It has taken me too long to summon the strength to write my father’s obituary. He died peacefully after a short illness on 12 June 2014, four days after his 101st birthday. Sadly, after breaking his hip in 2010, he never walked again and was confined to a Nursing Home which, typically, he accepted with equanimity. Throughout 2010, he teetered on the brink of consciousness. Thereafter, he improved considerably and until the last six months of his life when he began to withdraw from his limited world, he remained fully engaged and interested in everything related to the RPS.
My father wrote his own obituary in 1982 in order to ease the burden on me in anticipation of his ‘imminent’ death! He noted that his obituary would probably only be of interest to the now defunct Colour Group and might be worthy of a few lines in the Journal; such was his modesty. I have edited his text and supplemented it with my own special memories.
My father first became interested in photography as a boy when he used his father’s brass and mahogany half plate camera with quarter plate adaptor to capture images of the Yorkshire moors. Subsequently he acquired a Reflex Korelle 2 ¼ inch square roll film camera. He took some memorable images during a cycling trip to Germany in 1938 and noted in his journal that despite what he had heard about them, the Germans were lovely people. His photography was halted first by WW2 during which he worked in a reserved occupation for the Potato Marketing Board and was evacuated to Oxford. This was followed by marriage to his land lady’s daughter (it was either marriage or find new digs when he was deemed by my maternal grandmother to have been walking out with her daughter long enough to cause scandal unless he made her an honest woman) and the subsequent arrival of two children in the 1950s.
When my father retired early in 1976 after successfully setting up the financial structure for the Civil Aviation Authority, he took up gardening and photography as retirement occupations. After deciding to specialize in the negative/positive colour process, photography became all consuming. He joined the RPS in 1978 which he regarded as his camera club and regularly attended Colour and Pictorial Group meetings, first in South Audley Street and later at King’s College. After moving to Solihull in 1982, he maintained contact with his special interest groups by attending week-end meetings and acting as secretary to the Colour Group print Postal Portfolio K. He was also a member of the Pictorial Group print circle AK.
He gained his LRPS in 1979 and his ARPS in 1981 using an Olympus OM2. For his Fellowship awarded in 1985, he upgraded to a Bronica ETR-S, the purchase of which he funded by selling me his Olympus kit. As a Chartered Accountant, my father knew the value of money and the fact that I was his daughter did not prevent him from maximising proceeds from the sale!!
My father was an enthusiastic entrant to exhibitions in the UK. He was delighted to gain several acceptances in the London Salon of Photography and bitterly disappointed that he never gained an acceptance in the Edinburgh International Exhibition. He had regular acceptances in the Colour Group and Pictorial Group Exhibitions. His proudest achievement was a Selector’s medal for a colour print in the RPS International Exhibition in 1986/87.
My father latterly had a love / hate relationship with his darkroom which he finally closed at the age of 92 years. By then, he recognised that his image making ability was no longer as good as it used to be.
In 2003, after far more effort than my father expended I became a Fellow of the Royal. When my certificate was presented in early 2004, my father and I shared an immensely happy day. Until 2012, we believe that we were the only surviving father and daughter Fellows of the Royal. After the presentation of my certificate, tribute was paid to my dear father who was at that time the second longest supporter of the Colour Group. He outlived his ‘rival’ but he was not happy that he had done this.
My father taught me almost everything I needed to learn about photography. He supported me and encouraged me. We shared our successes and failures. I emulated my father’s style and latterly he emulated mine. Together, we shared our photography for so many happy years.
My grief is shared by my brother. Thankfully, my mother who also survives my father is in the later stages of dementia and has not appreciated that he is gone. This is a blessing because my brother and I are certain that my mother would have been totally bereft by the death of her husband.
Anne Sutcliffe FRPS
Image, above, right: John Sutcliffe FRPS / The Light in the Crypt.