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So who inspired you to pick up an camera and take photogrpahs ? Whose work do you never tire of seeing in books ?


In my case I have a few and for each here is why


Colin Gifford . For seeing railways ina different light and from a very social viewpoint


WJV Anderson . Just classic Front three quarter photography


Ivo Peters . Just for bringing a long lost railway to life in all of his pictures


Peter Gray - Just a wonderful cameraman of all things in the south west

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I would have to say I'm rather partial to a Peter W Grey. The way he lines them up and gets so much into a shot. I was able to meet the man and I told him just how much I loved his work!


The love of railways came first and then the desire to photo them. In my youth F.E McKay, who began pre-1914, had pictures appearing very grittily in the old Trains Illustrated magazine. Then there was Hebron and indeed, even the Rev. Malan. Rev. Malan took pictures of broad gauge expresses doing 55/60 mph on emulsion that would be rated 10 ASA in modern terms. His pictures are pin sharp and there is no 'movement' of the train on the negative. The shutter speed was at least 1/300th. So how did he do that? - I'll tell you - he had skill. He would have the camera pointing at the sky, take the slide out of the plateholder and then with the shutter open, take off the lens cap - briefly - and replace it. I don't know for how ong the cap was off - he judged that. But what he was ding was 'starting' the light reaction on the sensitive emulsion. The emulsion was so slow that a graph of its response to light had a long lead-in, a very gentle bottom line, rising only slightly until the reaction really took off. So he exposed the emulsion to start it. Then he could give it a 300th and get his photo. That is heroic photography - the kind I think is the most admirable. Even in the 1920s photograic emulsion was so slow that the glass plates or sheet film was developed using candle light. The photographer would be rocking the dish and every so often he would take off the lid and hold the negative up to a candle light and see how well the 'highlights' (the black bits) were coming through the pink fog. He would judge whether it had had sufficient development. Of course after a while he got to know how many minutes, more or less the emulsion required,  and the candle light inspection was  to confirm the judgement or give it a bit longer. I just love that kind of photography! 

E.R Wethersett was as classic as W.V.J Anderson, both great photographers, Canon Treacy is of course another influence. I met Wethrsett once when I was signalman at Kennington Junction and he lived in Kennington. Taking of which, R.H.G Simpson of Kennington spent a lifetime photographing railways and has made a superb record.

My father was great friends from youth with M.W.Earley and I always admired MW's work in the magazines of the 1940s and onwards. MW told me how he had the privilege of  lugging F.E McKay's half plate camera and tripod  across Shap Moor.

John Hubert Ashman was a friend of my Dad's from school days and with MW Earley they went out photoing from the early 1920s. Unfortunately my Dad - silly old sod - didn't use his superb skills on railways. Ashman was supreme - much better than Earley - pictorially. Ashman is probably unique in having been elected an F.R.P. S solely on the beauty of his railway photography.Another of this group  - all from Reading - was Cecil Blay. All these men were great film developers and darkroom operators.  Maurice Early used a Marion 'Soho' 1/4 plate - I still use one out of respect and admiration for these photograhers Henry Casserly used a 35mm camera a great deal but for most photographers between the wars and indeed afterwards, medium to large format cameras  were the thing.  All these influences make it impossible for me to accept digital imaging as 'photography'. It should be called 'digital imaging'. Photography is a different and more complex skill . 

Ashman very rarely, if ever, had any of his pictures in the railway press of those days. He worked for BR(WR) and did a lot of their publicity work for them. He was a draper by trade and had a shop called 'Wooberry'  at the Cemetery Junction - he lived in Earley where I lived and I would call in to see him in 1950/51 and he would have another 20x16 under his counter awaiting me. I some of them hanging  on the staircase. There is a book of his photography done by Mike Esau who holds all John's amazing negatives. This was published by the Haynes Publishing Company in 1988.

ISBN 0-86093-416 -0.  Anyone wanting to a commentary on the  early times of railway photography should get a copy of 'John Ashman: Rail Portfolio' and read what John wrote for an introduction

A man whose work could be mistaken for J.H Ashman is Richard (Dick) Blenkinsop. His work is superb. He used at least medium format.  I can't recall - now - whether it was him or Gordan(?) England who made the camera they took magnificently classic railway photos with. Both men lived up Leamington way. Mr. England, came to Challow once to photo an ECS of the Royal Train - I think it was him who had made a wooden camera of 1/4 plate size with a superb lens. The resulting print of the 'Castle' on the Royal stock passing the GWR wooden, Up Main Homes, bracket signal is fantastically sharp. 


Ivo Peters used medium format  cameras -  most superb artist with the camera but he didn't develope and print. That was done by Bill Lockett, I think. Bill was a great photographer too, who got his living as a chemist in a shop on the Bear Flats, up the hill out of Bath heading towards Midford. Bill Lockett persuaded Ivo to spend a bit of time off the S&D and got him photographing the Western Region. W. Vaughan-Jenkins was another of this group of Somerset photograhers. But of course, the landscape of the S&D was a paradise for steam photography like no other.


R.C (Dick) Riley was more in the mould of Henry Casserly. Both men took some classic views and used 35mm a lot  but they were more concerned with making the largest possible record of the railway everywhere. It was a different - and very valuable - approach. Richard Casserly worked with his father and made an exceptionally valuable historic record.

Dick Riley didn't develope and print his work.


Peter Gray's work is superb, classic stuff. 


Colin Gifford came as a shock to us all, I think. Ivo Peters said to me 'I always try to get my pictures in focus'  as a comment on Gifford's work. But, speaking for myself, I got to understand what he was doing and appreciated it as classic photography.


The OPC of Colin Judge started to produce much higher quality railway picture books and so these people got their private collections known to a far wider audience. One point to remember is that photoing railways in any period before the end of steam was  considered nerdish - not really quite the thing - anorak-ish and words like that. All those who loved the railway and took their pictures were way ahead of their time. The old saying 'You never know what you've got till it's gone' was never more true than when applied to the steam railway.




Really interesting and fascinating insight into the work of many of the greats.



My inspirations are from several origins but some tie in with your own;

Colin Gifford for sure - a real one-off. Many have tried but few come close to capturing the essence of his work.

WJV Anderson - his Scottish portfolio simply captured exactly how it was back then.

Eric Treacy - Superb and powerful front 3/4 images


My favourite railway photographer was Derek Cross, mainly because of his wonderful pictures of railways in South West Scotland. Whilst his stunning pictures of Stanier Pacifics in the Clyde Valley typify his style, his versatility is best illustrated in his work in Ayrshire where his subjects ranged from expresses to modest industrial tanks hauling coal trains. He even managed to make diesels look interesting!

Derek's son David , a good photographer in his own right , often does shows of his fathers colour images , many of which really do take your breath away

My top five favourites (not necessarily technically the best, but the ones I really like), in no particular order.


Michael Mensing - those panned side on shots of Kings & Castles in the TI really captured my imagination. It would take a brave photographer to try and duplicate this nowadays as with modern day steam specials you only get one chance of getting it right whereas he had another opportunity a few minutes later back in steam days.


Bishop Eric Treacy - his work has never been surpassed in my opinion.


Derek Cross - how I longed to visit Scotland when as a youngster I saw his wonderful work in TI.


Colin Walker - I don't usually go for the modern dreary back & white stuff of Colin Gifford and the like but 'Main Line Lament' is one of my favourite books.


'Roni' - simply the best modern digital image manipulator I've seen.  Who is he and why isn't he famous?


Dick Bodily


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