From the Rectory July 2021

SIMON WARD 12-2018I’ve just been to see an exhibition at Skippings Gallery on King Street. It was an exhibition of old photographs of Great Yarmouth and Broadland scenes taken by PH Emerson who produced his work between 1885 and 1895
The images, which some may recognise, are a fascinating window on the past and capture scenes of rural and town life all along the waterside. You can see ancient wooden sailing boats hauled up on shore for repairs or to be broken as scrap. There are scenes of Broadland folk going about their tasks; lying in a duck punt or mending nets by the side of a tiny cottage surrounded by the reed beds. While it’s easy to get nostalgic when looking at these images there is a feeling of how hard life was too, especially when glimpsing the young children in the scenes whose poverty you can sense
Emerson is a photographer whom I have been aware of for a long time but I learned a couple of new things about him. First, that he only ever took about 200 photos. Yes, only 200! A modern photographer can easily take 200 shots in an hour. For Emerson, resources were scarce and expensive so each and every shot had to be carefully considered, planned and executed. Everything had to be done with care and an economy of resource. Interestingly, after he finished his work in our area after 1895, he moved away and didn’t take another photograph until his death in 1936
The second thing I had never really appreciated was the way in which Emerson immersed himself in the subject he was trying to capture. He did not simply turn up and take a few pictures but instead would spend months camped out around Breydon Water or getting to know the Broadland folk he was so desperate to capture with his lens. Hours were spent in speaking and watching before he felt he was able to know how to proceed. The photograph captures just a second of life but the conversations, observations, preparations and painstaking diligence which went into each work is something to marvel over
 In a world of over-abundant visual images which storm our eyes perpetually, we could do well to embrace a bit of the Emerson rationale: use our resources sparingly and make sure that we are spending plenty of time in the moment. Take time to enjoy the view and marvel in creation. Use and appreciate that which we have and not squander resources. Pause and engage in some conversation and listen to the stories of others. Ponder in order to understand the place where we are and discern what may not be obvious at first glance
This is everything to do with being in the world God has placed us and relating to those whom God puts before us. There is more wonder and glory than we imagine

PS: another good visit is the new Yare Gallery on South Quay. It’s free to visit and there are interesting things to see
Fr Simon
Rev Canon Simon Ward
Team Rector, Great Yarmouth Parish


this article also appeared in Parish Life


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