Friday, January 14, 2011

Photography: Then & Now

My Sister wrote to me the other day saying “Wouldn’t Dad enjoy the new technology” she was commenting on our Blog and the fact that Dad loved writing, but especially photography.

From Grandad's collection from the Boer War.
Whether he took these or not I don't know
He picked up his camera skills from his Dad, who had picked up his love of photography during the Boer war, passed the knowledge onto son Cyril and between them from the 1930s to the 1950;s they experimented with both still and movies and then let me participate.

One of my early memories of Dad was me lying in bed at the age of  4 while in a corner of the room there was a Dark room set up, red light, enlarger, developing trays and bottles of chemicals, and the silhouette of a man concentrating and probably taking time out from the War.
Dad's plate camera a Butcher & Sons 

When my sisters came on the scene (my mother was never pregnant babies just appeared overnight) the bed room started to fill, so Cyril made himself  a dark room in the cupboard under the stairs.

Later when he taught me the magic tricks of the Dark Room I realized that his enlarger had been made out of old tin cans, cast iron pipes and other bits of scrap.

He set up a backdrop in the living room, made himself a pair of flood lights and took portraits of his family.

Vest Pocket Brownie,
the original is now in Lake Windermere
He used a small plate camera using glass plates developed individually by eye under a very dull red light, and then printed onto Printing Out Paper (POP) a method using a frame to hold the negative and paper together leaving the setup outdoors to expose for several minutes until  an image appeared on the paper which needed chemically fixing if you wanted to preserve it

His first camera had been a Vest Pocket Brownie, which was about the same size of these cell phones that young girls carry everywhere, nowadays so quite compact.

He often told the story of how the camera ended up in Lake Windermere, they were out on a row boat, my Mum was taking pictures when Dad asked her to pass the camera, she tossed it, it spun through the air fell with a plop into the lake where it still is to this day.

Later he advanced to 35mm , and in the early sixties we worked together shooting weddings he did the accounting and bookings, we both did the shooting and I did the darkroom work and album assemblies. We did quite well till I emigrated to Canada, but that is another story.

The magic of the darkroom
From Negative...
When I bought my first digital camera in 2002 the first thing I thought of was how my Dad would have loved the thing , the ability to shoot as much as you want, to see instant results, to do processing on a computer instead of the claustrophobic darkroom, and most of all the ease of sharing your creations.

As we do with this Blog

Family Picture 1946

... to positve


  1. Hi
    Such a great piece of my family history - had no idea my uncle Cyryl had an interst in photography. I am happy to see my Mum Marjorie Trafford and her friend Jenny Battle as well as my aunt Lilly.
    Gillie (your cousin)

  2. Hi Gillie
    Delighted to hear from you!
    now you have said Jenny Battle you gave me name to face I remember well.
    Yes Cyril was an avid photographer all his life.
    John Derrick

  3. Thank you brother for your interesting blog which shared lots of childhood memories. Not only was Dad and grandad into photography but the also enjoyed making home movies recording both our childhood and that of our children.
    Our dad was always on top of the latest technology and visiting him was always an expectation as to what the latest wonder he had to show us. He must have been one of the first to have a calculator. as you say what would he make of technology in 2016. He was born too early.
    Our mother didn't always embrace his new purchase and you knew when she wasn't amused when she put on that face.