OCA Study visit.
Edward Chambré-Hardman “Intermissions”
Liverpool Central Library 16th January 2016
“It is my intention that in viewing these portraits, the spectator becomes the common denominator between the three points in the process of observation. The spectator can either choose to view the first image, or the second image independently, but the fact that the pair have been presented together can never be overlooked. By viewing the images side by side and either traversing between the pair, or even trying to take in both simultaneously, there is an attempt to place the emphasis upon the physical gap in time.” Keith Roberts 2015
This study visit was timely for me as I have just completed the “People and place” module. It was also a good opportunity to meet with other OCA students to exchange thoughts and ideas. The project belongs to Keith Roberts OCA tutor and host for this event.
It was the attractive and questioning exhibition poster that caught my eye and enticed me to attend the study visit. It reminds me of a Bauhaus design (triangle), one is immediately captivated by the two contrasting images and attempts to make them one, drawing the eye to the apex of the triangle.
Edward Chambré Hardman, (1898-1988), is still perhaps best known for his photograph The Birth of the Ark Royal (1950). However for around half a century from 1923 he and his wife Margaret ran a successful commercial portrait studio, first on Liverpool’s Bold Street then on Rodney Street, now owned by the National Trust. Between 1923 – 1963 Hardman meticulously recorded the subjects he photographed in 11 Studio Registers and all the negatives were stored in biscuit tins – approximately 140,000. Fortunately Hardman was a hoarder and shortly after his death, his treasured collection was rescued from his home by Liverpool photographer Peter Hagerty.
Keith Roberts has commenced the extensive, fascinating job of digitising the collection and it is hoped that his exhibition, a portfolio of 80 photographs (40 pairs) will trigger memories and be recognised and identified by family, friends and members of the local community. The “sitters”, many of which were servicemen and women, are shown in time-lapse, pre and post war.
I asked Keith what his driver was (apart from the fact that this was his PhD project), Curiosity? Commitment? Determination? He said that he hoped to redress the balance of Hardman’s work – commercial portraiture versus his better known landscape images. Keith stated he had become attached to the portraits, especially as people come forward in emotional recognition and add dimension to the image, he now feels as much engaged with the subjects as with the project as a whole.
Personally, I found it fascinating, a slice of social history. As the viewer, I was able to reflect on what could have happened to the subjects in the intervening period – the intermission. I was compelled to fill in the gaps, create my own narrative, many assumptions made as a result!
I particularly enjoyed listening to Keith explain how he had delved further, out of personal curiosity, he has returned to several of the locations where the portraits were originally taken and retaken the shots, bereft of their subjects. How wonderful to discover many of the places as they were back then, then visualise the grand event of the portrait sitting. This has sparked an idea for a future project!