Red River Photography Club seeks to improve its skills and community

On the second Tuesday of every month at the Kemp Center for the Arts, the Red River Photography Club gathers to present its recent photoshoot, learn new skills through member-to-member interaction, or from a guest speaker.

RRPC provides service to the community as a local organization of photographers dedicated to showing and improving their photography skills through meetings, outings and special events. The members range from professional to amateur photographers to recognize each member’s craft by providing commentary and sharing ideas.

“I was contacted and they told me about the club and tried to encourage me to go. I didn’t go for the first couple of years. I kind of thought of it as a bunch of stuffy old farts. I went and I loved it,” said Ben Jacobi, the president of RRPC.

Jacobi joined the organization in 2014 after being contacted by other members through his job as a photographer at Metro Photo. Jacobi said he joined RRPC because the club exceeded his expectations as a community interested in promoting photography and helping members improve their skills.

“Most of the time when photography club is mentioned or camera club, there is a negative connotation that comes with that because camera clubs tend to have a history of being pretentious and exclusive,” Jacobi said. “That’s kind of what I thought it was going to be.”

Richard Cleaver, a former member of RRPC, said he was a member in the 1980s but searched for the organization many years later and rejoined.

Cleaver said, “[I joined] to meet other photographers. [I] also to shoot with other photographers and to learn other techniques and get new ideas.”

A J Lopez, the university digital marketing and social media manager, is a new member who joined RRPC in January 2020. He said discovered RRPC by searching for local photography groups online and found the organization on Facebook.

“I wanted to be with other individuals that are like-minded with photography [who discuss] photography, who like photography. I needed people like that to be around,” Lopez said.

Official members are required to pay an annual fee of $15 for an individual or $20 for a family. These fees are distributed between renting the meeting room in the Kemp Center, field trips, and guest speakers.

Jacobi said, “Every once in a while where we build up enough revenue for that, we will treat the club out for lunch or we do a field trip or if we have a guest speaker and they need some type of accommodation, we will go into that fund for that.”

RRPC meetings in the past would include either a guest speaker, a hands-on class, presentations, or show-and-tell where members share their work and discuss what it is.

Cleaver said RRPC would travel to different places for meetings to take part in training shoots.

“A few of the travel shoots where we would go places to shoot together such as Wichita Mountains,” Cleaver said.
In their last meeting, the club conducted a hands-on class where the members learned how and different ways to produce macro photography.

Jacobi said, “We did a creative macro day so we learned how to photograph the world in a water droplet, that kind of thing.”

RRPC provides its services to the community by volunteering to shoot photos for events and teaching people to take photos. They have been helping with local Special Olympics including Burkburnett and Graham, and another Special Olympics event coming up in April.

“We donate the images to them to use as a promotion as well as give to the kids and parents,” Jacobi said.

RRPC has presented their photography at places such as the Wichita Museum of Art and the Kemp Center for the Arts. Their upcoming show will be from March 30 through May 30 at the Kemp Center.

Jacobi said, “Our members’ showcase will be there so people can see members’ work that we do.”

Through the meetings, members are able to improve not only on their favorite types of photography but also on photography that they may lack skill in.

“I categorize my work into four categories: nature, landscape, weather, and night,” Jacobi said. “[That inspires me] more than portraits and street life, which is interesting because we have photographers in our club who like to do those sorts of [photography] so it has helped me stretch my own photographic scope as it were.”

Lopez said the types of photography he prefers are editorial, architecture, long exposures, and street photography.

“I like to tell stories. Because I haven’t been able to write a lot, I do photography which is another way to tell a story,” Lopez said. “There’s always the saying ‘A good photo is worth a thousand words,’ so make your photo worth more than a thousand words.”

Cleaver said he enjoys shooting sports and fire photography. He said what inspires him to take photos are the smiles and thanks he receives from students and photos who see the photos he takes.

“For new photographers, [RRPC] is a great learning tool to learn about photography,” Cleaver said. “For seasoned photographers, it is a great group to see other camera gear and learn new techniques.”

Jacobi said he encourages people who are amateur photographers to join because the type of camera the members use does not determine their abilities, rather it is the passion of the member that matters the most.

“It’s about community. That’s the big thing about any type of hobby is you’re always going to have a strong community, whether it’s hiking, photography, or quilting. There’s this idea that like-minded people like to congregate together and share their passions and experiences,” Jacobi said. “I like to stress that we are a photography club, not a camera club. We have members who are full-time professionals to people that just use their cell phones.”