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Hertfordshire Portrait: Photographer Luke Archer

PUBLISHED: 18:48 22 February 2012 | UPDATED: 21:04 20 February 2013

Hertfordshire Portrait: Photographer Luke Archer

Hertfordshire Portrait: Photographer Luke Archer

Graduate Luke Archer embarked on a unique project for his degree course by photographing Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa near Harpenden using a 100-year-old camera

Graduate Luke Archer embarked on a unique project for his degree course by photographing Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa near Harpenden using a 100-year-old camera.

The camera came from the Bassano Studios, founded by Alexander Bassano, leading high society portrait photographer in Victorian London who took pictures of Queen Victoria, Prime Minister William Gladstone and the famous portrait of British military leader Lord Kitchener used in the First World War poster Your Country Needs You. Lukes late grandfather and former Fleet Street photographer James Archer bought the studio in the 1960s.

A chance discovery of the British-made Thornton-Pickard Royal Ruby camera fired 23-year-old Lukes imagination and after painstaking research and restoring the camera to full working order he took a portfolio of striking images for his final year project at BristolUWE (University of the West of England).

Many glass plates and film negatives from the original Bassano Studios are held in the National Portrait Gallery and Luke set out to photograph some of the relatives of the notable people who sat for the portraits and their historic homes, including Luton Hoo, former home of the Wernher family.

Luke, from Berkhamsted, said the mahogany and brass large format camera was amongst a number of old artefacts from the studio in a shed at the family home in Harrow where his grandfather and father lived. When they moved house to Berkhamsted the camera was kept out and put on display.

During my second year I came home from university to see the camera for the first time and realised that it might still work and it was just a case of research and experimentation, says Luke.

Fortunately you can still buy film that is compatible with it and then it was a case of practising taking photos, particularly as far as getting the right lighting was concerned.


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