2 JUNE 1961, Page 35



By KATHARINE WHITEHORN There were several new toys on display. One, demonstrated by a young man so keen be kept knocking bits of it off in his excitement, is a small box that produces a print from a negative in a matter of seconds, in ordinary room lighting; a device for developing a negative as easily is to be appended soon. The complete range, presum- ably, will add up to the same effect as the Polaroid camera now being introduced from America: in other words, instant photography. This seems likely to have a more crushing effect on picnics even than transistor radios, since things are bad enough when Father thinks he has got a good picture and consequently stops.

One woman I talked to was very scornful about this instant positive. 'They had direct posi- tives a hundred years ago,' she said. The trouble was to get a negative, so that you .could get several prints and enlargements. You don't have a negative with Polaroids either.' She was a por- trait photographer but female photomaniacs seem to be fewer (whether it is the darkroom hazards that keep them off or a natural repug- nance for machinery I don't know) and most of those there had the beaten, enduring look of non-golfing wives on the seventeenth tee.

There were, however, models. Four of them, at least, provided the raw material of photo- graphic contests: two were even on a fake beach complete with real sand, real lobster pots (empty) and red bathing dresses (full). The men were milling ten deep to get their shot at them, and one, a photographic chemist, suggested un- kindly that this was half the attraction of photo- graphy: 'There wouldn't be three people there if it was a man posing,' he said.

It seems a pity they could not provide the sub- jects one always wishes one could catch with a camera : an old woman eating or fat men falling from a height, or breaking glass.

For those whose primary interest is photo- graphy—or even photographic equipment (one coach-driver I spoke to had £300 worth of, as he admitted, not vitally necessary equipment)— the question of what to take becomes more crucial every year, as more subjects get used up (all right for the family snaps, since the children, after all, are revised annually). Nine-tenths of the subjects of good photography are by now as classifiable as postal districts. There is, for example, the tourist one, subdivided into yodel- ling peasantry, coastlines, goats at dawn and the Eiffel Tower. There is the strictly amateur one, beaches, babies, bikinis and cats—usually taken from the front as cats have no profiles. There is the industrial, the early Picture Post documen- tary one: smoking chimneys and flying sparks. There is the other Picture Post speciality, nudes (preferably garnished with sardonic captions to show you have a mind above that sort of thing).

The Picture Post type of photography having made the most of just about every subject there is, there is little now between the news photo- graph that depends on actually being there when the balloon bursts, and deliberately constructed photography that is more art than nature.

Looking for subjects is not the worry of the other sort of photographer: those whose primary aim is to provide a record of a given blissful moment—even to the extent of seeing no views except through the view-finder. You can now get colour transparencies ready made of pretty well every place anyone is likely to visit, and they pose rather the same problem as Night Tan: if people have come to think of a holiday mainly as a provider of colour slides and a suntan, why, if you can get both at home, bother with the holiday? It could be argued, of course, that buying the mementoes before you leave home leaves you free actually to enjoy the holi- day. Presumably in other times people tried to record the passing moment by sketching or scribbling in laborious diaries; but these things can never have prevented them ever having the moment to the extent that photography does. One thinks of the Player's advertisements as a moment enshrined, if spoiled by too much smoking: but the couple certainly weren't taking photographs themselves.

Nor is it only in the taking that photography can become a blight: once taken, they have to be shown—especially if they are cinematic. They are amusing around the family and quite deadly to anyone else, but one cannot just let them languish if all that care has gone into the taking of them. There is now a new device for attach- ing a cine-recorded synchronised soundtrack to a cinefilm, which would at least enable one to settle everyone in their chairs, turn the lights out and let the machine do all the work; but even that is no help if you are the audience.

However, 1 have a solution. On the analogy of Mother's Day, why do we not isolate, purge and get rid of the photographic emotion once a year by having a Photographic Day? Every- body would photograph everybody photograph- ing everybody else; there would be a showing day a few weeks further on, with people going around First Viewing like New Year. We could make a camera look as out of place at any other time as a Christmas tree in June; and then we could go back to living life instead of just taking a photograph of it.