Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Long Exposure, 100 Years of Guardian Photography

Denis Thorpe hon FRPS was born in Mansfield in 1932 and joined his local weekly newspaper, with the ambition to become a reporter. After National Service with the Royal Air Force (1950 - 1953) , he decided to pursue photo-journalism inspired by Picture Post and the early Magnum photojournalism. Denis embarked on a journey through London and the provinces working for morning and evening papers, eventually arriving at the Daily Mail in Manchester. Denis became a Guardian staff photographer in 1974, covering assignments across the British Isles, and also travelling from Manchester to do special reports in Europe, the Middle East, China, India, the Soviet Union, the United States and Japan during a twenty two year career with the paper. (from the RPS programme).

Ribblehead Viaduct - Dennis Thorpe (from the programme)
Dennis Thorpe gave an interesting talk about the last 100 years of photojournalism as shown by the photos in the Manchester Guardian.
He started with the story about how, by luck, a cache of old glass plates negatives were found when someone was exploring a wet darkroom just prior to it being cleared to allow use for digital photography. They turned out to be images by Doughty, who was the first staff photographer for the Guardian, until 1958. There have been a total of only 7 staff photographers for the Guardian in 100 years, but much of the archive was lost in the 1950’s having been stored in  warehouse to avoid bombing during WWII.  The first time photographs could be printed directly to a newspaper was in 1904, prior to that an engraving was made from the photograph and that was printed.
Dennis Thorpe showed a variety of early images, Edward VIIth in 1908, the first air show together with close-ups of ‘planes in 1909, which emphasised the extreme fragility of the aircraft and  prisoners of war in Cheshire in 1915. The photographer was then ‘called up’ and designed and taught the very early methods of aerial reconnaissance, using a camera controlled by levers. He then followed though the history of the images post war, including images of the burning of Cork, and battlefields in WWII. The seceding photographers were present at, and recorded, most major events throughout the 20th Century.
Dennis Thorpe himself had originally wanted to be a reporter, but managed to get a job as a photographers assistant, and eventually became a staff photographer himself. He has also taken a wide variety of photographs across the world and at home, including images of the inside of Lowry’s house just after Lowry died, men in the snow in Japan  and many famous people , such as Margaret Thatcher. While some of his pictures show a harsh reality, others are gentle and some have a very amusing edge to them.

1986 Tokyo, Dennis Thorpe

The talk today was based on an exhibition he curated called 'A Long Exposure: 100 Years of Guardian Photography'.  together with a book of the same name. There is a vast range of images, many are dark and brooding, and many were taken with with very limited ‘portable’ equipment available 100 years ago, but the scenes and the people could often have been taken this week

1984, Miner'sStrike, Manton Colliey, Dennis Thorpe

He say’s I’m not afraid of finding a sort of beauty in things……. I know the real world isn’t always beautiful, but I try to find it. And doing photography has helped me to do that.’ (Dennis Thorpe, Photographs 1950 –2000, Simon Hattenstone.)

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