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A rarely seen collection of photographs by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw will go on show at the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock this summer. Although better known as a playwright, author and critic, Shaw was also a keen and respected photographer who left a collection of over 20,000 photographs, negatives, albums and other objects.
The collection is owned by the National Trust to whom Shaw left his home, Shaw’s Corner in Hertfordshire, on his death. Many are in a fragile condition and conservation work has been undertaken to prevent further deterioration.
Visitors will have the chance to see a fine selection of original photographs from the items in Shaw’s collection, which have been selected especially for the exhibition at Lacock. They include Shaw’s own photographs, taken as he explored photography as an art form. They are supplemented with images of his family and friends, giving a glimpse into his private life.
The exhibition will be at the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, which celebrates the life and work of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77), who lived at Lacock Abbey and is recognised as the creator of the first photographic negative.
Roger Watson, Curator at the Fox Talbot Museum said: “George Bernard Shaw was one of the most recognisable faces of the 20th century largely due to his grasp of the power of photography which he used to further his own ambitions as author and playwright. He bought his first camera in 1898 and began, like most of us, by taking photographs of his family and friends, soon showing great skill both in composition and technical ability.
“But it was in his art photography that he began producing a marvellous body of work that follows the soft focus and ethereal style of the photographers he most admired. After the First World War Shaw’s photographic style changed with the fashion to sharper images but his best work remains the earliest following the pictorialist style.”
In a partnership project between the National Trust and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Shaw’s photographic collection has been undergoing conservation, cataloguing and digitisation work.
Since 1979, the collection has been housed within the Archives at LSE which is carrying out the work, but only recently has funding been available for the project allowing the public to see Shaw’s photographs at last.
The ultimate aim of the project is to create access for everyone to see Shaw’s photographic collection online, while a selection of some original prints will be in the exhibition at the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock.
The exhibition, George Bernard Shaw: Man and Cameraman, showcases more than sixty original photographs, and captures the essence of Shaw the man, his family and friends, and Shaw’s use of photography as an art form.
Sovereigns Tower, Houses of Parliament, 1906 by GB Shaw
© Society of Authors and LSE
Courtesy of The National Trust
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