The Ark Royal, captured by Hardman as it was being prepared at the Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead for launch by the Queen Mother. © The National Trust.
Mike McCartney is set to declare 59 Rodney Street, the former home and studio of Liverpool photographer Edward Chambré Hardman, open next week as the National Trust gears up to welcome the public on September 15.
An incredible survival in the heart of Liverpool, Chambré Hardman’s house and photographic archive has undergone a four-year process of conservation and preservation.
A renowned photographer, member of the Chambré Hardman Trust and brother of another of Liverpool’s famous sons, Mike has been very much involved in the project to save the house.
"After trying for so many years to introduce E Chambré Hardman to the world, it will give me great pleasure to open 59 Rodney Street," he said.
"Hardman and his work are a landmark in the history of photography and now the people of Liverpool, along with the city’s many visitors, will be able to see the remarkable legacy and extraordinary genius of this quiet and unassuming man."
Where it all happened - the Studio at 59 Rodney Street. © NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel.
For Chambré Hardman a childhood interest in photography developed into a professional enterprise when he went into partnership taking portraits with his friend Kenneth Burrel.
In 1921 he settled in Liverpool, where his reputation as a photographer grew with his passion for the subject. Alongside Margaret, his wife and colleague, he moved to Rodney Street in 1949.
Working in the pictorialist style, Hardman used devices such as soft focus, manipulation and re-touching to create photographic impressions or moods rather than pure documentary records.
As the portrait business prospered, he travelled widely, capturing rural and urban landscapes, establishing a reputation as one of the finest English pictorialists of the first half of the 20th century.
A regular exhibitor at the Royal Photographic Society, Hardman was awarded an honorary fellowship "for services to photography" in 1980.
On his death in 1988, 59 Rodney Street, together with personal papers and a photographic archive of over 142,000 images, was saved from being dispersed by the E Chambré Hardman Trust.
The man himself. Edward Chambre Hardman photographed in around 1969 holding a Rolliflex camera. © The National Trust.
With help from Liverpool City Council, the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television and a campaign by the Liverpool Daily Post, the collection was kept together for four years.
In 2002 it was offered to the National Trust and, following the award of a £928,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the task of conserving the house, its contents and Hardman’s photographic collection began.
The house was the only known photographic practice of the mid-20th century where the photographer’s entire output had been preserved intact with his studio, home, personal and business papers.
It looked as if he and his wife had never thrown anything away; wedding presents lay unopened and tins of food stashed away during the Second World War would occasionally explode.
All the artefacts, including a filing system in which hair and eye colour of sitters - accompanied with real samples - was recorded were cleaned, catalogued and conserved over months of dedicated work.
More than just an average Georgian town house. © NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel.
The task complete Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, thanked the organisations and individuals that helped make it possible and expressed the importance of caring for the past.
"Heritage gives texture to all our lives today and if people are involved in caring for their heritage they take far more pride in their local area," she said.
"There is already a great sense of pride in Liverpool, which we experienced when we opened Mendips, John Lennon’s childhood home last year and we hope the opening of 59 Rodney Street will be the next piece in the jigsaw of Liverpool’s renaissance."
Visitors from September 15 will see the house as it was in the late 1950s, from the reception room where clients waited to have their portrait taken, to Hardman’s studio and living quarters.
A room has been set aside for a rolling programme of exhibitions of his photographs – the vast majority of which will be held at Liverpool Public Record Office – while future plans include a study room with research facilities and access to Hardman’s collection of photographic books and journals.
For more information on 59 Rodney Street visit the National Trust website.