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The Atmospheric Western

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George Heiron used a camera to make pictures rather more than simply take photographs and in some cases a number og hos photohgraphic pictures formed teh basis of pictures which he painted.  So I suspect - although I haven't seen it - that this book tells you all by its title because that would reflect what I've ever seen of George Heiron's work.  I have  'Trains to the West' an album of hos pictures published by Ian Allan back in 1978 with a forward by GH and a bographical note about him inside  the rear dust jacket and togather these two lots of words tell you what to expect, and which the book delivers.

 

I agree entirely with CJL that, in comparison with the detailed comments which have become de rigeur in what amount to 'photo albums' of railway subjects, without that sort of introduction or biographical note an album of GH's pictures could be something of a shock.  But they will no doubt do what he aimed to do and that is, quoting his words '(I) set out to convey the atmosphere and spirit of the railways from the 1950s up to the present day' (i.e. up to 1978).

 

If the latest volume is as good as 'Trains to the West' (which probably also lurks on CJL's bookshelves) that is exactly what it will do.  The quality and 'feel' of GH's pictures,  backed. by the high standard of his photography, really do convey an atmosphere of the railway we knew back then.  if you area. modeller capturing that atmosphere is probably as important as having the right engine in the correct livery pulling the right coaches and is something which some layouts absolutely excel at.

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On 19/02/2020 at 15:08, dibber25 said:

As one who knew George, used many of his pictures in print over the years, some of the comments above suggest to me that publishers should include a short piece about the photographer and his work by way of introduction to those who are apparently too young to know of the photographer, his reputation or the conditions under which he took his pictures. Perhaps they are unaware of the relationship between the railway and authorised photographers, which existed until it was overwhelmed in the run-up to the end of steam? George's own prints were usually superb but he printed huge sizes, too big for easy storage, which resulted in  damaged edges which required either retouching (difficult before Photoshop) or cropping to eliminate damaged areas. He was interested in the picture, not the train, its time or its destination, so he seldom recorded such things, even if he knew them. Mostly, his caption, hand-written on the back of the print would be "Castle in the Hills" or "King talks to the sky" or some such lyrical wording which wasn't much help - particularly if the book required the usual formulaic caption - location, loco, train, time, date, credit. I went, once, to negotiate (unsuccessfully) the purchase of his negatives - they were kept in a shoe box.  (CJL)

 

 I concur with Chris, as I too have had the privilege of seeing George‘s original prints. Most of them were excellent (in terms of the actual printing) but Chris is correct in commenting on the damage that occurred due to the prints often being an over large size.

 

From what I recall, a number of them were on fibre paper, rather than resin, which gave an extra depth to them.

 

I don’t know whether he made his own prints, or whether someone else did them for him.

 

I have seen the book, and it is excellent. I was a little disappointed by the reproduction quality of some of the pictures, but as I knew what some of the originals were like, I thought that I was probably being unfairly critical.

 

Also the ones that have come out on the flat side, I don’t recall seeing the original prints of. 

 

 Given the work of other noted photographers during the period that I’ve seen, it may well be that indeed the original prints that were used were flat, and the reproduction is actually faithful.

 

Not every print by them was a winner, even although the negative was a good one.

 

One explanation might be that a number of prints were made and the best ones were passed on to other people, and some of the ‘duds’ survive.

 

Whether that could’ve been corrected using photoshop during reproduction stage, I don’t know.

 

Given the price of the book, I would still recommend getting a copy despite this. I repeat that only some of the pictures are not 100% in terms of reproduction.

 

Again, I think it is still good value for money and excellent that at last his pictures are gathered together in one book.

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So presumably this book contains completely different pictures from the WR pictures that appear in 'Trains to the West' (105 featuring steam hauled trains or steam age infrastructure and 30 of WR diesels and including four of his paintings)?  Can anybody confirm that please?

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Mike  - there are a few photos which have been published before in previous books featuring George Heiron's work (I think I have all his books, and recognise some of the pictures in this latest book).  However the vast majority of pictures are new (or at least I have not seen them published before).   Hope this helps

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George was, first and foremost, an artist whether with brush or camera. I have two of his paintings here on my wall, 30517 with an up freight at Thorpe Lane level crossing, Egham, with me on my way to school, and an LT bus on country route 441, and 'Taw', painted for the cover of my book Portrait of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. That book would have had a black & white cover had I not asked George to paint me a picture. Ironically he charged me 'mates rates' which was quite a bit less than he would have charged Ian Allan. IA had dozens of his paintings and those that he did of 'ironclad' early battleships for the covers of IA books were fabulous. I always felt that he lavished attention on the surroundings - the sea on his ship paintings and the track and ballast on his railway paintings. For Southern fans there was an album of his photographs taken on the Waterloo-Ilfracombe route with lots of lovely Bulleids. I can't now find it on my bookshelf and I've forgotten the title but his views of trains in the North Devon landscape were stunning. (CJL)

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The attention he paid to the track always amazes me - every chair or Pandrol clip meticulously rendered, and receding in perfect perspective.

Edited by Andy Kirkham
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I hate to put a damper on the acclaim which has been widely and rightly heaped on this book but there are some lapses from perfection in the captions.  One that leapt out at me is that describing image 19.  Leslie Price describes the coach whose number, W9273, is clearly visible as "a BCK (brake corridor composite) or BSK (brake corridor second)".  Not so.  It is an open brake second (BSO).  The Western Region did not have many of these and tended to keep them for special or relief trains.  They were formed into sets with a varying number of open seconds and kept at strategic points around the Region, being known as vestibule trains.  Where the mailbags came from I don't know but for me they make the photograph!

 

Chris

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Ordered The Atmospheric Western from Bill Hudson books and arrived this morning.  Great service considering the circumstances from both Hudson and Royal Mail.  Delighted with the book, some gorgeous shots!

 

David

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