Every second Thursday of the month, a group of local photographers meets at the Brownwood Art Center for an hour of sharing, critique and discussion. From beginners to professionals, hobbyists to devotees, the Brownwood Art Association Photo Group offers every photographer the chance to make friends and get better.   

On Thursday night the group gathered once again in the downtown gallery, a couple dozen members huddled around a flat-screen television displaying a slide show of member photos. BAA treasurer Fred Spencer and Photo Group leader Roger Levesque acted as hosts and scrolled through the slides.   

Spencer explained the Photo Group’s routine — each month, members are given a new theme and asked to take pictures based on that theme for display at the next meeting. The photos are uploaded and displayed, and each attendee votes on his or her favorite with the winner crowned “Photographer of the Month.”    

After twelve months, a Photographer of the Year is voted on from the list of winners.   

May’s theme was “smoke.” Levesque scrolled through 18 submitted photographs of curling, dancing smoke from many sources — spinning tires, campfires, burning incense, smokestacks. The winner, “Weld Smoking,” was a workshop welding machine captured just after use with still-swirling smoke rising from it. Kenneth Martin took Photographer of the Month for the first time.   

To conclude the meeting, Photo Group member Rindy Fulcher showcased her “Project of Six,” a collection of six related photographs that volunteers showcase for the group each month. Fulcher’s pictures were of smoke rising from burning incense in a pitch-black room, the flash illuminating the wisps in fascinating arrangements.    

Fulcher encouraged the group to use its imagination and find images in the plumes, as with clouds. Group members pointed out faces, dancers and dogs hiding in the images.   

“I’ve been doing [photography] since I was 12 years old,” Fulcher said after the meeting. “I saved my own money and bought my first camera, a Polaroid from back in the day, black and white.   

“But with digital, I love it because you can see the images right away. You can see the mistakes you’ve made and correct them,” she said. “I really like the group. I’ve been enjoying it.”   

Levesque said all skill levels can learn from the group. “If you have any interest at all in photography, whether you’re a beginner or advanced,” he said, “that’s what the group is designed for. There’s no membership requirement.”   

He said the group offers a mentoring program where more experienced members teach various aspects of photography. “I do basic photography and a lot of software programs,” Levesque said.   

“It’s just a place to meet and talk photography.”   

The Brownwood Art Center is located at 215 Fisk Ave. The Photo Group will meet again on Thursday, July 13 at 6 p.m., and more information is available at www.brownwoodart.com.