Bristol and Somerset: Vanishing Lives at the Royal West of England Academy

By Sarah Jackson | 19 August 2013

Exhibition preview: Bristol and Somerset: Vanishing Lives, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, September 7 – November 13 2013

Shepherd on Exford to Oare Road, 1954
Shepherd on Exford to Oare Road, 1954© 2013 Reece Winstone Archive
Reece Winston spent 45 years photographing Bristol and creating an archive of thousands of photos documenting how the city changed over time. In this new exhibition, produced by Winstone’s son, John, the transformation of Bristol and Somerset is surveyed.

In 1959, 2,000 of these photographs were exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy. Many of these were from the early days of photography and, for the first time, the people of Bristol had the chance to see their city how it once was, and not how their own hazy memories recalled it.

An accomplished and hard-working freelance photographer, Winstone published many similar images in a series of books entitled Bristol As It Was, thus becoming the first person to publish photographs of vanished scenes.

This new genre was soon adopted all over the world. As time passed, Winstone began to take images of areas soon to be redeveloped with the express purpose of publishing them in book form a decade later.

By 1966, Reece’s work in creating a commercial country-wide photo library of "Beautiful Britain" consisted of 36,000 of his own photos. Ranging from the 1930s to the 1960s, the photos captured the changes that transformed British life forever.

Winstone was also meticulous in dating and captioning his collection of historic photographs of Bristol. Thanks to him, Bristol’s history since the mid-19th century has been very well documented photographically.

For this latest exhibition, John Winstone has selected 150 of his father’s 7,000 photographs of urban and rural locations in Bristol and Somerset.

Dr Robert Dunning, a country historian who has contributed to the catalogue, has calls the show "a remarkable selection from a remarkable archive covering three decades or so of crucial change."

  • Open 9.30am-5.30pm (11am-5pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the academy on Twitter @RWABristol‎.

More pictures:

Peat cutting on the Levels, 1946
Peat cutting on the Levels, 1946© 2013 Reece Winstone Archive

Bristol City Centre, 1935 – Ice Cream Vendor
Bristol City Centre, 1935 – Ice Cream Vendor© 2013 Reece Winstone Archive

Bristol City Centre, 1935 - costmongers
Bristol City Centre, 1935 - costmongers© 2013 Reece Winstone Archive

Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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