British photographic history

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Fay Godwin's cameras join NMeM exhibition

Colin Harding reports on the National Media Museum blog that the museum's Fay Godwin exhibition 'Land Revisited' has recently received a welcome addition when a delayed loan from the British Library was finally installed. These include two of her cameras, together with some of her original printing notes and contact sheets. There are two of Fay Godwin's cameras on display - a Hasselblad 500C/M camera fitted with a Planar f2.8 50mm lens and a Leica M6 camera fitted with a Summicron f2 35mm lens. Both of these cameras would have been used to produce some of the images included in the exhibition.

Also on display is a folder containing some of Fay Godwin's contact sheets. Contact sheets show an unaltered positive print of the original negative that has not been enlarged. They are useful to show the quality of the negatives and are used by photographers to select which print to enlarge. Colin has chosen to show the contact sheet for one of Fay Godwin's most celebrated images, Flooded tree, Derwentwater (1981). Careful study of the contact sheets reveals that she photographed this location several times on different occasions, waiting until the conditions were exactly what she wanted.

A folder containing Fay Godwin's original negatives is also added to the display, open at the page containing her negatives for the Flooded Tree image. She made careful notes on a pencil sketch of the photograph to remind her how best to print from the chosen negative. These notes show areas highlighted to 'hold back' and others which need additional exposure. Such detailed attention resulted in the final exhibition print, framed and on show next to the display case.

These loaned objects add a further insight into the absolute clarity of Fay Godwin's photographic vision, her meticulous attention to detail, and her quest for technical excellence. It was this approach which ultimately resulted in the beautiful exhibition prints currently on show in Gallery Two until 27 March next year.

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Comment by Angela Williams Archive AWA on December 6, 2010 at 15:51
Hello Michael -
I am finding your posts etc interesting -
I met Fay Godwin when she first started taking photographs - portraits She was a friend of Euan Duff who taught photography (as I did) at Chelsea School of Art . Not quite sure of the year - but I sold her an MPP enlarger that he had sold to me - she was always exceptionally precise and intense - and wanting to obtain knowledge about printing. We did a session together in my darkroom and I demonstrated the technique I had learned from Norman Parkinson to 'water bath' the print - to allow time for the highlights to appear - and hold back the shadows .... She was much more precise than me - and later on I attended a print workshop at Paul Hill's in derbyshire - demonstrated by Peter Catterell who printed for her in the 1980 I think.

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