Pittsburgh Camera Club Marks 125 Years, Plans Annual Exhibit

Article excerpt

A passion for photos draws people of all ages to what might be oldest camera club in America.

Hobbyists and professionals in their 20s to 90s routinely travel to Mt. Lebanon from Ambridge, Fox Chapel, Monroeville and West Virginia to attend meetings of the 125-year-old Photographic Section of the Academy of Science and Art of Pittsburgh.

Public viewing of the historic group's annual salon -- an exhibit of more than 100 selected photos by members -- is set for 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.

"We have beginners. We have internationally known photographers," says club president Nancy Barnard of Upper St. Clair.

The club, known as the Photo Section, first met in 1885 and devoted itself to "pictorialism," an arty, Impressionistic-style of soft-focus photography popular in early 1900s.

Today, it's one of two surviving "sections" of a confederation of technical and artistic groups -- the "academy" -- founded in 1890 with help from Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and others to promote art and science education in Pittsburgh. Current members of the Photo Section devote themselves to everything from Photoshop software proficiency to Ansel Adams-type darkroom skills.

"We have everybody, from the person who takes pictures with their cell phone to the person building a 16- by 20-inch view camera," says George Mendel, 47, of Mt. Lebanon, one of a handful of professional photographers in the club. Other members include schoolteachers, physicians, former CEOs and folks who simply enjoy sharing photos from their foreign travels.

"A lot more women are starting to get involved," says Barnard, 59, who uses a Nikon D90 single-lens reflex digital camera. "I like digital because you can make mistakes and it doesn't cost you anything."

The 140-member club meets three out of four Tuesday evenings a month, from September to May, for illustrated lectures and judged competitions at Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.

"The group is a place where you would not be embarrassed to take your wife or girlfriend," says Norman Schumm, 78, of Mt. …