British photographic history

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For quite some time I suspected that Mr. Wastell, writing anonymously as The Walrus in his periodic column titled "Piffle," was an American. I believe he was actually British. He died c.1922.

I think the best description of him is he was the Stephen Fry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wastell was a serious photographer and specialized in the technical aspects. I have yet to find any samples of his photographs but he was frequently published as W.L.F. Wastell for his technical work. Who knew then that Wastell was also the Walrus? That is something I have yet to determine. His obituaries tend to indicated that it was not known widely, if known at all.

I am planning when I have more spare time to try and collect what I can of the Piffle writings of the Walrus and publish them. They are a hoot.

I've attached a sample of his writing on the Oil Print. I have dabble in and explored this process so I might find this more amusing or funny than some who has not worked in the oil print process. But I do believe, that if you have no idea of what an oil print is or how it is made, this will likely be as informative as if you had.

For a while I had thought that the Walrus had largely been ignored but I recently saw that he had been awarded an Honorary Fellowship in the Royal Photographic Society. Not having found any of his work, and seeing that his writing was informative though not exceptional, I believe the HonFRPS was largely for his work as the Walrus.

I am also curious if he is better know in Britain as I had no knowledge of him until a few years ago.

--Dick Sullivan

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He's quite known to some as a prolific writer. There's some background from the RPS Journal here: https://archive.rps.org/archive/volume-81/736994-volume-81-page-136.... He died in 1941 and his obituary from the RPS Journal is here: https://archive.rps.org/archive/volume-81/736889-volume-81-page-146... He was former President of the Royal Photographic Society. 

Michael,

Thanks, I found a reference that revealed who the Walrus was around 1922, or so, can't find it now, it seemed rather obituary-like in content. I was born in 1940,but it nice to know we were both assigned to this planet at the same time for a period.

I am hoping that photographic history will begin to offer more information and recognition of the enablers. I am referring to those on the science and technology side. Of course, Herschel, Talbot and Niepce, Daguerre, and a few others have been documented but there are many others that perhaps did not make stunning images but did work that bt any stretch was amazing. Abney, Pizzighelli, Duchochoise, Manley and others. Swan, not so much for photographic invention, but because he invented the light bulb that Edison invented.

One thing I try to impress on my students and interns is that unlike hos they think about making "Alt" prints, in the early days it was not dabbling, it was rocket science. 

A decade or so ago, when I was at the Media Museum in Bradford I was impressed that they were also keeping the science history of photography alive, unlike many American museums which are only interested in the prints. Not all of course, The Ransom Center in Austin Texas, Eastman Museum and the Center in Tucson is beginning to focus on the science and technology aspects.

--Dick Sullivan

Bill Jay published a piece on photographic pseudonyms in the 1980s which is worth a read. 

Richard Sullivan HonFRPS said:

Michael,

Thanks, I found a reference that revealed who the Walrus was around 1922, or so, can't find it now, it seemed rather obituary-like in content. I was born in 1940,but it nice to know we were both assigned to this planet at the same time for a period.

I am hoping that photographic history will begin to offer more information and recognition of the enablers. I am referring to those on the science and technology side. Of course, Herschel, Talbot and Niepce, Daguerre, and a few others have been documented but there are many others that perhaps did not make stunning images but did work that bt any stretch was amazing. Abney, Pizzighelli, Duchochoise, Manley and others. Swan, not so much for photographic invention, but because he invented the light bulb that Edison invented.

One thing I try to impress on my students and interns is that unlike hos they think about making "Alt" prints, in the early days it was not dabbling, it was rocket science. 

A decade or so ago, when I was at the Media Museum in Bradford I was impressed that they were also keeping the science history of photography alive, unlike many American museums which are only interested in the prints. Not all of course, The Ransom Center in Austin Texas, Eastman Museum and the Center in Tucson is beginning to focus on the science and technology aspects.

--Dick Sullivan

Though our paths crossed many times I never got to know Bill Jay. He was immensely influential here in the US, especially in the Southwest and for a while was in the neighboring state of Arizona. He was also a teacher that had a huge effect on his students. A number of my earlier interns had studied with him in Arizona and you could see the effect was profound.

I believe those who teach in the post graduate field of photographic history should begin directing students searching for PhD topics to begin looking at the folks who were forces in the technological field of photography. I think that like the photomechanical processes getting left out of the history books for not being real "photography," nor real "printmaking," the photo-technologists were not "artists" nor real scientists. If the field is labeled "Art History," that kind of  makes this off limits, If it is "Science," that is a barrier as well. I did a quick search and it looks as if Du Montort in the UK is mixing things up a bit as far in the  history or art and science.

Any clues as to where to find the essay or book on pseudonyms?


--Dick Sullivan

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