The Yorkshire Photographic Union (YPU) was the first of the United Kingdom’s regional photographic federations and formed the basis for most of those which followed.
Its first exhibition was held at the old Bradford Art Gallery in Darley St, which claimed that it was ‘the first time that a Municipal Art Gallery had been used for a Pictorial Photographic Exhibition’. Their claim however was not quite correct as sadly, Lancashire had beaten them to it with an exhibition in Manchester in April 1898.
The Bradford exhibition ran from November 1898 to January 1899 comprising of work from the union’s then twenty three societies.
The Inaugural meeting was held in the Bradford Grammar School on Friday 27th January 1899 with about forty attendees representing some thirteen societies.
Percy Lund was elected as the YPU’s first President with Alexander Keighley the Honorary Treasurer, and Ezra Clough, the then secretary of Bradford PS as its first Honorary Secretary.
The union continued to grow and by 1917 the exhibition included 236 prints, ten of these on fabric together with a number of lantern slides.
The early 1920s were a period of recession and there had been little change from the early days. Things however would gradually change as more activities were introduced, and the exhibition became more competitive with the Alexander Keighley trophy awarded to the society entering the best set of pictorial prints.
In 1920 Alexander Keighley was again elected President, and remained so until his death in 1947 at the age of 86.
In 1948 the union hosted its Jubilee Salon, to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
There was an entry of 874 prints and 193 slides
Amongst its member clubs is Leeds Photographic Society, which is recognised as the oldest in the country. Leeds P.S. celebrated its centenary in 1952 and predates even the RPS.
By 1953 there were 69 clubs in the Union, with competitions growing in popularity, and without any form of selection, 470 prints were exhibited.
By 1960 things had moved on to such a degree that the YPU secretary was provided with a typewriter, which over the years was passed on to successive secretaries.
At about this time also, colour prints were introduced into the YPU exhibitions and competitions.
Throughout the 1970s there had been a growing interest in projecting colour slides with a taped music sound accompaniment with several clubs forming an A.V. group.
Leeds C.C. went on to form a separate group which over the years has enjoyed much success.
Over the past 115 years the Yorkshire Photographic Union has seen many changes, with perhaps the most significant being the introduction of Digital Photography. Today it has 69 member clubs, which incidentally is the same as in 1953. This surely shows the continued interest in photography in Yorkshire.
Ray Brammall ARPS DPAGB APAGB
(With extracts from The First Hundred Years by the late Keith I.P.Adamson FRPS EFIAP DPAGB)