The longest day

Hard to  believe that it's June 21st - the longest day. Surveying the dank and dismal weather outside, it really doesn't look  like the height of a British summer. Not only are the skies relentlessly grey but every hour or two the heavens open and we're treated to lashings of rain. Never mind!  For me this is a writing day or at least a day of organising a variety of features that I have on the go and it's so much easier to stay at your desk when the weather's abysmal.

So, apart from a quick trip to buy sausages and a lottery ticket (hope springs eternal), that's exactly what I did, getting things sorted for the next few days. It's an intriguing bunch of stuff that I find myself working on at the momenty. There's the aerial photography feature from yesterday, the extraordinary tales from the prosthetic limb centre at St Ives near Ringwood, the Weymouth sand sculpture feature for Friday magazine in Dubai (coals to Newcastle or what?) and a rather interesting interview with Steven Berkoff. 

Image 5

 King George VI and the young Princess Elizabeth

Meanwhile i had to knock out a couple of news pieces for the Clive Conway site on Max Hastings winning the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing and  Robert Powell staging a celebration of Dickens at an arts centre on the Isle of Man. Hattie went to photograph the Russell-Cotes Museum setting up this summer's exhibition of photographs by the Royal photographer Marcus Adams and then zipped of to some fashion show this evening. Back for bangers, baguette and salad about 8.30pm. I sent Russell-Cotes Heritage Manager Sue Hayward a copy of the original text of a feature I wrote on Adams and the Royal exhibition. It was  published in this month's edition of Dorset magazine but they had cut it quite heavily to squeeze it into the alloted space which was a shame. I'm not much of a Royalist but Adams took some interesting pictures. He was employed by the Royal Household long before the era of celebrity snappers and the unwelcome attentions of the paparazzi, taking family pictures for Buckingham Palace in the days before they acquired their own camera-toting insiders in the form of Lord Snowdon and the Earl of Lichfeld

The show, which runs from June 29 to September 16, celebrates Adams work which, between 1926 and 1956, captured  two generations of the Royal family on film. They reveal Adams to have been an exceptional photographer. Though mannered and carefully directed his images speak volumes about how close his relationship was with his subjects. The sheer joy on the faces of the young Queen Elizabeth and her children Charles and Anne could only have been achieved by someone who instilled a sense of trust and fun in the people he photographed. Even the photographs taken in more austere times of the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret with their father George VI and mother Queen Elizabeth,  later the Queen Mother, shows the family supremely relaxed in Adams’ company.  

He was clearly a man at one with the ways of high society and the protocol of the Palace. He originally opened his studio in Mayfair in 1920 and quickly established a reputation as a leading child photographer through  his  ability  to  capture  the  personality  of  his  young sitters. These included the children of the writers A.A. Milne and Agatha Christie.  Adams, who believed that photography was ‘ninety-five per cent psychology and only five per cent mechanical’ wanted his subjects to be completely at ease. His studio was filled with gadgets and toys, and had no visible equipment or dazzling lights. Instead Adams built a special camera in the form of a toy cabinet, which he operated remotely while he moved about his studio talking to the children.  A number of the portraits  he created were kept by the Royal Family, some were published in newspapers and magazines, and others appeared on postcards,  calendars, commemorative china, and even biscuit tins and jigsaw puzzles. 

*Picture (above) courtesy of  The Royal Collection © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


© Jeremy Miles 2020