6 Quirky Clubs We'd Love to Join

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Pigeon Fancier’s Club. Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini

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Photography by Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini
Q&A by Kate Erbland

Everyone has their thing. Whether it’s growing exotic flowers or dressing up like Santa in your spare time, your interests and obsessions help define you. But when your real passion is, say, collecting early-American toasters, it can be hard to find others who understand. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a group for you. As this Swiss duo’s colorful portraits of hobby clubs show, no matter how niche your pastime is, you are never truly alone. Sure, we can take pride in being unique, but it’s also reassuring to be reminded that community is only one person (or poodle) away.

Children’s Chess Club. You know who was also a chess club member? Thomas Jefferson. He often played against James Madison.

Hat Club. Established in 1750, America’s first secret collegiate society was called the Flat Hat Club.

Kite Club. The kite originated in China around 400 BCE. Legend has it that General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty once flew a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach past the defenses.

Orchid Club. Incidentally, the word orchid derives from the Greek orchis, or “testicle.” In the 1300s, English speakers called it a “ballockwort” for, well, similar reasons.

Poodle Club. Not pictured: Babe Ruth, whose 1921 mascot was a French miniature poodle.

Santa Claus Group. These aren’t new! The first jolly group, the Benevolent Order of Santa Claus, was organized in 1937.

It’s only appropriate that “Hobby Buddies,” an amusing and innovative photography series that captures various quirky clubs and strange societies in traditional portrait format, was created by its very own pair of so-called “hobby buddies,” the professional duo of Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini. From kites to chess, plants to poodles, the Swiss photographers lovingly render their “buddies” and their interests into creative and smart tableaus, proving that partnership and collaboration are sometimes the very best part of even the most offbeat endeavor. We asked Sprecher about the pair's inspiration and process.

What sort of professional training have you had?
We both did an apprenticeship as photographers in Basel, Switzerland. Over four years, we worked two to three days a week in a studio for professional photography. We mainly concentrated on fashion, advertising, food, and people for our shoots. During the four years, the other one to two days a week we went to school for art, in the department of photography.

What other artists or styles of art inspire you?
There are so many great works out there. We love a good idea and a good realization! Whether it's photography, painting, sculpture, music. A few examples? Liu Bollin and his photographed drawings, Charles Fréger and his series “Wilder Mann,” Lori Nix with her photographed settings, Kathrin Freisager, the “Strandbeest” of Theo Jansen, Kristof Kintera, and William Kentridge.

How did you two decide to work together? What are your favorite parts about having a partner?
Since 2007, we have shared a studio together, so we spend a lot of time together. Both of us work on our own projects. While sharing a studio together, you can support each other and—very important—you don't have to drink your coffee by yourself.

How did you come up with the idea to photograph clubs? Which club was the hardest to track down?
One day, Andi asked me if I would like to work with him on a free photography-story for a newspaper. The idea of staged group photography was something I already had in my mind for quite a while. For the newspaper, I adapted and completed this concept for that specific series. At the beginning, we started with a series of eight photographs, then we did another eight, and so on ... until now the series contains over 60 photographs.

The poodle club was quite a challenge. The room we needed for our setting couldn’t be too big for this specific idea. We found the perfect place, the size was perfect, the rear wall as background was ideal, and the rest of the room was big enough for our setting and all our studio lights, but with all the owners of the dogs, it finally was quite full. The dogs were perfectly behaved, but we still could take just about three shots.

What’s been your favorite project to photograph?
A great thing about a photographic project in general is the concentration on a idea, for a specific period you focus on something. The “Hobby Buddies” were really great to work on. We get in contact with so many people through the societies and the different interests.

What would you like to photograph that you haven’t yet?
The best ideas are not realized yet.

Hobbie Buddies (Kehrer Verlag) by Ursula Sprecher and Andi Cortellini is now available.

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January 20, 2015 - 7:00am
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