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By Emma Thom on

Fay Godwin cameras on loan from the British Library

Our Fay Godwin exhibition recently received a welcome addition when a delayed loan from the British Library was finally installed.

Colin Harding, Curator of Photographic Technology, who curated the show, installed several pieces of Fay Godwin’s photographic equipment. These include two of her cameras, together with some of her original printing notes and contact sheets.

Colin Harding placing cameras, negatives and contact prints into display cases in the Land Revisited exhibition

There are two of Fay Godwin’s cameras on display—a Hasselblad 500C/M camera fitted with a Planar f2.8 50mm lens and a Leica M6 camera fitted with a Summicron f2 35mm lens. Both of these cameras would have been used to produce some of the images included in the exhibition.

Also on display is a folder containing some of Fay Godwin’s contact sheets. Contact sheets show an unaltered positive print of the original negative that has not been enlarged. They are useful to show the quality of the negatives and are used by photographers to select which print to enlarge. Colin has chosen to show the contact sheet for one of Fay Godwin’s most celebrated images, Flooded tree, Derwentwater (1981). Careful study of the contact sheets reveals that she photographed this location several times on different occasions, waiting until the conditions were exactly what she wanted.

A folder containing Fay Godwin’s original negatives is also added to the display, open at the page containing her negatives for the Flooded Tree image. She made careful notes on a pencil sketch of the photograph to remind her how best to print from the chosen negative. These notes show areas highlighted to ‘hold back’ and others which need additional exposure. Such detailed attention resulted in the final exhibition print, framed and on show next to the display case.

Flooded tree, Derwentwater, 1981, Fay Godwin © The British Library Board
Flooded tree, Derwentwater, 1981, Fay Godwin © The British Library Board

These loaned objects add a further insight into the absolute clarity of Fay Godwin’s photographic vision, her meticulous attention to detail, and her quest for technical excellence. It was this approach which ultimately resulted in the beautiful exhibition prints currently on show in Gallery Two until 27 March 2011.

2 comments on “Fay Godwin cameras on loan from the British Library

  1. I live in the US. I am a big fan of Fay Godwin and own her book LAND. The Hasselblad camera displayed has the 80mm Planar lens not the 50mm Distagon. Yes, I know, only a minor point.


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