13 September 2011

'Bob, Maisie and Flora Britton with a mystery couple', by Robert Hughes

Here is a photo with good definition for a change but artistically it sucks, if only because a tree is growing out of Bob Britton's head and we look over the shoulder of Flora Britton and wonder whether old Von Hindenburg has found exile in Malvern.

The date here is likely to be the very early WW2 period, or even 1938. Bob looks young and happy and not long afterwards he suffered illness brought on by anxiety about the war and the possible bombing of his home, and the use of poison gas. Even if this were 1940, he would need to be 51, and he certainly looks no older.

Seated to the right of Bob is Maisie Britton (May Duncan Britton née McCallum (1891-1878): my grandmother). Maisie, like many a good socialist, was rather taken with celebrity so why did she keep this picture? It would make sense if the other couple in the group were in some way famous later, or notable...but who were they?

On the reverse of the print is a stamp from Norman May, Malvern, so it's quite likely that this scene was somewhere in that area.

Can anyone identify the couple, or shed any more light on what this gathering was all about?

Probably the best photographers had gone off to work on air reconnaissance or morale-boosting work at the front line. The individual who took this seems to have had a good camera with a first rate lens, why could he/she not have opened it up and thrown the tree out of focus along with the hideous house and Hindenburg?

A possible answer is spontaneity! You see a good shot and you take, while if you start worrying about the technicalities it is gone. At least my granny kept this picture for forty years and my mother for another thirty; more than you can say for most holiday snaps.

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