Uncle Frank was a great album keeper. He took photographs back in the days when photography involved more of an investment of time and money than any click of a mobile phone keypad. He had the film processed, the photographs printed and then he pasted them in presentation albums which he labelled with a style and exactitude that shine down the decades. One album is headed "Tours 1939" and it lists the various resorts he and his wife Miriam visited in that apocalyptic year. With the exception of London, all are seaside resorts within easy travelling distance of the mill towns of West Yorkshire where Frank and Miriam lived. As I turn the pages in the album I see a sepia world that is slowly descending into madness, a process that is perfectly illustrated by a photograph of a German bomber silhouetted like a tiny dust speck above the skies of West Lancashire.
The photograph I have chosen for my "Picture Within" feature this week comes from a series that were taken in Blackpool. In an age when amateur photographs were mainly of people, Frank took a good number of pictures of things and places. The one above is labelled simply "on the pier" and, as far as I know, is not supposed to feature any particular person,
It is when we drill down into the detail of the photograph that we discover the most delightful group of people on the extreme right of the original photograph. If I had my brothers' skills of sculpture I would would want to cast this group in bronze and capture forever the lounging knee being transformed by history into the uniformed figures preparing to march out of the picture into the future.
I remember Uncle Frank as a bit of a figure of fun in the family. He collected stamps and bus tickets and spent an age in the 1950s recording television adverts on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Even though he has been dead some forty years, I would like to take this opportunity to issue a public apology. Frank was a genius, a man years ahead of his time, a presser of social history who approached his task with the skill and dedication of any Victorian flower-presser. He left me with not only a galaxy of old photographs, but within each of those galaxies there are hidden endless systems of pictures within.