The Wide Angle Photo Club (WAPC) began informally in 1988 with a few interested photographers in Santa Rosa County: Rev. Curtis Joyner of Jay, Ray Worden of Bagdad, and Grady and Sharon Pitts of Milton.
The group met for the first time at a Waffle House in Milton and decided to form a group in their area that was separate from a group of amateur photographers who met in Pensacola at that time. The organization’s name, Wide Angle Photo Club, was selected by the founding members. Although there have been suggestions over the years to change the name of the club, the membership has kept the original title as an indication of the group’s openness to all who love photography.
The group began meeting on the second Monday night of each month at the Milton Library on Alabama Street. Occasionally during the mid-to-late ‘90s, the library was unavailable so members gathered at the home of member Yvonne (Carroll) Balleck who joined in 1992 and was still a member in 2020 — making her the longest-standing member in the Club’s history.
The Wide Angle Photo Club officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with the State of Florida in 1994. Articles of Incorporation were executed on February 24, 1994, and filed on March 3, 1994. The original member trustees for incorporation were Barbara H. Borders, Raymond O. Worden, Bruce E. Dolan, and Pamela Jil Jones. The Bylaws were revised in 2006 when a seven-member board of directors was formed to handle most Club business matters. This allowed more time during the monthly meetings for guest speakers, workshops and other photographic activities.
WAPC Club Presidents and Meeting Sites
Barbara Borders was the first president and registered agent of the incorporated Wide Angle Photo Club. The following members have served as presidents since the WAPC was incorporated:
- 1994 — Barbara Borders, first president and registered agent
- 1995–2004 — Richard Pfeiffer, Suzanne Borges, and Jamie Amos
- 2005–2006 — Walter Birks, Rusti Hobart, and George McMichael
- 2006–2008 — Rafael Perez
- 2009 — Kenny Wilder, Cindy Schober
- 2010 — Charles Crumpton
- 2011–2012 — Marty Campbell
- 2013–2014 — Richard Weaver
- 2015 — Charles Crumpton
- 2016 — Paula Chmura
- 2017–2018 — Richard Weaver
- 2019–2020 — Loretto Sitton
At the suggestion of long-time member Gwen Heller, the Club changed its meeting place from the Milton Library to the Pace Water System’s community room on Woodbine Road in Pace in 1998. This location provided a more convenient and central location for its membership in Santa Rosa, Escambia and Baldwin counties. In 2002, membership stood at about 40 people, with an average attendance of 15–25 per meeting including visitors.
The WAPC continued to meet in Pace until the end of 2003. In October of that year, the water system asked outside groups to no longer use their facility at night, citing utility system safety concerns raised by the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Club held its last meeting at the Pace Water System in November of 2003.
For most of 2004 and 2005, the WAPC operated without a permanent meeting place. Members met in various locations including a lecture hall in the Pensacola State College visual arts building, in Club president Jamie Amos’ home, and at the Village Inn Restaurant on Nine Mile Road in northern Pensacola. During this period, Club membership dropped to fewer than 20 members.
In 2005, WAPC member Hugh DeForest suggested holding meetings in a conference room at Arc Gateway in Pensacola. The Club eventually outgrew that room and moved meetings to Asbury Place at Cokesbury Church, located at 750 College Blvd. in Pensacola, where the members continue to meet to this day.
WAPC Annual Photo Show
In 1994, the WAPC began volunteering with the Santa Rosa County Fair Committee to coordinate the Fair’s photography contest. Club officer Suzanne Borges acted as the photographic arts liaison on the Fair committee from 1996 until the club ended its association with the Fair in 2002.
During this time, the Club solicited award sponsors and handled all aspects of managing entries, set-up, judging, monitoring during Fair hours and other contest details. In return, the Fair provided award ribbons and space within the large tent on the temporary fairgrounds.
In September of 2002, however, Tropical Storm Isadore approached the Milton area before the opening day of the Fair, forcing the closure of all events due to stormy conditions. This prompted the WAPC to decide it could no longer afford the disadvantages of operating its annual photography show in a tent in East Milton. The Club donated its wooden show racks to the Fair and began searching for a new home for the annual show.
Although finding a new home and working dates for the photo contest proved to be a challenge, the Club successfully held its first photo contest under its own name in 2003. Taking place on Labor Day weekend in the center court of Cordova Mall in Pensacola, this was the Club’s tenth annual contest and the first where members began experimenting with new rack designs using PVC pipes and shade cloth to display unframed photo entries.
For the 2004 contest, WAPC member Rusti Hobart suggested re-naming the contest the to the Power of Photography show, or POP. The show was held at the Holiday Inn on Pensacola Beach and was the Club’s first-ever benefit show with entry fees charged on a per photo basis. Member Hugh DeForest suggested donating proceeds to Arc Gateway and asking local news anchor Sue Straughn, an ardent Arc supporter, to serve as honorary chair of the 2004 contest — a position she has held ever since. To this day, Arc Gateway includes a display at each annual show explaining the organization’s mission and goals.
The 2005 POP show was held at the Pensacola Cultural Center, which proved too small a venue for the show’s growing popularity. It was at this point that the Club decided the contest could no longer display every entry received. Therefore, the Wide Angle Photo Club’s 13th annual show in 2006 was its first juried contest and the first of seven POP shows between 2006 and 2012 held at the Wright Place of First United Methodist Church in downtown Pensacola.
The 2006 WAPC POP Show was also the first annual show expanded to include national vendor displays and free Saturday seminars. WAPC member Carol Langston initiated that portion of the event, which has been very successful in raising money through drawings, photo sales and silent auctions. A simultaneous Members Only Show was added a few years later.
The 2009 POP show — the Club’s 16th contest — was the first to host over 1,000 visitors in three days, a trend that has continued with the show’s growing popularity. Scheduling the POP show downtown and coordinating with DADA’s mid-summer Gallery Night weekend proved to be beneficial for increasing show attendance. Contest entries exceeded 900 photos from over 120 photographers in 2011 and 2012, and continues to attract artists from across the nation through an online submission system.
The POP show continued at the Pensacola Cultural Center until 2019, when it moved to Voices of Pensacola on Government Street. This University of West Florida- sponsored venue proved best to accommodate the 950+ photo submissions and increased visitors. The show continues to coincide with Gallery Night Pensacola and is widely recognized as a premier event taking place right in the heart of downtown.
The Wide Angle Photo Club, Inc. continues to seek ways to work with the local community, businesses, other photography groups, schools and colleges to promote the photographic arts and support many charitable causes. Membership in the WAPC has exceeded 100 members since 2008, at least half of whom are POP show participants.
Arc Gateway has benefited from each POP show since 2004, with donations exceeding $50,000 over 16 years. The WAPC also supports Arc Gateway through our December party, where participants donate wrapped Christmas gifts to Arc clients ranging in age from toddlers to senior adults. The Wide Angle Photo Club received 501(c)(3) Non-Profit status in April of 2019. Our EIN is 36-4715459. As such, the Club now donates to multiple local and national charities.
The Wide Angle Photo Club does not charge visitors for instructional programs held at our regular monthly meetings, which are advertised as welcoming to the public.
Loretto Sitton, President
John Manklewicz, Vice President
Gail Barsh, Treasurer & Webmaster
David Schulz, Secretary