Long before camera phones, a local group was promoting the joys of photography

Viewing photographic works from the Atlanta Photography Group’s exhibition, Reverie.

STORY: H.M. Cauley

Thanks to smartphones, just about everyone has a camera in their purse or their pocket these days. But it doesn’t come with details on how to produce a quality photograph.

Luckily, there’s a group for that.

The roughly 400 members of the Atlanta Photography Group are dedicated to supporting good photography at all stages and phases, whether it’s from those who are just learning how to point and shoot or for others simply interested in collecting great images.

Members critique with Greg Strelecki at the Atlanta Photography Group gallery

“Since 1987, we’ve been here to promote fine art photography,” says Judith Pishnery, a longtime member who took over as executive director a year ago after working for four years as the director of photography at Gwinnett Technical College. “Our premise all along has been to give photographic artists opportunities, including development opportunities so they can develop their creativity, concepts and careers.”

The group, based on Bennett Street in Buckhead, rotates free exhibitions in its gallery space about every five weeks, and the photos on display are usually the work of members whose skills run the gamut from beginner to seasoned pro. Last year, the group starting hosting workshops for beginning and intermediate photographers that touch on topics beyond handling a lens; rather, the focus has been on creative development, such as putting together a portfolio, creating a personal project or writing an artist’s statement.

A few months ago, the group sponsored its first exhibit of photos by students enrolled in visual art or photography classes at 16 high schools around the metro area. Members also sponsor a similar competition for college students from around the state.

But not all members are creators. “Some people are collectors or educators,” says Pishnery, “but we’re all interested in fine art photography, which for me means photographs created from a personal point of view. Whether it’s a subject of interest or a concept, it’s about photographing for the sake of beauty or to make a statement, rather than being on an assignment to photograph something for someone else.”

The photographic landscape has changed drastically since the group’s inception 32 years ago, and Pishnery acknowledges that technology has engendered much of the shift.

“It’s true that people can take up photography a lot easier than they could in the past,” she says. “The entry level is easier; all you need is a camera and a computer. A lot more people are interested in photography and can produce quality images without the hardship of, say, having to have a darkroom. We’ve had photos entered [in our competitions] that were taken on smartphones. But they still have to have a vision and a viewpoint, and be well done.”

Peruse the Atlanta Photography Group’s latest works at its gallery at 75 Bennett St. N.W., Atlanta 30309. Memberships start at $25. For more information, call 404.605.0605 or visit atlantaphotographygroup.org.