be of amateur status.

In the following weeks a regular meeting place in the upper rooms of 196 High Street above the Naturalists Society, was secured with an annual rent of £13 and the agreement that a developing room could be created.

A committee was also formed and following an approach to John Nairn, the Kirkcaldy industrialist and grandson of the linoleum manufacturer, Michael Nairn, who accepted the invitation to become the honorary president. the club was formed.

It was a move that proved hugely beneficial to the society with Mr Nairn affording the club his patronage until he died in 1928.

In 1925, the society moved into much more salubrious clubrooms in Kirkcaldy’s museum and gallery building, no doubt influenced by Mr Nairn who donated the land in which the museum and gallery were built upon.

Occupation of the club rooms continued until the 1980s when the building was closed for refurbishment and the society had to move out.

Since the move, ity has occupied numerous premises and is currently based in Hayfield Community Centre, where they have met for a number of years.

While photographic technology may have advanced beyond all recognition to that being used by the first members 120 years ago, the principles of having an eye for what makes a good photograph still prevails.

The society still meets on a weekly basis and currently boasts around 50 members, though Cathy says they’s love to welcome more enthusiasts of all abilities to the fold.

“There is no better time to join than in our anniversary year – we’ve loads going on and we’d love to see more getting involved.”

To find out more about the Society, its syllabus and events planed visit their website at www.kirkcaldyps.wixsite.com

Founded in 1904, the Scottish International Salon is an annual competition culminating in an exhibition of photographic expertise. It is Scotland’s only International Salon with both print and projected digital image sections, which has the patronage of a host of governing bodies and is recognised by the Photographic Society of America (PSA) and since 1970 by France’s Federation lnternationale de l’Art Photographique’ (FIAP).

As part of Kirkcaldy Photographic Society’s 120th anniversary, the Fife organisation has been given the honour of hosting the event as part of their celebrations and will take place in the town in May, 2019. The event is judged by nine people, including a panel of dedicated nature photographers.

The 2016 competition, the biggest to date, drew a huge 9419 photographic prints from 56 countries.

It’s the sixth time Kirkcaldy will have hosted the prestigious event in its 94 year history and it’s the first time the competition is coming to Kirkcaldy outright in over in 50 years.