The story of the abandoned photographic studio

What I love about working on a project like this is the people you meet and the stories you hear. You start with a premise, in this case the work of photographer Derek Evans, and it starts a ripple effect, leading to even more people and even more stories. And most satisfactorily, they often come full circle, the story ending where it started.

 

I was reminded of this when I went to meet Ron Parrott. He is Hereford Football Club’s historian and archivist. And what a resource he is. In his study, in his hands, in his head, is an exhaustive and comprehensive history and knowledge of the club. There are very few gaps, and what any there are, he is on a constant hunt to fill them. And he will. I’ve no doubt about that.

 

You could say to Ron, ‘who played in the first match of the season in 1952?’ and he’ll nod, ‘just a minute’ and go and grab one of the match programmes. But there is some lineage in his devotion to the club. He follows his father and grandfather behind him in being avid fans.

 

So far, so interesting. But it was something Ron mentioned during our chat that got me curious and set me off on a quest that wasn’t about Derek Evans at all. But it was an apt one, because it was linked to photography.

 

So it was, some time in the 70s or 80s, Ron and his wife took over a studio on the first floor in the building next door to Lloyds Bank in High Town. She was planning to open a bridal shop and the space was perfect.

 

When she picked up the keys, she and Ron went up to take a look. To their surprise the space was filled with what resembled the remains of a photographic studio.

 

It was a curious sight: the space and abandoned equipment displayed signs of great activity and creativity, but now lay silent, unused and gathering dust. I don’t know why, I found that poignant. It was as if it had just been forgotten about – until now.

 

It’s something they both wondered about over the years. But there was no sign or literature that might have indicated who the studio belonged to.

 

I’m so glad he mentioned it. I’ve been turning it over in my mind. I too wanted to know who had worked up there. Somebody must know, surely?

 

Some weeks later I was working through a list of photographers and newsmen who worked in the city, many of whom were now retired. It was taking a long time. They have so many interesting things to say.

 

I got to the name ‘Derek Foster’ at the end of a long day. In his day he ran a commercial photographic studio with his partner Mr Skevington.  Like many before him, Mr Foster knew Derek Evans very well. How could he not, they were in the same profession.

 

We chatted some more and as I listened to his voice something clicked in my head.

 

‘Where was your studio,’ I blurted out.

 

Derek replied: ‘Why, it was in the centre of town.’

 

‘Was it on the first floor in the building next to Lloyds bank,’ I asked?

 

‘It was,’ said Derek sounding surprised.

 

The quarter of a century mystery was solved, just like that. No great shakes I suppose but very pleasing nonetheless.

 

Ron didn’t keep any of the contents of the studio, sadly, but there is something very satisfying to have completed the circle and made a connection, in more ways than one. Doubtless the two gentlemen will meet at some point and I hope I can stand by and eavesdrop as they have that conversation.