My late father would have been 100 this month. He was a photographer, a pre-digital (which some now equate with prehistoric) photographer. This in no way relegates his work. In fact, it could be said to enhance its quality. For it still amazes me that the photography of long ago, even going back a century or so — especially going back a century or so — is invariably more captivating than pictures taken in our day.
My dad regarded photography simply as a means of earning a living. He was by no measure an artist and never for a moment aspired to be one. And when, shortly before he retired, his work was exhibited at both the Photographers’ Gallery and the Tate, he responded with a kind of bemused scepticism.
For him, it was just a job. Much more central to his personality was joke-telling. He’d joke about anything, anytime, anywhere. His choice of material was completely indiscriminate and if you didn’t laugh that was your problem. He would attempt to joke his way into advantageous situations and out of sticky ones.
Sometimes, the job and the joke would overlap. An early memory is of a telephone call he made to the man who developed and printed his film (now of course an extinct craft) and telling him to “bloody well get a move on” with an overdue supply of