UNSEEN BARRY PHOTOGRAPHS - Trevor Grimshaw’s Unseen Archive
Written by Frank Dixon, John Keith and Martin Dobson
In 1977 Trevor Grimshaw published “Stilled Life”, a book of 36 black and white photographs of some of the redundant British Rail steam locomotives in the Woodham scrapyard at Barry Docks. Each image was accompanied by a short piece of prose or verse selected by Trevor to echo his aesthetic response. Unlike many preservationists, he was primarily interested in the visual impact of the silent, damaged and corroding engines as they stood. Repair and restoration to running order might well await some of them, but Grimshaw’s immediate concern was with the interaction between engines and their environment – specifically the salt-laden air of Barry Docks.
36 photographs saw publication, but in excess of 100 further images had been recorded on Trevor’s 2 1/4” square camera. These were developed and in the case of the black and white photographs, never printed. Colour photographs were taken in a slide format. Altogether they languished in an attic until they were discovered in December 2016 by Trevor’s daughter Ceridwen, who was searching her loft for Christmas decorations. John Keith, long time friend of the Grimshaw family (and an acknowledged expert on Trevor’s oeuvre) co-ordinated the challenging technicalities of realising a selection of the pictures at exhibition quality. Trevor had celebrated the obsolete technology of steam through what is now the obsolete technology of darkroom photography. Before the era of digital imaging the most popular format was 35mm film and equipment for digitising 35mm film images is readily available. But 2 1/4” square format, as favoured professionally and by Grimshaw, cannot be so easily handled. The images in this exhibition result from the specialist expertise of S.O.S Photography who specialise in the recovery of vintage and antique photographs.
In photography, no less than in charcoal, pencil and lithography, Trevor was a master of monochrome. Most of the newly released images are in his characteristic black and white, but there are also some superb works in colour. These show even more clearly the degrading effects of Barry’s sea air.