Early last spring we proposed an idea to Hebden Royd Council to recreate exactly, around 8 photographs from Hebden Royd’s WW1 era and allow people from todays community to step into the shoes of those who were embarking on war, in order to connect with those people long gone and the past. This was to commemorate 100 years since the Battle of the Somme and will use photographs taken 100 years ago in Hebden Bridge and the surrounding villages.
Our first task was to source the original images and there is no better place then Pennine Horizons. Frank and Ann, along with the other volunteers, work tirelessly to archive and categorize thousands of pictures from the Hebden Royd region as well as give talks and manage umpteen projects. But still they welcomed me with open arms and couldn’t do enough to help. I pored over photographs for hours looking for a handful that would be suitable. In so many, they contained buildings that no longer or views may be entirely obscured; In 100 years a tree can grow completely. The poses that people stood in may have been too complicated or numerous. One challenge was dating the photos, in most cases this could realistically only be done to the decade usually indicated by how the people were dressed, technology present and cultural norms.
After selecting the images, Claire and I then went on a treasure hunt to find the locations. The waterfall image was an enigma. We thought is was in Hardcastle Crags, but we were informed it was indeed in another valley. I then set off the following day to find it following the stream along the way only to be confounded. Eventually as the day waned I knocked on the door of an isolated farmhouse high up the valley. A rather startled elderly lady answered who, after some explination and apologies, told me that the waterfall was Lumb Falls and another mile up the valley. It was too late, I needed to return home and put my daughter to bed. So it was only on a third attempt that I found this wonderous waterfall, joined this time by Claire and Florence. Here we found a plaque referencing a poem by Ted Hughes which was inspired by a photograph of men standing on the bridge who were about to go to war. Was this the same photo that we were taking?
Tom Bolland, Jamie Wardley, Claire Jamieson
On our fourth visit to Lumb Falls we tried to photograph it. We decided to do this first image with just our team to help iron out some technical issues….which was a good idea as we were there for hours with an impatient dog and a 1 year old that has just started walking and has an interest in everything. I found it extremely difficult to find the correct position of the original photograph as the landscape has changed and there were the challenges of scaling the rocks, the river, and propping up equipment in mud.
Eventually we got the shot, but made the mistake of reviewing the image once we had got back to the office. The photo of Tom just didn’t work as he was wearing a white shirt against a white sky so he looked like a floating head, and the picture was out of focus! What! I was sure it was focused when I took it, this was a problem that haunted me until almost the end of the project. In addition, we had failed to notice that there was a third person sitting on the rocks! What had we got ourselves into?!
So we returned to the falls a fifth time and took the photos again, this time with contrasting attire and I managed to focus the images correctly although I still didn’t understand why the original images were not focused.
Adam Yare, Hannah Greenwood, Emma Wright
The second image we took was with some friends of ours Adam Yare, Hannah Greenwood and our neighbour Emma Wright. This was the photo at Gibson mill. We were quite nervous as I didn’t want to repeat our fumbling experience of Lumb falls. It was important for people just to be able to turn up and focus on the experience of posing in the same place as those gone before. We managed to get the frame set up very early, enough for a coffee from the café ready for the models to arrive. And to our delight it all went well! Our friends turned up and we took the photos.
JMD’s Hardware, Mytholmroyd
Filled with the bravado from our Gibson Mill success we decided to do an image with a person we did not know but to play it safe by having only one person in the photo. I had approached Tom Duerden at JDM’s Hardware shop in Mytholmroyd and he had enthusiastically agreed to pose outside his family shop just as a young shop assistant did around 100 years ago. It was great to show people these photos as Tom had never seen it before.
The chap in the original photo looked to be putting out his sign and as there was a strong cast of sunlight on his face I figured we would take the photo in the late morning. Tom agreed to a Sunday photo as the traffic would be less.
Come the Sunday I had a quick look at the photo and pondered the lighting. I often chatter to myself when thinking things through and audibly said ‘Surely if the sun is rising in the east, then the light should be falling on the right side of his face, but in the photograph it is on the left side! Oh bother, he is bringing the sign in after work, not putting it out. The lighting is wrong!!!
By this stage it was too late to re-schedule and so I quickly grabbed our flash equipment and hoped that we would be able to simulate lighting from the west. Shadows may seem like a minor thing to most people but to me some details like this are incredibly important and grate on me if they are not right. And this whole project is about details!
