Cornish Vernacular Photography Studies 1940 / 1990

Exhibition : Friday 15 May - Saturday 23 May

Open 11am - 5pm Fri/Sat (or by appointment)


Opening event : details TBC 

George Ellis was a London-based press photographer who relocated to Bodmin in 1939. He spent the war years, and shortly afterward, making portraits of local Bodmin residents.  Ellis extensively photographed family groups, individuals, significant figures, and civic leaders within the community at the time as well as those involved in sport or cultural recreation including members of the local Amateur Dramatic Society. He also made an extraordinary series of portraits of American soldiers then based at Walker Lines on the outskirt of the town. Many of these men would be amongst those who landed at Omaha beach on June 6th 1944. 


During the late 1990s Colin Robins researched Ellis’s life and work. In 1999, in conjunction with the Cornish Studies Library and the local Town Council, he produced a series of photographs in Redruth both as a tribute to Ellis’s portrait work of fifty years previous and of the tradition of the vernacular photographic studio (such as those by Malik Sidibe in Mali or Mike Disfarmer in Nebraska).  Following Ellis, he photographed many of the town’s residents as well as recording diverse occupations, trades, sports clubs and members of the local amateur theatre scene.


As to be expected with a space of over fifty years, there are notable differences between the two photographers’ work. There is also an ever-expanding space between Robins’s portraits from 1999 and now. For example, not one of the hundred or more individuals he photographed is holding a mobile phone.