There comes a time when some treasured things have to go …

It was my son Ben’s birthday last Friday 21st June. He happened to be born on the day of the winter solstice and, as a small birthday present I took him and one of my grandsons, Sam, out to breakfast at a local restaurant.

As it happens Ben is a successful young bloke on a career path which most people dream about. Heaven knows where he got his brains from but it wasn’t me. He certainly had the brains not to go into photojournalism or any sort of media. Needless to say I’m exceedingly proud of him and the family of Garwoodies – Bek, my daughter-in-law and two grandsons, Josh and Sam.

All that stuff aside I am always left with the problem of what to give a bloke who has everything he needs in life. Well, I think he has anyway. I have, over the past few years, been passing a few of my own ‘treasures’ over to him. Little things I’ve lived with and enjoyed. They don’t amount to a lot but are the sort of things we become attached to.

I have been staring at my two oldest cameras, a couple of Leica M2s, the very first cameras I bought. That was back in April and May 1963, 50 years ago. They have been sitting on the mantlepiece over the fireplace, staring back at me and reminding me of my career in a very pleasant fashion. Now and again something flashes through my mind and I’ll look at them and say: “Remember that?”. They stare at me with blank eyes.

My first Leicas. For a few years they formed the basis of the equipment I used. The upper one is still very smooth and the lens, an old Summilux, is delightful. I still use it a great deal. The lower M2 was overdosed on sea water many times and finally called it quits. The lens, an old 35mm Summilux, was also drowned.
My first Leicas. For a few years they formed the basis of the equipment I used. The upper one is still very smooth and the lens, an old Summilux, is delightful. I still use it a great deal. The lower M2 was overdosed on sea water many times and finally called it quits. The lens, an old 35mm Summilux, was also drowned.

And so it was I decided this year, after 50 years media use, they should go to Ben for safe keeping, a part of family history. One of them is buggered – too much salt water inhalation – the other is working perfectly. They actually got pensioned off about 15-18 years ago as I have a handful of M6s and an old M4-2 which fill their shoes these days.

When I give Ben ‘stuff’ I write a little of the history, A few pages which help him to know a little about my life. I do this because I know virtually nothing about my own family background and don’t want him left in the same position.

I Saved the World

In short I explained that I was studying engineering and hated it. In fact I pride myself in the fact I may have saved the world. By quitting engineering I didn’t design planes which fell out of the sky, bridges which collapsed or ships which sank faster than a stone. The world owes me!

I happened to be sitting in a physics lecture next to a friend, Alan Draper,  and can remember leaning over to him  and whispering: “You know something? I’ve got a feeling I want to be a photographer”.

Until that moment I had never given it much thought. I was an avid newspaper and magazine reader. Many years later I realised that my mother, in teaching me to read before I went to school – we only had newspapers and magazines – The Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Illustrated and Picture Post in the house – had hot wired me and conditioned me for a career in the media. Thus, no sooner had I made the decision, in April 1963, than I also decided I had to work in Fleet Street. Not only that but I had a clear insight as to whom I wanted to work for – Paris Match – which was a regular publication stocked in the college library and had a reputation for being a hard hitter.

How come Leicas? Well, I was rushing for a train and picked up a magazine – Photography  – from a news stand at the railway station. In it was an advert for the Leica M3. The punch line, after the general advertising guff was: “It still expects you to find the picture” or something like that. Check it out … I still have it after 50 years.

I suppose I can say that this ad set me on a career path. And what it said is true - they do last a lifetime.
I suppose I can say that this ad set me on a career path. And what it said is true – they do last a lifetime. This is from Photography Magazine, April 1963

In retrospect I like the opening line too – “The Leica does not set out to do your thinking for you”.

It’s a short story as to how I got going and I may tell that later. All in all I can say it was pure arse – fortune shone on me very quickly. I sit here writing this and wishing fortune would recharge its batteries!

So last Thursday the old Leicas were gift wrapped and handed over with very little ceremony but stirring many, many, memories.

Aside from covering news and shooting a lot of features I used one or the other of these to stroll around the streets, mainly in London, and do a bit of street shooting.

In the past few days I’ve been travelling down memory lane and scanning some of those early images. I don’t know that these are the best as I’m still sifting through boxes of negs. Here are a few. Non of them have been worked on in LightRoom. They’re straight scans from the Nikon Coolscan V. I’ll work on them another time so please forgive the scratches and drying marks.

Big Gap Here

I ran out of time after starting this entry. I’m going to add a few scans and then catch my breath a bit.

Coal Miner on Strike, England, 1973 © Roger Garwood 2013
Coal Miner on Strike, England, 1973
© Roger Garwood 2013

I had been covering the coalminers’ strike in England. I can’t really remember if it was 1973 or ’74. I’d spent the morning down one of the pits, wading waste deep through water, crawling along filthy passages and getting totally filthy. I’d gone down at the invitation of union members who were striking for a wage of 5000 pounds a year. When I got to the surface, showered and cleaned up and joined the miners in their social club I was asked what I felt about the situation. With great honesty I said I wouldn’t do their work for 5000 quid a week, let alone a year. As I left, I saw this miner munching at a pie and asked if he’d mind me taking a picture. Shot with a Leica M2 and 35mm Summilux on Tri X.

London, circa 1965 ©Roger Garwood 2013
London, circa 1965
©Roger Garwood 2013

This shot amused me. I was wandering around and looking at the sign, a theatre poster, thinking somehow it had to make a picture when this old fellow wandered along, stopped, and looked into the magnifying glass.

Ballroom Dancing Championships, Fremantle circa 1995
Ballroom Dancing Championships, Fremantle circa 1995

I’m not that interested in ballroom dancing. People gliding around a dance floor, stately as galleons, don’t do much for me. I can only say I must have registered an interest in off floor pictures. I may have been attracted to the dancers legs but can’t be sure of that.  Leica M4, Noctilux, Tri X

I’ll post a few more of these old shots later. In the meantime there are still a few places in my workshop at the Ballarat Photo Festival (BIFFO) in August. Check out the details at

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8 thoughts on “Pensioning Off The Old Fellows

  1. It shows the power of advertising Rog, it’s a wonder you were not seduced by the
    Rollies we used for the Bracknell News wedding shots in those days.I’m glad you
    have found a good home for the old kit. Charles

    1. Hey, that brings back a lot of memories Charles. I’ll write a few thoughts about local newspapers and weddings later.

  2. Well written Rog. Very enjoyable background, and the pictures arent bad either. I like the miner eating a pie. Today bought a Leica deluxe 6 and like you handed my old Leica (delux 5) on to my daughter who was initially suspicious and dismissive of something not brand new in a box. But after a while playing with the thing, she really warmed to it, and as she is off to Russia next week with it, I am expecting some good results.

  3. John, I think Alisa will love it. I think you’ll enjoy the DL6 too. I’ve been a bit slack on postings. seem to have a lot on at present which is not unpleasant.

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