President Roger is the glue that has kept photographic society together

Roger Baker and Walter Benzie. Picture by Ian Nicol LRPS SUS-180805-121332001
Roger Baker and Walter Benzie. Picture by Ian Nicol LRPS SUS-180805-121332001

Horsham Photographic Society had its inaugural meeting after the war on 5 October 1949 and its first chairman was P G Mirfield AMPS.

There was an earlier active photographic club set up in 1923 known as the Horsham and District Photographic Club, but it disbanded after war was declared. By 1950 the society had 37 members.

The subscription for the first full year was set at 10 shillings (50p) and meetings were held in the Albion Hall.

Among the early members were business people who could afford luxury Leica cameras. Medium format cameras such as the Rolleiflex 120, using 2¼ inch square negatives which gave only 12 photographs per film, were also popular with keen photographers.

In 1951 the club’s major project was to photograph Horsham and an album with more than 150 prints was presented to the town; this album now resides in Horsham Museum.

The society’s Silver Jubilee was celebrated a year early in 1973 with an exhibition called Phototex 73. This was held in the Causeway Barn and opened by Victor Blackman, a top Fleet Street photographer.

This year, Roger Baker, our longest serving current member is celebrating his 65th year at the club. He is our club president and lifetime honorary member.

He joined the club in May 1953 at the age of 17 when the club was just a few years old. He started photography at 12 years old and his early cameras included an AGFA and Speedex 127.

He spent his working life with Edwards High Vacuum at Crawley, but has been retired for some time.

Roger soon became a valuable member of the society and has held all committee posts during his time, including several times as chairman and whilst the club operated from several different venues including Collyer’s College, Salvation Army, Causeway Parish Rooms, The Barn, The Baptist Church, and with Roger as our president, we are now back at the Salvation Army.

Under Roger’s guidance the club won a Sussex inter-club photographic competition award, the Regnum Shield in 1973 and, although we no longer enter this competition, it will always be a proud time in the history of our club.

Roger has had his own successes in photography when he obtained Royal Photographic Society distinctions: his LRPS in 1992 and his ARPS in 1997. Although he obtained his ARPS with pictures of gymnastic poses, Roger has also favoured photographing churches and cathedrals around England.

One of his most memorable times was when he took his mother with him to a visit Canterbury Cathedral and met the Archbishop, Michael Ramsey. He took photos of him with his mother and later sent two photos to the Archbishop which were returned to him signed. This was one of his mother’s proudest moments.

Years ago, on one of the club’s photographic outings to Covent Garden, while photographing musicians and jugglers, Roger was attacked and accused of photographing, ‘one of the waifs and strays’.

He was threatened for taking his photo, which was not the case, and things got very heated and nasty, until fellow members came to his assistance.

Roger arranged various outings for the club, one such outing was a trip to London Docks where it was necessary to have a security guard who remained close to them the whole time they were there.

He has since photographed a few famous people, including, the Archbishop as above, Lord Cogan, Edward Heath and the Duke of Kent.

In 2008, our Diamond Jubilee year’s highlight was a competition open to the general public. The finalists were invited to a presentation ceremony at the Capitol Theatre.

In the earlier years he worked Saturday afternoons for a local newspaper, taking photos for 7/6, (37.5p) of sports action.

Roger has produced two calendars for Horsham in Bloom and was active in the production of a book ‘Horsham Now and Then’ - 90 per cent of the pictures in which were Roger’s work. A copy can also still be viewed at the Museum in Horsham.

He looks back with fondness on the time when he photographed the launch and landings of space shuttles in Florida in 1999 and in 2001.

He now concentrates on studio work with a friend and still does extremely well in competitions, although Roger now admits his full frame Nikon camera is getting heavier, a sentiment many of us can associate with.

Roger is a highly revered member of our club, he has seen us through all our milestones and next year is our 70th anniversary when he will continue his guidance at the club.

We believe he is the glue that has helped to keep the club together over the years.

We trust he will continue with his professional approach, to be a valued member, mentor and asset to the society for many years to come.

To honour Roger’s contribution to the club, at its meeting on May 2, the club’s members gave him an inscribed photographic history of English cathedrals.

The presentation was made by the club’s guest speaker on the evening, Walter Benzie, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.

If you have an interest In photography and wish to visit us, we will be pleased to see you and we are happy for you to attend for up to three evenings before making a commitment. Visit www.horshamphotographicsociety.co.uk