EVANS, Frederick Henry

b. 26 June 1852; d. 24 June 1943

Evans became involved in photography as an amateur in 1882, but was so successful with his photography of Architecture and Landscape that just after the turn of the century he retired from book-selling and became a professional photographer.

Unlike some of his contemporaries such as Demachy, he refused to manipulate the negative or the print.

Architectural photography had been undertaken before, but whereas it tended to be unimaginative and largely record photography, Evans looked for particular effects, for example depicting the strength of the stone. "The Sea of Steps" (1903) shows some of the excellence of his work.

It is worth comparing this with the photography of another very accomplished photographer, Francis Bedford. Bedford's photography was more concerned with factual rendering, whereas Evans' work is very different indeed, and one can immediately see his fascination for texture, and with his his concern to show the effects of weight and balance, space, light and shade.

In 1901 he became a member of the Linked Ring, a society which was opposed to the somewhat conservative approach of the Royal Photographic Society at that time; nevertheless his work was displayed at in the RPS twice during this period, and he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Society in 1928.

Whilst many of his contemporaries were using the gum bichromate process, he remained content with using the platinum one. He opposed the notion of manipulating the print, preferring "pure" photography. In a lecture to the Royal Photographic Society (25 April 1900) he said:

"I have not been courageous enough as yet to try anything (if there is anything) beyond platinotype.... I have not worked carbon, and the new gum print is, I am afraid, beyond me. I am more interested... in making plain, simple, straightforward photography render, at its best and easiest, the effects of light and shade that so fascinate me... "my prints are all from untouched, undodged negatives, with no treatment of the print except ordinary spotting out of technical defects, or the occasional lowering of an obtrusive white light."

A man of immense patience, it is said that he would sometimes wait for months to record the precise effect he was seeking. Some of his work was reproduced in a number of editions of Camera Work. George Bernard Shaw, writing the introduction to Evans' work, (October 1903) reveals both this sense of perfection and the way he managed to get things done: "He has been known to go up to the Dean of an English Cathedral - a dignitary compared to whom the President of the United States is the merest worm, and who is not approached by ordinary men save in their Sunday-clothes - Evans, I say, in an outlandish silk collar, blue tie, and crushed soft hat, with a tripod under his arm, has accosted a Dean in his own cathedral and said, pointing to the multitude of chairs that hid the venerable flagged floor of the fane, "I should like all those cleared away." And the Dean has had it done, only to be told then that he must have a certain door kept open during a two hours' exposure for the sake of completing his scale of light...."

Evans gave up photography after the first world war, when platinum was no longer generally available.

© Robert Leggat, 2002.