Why I Like This by David Hurn
The photograph I ‘discovered’ is entitled Turning Capstan at Deal, and was taken by Edgar Tarry Adams, c. 1900. He was not a photographer I had heard of, but I now love. It seems he was a dedicated amateur photographer, the owner of Adams Brewery in Halstead, Essex. He created a fascinating social record of the local area, one suspects often photographing his own family.
In theory the amateur should have advantages - genuine love and no need to have to look for the exotic.
The capstan was presumably used to dragging a boat up onto the beach, an activity it’s not hard to understand would be seen as great fun by children and a wish to join in. A family moment.
It’s a joyful positive picture of an ordinary event. It’s photography as a record of a personal enjoyment. Photography preserves instant traces. His pictures are photographs ‘seen’ not photographs ‘directed’. He is not obsessed in projecting himself, he is not a photographer who seemed to think himself more important than the subject. All his pictures are of ordinary happenings, which in their ordinaryness become extraordinary representatives of experiences captured.
As an afterthought - I wondered, had he seen the pictures of Paul Martin taken just eight years earlier?
David Hurn is a self-taught photographer who began his career in 1955 as an assistant at the Reflex Agency. He gained his early reputation from his coverage of the 1956 Hungarian revolution before turning away from current affairs to take a more personal approach to photography. He is considered to be one of Britain’s most influential reportage photographers and founded the School of Documentary Photography in Wales in 1973. His work is the subject of several publications and has been acquired by many leading museums.
You can see some of David’s photographs in Open for Business, an exhibition at the Science Museum that tells the story of contemporary UK manufacturing using over one hundred behind-the-scenes images taken by nine Magnum photographers.
Image: Turning Capstan At Deal, about 1900 by Edgar Tarry Adams credit National Media Museum/SSPL