Right from the start, in 1890, CTPS has been making history as the longest surviving member-based photographic society in South Africa. It has become a “Society of Firsts” in many respects.

CREDIT:Kim Stevens

The Cape Town Photographic Society (CTPS) is all about enjoying photography, friendship, fun, firsts … and accolades.

The CTPS website came first in the annual PSSA website competition for three years in a row – from 2021 to 2023. Above right webmaster Andre Mouton receives the winner’s medal from Regional Director Nicol du Toit in 2021.

In 2020 the CTPS communication team, responsible for Cape Camera, the website, Facebook and Snapshot, won the Western Cape Photographic Forum Interclub 2020 Communication award.

CTPS is also the first photographic society to build up a library and collection of valuable photographic memorabilia that can currently be seen on display at the Science Centre in Observatory.  Many cameras and books had also been donated to the Bensusan Photographic Museum in Johannesburg.

CTPS was the first South African photographic society to publish a book about its history: when the centenary was celebrated in 1990, Eric Vertue’s ‘Cape Town Photographic Society – 100 Years’ recorded the role the society played in South African photographic history. Another book, ‘Celebrating 125 years of the Cape Town Photographic Society’, which is part history, part record of CTPS’ 125 year celebrations, was published in 2016. You can access it here.

CTPS was the first photographic club to celebrate its centenary in 1990 by hosting the PSSA congress in Cape Town and having a celebration envelope issue. The official congress photo was taken in front of a Shackleton (left). A 4-page supplement about the celebration and congress was also published in The Argus newspaper. from beginners to award-winning experienced p

Making history for nearly 130 years

CTPS has been making photographic history since it was founded in 1890

The Cape Town Photographic Club was the second amateur member-based photographic society in South Africa (after the Kimberley Photographic Club),   founded on 30 October 1890, and is the oldest still in existence. The name was changed to the Cape Town Photographic Society (CTPS) in 1893.

Going on photographic outings – including weekends away – have been a much-enjoyed aspect of being a CTPS member since the earliest days when ‘horsepower’ was required to move the heavy photographic equipment around.

The first South African to receive an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society was CTPS president (1931-1937) Baron Albert Van Rheede Van Oudtshoorn (left), described by Frank Fraprie as one of the world’s greatest exponents of land- and seascape photography. Andrew James Fuller, CTPS secretary and treasurer in the 1890s, was the first South African to become a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS).

CTPS held the first International Exhibition of Photography in South Africa in 1906 in the Cape Town City Hall. It was very successful in attracting some of the world’s top photographers, but was a financial failure.  Subsequently CTPS has organised many local, as well as international, exhibitions and salons.

One of the earliest Special Interest Groups was the CTPS Survey Group, established in 1965 to photograph some of the historic Cape homesteads along the West Coast.  The work done by the group was published in a book, ‘From the Days that are Gone’, which has attained Africana status..

There were some illustrious members of Cape Town society among our founding members – our first president, Sir David Gill, was the Astronomer Royal and pioneered astro photography, the first vice-president was City Engineer Thomas William Cairncross and other prominent early members were the manager of the gas company, B.A. Lewis, Cape Town mayor Frederick Smith, botanist Rudolf Marloth, prolific photographer Arthur Elliott and botanist James Luckhoff.

In 1972 CTPS bought and renovated an old church building at 28 Jarvis Street in the Cape Quarter, which served as the society’s ‘home’ for many years. When the property became impractical as a meeting venue, it was rented to photographers and eventually sold in 2016. The sale provided CTPS the funds to offer members many of the benefits they currently enjoy.