A Record of England
in Centenary Square, Birmingham
The Benjamin Stone Collection
In July 1897, in a flourish if publicity, Sir Benjamin Stone Birmingham industrialist, Member of Parliament and passionate, almost obsessive collector, announced the formation of the National Photographic Record Association. Stone's NPRA was the most high profile part of a much wider photographic survey movement at the end of the nineteenth century which included archaeology, geology, and British ethnography.
The prime objective of the NPRA itself was to record the antiquities, ancient buildings, folk customs and other survivals of historical interest for the future, forming a national memory bank in order to foster a national pride in the historical associations of the country, or neighbourhood, in family traditions, or in personal associations. Over the next 13 years Stone and his amateur supporters from local camera clubs and antiquarian societies deposited a collection of photographs at the British Museum. In 2000 these prints were moved to the Victoria & Albert Museum.
This book, published to coincide with a display of Stones NPRA prints at the V&A, examines in detail Stone's central role in the project and presents over 100 of his photographs, many of which have never been published before. It also charts the history of the NPRA from its roots in the Record and Survey Movement of the late nineteenth century and finally points to its legacies within photographic practices. What is especially striking is the resonance of these pictures in our own age.
Elizabeth Edwards is Professor and senior research fellow at the University of the Arts London. A visual anthropologist and historian, she has published widely on the relationship between photography, history and cultural representation. She is currently completing a detailed historical ethnography of the Photographic Record and Survey Movement in England.
Peter James is head of Photographs for Birmingham Libraries. He has undertaken extensive research on Stones collection for many years and works with contemporary photographers interested in the contemporary resonances of the intellectual legacies of Stone and the Survey Movement. He is currently working on a major exhibition of Stone and his photographic collection. Sir Benjamin Stone (1838-1914)
The Birmingham industrialist, Member of Parliament and passionate, almost obsessive collector - more popularly known as ir SnapshotSir Benjamin Stone is perhaps best remembered for his extensive and enthusiastic advocacy of photography as an historical record. He started collecting photographs as a record of everyday life in this country and abroad in the 1860s. Finding he could not always buy the images he wanted he studied photography and from the early 1880s began taking his own photographs.
In the mid 1880s and set out on a monumental personal project making istory Photographsboth at home and abroad and on entering Parliament he set himself the task of photographing every MP, the entire Palace of Westminster, its staff and important visitors.
In 1987 Stone founded the National Photographic Record Association itself part of a much wider photographic survey movement at the end of the nineteenth century which included archaeology, geology, and British ethnography - whose prime objective was to record the antiquities, ancient buildings, folk customs and other urvivalsof historical interest for the future, forming a national memory bank in order to foster em>a national pride in the historical associations of the country, or neighbourhood, in family traditions, or in personal associations.
In 1904 two volumes of Stones photographs, his Parliamentary Photographs and those documenting English Customs and Festivals were published by Cassell & Co. Stone istory Photographswere exhibited a range of prestigious venues including the V&A and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. His work was the subject of a book by Bill Jay, Customs and Festivals: Photographs by Sir Benjamin Stone 1838-1914 in 1972, and a major retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, organized by Colin Ford in 1974 entitled Sir Benjamin Stone , 1838-1914: Victorian people, places and things surveyed by a master photographer.
The legacy of Stone photographic practices can be traced in the work of a generation of photographers in the 1970s including Tony Ray-Jones, Daniel Meadows and Homer Sykes. In more recent time Stone work has featured in a number of major exhibitions in England (A Gentle Madness: the Photographs of Tony Ray Jones, National Museum of Photography, Film and TV, Bradford, 2004, and Bruno Latour Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2005.
Biography of Benjamin Stone
Sir Benjamin Stone's Parliamentary Pictures
National Portrait Gallery, London
Room 28 case display
5th August - 14th January 2007
Festivals, Ceremonies and Customs: Sir Benjamin Stone and the National Photographic Record
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
26 October 2006 - 14 January 2007
Knight of the Camera
Centenary Square, Birmingham
22 September - 21 October 2008
A Record of England, Sir Benjamin Stone & the National Photographic Record Association 1897-1910
Elizabeth Edwards, Peter James, Martin Barnes
Dewi Lewis Publishing, V&A Publishing, 2006.
ISBN 10: 1-904587-37-2 Collections
Sir Benjamin Stone Collection
Birmingham Central Library
The Stone Collection comprises 22,000 prints, 17,000 negatives, 50 volumes of collected photographs, 50 volumes of press cuttings, Parliamentary Diaries and albums of invitations amongst a wealth of other material.
National Photographic Record Association Archive
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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