The lights are low in an upstairs room at the Huntingdon Valley Library on Red Lion Road.
About 30 people sit silently as Jerry Weiner and his wife briskly pass portrait-sized photographs through a white, wooden display case with lights shining down on the pieces.
The theme of the entries they’re showing is Yesteryear, and the subjects vary: an abandoned casino in Asbury Park, N.J.; steel mills from Bethlehem; bunks and electric fences from Auschwitz. Elsewhere, a Victrola needle on a 78 rpm record, a matchbox car and an old pump that reads “Gas: 1 cent, Tax: 3 cents.”
Among them was one of Weiner’s own pieces, Preparing for Battle, featuring two Revolutionary War reenactors. It’s an old subject but a newer photograph, reflecting the couple’s redeveloped interest in the art.
“When my wife and I were first married, we turned our bedroom into a darkroom. Then kids came along, and we started taking more snapshots than photographs,” he laughed.
As a physics teacher, he loved both the science and the art of taking great photographs. It was a hobby he enjoyed from the 1960s through the ‘80s. His wife caught the bug in the mid-’70s.
Their children now grown up, the Weiners redeveloped their love of photography and settled into the Huntingdon Valley Camera Club after “shopping around” at different area clubs.
“We enjoyed it here,” he said. “Everyone’s friendly and it’s a lot of fun.”
Members meet on the first Wednesday of every month, often for workshops and appearances from guest photographers. They also organize trips to visually striking sites like Bethlehem Steel or the Pennypack Reserve behind Valley Road.
And, like many camera clubs, Huntingdon Valley holds regular competitions among members, like the Yesteryear series. It’s a friendly contest — the kind that endeared this group to Weiner.
“Other clubs can be cutthroat sometimes,” he observed. “People can get upset, or bicker if they don’t do well. But we saw none of that here. Everyone is here to learn and enjoy themselves.”
On this night, it was up to judge Marty Golin to uphold that tradition. After the initial viewing, the Weiners displayed each photo again for him to comment on each and determine if it would go to the next round of judging.
Golin spoke knowledgeably — if carefully — about each piece, often using a laser pointer to punctuate his comments. “I like the texture here,” he’d say, referring to perhaps how the rough surface of an old table shows up on the print, and note when color contrasted nicely or if he had trouble distinguishing where one object stopped and another began because their colors were too similar.
Ultimately, he seemed to favor economical compositions. On many pieces, he suggested cropping the image much more closely to focus attention on the main subject.
One piece, Take a Seat, was an extreme example. Thematically, it fit the night: an antique chair in what looks like a museum. But, it was in the center of a photograph with plenty of other objects in sight. “I don’t want to say this looks like a snapshot, because there are connotations associated with that,” offered Golin, but he offered plenty of suggestions to zero in on the subject.
“He hit the nail on the head,” laughed Janet Rech. The woman behind the lens for that photo, she revealed that her piece was indeed more of a “snapshot” than a carefully orchestrated composition.
Rech, who also paints and often does so from photos she takes herself, finds the meetings and competitions educational. Hearing that her photo wouldn’t make it to the next round of judging didn’t faze her.
“All the judges like different things,” she said. “Some people like contrast a lot, he likes to only see parts of things. We all have our different opinions.”
That thought was echoed himself by Golin, who stressed that his judgment would, in part, reflect his own biases toward what he enjoys.
But the winning photo in the color competition, Weiner’s own Preparing for Battle, was one Golin appreciated more than he enjoyed.
“It was the better image for the night’s theme,” he explained. “It’s not my taste, but I try to push my taste as much as possible.”
For information and meeting times, visit www.meetup.com/Huntingdon-Valley-Camera-Club. ••