This evening’s speaker, Robin Lenman, gave us a fascinating talk entitled “The Photographer Next Door: Taking Pictures in a Community”.
Robin Lenman is Senior Lecturer (retired) at the Department of History, University of Warwick. He’s always been interested in history and how photography can help illustrate life and events, so throughout the evening he showed us various social history images from the 1840s to 1990s.
Robin started with David Octavius Hill who together with Robert Adamson experimented with the calotype photography technique in the 1840s. He then showed many of their social history photographs of the slums and poor living conditions in Edinburgh during the 1800s, together with the relatively prosperous working class fishing community of Newhaven.
Robin then compared these with the other photographers of the time, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe and the Cornish photographer Frank Gibson, who produced many of the early images of life on the Isles of Scilly.
He then showed examples of the famous photographers, Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Capa, who were celebrities in their day. Other photographers shown were Grace Robertson who worked for the Picture Post covering post war Britain and Eugene Smith, an American photo essayist who covered the Minamata tragedy in Japan.
After the tea break Robin then selected two contrasting locations:-
Southern Italy – where after the unification of Italy, the Southern tip and Sicily were always considered the ‘problem child’ and the ‘wild west’. This was illustrated by the various photojournalists who covered the conflicts with both the mafia and the earthquakes that caused destruction to the region.
North Devon – we were shown the photos of James Ravilious, the son of well-known artists, who spent 25 years taking photos of the locals going about their everyday lives at work and play around Torrington.
Words by Ian Williams.