During the fifty years that I have been in the Durham photographic Society I have seen many changes in photography and in the number of people taking photographs and the equipment used for taking photographs.
I have been a keen photographer since I was about eleven years old when I was given my first camera which I think was a Box Brownie. I took black and white photographs as I do not think that colour film was available. Occasionally I was allowed to use the camera which belonged to my father. It was an Ensign camera and I still have it.
I used to take photographs of family and friends. When I started work in the late 1950s I bought myself a more up to date camera and started taking colour slides. In 1964 I went to see and exhibition of photographs in the Town Hall put on by members of Durham Photographic Society. I was so impressed that I decided to join the society. I went along to the meetings which were held in Ritson Hall in Alington House and I think that there were only about 20 members in the group at that time. In 1964 the subscription fee was £1 and the group just met from September to Easter time with the Annual Dinner and presentation of trophies taking place at Easter time. I remember that we did have outings and one outing that I remember very well was a trip to Consett Iron Works in December 1964. We all had to have a pass to be able to get into the works. It was very dusty and dirty but we were able to take photographs of the blast furnace and the many things taking place in the works that night.
As I have lived in Durham for most of my life I have been very interested in changes that have taken place in the City. In the late 1950s I read in the paper that big changes were going to take place in Durham and I thought that it would be a good idea to take photographs of buildings before they were taken down and then what went up in their place. I started doing this and have continued to this day and so I have built up quite a unique collection of slides illustrating the changes that have taken place over more than fifty years. A number of my slides have been published in books about Durham and I have made a slide show which I call Durham Old and New and this slide show has been shown many times to groups and organisations in County Durham. In the last fifty years I have photographed five new bridges being built across the river in Durham and many new buildings being built.
In 1984 The Post Office was preparing a set of new stamps to illustrate Urban Renewal and the Durham Photographic Society received a letter asking if anyone had photographs of new buildings. I sent in some photographs of the new shopping centre now known as The Gates. They used one of my photographs to design a new stamp and sent me envelopes with the new stamps when they were released. There were four new stamps in the set.
In 1970 a friend of mine asked me if I would put some slides together and show them at the organisation that she was in. They had been let down by the speaker and needed another speaker at short notice. I agreed to do this and that was the start of my interest in slide shows. Since then I have put together thirteen slide shows on different themes and in the last forty four years I have shown my shows well over a thousand times to organisations in County Durham and Northumberland.
Over the years I have entered many slide competitions and I have won many second and third places and I always hoped that I would win a trophy and in 1986 I won both the Dunelm Trophy and the Iris Trophy and I felt very proud that at last I had won two trophies.
During the fifty years that I have been in the Photographic Society I have seen many changes in photography and I have tried to move with the times and I now enjoy using a digital camera but I think my first love is slide photography.
Some of my cameras over the 50 years
I have enjoyed my fifty years in Durham Photographic Society
Janet Thackray January 2015
Janet Thackray joined Durham Photographic Society in 1964. On the 18th December 2014, before a huge gathering of her fellow members, she was awarded the Society’s highest honour of Hon Life Member for her 50 years of outstanding service.
Pictured: Janet Thackray receiving her Hon. Life Membership from DPS President Joe Grabham