Shaw the Villager and Human Being: A Biographical Symposium

Shaw the Villager and Human Being: A Biographical Symposium

Shaw the Villager and Human Being: A Biographical Symposium

Shaw the Villager and Human Being: A Biographical Symposium

Excerpt

Photography was Bernard Shaw's chief hobby, and he was also keenly sought after by his fellow-photographers and admirers as a sitter. It was my great good fortune to meet him twice in this capacity, and to take what proved to be the last action photographs of him, only a few weeks before the accident which caused his death.

There were two Bernard Shaws. One was the great 'G.B.S.' figure known to the general public; the other the human being-- hidden by this mask or façade--whom I found to be virtually the opposite: sensitive and diffident almost to the point of shyness. Far from the rather intimidating and querulous encounter which I had expected (in the absence of a flat refusal) with an egotistical personage, sharp of tongue, and all intellect and no feeling, the actual meetings revealed the contrary; a more fundamentally friendly and kindly person it would be impossible to imagine. Shaw had a great benevolence and courtesy about him, and gave an impression of possessing immense human understanding.

True, he gave the title of 'The Chucker-Out' to one of my photographs of him when I took it to show him, but I left with a strong conviction that this was an artificial rôle forced upon him by his need for uninterrupted concentration on his work, coupled with his vocation as an iconoclast--the critic and chucker-out of the dead wood of society. At heart he loved humanity, and has he not permanently enriched human life, both in his own lifetime, and, through his works, in limitless ages to come?

I was deeply impressed by the difference, as I experienced it, between Bernard Shaw in the flesh, and the famous G.B.S. 'public figure' or 'persona' about which I had heard and read so much. I was an unknown research student at the time I met and photographed Shaw, and thinking back over my impressions of him as a 'dual personality', I came to wonder whether people besides myself who came into personal contact with Shaw in . . .

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