Hardman's Hope

Edward Chambré Hardman
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
26th July - 21st August 2010

Reviewed by Charles McIntyre

Edward Chambré Hardman's photographic legacy is, like all of our most treasured antiquities, under threat of being forgotten. Mr. Hardman's Photographic Studio of Rodney Street stands firm in a rising tide of encroaching modernisation, but competing with the convenience of photographic digitisation and the relentless development of new tourist attractions in the city is no easy task for the modest National Trust museum.

In a new effort to preserve the studio's popularity, a small exhibition is being held at the Anglican Cathedral. Visitors to the exhibition can study a range of vintage cameras from over the decades, as well as a book of Hardman prints. This is in effect a 'taster' of what the Studio tour itself has to offer, enticing us to revisit years long since past through Hardman's photographic career.

The centrepiece of the miniature exhibition is the video display, narrated by Mike 'Flash Harry' McCartney, who – a fellow photographer through the ages – offers his own interpretations of Hardman's photos through time.

The video is played through a large High Definition screen, giving the photos a real clarity and accessibility (further indicative of the benefits photographic digitisation offers above original historic prints) and ample time for consideration. McCartney's muted narration offers genuine insight, often pitching in tales relating to the featured location, with recurring reference, of course, to the Beatles.

The display works well on many levels - not least due to the epic and always awe inspiring venue - and the inbuilt focus on the Hope Street Quarter is a clever and unifying concept. The photos range from the 1920s right through to the late 70s, often highlighted by era-defining events. One such event is the Queen's visit, where Hardman seamlessly captured the Queen in transit, her adoring fans leering through the car windows and the Hope Street architecture looming above, all in glorious focus.

Snow is a recurring aspect of the photographs, and one that is most successful. A perfect example being a shot showing Rodney Street smothered in a blizzard of snow, lit only by a solitary, aged lamp post (which still stands today) as a young couple walk away from the camera. The beauty lies in the snow, slightly obscuring any references to era (street signs, tops of cars, are buried). The photograph could easily have been taken last winter; we simply wouldn't be able to tell.

The beauty of the Hope Street Quarter is its hauntingly surreal sense of timelessness, and this exhibition captures that feeling perfectly. Walking home along Rodney Street, you could swear Hardman is taking your picture, committing you to his ageless collection.

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