As well as my interest, and partaking in music particularly Trad jazz and Skiffle, I also became equally interested in photography. I should point out that this interest was long before the digital age of photography arrived. I bought magazines and read all I could to learn more about the art. I started with a fairly basic Kodak camera using Black and White 35mm size film which was the most popular and easily obtainable at that time. I also bought all the necessary photographic equipment and learnt how to develop and print my own films.
By using the loft of my house in church Crookham as a darkroom I was able to develop my films and then print the images of my choice. The only snag with this method was that I had no supply of water, a key element in this process, in my loft. I overcame this by filling a bucket of water downstairs and carried it upstairs to where I then carried it very carefully up a step ladder into the loft. After my developing and printing activities were finished, I repeated the ladder and bucket operation in reverse with one difference. The last part of the printing process requires the print to be doused into a tray of water. This tray of water and prints was then emptied into the bucket of water I had taken into the loft and then very carefully taken back down the ladder and emptied into a bath of water in the bathroom. This allows the water to wash away, and neutralise any of the developing fluids used in the whole process.
Kathy didn’t appreciate coming from work sometimes only to be confronted with a pile of photograph’s lying in a bath of water in the bathroom!
In time I decided to upgrade my camera and bought a second hand Rolleiflex T Camera. This camera is a classic which, in its heyday, was used worldwide by professional wedding photographers and press cameramen. It uses 120mm size film which gives you square 2-1/4in (6x6 cm) size negatives which are about 3 times larger than negatives from 35mm film... The larger negative gives you a stronger foundation to build on to produce a better resolution and sharper clarity, especially when printing enlargements of any photograph.
I must say, with all due modesty, I, armed with my Rolleiflex T (T for Tesser Lens), camera became quite proficient, thanks to the brilliant quality of the camera especially the Tessar Lens. I was even asked to take the wedding photographs for a neighbour of ours whose daughter was getting married at a local church in Aldershot. Not only did I take the black and white photographs, develop, and successfully print them afterwards, I also used my own car to drive the bride and groom to and from the church.
Being asked to take someone's wedding photographs was a labour of love for me and as an amateur photographer, the only charge I made was to ask for my expenses i.e. cost of films, developing fluids and printing paper to be covered.
This, my first wedding assignment, was successfully repeated a few months later when I was asked by Kathy to take the photographs for a working colleague of hers whose daughter was getting married in Basingstoke. I was happy to accept the request but there was a problem this time because, not surprisingly, the bride and groom wanted colour photographs which I was unable to do because I didn’t have the right equipment or expertise to print colour.
I got over this hurdle by getting a Professional Photographic Library in London to do all the necessary printing. Naturally using colour film and their services put the cost up quite a bit but it was worth it. The quality of the images was brilliant, my expenses were covered and the recipients of the photographs were delighted with the end results.
As the day of the wedding approached, I was a bit nervous because of the responsibility facing me and not knowing any of the people didn’t help. But when I saw the church and the surrounding wedding venue any tension I had was eased by the sight of lush green gardens, tables, chairs, and blossoming trees all bathed in the summer sunshine. It was an ideal setting to take colour photographs for any bride and groom’s wedding. The big question at that moment in time was would my efforts be satisfactory. Thankfully they were and everyone, including me, was very pleased with the end results.
Another wedding I covered was when one of Kathy’s nephews got married in Shropshire. This happy occasion was also captured successfully on Kodak Colour film by my trusty Rolleiflex camera. I used the same Professional Photographic Library in London with the same perfect results. As an extra present to the happy couple, I purchased a photographic album for them to put their day’s memories into.
My camera and I were constant companions. I proudly took it on all our holidays. One holiday I’ll never forget was one of the many we’ve had in the Tyrol region of Austria when, as I got off a coach with my heavy Rolleiflex around my neck, I stumbled and fell a few feet down the side of a hill. Kathy, our two sons, Chris and Martin plus our nephew Michael couldn’t help laughing because as they recall saying to me ‘Dad, one minute you were with us on the coach and the next minute you were disappearing over the edge of a cliff’. But, as soon as I stumbled, my first thought was to hold on to my beloved Rolleiflex which I did.
My Rolleiflex and I were ever-present throughout our caravanning days. Kathy undertook the task of Editor of the Monthly East Hants Magazine and wrote various articles supplying information and news for the members. I remember we worked together once when I took some portrait photographs of various club members and deliberately cut off the lower half of the print so that only the top part of the head, eyes and hair were visible. These mutilated prints were then inserted into the magazine as a quiz, asking people to identify the subject. I also wrote various articles accompanied with photographs for the National Caravan Club magazine. It’s always nice to see your efforts in print.
During these days I was still working at Shell Centre where it was customary to have a Farewell Party, which was organised and supplied by the company, for anyone upon their retirement. I was asked, and agreed, to cover many of these happy occasions with my camera. The 10x8 inch photographs my Rolleiflex produced from these occasions were always well received by the people present.
Finally, the day came when it was time for me, to shut the shutters for good, on my Rolleiflex.
I didn’t want to try to sell it. I wanted it to go to a good home and someone who would appreciate it’s history and quality so I gave it to my eldest son Chris who still has it. These camera’s and similar ones are still used by devotees to film photography rather than Digital and fortunately 120mm film is still obtainable if you look hard enough.
During my happy photographic days, other things not so pleasant were happening in the UK.
Such as the conflict between the IRA and Britain was never far away. There were many terrible incidents in London and other parts of the UK. The nearest one to us happened when the peace and tranquillity of leafy Guildford in Surrey were shattered on October 5th 1974 when bombs killed 5 and injured 65.
I have written about these awful days before and all I can say is that I take no sides. I only report the facts of the events that happened. I have met and worked with many Irish people over many years. I have visited their country and there is no doubt that the vast majority want nothing more than to live normal peaceful lives. But the bitterness and all-consuming hatred shown by a minority have ensured that their dream is still not a lasting reality in this beautiful land.
---End of Part Forty-Eight--