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Hardman's treat...

...or should that be Rodney Street? That's where legendary photographer E Chambre Hardman was based. Now the book is out, telling the tale of the city that was his life's work

Published on November 15th 2007.

Hardman's treat...

You could probably fill an entire library with the number of books being produced about Liverpool in time for Capital of Culture year, but one that's bound to be high on the Christmas pressie list for many is Liverpool Through The Lens, a collection of images by E Chambre Hardman.

This book was meant to hit the shelves in September. but didn't. Happily it's out now, just in time for the festive.

Hardman's stunning photography has never been collected in a dedicated book before, and here we have more than 120 images, a tiny fraction of a fascinating body of work that numbered 142,500 prints.

Dublin-born Hardman came to Liverpool in 1922, via India, and, for most of his career, worked from a portrait studio at 59 Rodney Street. Armed with his trusted Rolleiflex camera, he was one of the first people to document Liverpool in pictures: the streets, architecture, transport and people at work and play.

Hardman's work, dating from 1922 to the mid 1970s, forms a priceless social capsule of a city on the up, and on the down: The bustling Overhead Railway of the 1950s on one hand; on the other, the decaying Victorian mansions of L7, earmarked for demolition in the 1970s.

They all sit alongside famous Hardman images like The Birth of The Ark Royal, view from Liverpool Museum steps at night, and the schoolboys on the Mersey ferry. There are also many images of Liverpool docks and the vessels which once flourished on the river.

Following Hardman's death in 1988, and after an extensive campaign led by local photographer Pete Hagerty (who also writes the intro to this book) and supported by many organisations, his Rodney Street house and contents were acquired by the National Trust in 2003 and opened to the public in 2004.

The majority of Hardman's pictures, now jointly cared for by Liverpool City Council and the National Trust, are currently being conserved and archived at Liverpool Record Office.

So Liverpool Through The Lens, with a foreword by Mike McCartney, is a sneak peek at what we might come to see in the coming years.

Indeed, even in the digital age, Hardman's work is still an inspiration to the city's leading photographers, such as Mark McNulty, who told Liverpool Confidential: “It's easy to leave behind an archive these days with the comparitive ease of digital photography and websites such as MySpace, Alamy and Flickr.

“But in the days of the darkroom, E Chambre Hardman ran a massively successful, commercial portrait business while still finding the time to photograph Liverpool extensively, and travel widely, producing lots of landscapes and other photographs, and leaving behind an archive of over 140,00 images. That's the true nature of being an obsessive.”

Liverpool Through The Lens – Photographs by E Chambre Hardman, rrp £15.99 is out now.

Angie Sammons

All pics copyright national trust.

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Roly FlecksNovember 14th 2007.

Yes it was funny how Council "Leader" Storey made such a fuss over finding the few bob needed to save the Hardman collection, yet he had millions to chuck around when it came to appointing the overpaid, blithering incompetents at the Culture Company.Why Storey needed to import such overpaid, useless blunderers from outside when the current council leadership amply illustrates that we can find prize dunces and useless simpletons locally (who presumably can manage on more realistic salaries) is a complete mystery.

F. StopNovember 14th 2007.

Hear hear! The Council was quite happy to see the destruction and dispersal of these Liverpool treasures until the National Trust brought pressure and national attention to bear. As Councillor Storey liked appearing in photographs so much (well, until recently) one might have expected him not to have required so much nudging to save a photographic collection, especially one so valuable to Liverpool culture.

Guy WoodlandNovember 14th 2007.

Chambre Hardman was the most inspirational of Liverpool photographers who set a bench mark in the city, recording 'Liverpool Life' as and when it happened, whether in the formality of the studio, on stage photographing the myriad of rising stars or out on location around the city. He must have produced the definitive record of life in Liverpool covering 4 decades. The scary thing was that until the national trust came along it might have been lost for all time. A big thank you to the NT.

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