These days, much of Flint is viewed through a changing lens.
From the city’s budding small business scene to its fast-growing movement toward improving community nutrition, the scene is one of progress and evolution. To the untrained eye, a blend of sheer positive energy and common dedication might appear responsible for developments getting attention everywhere from the north end to downtown.
But, to the trained eye, moments in time tell the story.
The Flint Lens Men Camera Club serves as a trained eye capturing ripples that become waves of beauty, spirit, and courage. The 71-year old institution’s ongoing series of photography classes in Flint Farmers’ Market offers the larger community affordable tips and techniques for gaining a clearer view of local surroundings.
“The Flint Lens Men are a group of likeminded people that enjoy photography,” says Greg Ellsworth, president. “We gather as a club to show our photographs to one another, to discuss how we took the picture, how we edited the picture and get other people’s opinions so that we may become better photographers.” Formed in 1946, Flint Lens Men is among the city’s oldest professional clubs.
Despite a curious name, the original membership was exclusively women. “Men were allowed to join some time in the ‘50s,” says Ellsworth.
Today there are about 15 active club members, ranging from talented amateurs to professionally trained photographers.
They capture local images of Flint, along with memories and moments from their various travels throughout the country and abroad.
“We have a subject for each month, so we can work on our creativity,” Ellsworth says. “For example, for the month of December the subject was trains. One month the subject will be smoke.
” While love of the craft is at the heart of the club’s drive to snap what tickles its visual fancy, members have also helped document Flint traditions and culture. One year when member Mark Corcoran found himself at the Crim Festival of Races, just waiting for his chance to get a great shot of the runners, he scored a great opportunity.
“You want to ride on the back of the motorcycle?” a race official asked.
Looking around him, Corcoran saw no one else with a camera and realized the Crim photographer, who typically rides behind the runners, hadn’t shown up. Soon, Corcoran was in the coveted motorcycle seat and a relationship with the Lens Men was formed. “
The Crim organizers wanted the club to document the race for future racers and for the prosperity of Flint,” says Ellsworth. “The club has been involved with the Crim for about five years now. It provides more than just photo journalism; you can also find art pictures and the human story.”
Amidst the 600,000 annual visitors to Flint Farmers’ Market and among 500 regular events, the Lens Men’s twice monthly classes have grown in popularity. “
The Flint Lens Men have offered their camera classes at the market for the last couple of years and it really has added to the diversity of classes that are held here,” says Janell Baumgart, market events manager. “Not only does the market offer a variety of cooking and meal-prep classes, but the camera class has also brought folks into the market to exercise their artistic side.”
For just $10, participants can receive two hours of basic photography training that Ellsworth says might cost as much as 10 times more in other formal settings. Students must bring their own cameras, memory cards and user manuals. The next scheduled classes are at 9:30 a.m. March 4 and March 25. “
The goal of our classes at the market is to share the passion for photography with other people,” adds Ellsworth. “People buy or receive a camera for a present and become confused with all the controls, so our first class’ focus is on how to use your camera. The second class is on composition or how to take a better picture. The third class is on editing.”
An average class attracts about 10 people. Along with educating the community and stimulating interest in photography, a bonus of being at the market is visibility for recruiting new members, Ellsworth adds. “
The art of photography enhances other art forms,” he says. “You can capture a dancer in a spin, showing motion and power. The art of portraiture uses the same rules that painters use.”
For additional information about classes, or to join the club, email: firstname.lastname@example.org