Updated: Mar 1
The Lifetime’s work of Tom Davie ARPS
Firstly, welcome back to the blog! It has certainly been sometime since I have posted anything meaningful here, and I thought it was about time to start getting some words back down on the virtual page.
So here is the first post. It is a reflection on the man who has been the greatest influence on my own photography - Tom Davie, my wife's grandfather. We sadly lost Tom in February 2020 at the age of 95. He was in a care home at the time, and we can now only be thankful that he passed before the pandemic hit. We had to wait a further 18 months to be able to hold his memorial, such was his popularity, that we had to turn people away as the church was at capacity.
I originally wrote the below piece shortly before he passed, and it was due to be published in "Black and White" Photography magazine, but then the pandemic hit, and it never came to be, so I thought it would be a fitting piece for the first blog back, as Tom has been on my mind a great deal lately.
Tom was passionate about camera club photography, attending Molesey Photographic Society until his very final days
This is a piece about the power of photography as a medium and the overwhelmingly positive effect it can have on our mental and physical wellbeing.
I have often cited in various interviews and discussions about my own work the inspiration and encouragement given to me by Tom Davie, my wife’s Grandfather. Without meeting and spending time with him, it is unlikely I would have pursued stills photography with the passion that I do today.
Tom has been a photographer since the war days, documenting his time spent in the Home Guard. Tom’s reserved occupation as a mechanic meant he was needed to service army vehicles.
Over the next fifty years, he became a highly successful photographer, gaining his ARPS distinction with the Royal Photographic Society. He founded and remains president of Molesey Photographic Club although he is no longer able to attend meetings.
Tom is now ninety-five and in failing health, spending much time in and out of hospital, lacking the ability to enjoy the things that he loves, most notably delivering incredibly witty votes of thanks to speakers at the photographic club. I have been given the task of sorting through his darkroom, an Aladdin’s cave of photographic history and his life’s work as a photographer. This has been an incredibly rewarding experience, exploring Tom’s work in more detail - from his first efforts at portrait photography of family members using staged lighting, to landscape photography in Yellowstone.
I recently picked out a selection of my favourite prints and took them with me when I visited him in hospital. I was amazed by the immediate effect these images had on his mood, speech and attention. He asked to be sat up in his chair, and a spark of life returned to his eyes. Whereas Tom had sometimes been struggling to remember my name, now, when presented with an image he had taken up to fifty years ago, he was able tell me exactly where each photograph had been taken, in what circumstances and was even able to describe the techniques he had used in the darkroom to enhance the images.
I was staggered by Tom’s reaction to seeing these prints once again and this really hit home the positive effect that photography can have on us, from the initial enjoyment of being out and capturing images, to then reflecting on them years and years later. I will always treasure that conversation with him and how much I enjoyed just listening to him talk passionately about photography.
As I sit writing this in Tom’s darkroom, surrounded by a mountain of negatives, contact sheets, slides and prints, I’m sure there will be many more fascinating discoveries to be made, whether that be a lost family portrait, a significant moment of local or even national history, or perhaps a cinematic urban street scene. And although this journey through Tom’s work is of course tinged with sadness, I’m gaining a valuable insight into his evolution as a gifted photographer.
Tom has almost certainly put down his camera for the last time but he still continues to teach and inspire me through his words of wisdom and now, through this amazing catalogue of a lifetime’s work.