Friday 7 March 2014

Robert Longden

I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. I think back to my childhood playground which was the South Yorkshire Navigation which was just across the road from my home. I saw barges being filled with coal. Barges being emptied of grain. Loads of timber and steel passing by. Yet I never thought to photograph them.

Other people had a bit more of an eye for a wonderful subject. A few people have managed to catch a flavour of the waterways and the people living and working upon them. Robert Longden was one such person who had an eye for capturing a moment in time. 

Robert Longden was a factory worker living and working in Coventry. Unlike me and many others he was fascinated by not only by the canals and the boats. But he was also fascinated by the people who lived and worked along the canal. 

Black and white was the medium of the time. Colour images would come along later. But the lack of colour actually adds something to the power and gives great impact to the images.
Many of his photographs were taken around Hawkesbury Junction in the 1940's and 50's. This was a time when we were fast approaching the end of the heyday of canals. The end was not over night but a lingering as the business gradually evaporated. What were once vital industrial routes carrying coal from Britain's biggest mines to to supply the fuel for our factories. 

Longden was in the right place at the right time. But he also had an eye for composition. He was able to capture people when they were relaxed.

The end of the commercial carrying on the inland waterways heralded the start of the canals as a leisure industry. Robert Longden's photographs provide a unique view of Britain's canals. The photographs provide an evocative view into the lives of the last generation to work the inland waterways.

The wonderful pictures by the one time factory worker turned photographer have been restored and curated by his great grandson Stephen Pochin. The images were made from the original glass slide negatives.

Longden went on to become the president of the Coventry Photographic Society and his photographic skills won several awards. This unique photographic collection conveys an intimate social history of a working life now long gone.


More images can be found on the Robert Longden Archive. Click Here

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