Who was Chambré-Hardman?

This photograph, showing the Ark Royal being constructed in Liverpool, is one of the best known works of Chambré-Hardman (1898- 1988). The story goes that he had planned to take this view for quite a while and then, one day, he realised that they were painting the ship and it was going to stand out so beautifully in the morning light. Setting up, he had a great stroke of luck; a school boy walked past and down the centre of the road, the perfect visual path into a great composition, touché.

Back at his studio in Rodney Street he developed the negative but must have known all along that there was one flaw to his masterpiece; the end of the house on the left was also a light colour and was going to ruin the shot by competing with the aircraft carrier for attention. No problem; he made a mask so that the house got more exposure under the enlarger and turned dark grey. Hey presto, a miniature masterpiece was born!

Chambré-Hardman made his living from studio portraiture – a good earner in those days, but he loved to get out into the city and countryside, sometimes by bicycle, and take picture for himself, his own artistic satisfaction.

Great pictures they were too. Perhaps my favourite, for its atmosphere and perfection of composition was one taken in France. It perfectly illustrates my favourite composition lines, what I like to call the “Painter’s Armature” – Ian McNab, in his talk to us, illustrated it as something which Henri Cartier Bresson was taught in his painting lessons and intuitively used in his photography.

Chambré-Hardman’s studio in Rodney Street is now a National Trust property and is set out to show how he worked. When some of us visited it shortly after the NT opened it I was a bit disappointed to find that there were relatively few of his photographs on display – nothing like the wonderful exhibition I saw in Bradford a few years before – but no doubt it was a temporary omission.

  4 comments for “Who was Chambré-Hardman?

  1. October 27, 2018 at 8:58 am

    What a great way to start a Saturday morning —to have the pleasure of reading John,s superb article about a great photo. Ihave seen the photo before–one of the greats. I seem to recall going on this Ark Royal at Plymouth many years ago during Navy Days—in fact have a commemorative ash tray for its commisioning. The second photo—well you could say –yes– photography can compare with the best of art–beautiful.Thanks John—-

  2. October 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for an informative post John. It sets the scene nicely for Thursdays’ talk. It’s obvious that he had a good eye for composition and took natural atmospheric photographs. We can all learn from photographers like him.

  3. October 28, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    In this time, she underwent redesign and, when completed, she was markedly different from her sister ship. Shortly before her launch from the Cammell Laird shipyard, an image of the ship painted with her white undercoat was captured by the pictorialist photographer Edward Chambré Hardman. This has been exhibited many times under the name ‘Where Great Ships Are Built’ and later ‘Birth of the Ark Royal’. When commissioned, she had a 5.5° partially angled flight deck, two steam catapults capable of launching aircraft weighing up to 30,000 pounds (14,000 kg), a deck-edge lift on the port side (the first British ship to be fitted with such a device), modified armament, and the new mirror landing system. Ark Royal was the first ship to be constructed with an angled flight deck and steam catapults, as opposed to having them added after launching.[2] These innovations allowed aircraft to land and take off from the carrier at the same time. Her flight deck as built was 800 by 112 feet (244 by 34 m).

    • October 28, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      The above is copyright good old wikepedia. Yes fromWiki I can confirm this ARK ROYAL is the RO9 commission that I went over in 1970 -Built about 1950 as John explains when photographed in its white undercoat at Birkenhead and then de-commissioned about 1979. As a matter of interest–in W10 I highlighted the line about Edward Chambre-Hardman–but I can never get out of the highlighting tool so as to post the comment. Found my ARK ROYAL ash tray and will post a pic. on Flicker.

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