The Story

Bash & Ted, On board the "R.M.S. Saxon" at Southampton. Feb 16th 1907. (courtesy of Linda Flynn)

 

‚ÄčI first came across the work of photographer and postcard publisher Edward Bragg sometime back in the mid 1980's. A photographer myself, early for a shoot and idling around a Charing Cross antique market I picked up some postcard views of the South-Western English village where I grew up.

Our family has lived in Portscatho for generations, giving me a real sense of place and a passion for local history. The photo-cards by Bragg, compared to those of other photographers and publishers, stood out that proverbial mile and appeared to be the nearest I'd get to a time-machine, real windows in time and I marvelled at their clarity. Within weeks I reckoned I could spot a 'Bragg' at a hundred paces…

20-odd years down the line I've amassed a large amount of this photographer's work and scribbled down every fact and story about him that I've come across. Elusive for years, the only information was to be found in the research of Roger Lacy*. I showed the work of Edward Bragg, lecturing occasionally and finding audiences gripped by his images and fascinated by the mystery surrounding the man himself. Until recently I had no idea what he actually looked like and would usually finish a talk with a high-resolution scan of a silver trophy, photographed by Bragg, in which a tripod can be clearly seen in the reflection. Is that a blurry figure behind the tripod? Intriguing? Evocative!

In February last year I spent an hour with The Old Cornwall Society in Helston showing a range of Bragg's photographs and telling what had now become a frustratingly incomplete story. However, a meeting with Redruth man Paddy Bradley** the following week pushed the research forward with access to his amazing collection of related items, including handwritten notes by Edward and photographs he'd taken of his own children; one image featuring in a promotional Christmas card. All this but still no likeness of E.A. Bragg himself…

March was the month when everything changed. I will be forever grateful to Linda Flynn from New Jersey in the U.S., Great-Granddaughter of Edward's elder Brother, Henry, for making available a set of images including one of Edward himself. At last. Photographing his Sister Sarah, he appears to have stepped into frame alongside her, and his affectionate note on the reverse of this print reads '…two distinguished samples of the Bragg family…Bash and Ted…' Bash it seems was Sarah's nickname.

My aim is not to simply create an archive of Edward Bragg's photography. I've been looking at his studies with my own 'photographic vision', treading in his footsteps, visiting his locations, and attempting to re-create some of these images. I'm keen to observe the changes in our Cornish towns and scenery and am considering why some of the sites were chosen to shoot from, i.e. often quite inaccessible high ground. On this website I'll muse on what he might have seen around him on the day he decisively captured a scene 100 years ago. Look to left and right of the frame. Was the image captured on a sunny day? On the cliffs of The Lizard Peninsula did he hear the Skylark and smell the scent of gorse flowers? There's nothing wrong with a bit of prose!

There'll be plenty of Edward Bragg's original work to see, from social events and portraits to the early silvertypes. I'll include some stunning prints of Illogan Churchtown under snow plus a series of 5"x 4" vistas from Illogan church tower showing the village and surrounding countryside. I also have the series of handwritten notes which give an insight into Edward's working day. In one he expresses his thoughts at the beginning of WW1, apparently wishing to join the Photographic Section of The Naval Air Service while in another he talks of illness preventing him from developing some plates (glass-plate negatives).

 

Thanks again to all who have contributed to date!

 

Phil Nicholls.
Helston, Cornwall. 14 June 2011.

 

* Sadly Roger Lacy passed away last year. Before I returned to live in Cornwall he was my only guide in this research and I dedicate the site to him.

** Paddy Bradley is the owner of a phenomenal archive of images of the Redruth area and his access to some stunning early photography by Edward & Elizabeth Bragg has been of great help in understanding the early days of a photographic business. His knowledge and enthusiasm is priceless.