This photo shoot was not smooth and was full of all sort of technical issues, vehicles passing by as the photo is taken from over the road and the added complication of flash photography. But with the patience and good humour of Tom, we got there in the end. One thing we had not factored for was that the floor here has been tarmacked since the early 1900’s and so the floor level is higher. Notice that Tom is stood a little more forward than the original chap to account for this anomaly.
Our next two photos to take were in Hardcastle Crags by the stepping stones mid way to Gibson mill from the car park. The weather had for the past week been awful with continuous rain and it was still throwing it down with rain, but looking at the weather forecast it was to clear up just in time for the afternoon shoot so all was still planned.
I decided to take Ellie the dog for a run and in doing so ran by the river in Hebden Bridge.
“Oh the river looks quite high” I marveled as nature always impresses me. “Well it has been raining for the past week.” It was only when I got back that the cogs in my head began to tick and I realised that if the river level here was high then perhaps it was also high at the stepping stones. With this in mind I drove to the site and then hiked through the mud to the stepping stones to find that they were under a torrent of water. These photos would have to wait. Even though by the afternoon it was of course blazing sunshine!
Pack Horse Bridge
Francesca, Isobel, Marcus
Our next photo by default was the ancient pack horse bridge in Hebden Bridge. I was really looking forward to this as I feel it is quite an iconic image and we had Francesca, Isobel and Marcus who were volunteering to be in the shot. The only issue is that when we got on site there was a huge flower arrangement right in the middle of the frame which had to be moved. I had anticipated this as I had a vague recollection of walking past this flower arrangement recently whilst eating a fish butty. So I had packed my trusty tool kit.
“It needs an alan key,” said Tom.
“Well in my trusty took kit there is an array of alan keys Tom.” Success!
Only none of them fitted. There was then some fumbling with pliers, urgent phone calls to Emma at the council and promptly the cavalry arrived with the obscure tool for the job! We were then able to remove the flower bed only to have our jubilations dampened somewhat as the flowers had been watered that morning and the contents poured over my lap, it looked like I had wet myself. Still, I had the notion that because I was wearing a high visibility vest then it was somehow OK.
After the flowerbed saga we were now on the back foot a little and began the arduous process of framing the shot. But for some reason the principles of logic that allow us to line up various objects to find the exact location of the original image were failing us. We just couldn’t get it exactly right and this as with light directions frustrated me! It got to a point however where the girls and Marcus were waiting and we needed to go ahead. Looking at the photographs now the error was marginal to be fair and our patient volunteers really enjoyed the experience posing on the bridge whilst folks plodded by. After the shoot I couldn’t resist going back and looking at the site. The clue should have been the ‘renovated in 2012’ stone on the side. Although most of the bridge is exactly the same as the original photo, the cobbled paving appears to be slightly higher and the right side somehow different. Perhaps this was the source of my frustration!
Michael Grimes, Tony, Dillon
The next photo of Hebden Bridge’s oldest building, the White Lion pub went smoothly apart from the local taxi firm who were going to model their cars not being able to make it. Kindly the staff at the White Lion Tony and Dillon then stepped in last moment and modelled with our cars parked on double yellow lines. I was assured by the local traffic warden that this was fine if we were done in ten minutes to add a little pressure. This was a wonderful photo to take as stood in the doorway of the original photograph was the Landlord and here in our photo we had today’s landlord Michael Grimes who is a little taller but points his finger in the same way!
Hardcastle Crags: Ladies By the River
Joelle & Elodie McNichol, Sara Nesteruk, Tess Hudson
We had rescheduled the Hardcastle Crags photos to Saturday 3rd September and it was our last chance saloon as the deadline for the project had approached and there were no other opportunities to take the photos. Of course it was forecast for heavy rain. However, it had prior to that been glorious weather recently and so I was confident the river level would be OK so we planned to go ahead. Claire and I set up in good time and had a nice little base tent to go over our camera. One of the participants Sara Nesteruk turned up first, she got there pretty easy as I had sent her a google map of the area as she wasn’t sure exactly of the location. She was then followed by Joelle and her daughter Elodie who had been here before. Elodie was dressed head to toe in rubber waterproofs capped with wellies and looked invincible to the weather as she splashed in the river. Tess Hudson and her son Felix were nowhere to be seen. Patiently everyone waited by the river in the pouring rain and we had a fudge bar to keep us going. After what seemed like an age I was a little concerned so I then went looking for them shouting at the top of my voice “Hello! Hello!”
Eventually I heard a shout back. Tess and Felix had become a little disorientated and had been walking backwards and forwards along the river looking for the stepping stones for the past hour!
