Gateway to creativity: Regional camera club brings new technology to popular pastime

Chris Bergeron

When she was pregnant with her first child 30 years ago, red-haired Nanette Ginns took a friend's advice to study photography so her baby's pictures wouldn't all have "red hair and red eyes."

Since joining the Gateway Camera Club a few months ago, she has met lots of fellow photographers who shared new techniques that, she said, "helped me expand my horizons."

Fran Hines shot his first photos from the deck of the battleship USS New Jersey off the coast of Vietnam. For more than 20 years, Phyllis Wiseman pursued "the art of seeing something that catches the eye." And Sue Abrahamsen "got serious" about photography living in the late 1950s with her husband on an Army base in Germany.

"This is a really exciting club," said Ginns, a retired teacher and computer programmer from Shrewsbury. "It provides wonderful opportunities to compete with skilled photographers and improve your work with input from experts in so many different specialities."

Want to see for yourself?

Check out the club's annual show at the Framingham Library that features 86 exciting images representing wide-ranging styles and techniques.

Displayed in the main hall and Pearl and Lexington street lobbies throughout January, the exhibit showcases high-quality work by 13 members.

Ginns captures children on swings and skiers on lifts in dazzling color photos that freeze motion and time. A former Navy gunner's mate and retired police officer, Hines, a Sudbury resident, discovers martial beauty in World War II bombers and fighter planes.

Veteran member Wiseman creates pictorial music from a musician's blurred fingers caressing his horn. Whether visiting China or Sunderland, Mass., Abrahamsen finds memorable moments in a dusty Beijing neighborhood or water rushing down Whitmore Falls.

Club President Shiv Verma invites interested photographers to ask, "What will (I) get from Gateway Camera Club?"

"Anything you want," said the 57-year-old India native. "It is the open nature of the club to embrace every photographer's needs. If a member says, 'This is what I want,' then rest assured, they'll get it."

Founded in 1962, the GCC, said Verma, has about 80 active members, making it the state's second largest camera club. With members ranging from beginner through advanced amateur to professional, the nonprofit holds weekly meetings every Tuesday from September through June at the United Church of Christ in the Edwards House in Framingham.

The founder and president of the Wrentham software company Vertalis, Verma said GCC, like most photo clubs, has evolved over the last several years "from traditional film photography to digital photography."

He has been taking pictures since a kindly grandfather gave him his first camera as a 10-year-old while studying at a boarding school in Dehra Doon, India.

"Digital is fast becoming tomorrow's technology. Today we don't have to rely on a lab to do the work for you. You can take control over your own art and become a one-man producer," he said.

While more economical than film, Verma said evolving digital technology gives photographers greater ability to manipulate their images' color, shape and tones to "bring out its essence."

"What the club offers is the ability to transition to new media techniques that help members learn to use new ancillary camera products including software," he said.

Every month the club invites outside "experts" who give workshops that teach how to incorporate new equipment and technologies into members' photographic repertoire. A gifted nature photographer, Verma has organized several slide-show presentations about ospreys and terns that can be viewed on his Web site,

While most members have embraced digital photography, he said the club welcomes "traditional" shooters and provides opportunities for them to exhibit their work. During once-monthly "critique nights," members show print and digital images that are then critiqued by their colleagues or invited experts.

"Anything beyond a snapshot requires the ability to make use of the appropriate information to enhance your art," said Verma. "This club takes education very seriously by encouraging a competitive environment to compete with each other."

Members broadly agree, saying their work often reflects skills they have learned since joining Gateway.

In three gorgeous nature photos, Vice President Paul Smith captures subtle variations of texture and color that bring alive scenes in Yosemite National Park.

Although he has been "the designated family photographer" since his son's birth in 1985, the 56-year-old Marlborough resident has devoted himself full time to photography since 1993 when illness left him legally deaf.

Since then Smith has organized numerous two-month "photo safaris" to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Teton Mountains and other Southwestern sites to pursue his interest in nature photography.

The writer of the club newsletter, Smith joined GCC five years ago because of its "open-minded attitude toward photography" after leaving another club over "artistic differences." He maintains, "You can't divorce artistry from technology."

Smith credits his time in the club for helping him "develop a greater ability to work with light." He has won numerous awards in state, regional and national competitions and six of his photos have been accepted in the permanent collection of the Professional Photographers of America.

"I'm dedicated. My wife says I'm obsessed," he said, chuckling. "I just sleep and dream photography."

Since joining GCC more than 10 years ago, Virginia Flynn still shoots with her trusty Canon 35 mm camera with which she photographed "Friendly New Zealand lambs" now on display.

A retired postal worker from Millis, she hung the current show with help from several members.

Although "not the least bit interested in digital photography," Flynn praised the club for providing a supportive environment where "traditionalists" like herself learn from and teach members riding the digital wave.

The camera is "just a tool," she observed. The club has helped her "develop my own eye," she said, by "learning what other people have done to make their pictures jump out."

For educational purposes, the club places members in four levels from beginners to masters to evaluate their progress. "I've observed many new members join the club and work their way from the beginner class all the way to the top class within a year!" said Flynn. "...The generosity exhibited by the club's top photographers who share their expertise and know-how with any and all new members has always impressed me."

Two of the club's newer members, Susan and Steve Spiegel, joined last year after being impressed by a similar library exhibit. "I guess I was looking to find someone who could critique my work and offer suggestions how I could improve my art photos," she said.

The Hopkinton couple are showing about 10 photos, including several striking images Susan took during a trip to China.

Susan Spiegel uses a Canon Rebel digital camera to photograph interesting people she sees on her trips around the world. In one lovely image, a woman in a red and orange sari stands before ornately carved dragons decorating a temple wall. In another, a stooped and elderly Chinese woman looks toward the lens with an indecipherable expression.

Susan Spiegel said she "does better with composition" while her husband does "better with technology." After a year in GCC, they feel they have absorbed important lessons from club members.

Susan Spiegel said observing others' work helped her "look more closely at what you're seeing to see if you can capture that feeling in a picture."

"We've both benefited from people who know a lot. It's been a real hands-on opportunity," she said. "My goal is to learn as much as I can. This club is like taking a continuing education course. You learn by doing."


The Gateway Camera Club meets September through June at the United Church of Christ Center in Framingham. It is located behind the Framingham County Club on Badger Road, off Rte. 9 East.

For directions, visit or call 508-628-7700.

Interested parties may also call GCC President Shiva Verma during the day at 617-884-9449.