Liverpool through the Lens: Charlotte Crow Tells How a Remarkable Photographer Will Be Celebrated in Two Exhibitions Organized by the National Trust during Liverpool's European Capital of Culture Year

Article excerpt

In 1979 an elderly man living on his own came to the attention of Liverpool social services after suffering a fall. Since his wife had died nine years earlier he had become a practical recluse and was now finding it increasingly difficult to move about his Georgian townhouse close to Liverpool's Anglican cathedral. Movement was all the harder because the house had many stairs and he and his wife were not people to get rid of things, wedding presents still in their packages lay unopened since the couple married in 1932, nor did they have any children who might have forced them to de-clutter or relocate.

In a story worthy of dramatist Stephen Poliakoff, these poignant circumstances ultimately proved a stroke of fortune for posterity. For the forgotten man was the Irish-born Edward Fitzmaurice Chambre Hardman, once the portrait photographer of choice for the great and the good of Liverpool, as well as its ordinary citizens. He was also in his time a highly respected, prize-winning landscape photographer known for his pictorial eye and special expertise in photographing architecture. His house in Rodney Street was not just his home of nearly thirty years but most of it was given over to his business: his studio, waiting room and darkroom--a complete time capsule of 20th-century photographic equipment, chemicals, cameras, lights, retouching paraphernalia, records and personal papers and some 142,000 photographs dating from the 1920s to the 1970s.

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Realizing this was someone special, one of the social workers attending Hardman alerted Peter Hagerty, the director of the city's Open Eye Photography Gallery. Hagerty recalls: 'My first meeting with Hardman was a chance occurrence in which a shared love of photography brought us together' ... 'Every city has a renowned portrait photographer and for Liverpool it is Hardman. But it is less common that the photographer should also be a great landscape photographer and one who would create a photographic portrait of the city and its citizens and then leave it to them as a legacy. …