Stone's legacy

All Parties…can join issue in recognising the work Sir Benjamin has done for the nation in preserving beautiful pictorial representations of historical buildings; and not only buildings, but festivals and customs, which, in this fast changing world, might have passed out of existence without a record such as those Sir Benjamin and others, who have been inspired by him, have made.’

The Searchlight of Greater Birmingham, 1913.

Despite gaining widespread recognition in his own day, after his death in 1914, Stone became a largely forgotten figure in British photographic history.

In the early 1920s his son, Roland, gifted the Stone Collection to Birmingham Libraries and staff set about the immense task of indexing this vast photographic archive. Stone had also donated over two thousand of his Parliamentary photographs to the House of Commons Library (now held by the National Portrait Gallery), founded the National Photographic Association and contributed over a thousand images to their important archive (now held by the Victoria and Albert Museum) during his own lifetime.

Photographic Record and Survey photography, which Stone championed at local and national level, remained a significant component of the work carried out by amateur photographers in clubs and societies until the 1950s. This resulted in the creation of large archives of photographs in libraries and county record offices up and down the country which serve as an invaluable historical resource for both current and future generations.

Sir Benjamin Stone’s work was re-discovered by photographic historians and curators such as Colin Ford, Bill Jay and Barry Lane in the 1970s and their books, exhibitions and articles helped introduce his work to later photographic activists - including Daniel Meadows, Tony Ray-Jones, and Homer Sykes - determined to reinvigorate documentary photography in Britain.

In more recent times researchers including Elizabeth Edwards and Peter James have re-examined and re-presented Stone’s work, and his photographs were included in the Tate Britain exhibition ‘How We Are: Photographing Britain from the 1840s to the Present’ (2007).

Stone remains a significant point of reference for photographers exploring ideas of tradition, place, and locality and those seeking to document aspects of continuity and change in nation and state, and the relationship between the individual and the community.

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