So we then got started. Everyone posed in the deluge that didn’t seem to want to pass and we took the photos. All went well and so I invited everyone to skip back over the river and look at the photos. Here we are I said triumphantly only to see with despair that they were out of focus! How could this possibly be, the horror of Lumb falls was revisiting me. “I’m sorry, but do you mind posing the shot again?” This was a big ask as these folks had stood in the rain for over an hour, the light was begining to fail and what’s more it was past tea time. But without complaint and with some enthusiasm posed again. I had concluded that somehow the lens was faulty and luckily had an alternative so fixed that on and took the shot. All was fine.
Hardcastle Crags: Boys posing
Following this Felix posed for his photo. Because of the re-scheduling we only had one boy here to Felix took up the mantle and posed both shots which I overlayed in photoshop so he appears twice here. When taking the photo it became suddenly apparent that the boys in the original photo were perhaps much older than I had anticipated as Felix is much smaller in the photos. In addition the bank which they were stood on had disappeared. The two pillars in the original shot are by the way hiding in the bush centre frame.
That evening I researched the focus issue. Why had I on two occasions had difficulties focusing a camera with a particular lens when it was fixed to a tripod. Especially when it had the ‘Image stabilization’ function switched on which surely made things even more solid! When I punched into google ‘Focus issue, tripod, image stabilsation’ various articles popped up with titles similar to ‘When you should never use image stabilisation’. Apparently if you use it on a tripod the function somehow blurs everything. A lesson learned!
Jason Boom, Frank Woolrych, Anne Kilbey, Valleen & Sid Jones, Ben Sweeny, Richard O’Brien, Warren & Marcus Doyle and their handsome dog Eric.
Our final day of shooting was on Sunday the 4th September. Here we were to shoot our most challenging logistical photo on Market street followed by a photo in Heptonstall later in the afternoon.
The Market street photo was complicated as it involved 10 people and a dog, the challenge of a busy high street full of people and cars that we didn’t want in the shot, and the fact that some of the participants were standing in the middle of the road which meant we would have to consider holding traffic. Despite this it all went incredibly smoothly. Our participants were some of the legends of Hebden Bridge as far as I am concerned: Sid and Valleen from Muse music and the love café, our friend Richard and his pal Ben, Marcus and Warren with their dog Eric from The Yorkshire Soap Company, Jason from the council back from his holidays and Frank and Ann from Pennine Horizons making a cameo in the far distance. Together we nailed this photo, each taking turns to manage traffic, all connected with walkie talkies and blessed with good weather and humour. To take out most of the vehicles and passers by I removed them in photoshop by having multiple layers.
Heptonstall: Five Children under the arch
Brooke, Jasper, Florence Wardley, Charlie, Eva
After lunch we popped up to Heptonstall to take our final shot. By this stage we were fine tuned and set up was so smooth that we had time for a chocolate ice cream although my daughter Florence seemed to eat most of mine. She was going to pose as the little tot in the photograph. At first I thought she was too young but when taking the photo I had got it wrong, she was perhaps the same age as the original girl. Here we had some wonderful volunteers from Heptonstall: Brooke, Jasper (then Florence), Charlie and Eva. See if you can spot Jasper hiding behind Brooke’s shoulder!
It was quite wonderful to see these young children stood in exactly the same place as a group of children did around 100 years ago. The children in the original photos will surely have been effected by the war and perhaps even the battle of the Somme. Their parents may have been effected by it directly having to go to war or work in factories to support it. Those children even though so young in the photo would have then grown up, lived their lives and are most likely not here any more. The passage of life is one of the things I have been most conscious of when taking all of these photos. Life is so fragile and precious, and even though the same fate awaits us all, if we have to endure death then it means that we have the opportunity to experience the gift of life. And so we must do just that and live it to the full and enjoy all the blessings and challenges that await us.
A massive thank you to everyone who volunteered their time to either help us organise this project or pose in the images themselves, the participants were encouraged to imagine the person they were posing as. If a man, maybe the man had to go to war not long after the image was taken, the children may have been missing their fathers, the women were concerned for their husbands, fathers or sons. War has an impact on everyone, soldiers and families alike. It was poignant to put yourself in the place of those that lived in our town all those years ago, Hebden Royd once again never fails to amaze with the spirit of the people who live here.
These images will now be exhibited in the Memorial Gardens in Hebden Bridge and later at Hebden Bridge Town Hall. This project was in collaboration with Hebden Royd Town Council, using original photographs from Pennine Horizons. Please come and see the exhibition and you can even join me for a walk around some of the locations. Please see the poster below for more details.