Repeated lockdowns have restricted many of the social activities of Cambridge clubs and societies, and students have had to be creative! As restrictions start to lift, Fitz student Hassan Raja (History, 2018) has launched the Cambridge Photo Club, and we took the chance to follow them on a photo walk.
It’s clear from the science that being outdoors, as long as social-distancing is maintained, reduces the risk of transmission of COVID within a group. During Lent Term, after his return to Cambridge, Hassan – a keen photographer – realised that there was a pressing need among the student body for safe ways to meet people and pick up new hobbies that didn't rely on Zoom calls. His solution was to develop and launch the Cambridge University Photo Club.
The Cambridge Photo Club was launched on Instagram (@uniofcamphotoclub) with a really simple aim: to build a student-run platform that allows students to meet fellow photographers at Cambridge, share work, learn from another, and most importantly - make new friends!
The Club emphasises the importance of widening participation – all cameras and skill-levels are welcome – and expensive gear does not necessarily mean better results. As Hassan says, “At our last event, we had people shooting on smartphones, on film, on DSLRs, and on mirrorless systems. These days, everyone has something they can use to take a picture – any smartphone can be used to do something creative. And, actually, it’s often the thought behind the picture, the composition, the angle, which stands out, not the size of the sensor!”
The Club run themed challenges on the Instagram page (last month’s was ‘Juxtapose!’) and perhaps most exciting, the opportunity to go on group photo walks.
As Hassan explains, “Unlike some clubs and societies, our activity works really well outside, and we can keep to social-distancing pretty easily. The photowalks are such a good balance of coming together to something collectively, but also having the freedom to do your own thing, so there's not that constant pressure to be talking to people”
In a year where most socialising has been ‘in front’ of the camera, it’s obvious that working behind the camera opens up a more relaxed conversation:
“It’s really nice. Sometimes people have come with their friends, but most of us just turn up and see who’s there. The goal with this initiative was always to use photography as a means to rebuild a sense of community here at Cambridge after a deeply chaotic year. We had a first-year student who came on our inaugural photo walk who told me that it was the first ever in-person social he'd been to at uni which, to me, highlighted just how important this initiative is. We have nearly 300 followers on Insta now, and hopefully as the weather improves, and the restrictions become fewer, we’ll see lots of people joining us on the walks.”
And as exam season starts, opportunities to meet other students and engage the brain in something other revision are obviously really important. The next photo walk - rain permitting - is planned for this Thursday. They also plan to recruit a committee in the near future so there’s an exciting opportunity to get involved there!
For Hassan, the opportunity to make connections is really important, “Photography has played an immense part in my time at Cambridge and I hope that we can inspire more people to document the world around them through platforming students’ work and building a welcoming community of photographers.”
To find out how to join a walk, or to submit an entry to the competition, head to the Club’s Instagram account, @uniofcamphotoclub.