Helen Bartlett / Family Portraiture

My inspiration – my Dad’s photographs of my childhood – William’s hovercraft


Today’s blog post continues my monthly exploration of my father’s photographs of my own childhood, which are pictures that have inspired me and shaped the photographer I have become over the years.

Each photograph has elements that I try to incorporate into my work each and every day. This picture is all about the light – I absolutely love the light. It’s also about a moment in time and about my brother William’s skill and tenacity building a hovercraft for his GCSE technology. Admittedly, the hovercraft had a design flaw which meant that it didn’t work, but at least William discovered that before he destroyed it in an abortive trip across the boating pond.

I think this shot is great as it captures the scale of the project – it takes up the whole of the dining room table with so many intricate elements, it was quite a build. I love how the delicate side light picks up on all the details, really emphasising the shape of the craft. I also love how William is so beautifully lit as he carries on with his work, oblivious to Dad taking photographs in the corner. A picture of William looking up proudly would have had its place as a record shot, but this shot has longevity and staying power as it’s unobtrusive – a moment documented and by doing so quietly, from the sidelines, Dad tells us so much more about his son.

With its beautiful light and wonderful tones, it is a great photograph. It also really captures William’s personality and what he has achieved at this time – I love it and I hope you will, too.

If you would like to read more posts in this series, please follow this link to find out more about how my Dad’s photographs have inspired my work.

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