Thursday, 26 February 2015

Grandpa's contact sheets: portraits

My maternal grandfather, Ernest Elliott, was a very keen amateur photographer. It was in his darkroom, a converted outbuilding in his garden, that we all "assisted" with developing his films - or at least were allowed to watch the magic of the picture emerging on the paper in the swirling trough. In retrospect, he must have been amazingly tolerant to have allowed our grubby hands and poor concentration levels into his work space at all.

Without being aware of it, I absorbed from him all sorts of compositional principles, such as the rule of thirds and using figures in a landscape to provide a sense of scale. It was also fun to look at an image, consider how it would be affected by different crops and choose the best one.

I recently came across a box of Grandpa's contact sheets from the 60s and 70s. Many of these images are familiar - he printed much of his work and showed it in the local camera club or entered it for competitions. My siblings, cousins and I feature frequently as models. But most interesting to me are the portraits he made of older people from his locale - sympathetic, observant images of compelling, often time-worn faces. 





































And here's Grandpa himself, looking uncharacteristically forbidding, probably concerned as to whether whoever's on the other side of the camera will do their job properly....



As contact sheets, these images are unedited, uncropped and often marked up, while Grandpa's final images were always immaculate and perfectly framed. But I think there's something touching and compelling in the raw images seen here, and it's fascinating for me to look at several sheets of images from the same session and see which ones he chose to take to the next stage. I hope he'd enjoy the thought that people were looking at these pictures, 50 years later, and appreciating the work on which he spent so much time and effort. xxx

10 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos - what a fabulous reminder of your grandpas skill and artistry, you are very lucky! I recently found out in conversation with my dad that his father used to have a darkroom at home, but he died when I was less than ten and never knew that he had an interest in photography.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. It would be lovely if you could see some of your grandfather's work too....

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  2. What a great story! I love all the photos. I imagine it would be so great to hear all of their stories.
    They all look like such great characters! What a nice connection to your Grandfather. :)

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, I'm very keen to find out some of these stories...

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  3. Those are amazing, how wonderful that he passed on his passion for photography to you.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! Yes, I feel very privileged.

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  4. Your grandfather had a talent for bringing out the personalities of his subjects! Delightful!

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    1. Thank you! He'd be really pleased by the compliment.

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  5. What a delightful family story. The images are lovely -- you must be so proud.

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