The Camera Club has a long history starting in the early parts of the thirties as a part of the activities of the Science Society. It is on record that the Lab Assistant at that time, Mr. U de Silva has been developing films which came out of his ‘Rolleicord’ camera. The Rolleicord first appeared in the market in 1933 manufactured by Franke & Heidecke of Germany, in his room and printing them.
Mr. Suranjith Senaratne who joined the staff in 1951 has had under his wings the club in 1952. Thereafter in 1956 it was under Mr. Devadason (Mr. Thevadason?). Mr. B. Suriyarachchi continued the good work when he was in the staff. In 1962 after the college became a government school Mr. Sirimal V. Fernando seperated the Camera Club from the Science Club so as to give the members a dedicated club for Photography.
The classes held by Mr. Fernando consisted of 12 Lessons covering all aspects of photography from taking a picture to finally printing it. the 12 Lessons were from 12 booklets he had which were published in English. He took the trouble to translate all the booklets and the classes were conducted in both English and Singhalese.
Mr. Sirimal Vernon Fernando taught the upper forms. His forte was Arithmetic and most old boys would remember him for the unusual and peculiar way he held the pen when writing; nevertheless wrote beautifully.
Among many hobbies of Mr. Fernando Photography took pride of place and it was his wish to give all what he knew about his hobby to his students. On seeking permission from Mr. Welikala to seperate the Camera Club permission was readily granted.
That was the time colour photography was just getting into the country. Everyone had to make do with Black and White (B&W) photography. There were no sophisticated cameras like today and it was sheer talent, patient and grit that produced a good picture. There were mostly the so called box cameras that would take the 120 films for the amateurs. Those cameras had no adjustments and everything was fixed. It was simply the photographer’s talent, patients and ability to take a good picture. The Kodak Brownie was a popular box camera that most amateurs used. Mr. Fernando had the knack and ability to do marvels with a simple camera.
Those who joined the club were given a thorough grounding on the basics of photography. He taught everything about photography starting with the optical system and the construction of the cameras and went on to teach how to take a good picture, develop it and print it. The members were taught contact photography, enlargements, toning and other enhancements. From the start thanks to Mr. Fernando the dark room of the Camera club (the first room inside the lecture theatre and to the left of the entrance) was well equipped. Facilities were available to make enlargements and the boys were highly thrilled to see the photographs manifesting on paper. Theory classes on photography were followed by practical lessons and conducted in the lecture theatre for members of the club after regular school hours and they were well attended. Never a day Mr. Fernando missed a class or postponed it. There was a small monthly membership fee and the funds went towards purchasing the chemicals, paper and films with some funding from the school and a larger part out of Mr. Fernando’s pocket.
Mr. Sirimal Fernando with some boarders an effort by a member of the Camera Club (1965)
The knowledge given by Mr. Sirimal Vernon Fernando was immense and some old Richmondites took to photography professionally and made it their livelihood. They owe much to Mr. Fernando for giving them a good start in life. Mr. Fernando was a good mathematics teacher as well as a talented photographer. After Mr. Sirimal Fernando from 1968 Mr. G. S. Dantanarayana took over the club.
When the Tsunami of 2006 hit Galle devastating the City it was one of the products from the college Camera Club that captured the horrific scenes which were shown all over the world. This one instance goes to show what benefits the Camera Club gave the boys of Richmond. It is sad to note that the Camera Club has gone into slumber now. With the austerity measures introduced during the 70’s, by the then government, made it difficult and expensive to procure the raw materials for photography which effectively killed the club.