Cameras still were something of a novelty when a group of Pittsburghers formed the Amateur Photographers’ Society in 1885.

From black-and-white to color film to the world of digital images, local photographers continue the tradition by meeting at 7:30 p.m. the second, third and fourth Tuesdays from September through November at Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.

A 135th-anniversary exhibition at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in the North Side continues through April 7, celebrating the history of an organization that probably is the oldest of its kind that has been in continuous operation in the United States.

“The title is kind of complicated. It’s called the Photographic Section of the Academy of Science and Art in Pittsburgh,” Nancy Barnard said during the exhibition’s opening reception Feb. 6.

The Upper St. Clair resident serves as president of the academy, which has a traditional founding date of 1890, although she has discovered bylaws dating back 30 years before that. The Amateur Photographers’ Society came under an umbrella of disciplines including art, engineering, architecture, botany and microscopy.

“But at this point, there’s only one section left under the academy of science,” Barnard said. “And that’s photography.”

The exhibition features the work of photographers starting at the turn of the 20th century, with the objective to include at least one print from every decade since. Selections for the display came from about 750 images housed by the Photo Section.

“We at one time hosted one of the most prestigious salons in the country, and our board members collected from these photographers,” said Rose Anne Gilbride of Moon Township, section historian. “They were trading them, or they were given as a donation to our board members.”

According to Barnard, the section’s annual gathering of photographers from around the globe drew quite the crowds.

“I’m most fascinated that they had salons in the ’20s and ’30s that had 1,700 images on display, and they had 16,000 people come over a two-week period to see these images,” she said. “I can’t even begin to comprehend how you organize a show that big.”

These days, the salons have been held at the club’s meeting place in Mt. Lebanon, with this year’s scheduled for the public from 1 to 4 p.m. March 29.

Along with the prints of yesteryear, plenty of more recent images will be displayed at the exhibition.

“We wanted to also show variety as far as showing some landscape photography, some portraits and also some still lifes,” Gilbride said. “And then we also wanted to show prints from our current members, to help show how photography has evolved over the years.”

Of course, that includes the proliferation of smartphones that also serve as cameras, meaning more people than ever are taking pictures.

“What I would say to somebody who is interested in photography: Find a group,” Gilbride said. “Find a group like the Photo Section, because you’re going to be talking to people who are interested and skilled, plus just what the club has to offer in terms of competition, knowledge and camaraderie.”

The exhibition is open during regular business hours of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, 1815 Metropolitan St., North Side. For more information, visit pghphoto.org.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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