Saturday, May 03, 2003

In a rare act of kindness my geography teacher on learning of my love of hill walking loaned me a copy of ‘Snowdonia Through the Lens’ a book of mountain photographs by W. A. Poucher. I was captivated and grabbed every opportunity to avail myself of any of Poucher’s books in the local library. His books of mountain photographs were published by Chapman and Hall during the latter years of WW2 and continued through the 1950’s when he became a regular contributor to ‘Country Life’ magazine.The photographs in the early books were all in monochrome taken on Kodak Panatomic X film with a Leica III camera. Later on Constable produced a series of books of his colour photographs but these were terrible – ruined by bad colour reproduction.

The early books quickly went out of print and became keenly sought by collectors, I managed to pick up two of the Chapman and Hall books some years ago and have been browsing second hand bookshops over the years to find others in acceptable condition. Copies worth buying eluded me until last week when I found a copy of ‘Snowdon Holiday’ in a bookshop in Malvern. It was published in 1943 and had been well cared for, the only damage being slight iron staining on the endpapers and dust jacket.

The reproduction in these early books is superb even though this one was produced under war-time restrictions. The paper has a warm neutral tone and the ink a warm black tone with a hint of sepia about it. This represents for me the best in artistic photography for anyone who has walked the welsh hills the photographs gently evoke memories of the experience – colour reproductions are too intrusive and rarely interpret colour accurately anyway. I can use the Poucher monochrome photographs aided by my own memory as the starting point for paintings but anything which has colour is best avoided.

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