5 JANUARY 1940, Page 19



IIPON the mantelpiece in my sitting room is accumulating a collection of grisly photographs printed upon post- cards. Since the first days of the war I have been importuning those of my friends who are serving as private soldiers, gunners, aircraftmen or able seamen to have cheap photo- graphs taken of themselves in uniform. Commissioned officers are excluded from my collection, nor are elaborate studio portraits allowed. I have always been interested in the fact that, whereas the luxury photographer can lend to the features of a Smithfield porter that look of saddened up- rightness which we associate with senior members of the Cabinet, the snap photographer (the man who takes those passport pictures) is able by the deft handling of light and lens to obliterate completely all distinctions whether of class, or intellect, or morals. The most ardent philan- thropist, the most ascetic scholar, the descendant of a thousand earls, emerge from the process indistinguishable from those unfortunates who used to be shipped as convicts to French Guiana, and whose portraits, full face and in pro- file, are preserved (together with their finger-prints) upon the card indexes of the Paris police.

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