British photographic history

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The Reverend Dr John Wall MA FRPS died on 5 October 2012 aged 84 years. His funeral was held in Kirkbymoorside on 16 October.  John Wall compiled the pioneering Directory of British Photographic Collections which was published by The Royal Photographic Society’s National Photographic Record and Heinemann in 1977.

John Wall was born in Middlesborough in the North Riding of Yorkshire in 1928. From the age of three he lived in Darlington, County Durham where he attended Darlington Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. Later he attended Hartley-Victoria Theological College and Manchester University. He obtained a BD degree (London), an MA, Classics (Bristol) and a PhD in Medieval History (London).

After graduating in divinity Wall took pastoral charge of churches in Newcastle and Somerset. He entered the teaching profession in 1966 and became a principal lecturer and head of religious and social studies at Middleton St George College of Education in County Durham.  Wall was an enthusiastic amateur photographer and joined the Royal Photographic Society. He gained his Associateship in 1966 and Fellowship in 1977.

His lasting legacy is the publication of the Directory of British Photographic Collections. This had its origins in a meeting held by the Society in March 1972. The idea of a National Register of Photographic Archives had been championed by Colin Osman for some years and this, under Wall’s efforts, was renamed the National Photographic Record and set up as a department of the Royal Photographic Society. (1) The NPR was supported by the Sunday Times and funded privately with some £16,000 raised to establish it. Wall became its leading advocate and, with a staff of four and four years, worked on the compilation of the Directory. The Directory aimed to collate basic information on photography collections in the United Kingdom and some 17,000 questionnaires were circulated with 1580 collections included in the book which was published in 1977. (2)

Following publication Wall continued to write and lecture extensively on photographic archives and related subjects. He gave The Peter Le Neve Foster lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in November 1982 titled ‘Towards a National Photographic Archive’ . (3)

Taking early retirement on account of his wife's incapacity, Wall retired to Kirkbymoorside, on account of its proximity to the North Yorks Moors Railway. His interests and hobbies included: steam railways; walking; coins and stamps; mazes; sundials; photography; medieval history and sculpture. In addition to the Directory he was the author of First in the World: The Stockton and Darlington Railway (Sutton Publishing, 2001); The Face of the Realm: Twentieth Century Coins of the United Kingdom: Their History and Design (Spink and Son, 2002) and well as articles and papers across all his interests.

Away from photography Wall was an active Methodist and a volunteer with the North Yorks Moors Railway. His wife, Betty, predeceased him and he had five children. Ruth, Michael, Antony, Mary and David.

Dr Michael Pritchard

 

(1). Colin Osman, ‘A National Register of Photographic Archives’, Newsletter of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group, No. 1 (June 1972), p. 4.

(2). John Wall, ‘Recording Britain’s Photographic Heritage’, Transations Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, vol. 78 (1984), pp. 16-17.

(3). John Wall, ‘Towards a National Photographic Archive’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts
Vol. 131, No. 5318 (January 1983), pp. 70-86. 

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