Monday, June 18, 2018

Swinging Drainpipes At The Charity Gala

I took this photograph over fifty years ago at the Halifax Charity Gala. Even though it was the infamous "swinging sixties"; times were simpler then, and high-tech entertainment consisted of a hardboard bowing alley and some half drainpipes.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Yawningly Boring Postcard Of The Month


My entry for this month's "Most Boring Picture Postcard In the World" competition is this postcard from the "La France Touristique" series which features a car parked outside a house: all in stunning monochrome. According to the caption, it is a photograph of the town of Les Matelles, which is an ancient town in southern France surrounded by beautiful pine forests. None of this is highlighted by the yawningly boring photograph.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Third Time Lucky In Brighouse Art Gallery


The thing about vintage picture postcards is that so often it is a trial of strength between the photograph on the front and the message on the back as to which can be the best source of historical interest. A perfect example is provided by a recent acquisition: a 1907 postcard of the Smith Art Gallery in Brighouse, Yorkshire. The Smith Gallery, and many of its paintings, were a gift to the town by Alderman William Smith, a local mill owner and benefactor. The gallery was built in 1906 and opened in the following year, and therefore this picture postcard must have been published to commemorate its opening. The gallery reflects a time when the northern mill town would compete with each other in terms of the grandness of their public buildings and the breadth of their provision for the arts.


The reverse of the card contains a message sent to Miss Lottie Roberts of Cleckheaton from her friend Laura in Brighouse. These were the days before holidays to the Costas or Dating Apps would provide the opportunity to meet the partner of your dreams, and young people were limited to the simple pleasures of a walk in the park.

Dear Lottie,
We have arranged to go to the park on Tuesday evening. Surely we shall get off this time, it is always said the third time pays off for all. Come down with Clara.
Love from Laura.

I hope Laura was lucky in love and lucky in her third walk in the park. I was certainly lucky to find this fine old postcard and the store of social history that it contained.


Friday, June 08, 2018

Different Times, Different People (Sepia Saturday 422)


Our Sepia Saturday image for this week features a lonely soul sat on the beach in Bridlington in 1922. My photograph moves forward nineteen years and switches coast from the East to the West coast of England. The print comes from one of the photograph albums of my Uncle, Frank Fieldhouse, and therefore we know precisely when and where the photograph was taken. It shows the sands at St Annes On Sea and it was taken in 1941. You might be tempted to think that it is the miserable dull weather that is responsible for the isolated souls who had taken to the beach, but it is - of course - the year. This was 1941 and World War II was at its height, and the Lancashire coastal area was coming under heaver attack from enemy bombing raids almost on a daily basis. It may seem strange, in these circumstances, that people would still visit the seaside and even sit on deckchairs to watch the sea go out (and the bombing raids come in!). These, however, were different times and different people: people whose measure of danger had taken on a whole new scale.

I couldn't resist leaving the subject of "Alone on the Beach" without sharing a photograph that I took some 25 years after the St Annes photograph. This is a photograph I took in Ireland and it shows two nuns walking along a totally deserted beach. Different times, different people.




Friday, June 01, 2018

Picture Post Style In Burnley


I have always thought that the British magazine, Picture Post (1938-57),  represented photojournalism at its very best and for some time now I have been trying to build up a collection of original copies. A new bundle arrived the other day which were all from the period 1942/3: the very height of World War II. The stories in each issue not only represent the key problems of the day, but they also often look forward to the kind of world that will exist when the long war is finally over.
The issue of the 7th February 1942 led with the danger facing Australia from invasion by the Axis Powers. The other contents ranged over a variety of issues from canteens for wartime farm workers to American students dancing to raise funds for the Free French. There was even a wonderful polemic aimed at the poor quality of film still photography.

One of the outstanding features of Picture Post magazine was the quality of its own photographs and some of the finest British photographers of the twentieth century worked for the magazine including Bert Hardy and Bill Brandt. One article in the 7th February 1942 edition tells the story of how one of the great opera companies – Sadler’s Wells – took to the road during the war to bring entertainment, and culture, to wartime workers. When they visited Burnley in Lancashire photographers from Picture Post were there to record the event. And they did so with considerable style.
Burnley housewives queue for seats : You still see shawls and clogs in Burnley. Their wearers line up at the box office of the Victoria Theatre to book seats for “Madame Butterfly” (Picture Post)