1: Loewenthal Ethical Diagram
The photographs shown were taken by my grandfather, Cyril Hope, during the 1950s.
Cyril Hope worked as a part-time professional photographer alongside his day job as an engineer. He had two passions: photography and maritime travel. Unable, due to technological advancements in the ship-building industry, to indulge this latter passion, Hope threw himself into photography as his means of relating to the world around him.
He died early, at 56, in 1979 when I was three years old. His wife, my grandmother, was so upset when he died that she burned all of his prints, and the family assumed that his work was lost forever. However, upon her death in 1997, one of my uncles discovered a treasure trove of negatives, and began the laborious process of scanning and digitally archiving 4000+ images. I was given a DVD of the images in early 2010, but I did not look at them until I began my undergraduate degree in Fine Art in 2011. My very first project looked at the similarity of artistic vision that he and I have, and I discovered that my way of looking at the world does not come from my mother, as I had always assumed, but rather from her father and through her (she is a very different artist to me - she does not take photographs).
As I begin my MA, it is fitting that I should revisit his work to look at it in more depth, and to consider the notion of legacy as it relates to boundaries, both psychic and material. My Photography as Research projects will reference his work as far as appropriate, to support this enquiry.
2,1 Photograped puts photographed first
Part of my grandfather's photography business included taking wedding photographs. While some of the shots were snapshots taken throughout the day, a great many of them were posed portraits, such as the one shown here.
I'm really interested in how the photographer here must step back, becoming a facilitator for someone else's vision. I have no idea who this person is, and indeed it's likely that this woman would have passed out of the collective Hope family memory in a matter of days. The process was that photos would be taken on the wedding day, and the whole of my family would be employed in developing the negatives and prints - every weekend, my grandmother's kitchen was given over to clothes lines and pegs and the grill was permanently on to hasten the drying process. My mother's job was to stack the prints under heavy books, with layers of blotting paper in between, to flatten them out before delivery to the newly wedded couple that same evening. So, this woman and her wishes for the perfect day, her requests for particular shots and her choices regarding my family's labour on her behalf, would have occupied the whole of my mother's family for a single day. This image represents a landmark in this woman's life - it's something she may still look back on, today. Two generations later, I reflect on her image and consider the brief intersection of her family and mine, and how our role as facilitators of her special day means that she likely doesn't even remember the small, slight man who was behind the lens.
2,2 Photograped puts photographer first
This is my uncle, aged 9 or 10. It's one of a series of photographs of him in his pyjamas, with a pillow on his lap. He's looking to camera here, but in the others he is looking away or at other family members. These are snapshots of intimate family life, used by my grandfather as part of his own research.
My mother's memories of her childhood always feature the pain of being constantly under the scrutiny of her father as a photographic subject, either posed or candid. She explains that there was never any choice - they were all photographed regardless of whether they were comfortable with this process or not. I chose this photograph to illustrate 2,2 of the Lowenthal diagram because of the cheerful resignation on my uncle's face. He knows he's being snapped and he knows that there's no point objecting. He is at the mercy of his father's vision.
1,1 Photograper puts photographed first
This is a picture of my grandmother, following the birth of her third child (the uncle pictured above). This photograph would have very much been a collaboration - at other times, the ubiquitous presence of a camera would have been irksome, but here my grandmother wants to show off her newborn son. She has taken the time to fix her hair and wear a special decorative nursing shawl/cardigan, but she's still in bed and the baby can't be more than a day or so old. My grandmother was meticulous about her appearance - this is no snapshot. Quite likely, prints were posted or handed to other family members as a commemoration of the birth.
From my grandfather's point of view, here is his wife and newborn son. He is very much invested in this image himself. The photograph is as much of a collaboration as the family itself.
1,1 Photograper puts photograph first
Essentially, Cyril Hope was a fine art photographer who documented his environment. According to those who knew him, in character, he was taciturn and distant most of the time, but it is clear from his photographs that he was intensely interested in people. He documented people congregating in groups, at cattle markets, air shows, art shows, fairs, and marching bands such as this.
He was also a passionate jazz fan, particularly drums. One of the highlights of his life, according to my mother, was meeting Ginger Baker and Buddy Rich at Ronnie Scott's. No doubt the drummers piqued his interest here. That said, he'd have been aware of the composition of the shot - how the formation of the march is framed by the trees and van behind, instinctively dividing the frame into thirds.