Historical photographer of the year 2015 final: identify the images that have inspired you

Voting closes on Saturday for winner of second annual award, and the category for stories drawn from the past quarter of a century The mid-1980s: the British singles chart. The Merseyside coalmines. Small screen…

Historical photographer of the year 2015 final: identify the images that have inspired you

Voting closes on Saturday for winner of second annual award, and the category for stories drawn from the past quarter of a century

The mid-1980s: the British singles chart. The Merseyside coalmines. Small screen dramas. The chavs. John Lennon’s death. The so-called “clap” in Norwich.

The sepia and yellow past couple of decades of my working life are a blur in some respects – but a vivid if dreamlike world – for an avowed non-fan of television, but who has the great pleasure of being a master builder, curator and ophthalmologist.

By instinct, I love photos, and making collages and assembling them on galleries is a better professional experience than stapling a page of words onto a library shelf. (The work has had a useful break lately.)

For many, the obvious answer is a book. And I’ve been very interested in the “vintage photographers” genre: cars from my country cottage; hunting at Pinewood Studios; northern ingenuity, without a doubt – and of course, the next step of homing in on the Norman Finship book Finship: British Queens, Some Very Rare Finship Stamps.

That said, I did learn about the Historical Photographer of the Year contest, which has just this year started again, through another exhibition in Greenwich.

In April 2015, the Electoral Commission became the second of its kind to issue a launch-pad guide to the competition, and this current edition of it – named after James Agnew, founder of the National Portrait Gallery – has a longer history than the winner was originally drawn up for.

The contest itself is now in its second year (the first was in the 1990s), and it is televised each year. Here’s a still from a classic Finship picture – the skylight, front and back, in the gothic library of the old Dyfed Hotel on Queen Street, the Lower Village – taken by the master of the genre in 1979:

In the past, the contests were about living history, and have well-stocked glossy magazine covers as much as you can buy these days. It’s now going digital, and the long-serving Agnew is to be given the Cloth of Honour Award for the first time, and published in December along with a book edited by Jasper Johns to mark his 65th birthday.

And then in May, I get to see some of the future. The polls close this Saturday at midday. May the pictures prove timely, and inspire a continuing history in this country.

You can also find some images of my childhood in this 1990 issue of Chronicle Image, a collection of people, places and events from the past.

If I miss out on the final top 10, I’ll happily pluck pictures from it or from an unknown day in Welsh, Irish or Scottish history that’s being written in popular memory.

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