The Hardmans' House.

Explore the contrasting sides of this house: the neat, professional, spacious business rooms and the cluttered, cramped living quarters of the renowned portrait photographer Edward Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret. They lived and worked here for 40 years, keeping everything and changing nothing.

The business focused on professional studio portraits but their real love was for vivid landscape images. Some of their huge collection of photographs is on display in the house, along with the equipment they used to take and develop the iconic images.
Photography Or just as accurately in project terms, the local. The Hardmans' House at 59 Rodney Street is the most local of National Trust properties, within walking distance of home and unlike my previous attempt to visit art collections in North West England were I climaxed with the Walker Art Gallery, it seemed best to begin local for the most part and expand outwards.  Plus this wasn't my first visit to the house, having spent an hour there as part of a flickr meet-up back in 2007 (which you can read about here).

Chambre Hardman is perhaps best known for his photograph The Birth of the Ark Royal which shows the Air Craft Carrier, painted white for its launch by the Queen Mother almost hovering above some typically Northern rows of houses, a small boy on his paper round in the foreground (the house's blog as an essay about the photo).  Although portraits were his business, landscape photography was his passion despite its unfashionability during his peak period.  Now, it is through him that Liverpudlians often view their past and I've had this shot from the Liverpool Museum steps on William Brown Street on my wall for years.

The business was actually called Burrell and Hardman, having met his original business partner Kenneth Burrell during their service in the Indian Army.  The initially set up on Bold Street but after their initial success and expansion into Chester (the appointment book listed six or more sitters a day, eight as Christmas), the war took its toll and so after the lease in the original offices ended they moved to the current position.  By then, his wife Margaret was running the business, whom he met when she joined the staff years earlier.  They had a staff of up to ten assistants, although as a volunteer noted their was a high turnover because of personality clashed with Margaret which usually led to firings.

Visits to the house are as timed tours bookable beforehand.  The house is very small and so these are limited to just seven people at a time, and at 12:30, thanks to a couple of cancellations that was just myself and a couple from Sheffield (were we asked for our place of origin a few times by the volunteers perhaps so that they could gage our local knowledge and adjust their explanations accordingly).  The volunteers stand in various sections of the house and we were passed in between, from waiting rooms through studio, dark rooms to living quarters and all with a minimum of fuss offering something of an impression of what it must have been like for clients.

Hardman retired in 1965.  After a fall which left him unable to climb stairs in 1989, he was befriended by Peter Hagerty, who according to a volunteer was visiting the house one day and found social services "cleaning up the place" or bin bagging his negatives, photographs and various items little knowing of their historic value.  Having reached the legacy in time, Hagerty helped set up a trust to safeguard Hardman's life's work but the house was a much larger undertaking and so it was gifted to the National Trust in 2002 and they went about cataloguing the contents and deciding how best to present them to the public.

Not much has changed since my original visit, the approach by the Trust for this property being to preserve how the house would have been during the peak of the photographer's career in the 40s and 50s.  Each room still retains a particular smell from photographic paper, chemicals, dust or just age.  The furniture and appliance are all from living memory, with a kitchen which looks like my Gran's house as late as the early 80s.  Once again I made the observation to a guide that he didn't hang photographs in his own quarters, preferring the work of local painters like Henry Carr.  Working in dark rooms until after midnight on touching up and developing photographs clearly meant he needed a break.

There's plenty of clutter.  It's not clear how much of this is due to the Trust's intervention or Chambre Hardman's own lifestyle, but every surface in the areas which wouldn't be seen by the public are covered in boxes and tins and papers and cups, lots and lots of cups.  He and his wife hoarded egg boxes, not the supermarket kind, but the rectangular boxes within which the eggs were delivered by post, the service being efficient enough for that to be best practice then.  In the basement too are giant chests filled with photographic paper which originated during the second world war and still have request labels requiring for them to be returned should they be unused.  The remains of the Anderson shelter are still outside.  He didn't throw much away.

That means it's not really a place you want to linger in much and the tour period is probably ample.  I was particularly fascinated by the photography process.  Due to waiting times, a photography session usually too up to ninety minutes (although the assistants were encouraged to flat out lie to potential clients about the duration depending on who they were, high end businessmen entering expecting a half hour appointment) and just eight shots would be taken with five to ten second exposures (on the assumption that one would be salvageable if most of them were ruined by some kind of movement fro the sitter).  Margaret was apparently never happy with the result, sometimes asking assistants to reprint shots on the days clients were due to picking them, often while they were in the building.

The whole visit took about two hours but didn't ever feel like it.  If you are local I'd very much recommend it, even as a way of seeing a recent social history writ large not unlike the viewing Chambre Hardman's own photographs.  Within one of the display cabinets there's a shot of the grounds outside St Luke's Church pointing towards the top of Bold Street on a sunny day taken during the mid-fifties.  Having only ever thought of the building as a war memorial, I was surprised to see it being treated in this way, the grass filled with sunbathers and people having fun something you wouldn't necessarily expect to see in the grounds of a church.  That's the power of this kind of photography, making the familiar, unfamiliar.

