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A.H. Downes 'Models from Warri' transparencies

The V&A holds a set of stunning 20x16-inch transparencies by Arthur H. Downes of models wearing African fashions.  The  transparencies seem to have been made in Manchester in the 1960s and one them is labelled 'Model from Warri No. 5'. Warri is a city in Nigeria and also the name of a Nigerian modelling agency.

They are part of the Royal Photographic Society Collection and Downes was president of the RPS 1986-1988.  He specialised in colour and began self-processing colour transparencies in the 1950s, including large-scale display transparencies such as these.

My colleagues and I are eager to uncover anything we can about these photographs: Why were they made?  Were they ever displayed or published?  Who were the models?  Where did the fashions come from?  Any information will be gratefully received!

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Comment by Marta Weiss on July 13, 2021 at 12:09

Thanks for the information, Nigel.  I'd love to hear more detail from you and it would be very exciting to see the other portraits you mention that may be from the same series.

Comment by Nigel Richards on July 13, 2021 at 11:33

I knew Arthur Downes very well when he was President of Chorlton Camera Club - Manchester and subsequently President of the RPS.   He told me about the work he did with colour processing and producing large transparencies, I think in the darkroom and not in camera, possibly a darkroom owned by Agfa? .  A print portfolio of his work with a recorded commentary for showing in the clubs is in the collections of the L&CPU, it also includes a single 20x16 transparency.  It passed through my hands in the clubs and for nostalgia reasons I copied it...... There are three portraits that may be from the same set, one entitled "The Man From Warri" and were exhibited by the PAGB in 1968-1969. The commentary suggests that they were taken with a Super Ikonta on roll film.   Arthur "convinced " me to join the RPS and submit a panel of self printed colour prints for my LRPS in 1987.

Comment by Graham Barnes on October 13, 2020 at 18:10

This is a long-shot but here goes! In my early-teens my family lived in Nigeria where my father was a university lecturer and I have maintained my contacts with Igboland on and off for more than 50 years. I'm a member of a Facebook group named The Nigerian Nostalgia 1960 -1980 Project the 74,000 membership is almost exclusively Nigerian or its members of its diaspora and I would assume many Warri folk too. It is very common for questions of socio-historical interest to be posed and very publicly in that group and it occurred to me that Marta or another colleague might like join that group and with examples of the photos she could pose her questions there.

Comment by Marta Weiss on October 7, 2020 at 11:25

Thanks for the suggestion, Derek!

Comment by Derek Trillo MA PhD FRPS on October 5, 2020 at 16:04

Hi Marta

I met Arthur at some MAPS meetings in South Manchester in the 80s/90s. I knew he was an early adopter of home proccessing colour materials, but have not seen these before. I'd suggest contacting MAPS to see if any of the older members remember him talking about these images: https://www.sinwp.com/camera_clubs/Manchester-Amateur-Photographic-...

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