Northern Counties Photographic Federation Northern Counties Photographic Federation

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History of the Federation

The Northern Counties Photographic Federation (NCPF) is part of a world wide organisation of volunteer bodies that provide support and structure to amateur photographers across the globe. It all starts with a small group of like minded people who form a club or society somewhere in the world. But then it leads all the way up through regional organisations, like the NCPF, to national bodies (our own being the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB), and on to the world body for club photography that is known as FIAP, or to give it its full title Federation Internationale de l’Art Photgraphique.

For the NCPF it began over a century ago in 1901 when a group of Photographic Societies located in Durham and Northumberland got together and formed an umbrella organisation that they called “The Federation of Photographic Societies of Northumberland and Durham” with its object being “The diffusion of Photographic Knowledge”. It was only the second such body in the UK, the first being the Yorkshire Photographic Union (YPU), that was formed two years earlier.

It is recorded that the annual subscription for each society was ten shillings and it may interest today’s contemporaries that that equates to about £220 in today’s value. Each member club contributed two members to Federation executive. The Federation provided its members with list of lecturers from which they could prepare their syllabus, annual reunions, the privilege to visit other affiliated clubs and use of dark rooms on production of their Federation pass. There were also free competitions and members all received a copy of the ‘Year Book’.

By 1922 there were 23 member clubs and it was at this time that it was decided to adopt the present name of “Northern Counties Photographic Federation”. This was seen as simplifying an unwieldy name and also allowing societies from further afield to join the Federation.

For many years there had been co-operation between the YPU and the NCPF and in 1909 contact was made with the Midland Counties Photographic Federation (MCPF). In 1926 these federations, together with others that had formed met and “The Council of Photographic Federations” was formed. Four years later this lead to the formation of the “Photographic Alliance of Great Britain” (PAGB) and this eventually became the national ‘umbrella organisation for the United Kingdom.

Thus was formed the basic structure of organisation for club photography in the United Kingdom, which has stood the test of time and with obvious developments it still operates on these lines today.

The Northern Counties Photographic Federation grew in strength over the years, providing support various ways. There was a ‘year book’, which I suspect has become what we now call the “NCPF Directory”. From 1946 through to the start of the 21st century the Federation held an annual convention, in recent years it tended to be held in the Lake District, but had been held elsewhere over the years. There were annual competitions, with many of the trophies donated by luminaries of their time. Most of these are still in use today in our Annual Competitions, held in spring each year. The Federation and its clubs take part in various competitions organised by the PAGB on an annual basis. The Federation also organises events as such social gatherings where we invite lecturers of National of International Standing to give presentations to members of its affiliated clubs and societies.

Membership of the Federation grew and spread, drawing in clubs and societies from a wider field. Its boundaries settled down to include the whole of the counties of Northumberland, Durham and Cleveland, together with the Northern part of Cumbria. Clubs joined the Federation from parts of North Yorkshire that were close to County Durham and Cleveland and additionally from South West Scotland. Over the years the membership of the Federation rose to well over 80 clubs, but has now settled back to around 50 affiliated members.

In the mid nineteen sixties it was appreciated that the sheer size and geographical area of the Federation, was a cause of problems in itself, with many smaller clubs feeling disconnected from the main body and its activities. As a result the NCPF divided its territory into six Areas, with each given a degree of autonomy to organise activities between clubs and societies in their own areas. These exist today and have varying levels of organisation and activity depending on the demand in that area. The NCPF is the only Federation in the Country to operate such a system.

Around the world there are many International Exhibitions and Salons that attract entries from photographers world wide. Over the years there have been two such salons operated by clubs in the NCPF Area, the Stockton International Colour Slide Exhibition by Stockton Photo-Colour Society and the South Shields International Salon of Photography, a print salon organised by South Shields PS. In 1980 after 19 years Stockton was unable to continue its event and after some discussion the Federation took over the event and in 1980 the “Northern Counties International Slide Exhibition” was born. This has operated every year since and is currently known as the Northern Counties International Salon of Photography. In 2006 after over 60 years South Shields found itself in a similar position to Stockton and again the Federation accepted the challenge and took over the event, merging it with their own event.

At the same time digital imaging was revolutionising photography causing the demise of slides. The Northern Counties Salon of Photography now regularly attracts over 6,000 entries and has sections for Prints and Digital Projected Images. This event is sponsored by the FIAP, the world body, the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) and the Photographic Society of America, another world wide body, of which the NCPF is a member, as are a a number of our affiliated clubs and many club members.

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