In the Begining – Eric Purchase

While i was growing up, i spent most of my time around the world of newspapers due to my dad being a reporter then deputy editor of various local newspapers.

I was always fascinated by the world of the photographers and would regularly pester them with questions on how, why and what if etc. this got to the stage that on one occasion one old bloke thrust an old F2 at me with a roll of film in in and told me that rather than pestering him, why didn’t i go out and see if i could take some decent photos myself. This event was a classic car rally at the bath and west showground in around 1988 (i was 14 then :) ). this first roll of film resulted in my first published images of (my other obsession at the time) a 1960s minicooper coming round a corner on two wheels at an angle of almost 45 degrees. everyone was shocked and started asking “how did you do that” and to be honest, I’m not really sure! everything was on manual and there was no meter in the camera. i was always told that if everything fails, to stick it on f5.6 at about 1/250, so this mast have been what i did. i can remember prefocusing on the corner (as I’d read about) and just pressed the button. as was often the case then, i just handed over the film and only saw the finished result in the paper the next week.

It seems weird that now when you go o events, that press rooms are a mass of laptops, free WI-fi and stress. Back when i started at the tender age of 14 the press room had it’s own darkroom and most of the photographer main concern was to be in first in the cue for the free beer / cider and food that was always present in huge quantities when the events had a budget.

Anyhow, after leaving school (and in amongst other things like owning a bike shop), i worked for Eric Purchase in Wells. i used to assist with all manor of things involved in the day to day running of a GP photographers in a small place like Wells. My main job was running Erics black and white darkroom. Eric’s opinion of B&W was tha now we had colour (80s style) why would anyone ever want B&W, much like the situation now with film and digital, and we know how that’s going, with people returning to film and valuing it’s aesthetic and intrinsic values above the digital product.

the main reason for this post is that going through my archive, i found this photo Brian Walker took of Eric “back in the day”. he is using his trusty Hasselblad 500cm, which coincidentally was the camera he let me use in the studio and the one that he used to shoot my mum and dads wedding. it was for these reasons that when Eric died, his wife, Shirley gave me the camera with it’s 60mm lens as a keepsake. She thought that this would just be a relic that i’d keep on the shelf, but it has turned into a firm favourite that i am still regularly using almost 45 years after it was made. how many modern cameras will we be able to say that about?? 😀


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