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Arthur Clennett Junior, of Clennetts Photography


To hear dad tell it, him and Uncle Ernie

spent the sixties slicing albumen paper

for the creaking matrons of Hartlepool

to present to one another when calling.

Ernie would pick farthings out the noses

or ears of their buttoned-up children,

puddings in sailor suits on the ton-heavy chair,

until the smell of hypo and mag flash

sent him running to the Cambridge halls.

The Great Ernesto.  Roar of the greasepaint.

In the end he had to open a studio,

do a nice line in ladies’ cartes de visite,

though the restless twitch never left.

He once pawned the four-lens Disdéri

for a double-bass, and the lord alone knows

what his poor daughters lived on, says mum,

knowing fine well they’re music teachers.



I’d snap it if I could, this endless blue,

but the Gazette would never take it, blue

not really showing well in half-tone grey.

Open water? Where’s the story? none to see.

What you need’s a squaddie carrying his mate

like a bag of flour on his shoulders,

face clear and bright in the Dardanelles sun,

or a treacherous Serb writhing away

from the blurry hands of his armed guard.

The dramas of this war look good

when they’re shown in black and white,

if I had a thing to shoot I could show you.

I know when to lift the print out the bath,

since nine I’ve been getting the drape right

on the velvet curtain behind that chair,

and now dad’s on about this Autochrome.

He says in the future everything will be in colour.


Ernest Clennett was listed on various censuses as a photographer, magician and musician. Two of his daughters were listed as music teachers.

Disdéri was a French photographer who patented a way of making eight calling cards on one sheet of paper using a camera with four lenses.

Local and national papers sometimes paid for amateur snaps taken by servicemen on the newly-invented portable Kodak camera.

The famous image of heroism in Gallipoli was in fact staged by the photographer Ernest Brooks.

One of the first live-action reportage photographs ever taken was of the arrest of Gavrilo Princip, the Black Hand member who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Autochrome was a colour photography process first marketed by the Lumiere brothers in 1907. I have imagined it getting to Hartlepool a little later than Paris!

Arthur Clennett Junior died aged 17, before he could take over the family photography business.

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