The Society was formed in 1968 by Arthur Scrase, Chairman of the Ham Photographic Club (now long disbanded). Three ex-servicemen living in at the Royal Star & Garter Home, Richmond had an interest in photography and, although severely disabled, they were able to attend meetings with the help of St. John’s Ambulance staff, who brought them along to the meetings. However, owing to the severity of their disabilities, they were unable to operate conventional cameras.
Another photographic society in the area was the Richmond & Twickenham P.S. who, at times, provided lecturers and judges for the Ham club. One of these lecturers, named Harry Wells, was an engineer, who ran the apprentice programme for C.A.V. Ltd. at Acton, London. Harry offered to try and find a way to adapt a normal camera for disabled use and began work on the project with his apprentices. The camera selected for modification was a Konica C35, a compact film model with auto exposure.
Within a period of about three months, a working prototype was produced. The shutter was fired by an air release which could be held in the hand, or by a suction release which could be operated my mouth. The film wind-on was achieved by a small solenoid-operated electric motor, which was powered by a 12 volt car battery stored under a wheelchair. If the wheelchair was electrically operated itself, the power was taken directly from its power source.
Further developments took place on camera operation and enquiries began to come in from other people with disabilities who wanted to take up photography. So it was that the Society came into being. It was originally called “Photography for the Disabled”, but the name was changed in the late 1970’s to the present one.
In 1988 the founder, Arthur Scrase, died and the Society was restructured with a larger committee. Apart from the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, other posts were created to ensure the continued smooth running of the charity, as technical enquiries, specialist adaptations, supply of darkroom and camera equipment, repairs to equipment donated to the Society and press and public relations.
The society has continually developed over the ensuing years and its members now embrace the latest digital technologies. In some ways the digital revolution has made things easier. But even this has brought with it a new set of problems, such ss equipment cost and the need for some computer skills in order to be fully able to utilise the technology. Little wonder then some members still choose to use film, both print and slide varieties, for many reasons, and they are still catered for within the society competition’s and exhibition.
The technology and fashions may change but the Disabled Photographers’ society founding and overriding principle, of helping the disabled to take up and to continue to enjoy photography, remains unchanged and is a constant challenge.