I don’t recall how I first came to hear of Creative Camera, or why I decided to buy my first issue in March, 1975. Perhaps I’d read about it, or seen it on a news-stand, but it arrived in my life at a time when I had realised there was more to photography than I had previously understood – and certainly more than I had ever been taught. It opened windows and let in a fresh breeze of photographic imagery completely unseen by me before. I can remember being both amused and bemused by the photographs I saw in that first purchased issue, but when the following month brought work by Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston and Paul Hill I was hooked. I became a subscriber – sometimes regular, more often irregular – for the next 20 years.
Obtaining copies as they were published was always a challenge. I was rarely in a financial position to subscribe in advance and relied on regular orders placed with local newsagents. Sometimes copies arrived on schedule, frequently they were delayed, if indeed they appeared at all. During the few periods where publication ceased for one reason or another (usually financial) it was not easy to discover what had happened, one just had to wait and see when, or if, it might return. Consequently there were many gaps in my regular subscription over the years. I also had no issues prior to 1975 and almost none from the 1990s and 2000s.
All of these gaps have since been filled and I now have a complete set that spans the whole period of publication.
As getting hold of issues at the time of publication was always problematic, the arrival of a new copy was always a minor ‘event’ and when I look back on certain issues I am reminded of circumstances in my life at that time.
March 1980, ‘The Photograph as Symbol’, by Jean McMann, and the issue in which I discovered a workshop by John Blakemore being run at The Photographers’ Place in Derbyshire, UK.
I attended, and was deeply influenced by John’s work and approach – leading to my determination to pursue the ‘pure’ photographic path for quite some time.
February 1982, photographs by Joyce Baronio, Joe Deal and David Hurn – my son had just been born and I collected this issue whilst returning from the maternity hospital at 8.30 in the morning after 24 hours without sleep.
June 1984, Annie Leibovitz portfolio and interview, a girl on a deserted road on the cover – this issue arrived late, in July, around the time my daughter was born.
Also featured in the June 1984 issue was an illustrated article by Peter Turner on the inaugural exhibition at The Cambridge Darkroom Gallery (Gwydir Street, Cambridge, UK). The exhibition was called ‘Autographs’, and consisted of one print donated by each of 47 notable British photographers. As a co-founder of the Gallery, I had personally matted and framed every one of those prints to help get the opening show ready to present on time. There are many other associations during the 1980s, mainly due to my links with The Cambridge Darkroom and the involvement of the other founders of that organisation in CC magazine activity.
The members of the Cambridge Darkroom team were Brian Human, who covered Eastern region photographic news and reviews for the magazine, Pavel Büchler, who later became heavily involved in Creative Camera’s re-design and served on the editorial board – as well as providing much innovative content, and Mark Lumley, who completed the Darkroom quartet and became its first full-time gallery director. Without his drive and enthusiasm Cambridge would never have had its own photographic gallery. During its lifetime the Darkroom brought a vast array of photographic, installation and performance art to the City of Cambridge. Finally, in 2004, twenty years after it opened and not long after the demise of Creative Camera, The Cambridge Darkroom went into liquidation – another victim of ever-increasing costs and limited public funding (see the Cambridge Darkroom section of this site).
Peter Turner (1947-2005, CC editor 1969-1978; 1986-1991) visited the Darkroom Gallery from time to time, exhibited in the opening show and presented talks on more than one occasion. From my occasional visits to the Creative Camera offices in Doughty Street, London, I will always remember Colin Osman’s encouragement, enthusiasm and seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of photographers and photography. Illustrated here is the Racing Pigeon 1977 Jubilee beer mug that he gave me as a reminder that CC was built on a ‘foundation of pigeon-fanciers’.
During the 1980s, as an active photographer, a member of the Eastern Arts Association Photography Panel and one of the directors of The Cambridge Darkroom, Creative Camera was always a point of reference for assessing contemporary photographic practice and activity world-wide.
In the 1990s my career and interests took me away from direct involvement in photography and personal photographic work. I stopped subscribing to Creative Camera magazine in around 1994. I found its ‘post-modern, post-theory’ stance of little interest to me personally and many editions went unread. Now that I have revisited the content published from that point onwards I can see its importance, even though it did not relate directly to my own interests at the time.
Now that Creative Camera/DPICT has gone there is little directly comparable on the UK publishing scene. SOURCE, from Northern Ireland, comes very close for content and critical analysis of the medium; Ag was a notable photographic publication that catered more for the practical and technological whilst showing good examples of work across conventional and digital practice. The untimely death of its founder and publisher, Chris Dickie, resulted in publication ceasing; regrettably, it never returned.
There are of course many other journals world-wide, but few are sustained by the personal belief and dedication to the medium shown by Colin Osman and Peter Turner during the lifetime of Creative Camera.
© Roy Hammans; updated October 2017