View­point David Healey

Pho­tog­ra­phy is a pow­er­ful tool. We should re­mem­ber one in­di­vid­ual who was an ex­ile, pho­tog­ra­pher and pi­o­neer

Amateur Photographer - - 7days - David Healey ARPS chairs the RPS’s Ana­logue group and tu­tors pho­tog­ra­phy at King Ed­ward VI As­ton and Handsworth schools. See www.face­ groups/rp­sana­logue/

En­joy­ing a spot of win­ter light, I came across this in­scrip­tion on a grave­stone in Ed­in­burgh’s Grange ceme­tery: ‘He came as an un­known refugee and left a re­spectable cit­i­zen’. Hu­man his­tory is a story of mi­gra­tion. Em­pires were founded by peo­ple who moved. Coun­tries have been shaped by peo­ple who came from else­where to live in them. We have nu­mer­ous words to de­scribe those who find them­selves some­where other than where they ex­pected to be – for ex­am­ple, refugees, émi­grés, ex­pa­tri­ates, and eco­nomic mi­grants. Hu­mans do not only ex­pe­ri­ence the pain of ex­ile be­cause of per­se­cu­tion, pun­ish­ment or flight, but count­less hu­mans also feel alien­ated be­cause of loss, ill­ness, op­pres­sion, the break­down of re­la­tions, be­trayal and cul­tural iso­la­tion.

In such cir­cum­stances art can be ther­a­peu­tic. Pho­tog­ra­phy is a creative out­let – a pri­vate mo­ment where you, the sub­ject, and the creative act cre­ate the im­age. Many ex­iles have found so­lace in some form of cre­ativ­ity: look how many em­i­nent 20th- cen­tury pho­tog­ra­phers fled Europe. Ex­iles, keen to ‘make a life’ in their new home­land, of­ten make a big con­tri­bu­tion to their place of ex­ile.

Pho­tog­ra­phers also doc­u­ment ex­ile; most of us have been moved by im­ages de­pict­ing the Mediter­ranean refugee cri­sis in re­cent years. Pho­tog­ra­pher Andy Spyra’s im­ages of the per­se­cuted Chris­tians of Iraq doc­u­ment a tra­di­tion and sub- cul­ture un­der ter­ri­ble pres­sure, with all the clar­ity of gritty black & white. Dig­i­tally, Mahtab Hus­sain has doc­u­mented the so­cial and cul­tural iso­la­tion of young Bri­tish Asians, just as Dorothea Lange and oth­ers once doc­u­mented, on film, the plight of ru­ral Amer­i­cans and John Bul­mer pho­tographed ‘the North’. Cul­tural out­siders fre­quently per­ceive what they en­counter in a different way, which can make their sub­jects feel un­com­fort­able: pho­tog­ra­phy of­ten re­veals what we can­not see or choose not to see.

The le­gacy of Ivan Sz­abo

The 36-year- old whose 1858 epi­taph I quote at the be­gin­ning of this col­umn was Ivan Sz­abo. Born in what was then Hun­gary, Sz­abo served in the Hun­gar­ian rev­o­lu­tion­ary army, and came to Scot­land in 1849 when the rev­o­lu­tion against the Hab­s­burg Em­pire failed. He opened a stu­dio at St. An­drews and moved to Ed­in­burgh where, like his con­tem­po­raries Hill and Adam­son, he was an early adopter of Fox Tal­bot’s calo­type tech­nol­ogy. Sz­abo par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tions that took place in the 1850s. He pho­tographed Fox Tal­bot, among oth­ers.

This pi­o­neer­ing early film user must have made his mark as a pho­tog­ra­pher and as a man. Grange Ceme­tery con­tains the graves of many of Scot­land’s most em­i­nent peo­ple. An­other in­scrip­tion on the grave says ‘Praise him for what he did for the art of pho­tog­ra­phy in his short life’.

Grange Ceme­tery (Ed­in­burgh EH9 1TT) runs along­side Grange Road and Beau­fort Road in March­mont

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