Topless of the Pops.

Music The All Saints have given a typically brilliant interview for the BBC in which they talk about how they had to deal with sexism in the industry offering a specific example of something which happened on Top of the Pops:
The sexism spilled over into their TV appearances, and the band shudder as they recall a traumatic Top of the Pops taping.

"They were filming images of us to use as a backdrop," says Shaznay, "and they wanted us to take our tops off."

The producers, they explain, wanted to shoot the band from the shoulders up, giving the impression they were performing in the nude.

"The vision was that we looked naked and we didn't want that vision," adds Natalie. "But because it was such a huge show, we were told 'if you don't do it, you don't get to go on the show,'" says Melanie.

"The girl that worked with us was in tears because she was trying to fight our corner," Natalie continues. "We ended up having to compromise with the producers. We dropped our tops to here [indicating her armpits] so it would look like we were topless."

"We did it but we were stroppy about it," says Nicole. "Again, we got labelled as being difficult."
The BBC being the BBC have asked the BBC for a quote:
A BBC spokesman said: "We're not able to comment on something that is alleged to have happened nearly 20 years ago, but today we seek to ensure that everyone working at the BBC does so in an environment in which they are comfortable."
Quite right. Here's the clip:

I'd forgotten Melanie used to wear glasses.  You can see what All Saints mean, a few straps but for some reason, yes, bare shoulders all.

"were firmly told that the reconstruction must be exceptionally basic"

TV A blast from the past. The Doctor Who Restoration Team website has been updated with material about the final set of dvd releases including Web of Fear, Enemy of the World and The Underwater Menace. The explanation for why the final release's "recons" were of such basic quality is pleasingly honest from their end:
"Rather than animate the missing episodes, the instruction that came to us via our commissioning editor was that they were to be presented as an inexplicably basic telesnap and off-air soundtrack reconstruction. Although we offered to prepare reconstructions to the standard of that featured on The Web of Fear for no extra cost, we were firmly told that the reconstruction must be exceptionally basic - no recreated opening titles or credits, no composite shots, no moves to add life to the storytelling, and all the telesnaps had to be presented one after another in the order they were shot and without repetition. A very odd commercial decision which were are at a loss to understand."
Well yes, indeed, and we're yet to actually have an explanation about that. If the team offered to do the work at a higher standard for free because of a love of the franchise, why would they be told not to bother?

The results are horrible.  There's a moment in the last episode where over four minutes of action play out without any sense of what's going on across a telesnap which doesn't really show what's happening.

About the only reason I can think of is if they have in mind some kind of sales correlation in which a perfectly watchable recon negates the need for someone to buy the audio version with narration but they still feel the need to put something on the dvd.  Sigh.


Film Oh hello, Findable.TV.

One of the inherent problems with subscribing to three different streaming services, Amazon Prime, Netflix and the Faustian pact with the Devil, is that if you want to see if a particular film is there you have search all three sites separately and if it's not there then head off into the forest of pay services hoping for the best.

Oh hello Findable.TV, which searches all the services together then tells you where something is available and for how much. Not just subscription services, but the catch-up apps for terrestrial television and all of the rental and purchase options.

If only I'd had this at my disposable when I was searching for source for the items on the 1001 Films list.

It's not perfect. Brooklyn isn't listed yet despite being available on multiple services. Throwing my favourite five at it, Findable also doesn't notice that The Seventh Seal is available for rent at Amazon but was able to tell me that In The Bleak Midwinter is streamable from the ashes of BlinkBox.

But yes, wow [via].

My Favourite Film of 1951.

Film As a test, I decided to enter the most famous phrase from The Day The Earth Stood Still, "Klaatu barada nikto", into an anagram server. This found no single word or two word results. For three words:

Databank Tailor Auk
Databank Ritual Oak
Tanbark Koala Audit
Data Karakul Obtain

At least two of which could be viable English translations.

An Auk is a "medium-sized seabirds with long, barrel-shaped bodies, short tails, very small wings and short legs set far back on the body" [from the RSPB] and the Little Auk has featured on Radio 4's Tweet of the Day.

Tanbark is the bark of certain species of tree. It is traditionally used for tanning hides.

A Karakul is a breed of sheep.

Requesting four words leads to 866 options the last of which is Aura Boat Kinda Talk.  Which given the content of the film is erie.

Requesting five words predicts 14,581 options.  Here is the first thousand, ending with A Labia Dank Ark Tout.

Probably best to leave this here.

"distance in time"

Theatre For The New York Review of Books, Stephen Greenblatt writes the universality of Shakespeare:
"Even at this distance in time, Shakespeare’s greatest contemporary playwrights, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, both seem directly and personally present in their work in a way that Shakespeare does not. In the case of Jonson—too eager to display his scholarly mastery over his source materials, too bound up with the drama of his own life, and too anxious to retain absolute control over his own finished work—that presence is explicitly avowed in a variety of prefaces, prologues, and authorial interventions, with the result that his work, though splendid, seems entirely of a particular time and place and author."