5th October- 16th December
We are delighted to host the first major retrospective exhibition of the work of pioneering aerial photographer Captain Alfred G Buckham
Creating spectacular images in the face of technical and physical adversity the madcap daredevil Captain Alfred G Buckham (1879-1956) was the foremost aerial photographer of his day. Between 1908 to the early 1930s Buckham risked life and limb to create aerial portraits that are awe-inspiring, poetic and works of technical brilliance.
Alfred Buckham was courageous, almost recklessly so, insecurely squeezed with his large plate camera into a flimsy aircraft taking photographs nobody before had even dared. The last crash he endured left him virtually speechless. But his glistening images are things of rare beauty. Dr Brian Hinton- Chairman.
Spirited artistry with the blood of a risk-taker coursing through his veins, Buckham was a one-off. His first ambition was to be a painter but after seeing an exhibition by Turner he went home and burnt his own work. Those painterly yearnings however did not go up in smoke and they found expression in his aerial photography. During World War 1 he was the first head of aerial reconnaissance for the Royal Navy and later made Captain in the Royal Naval Air Service. However by 1919 he was discharged as one hundred percent disabled, the result of some nine crashes that left him breathing through a tube in his neck for the rest of his life – but did that stop him soaring to dizzying heights risking loss of consciousness to capture spectacular images with his unwieldly large format camera? Definitely not, in fact to add to the drama he would often prefer to go up in stormy weather!
“I always stand up to make an exposure and, taking the precaution to tie my right leg to the seat, I am free to move about rapidly, and easily, in any desired direction; and loop the loop and indulge in other such delights, with perfect safety,” he wrote in 1927!
In an arcane precursor to Photoshop, Buckham also manipulated photographs marrying different cloud formations to landscapes, adding in airplanes and even painting features himself illustrating his aesthetic desires to get the image right.
When you consider not only the tremendous technical challenges he faced but also the restrictions posed on him by his disability, Buckham’s body of work is unquestioningly a marvel of photographic genius. In romantic tradition, the vast spectacle of land and cloudscape is fixed by the lens of Buckham, the sky traveller, and renders the viewer simultaneously insignificant and potent. As Turner is undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest painters so is Buckham one of our greatest photographers.
The exhibition preview will be on Friday 5th October at 6pm-8pm. All welcome. Refreshments from the tearoom will be available.