Life Under the Lens

Paul recently had a photoshoot in and around our Victorian mill saleroom with Cumbrian based photographer James Norman. James has established an excellent reputation for capturing the character of his sitters with a subtle sensitivity and attention to detail. Some of these images you may already recognise from elsewhere on our website. Click on the gallery below to step through the images. Visit the photographer's website for further details. 


Life Under the Lens

Photos by James Norman Photography

Climb Back into the Past

The dramatic rock and wide open waters of the English Lake District have long been a source of inspiration for both artists and writers in search for the sublime. Indeed, when asked to conjure up an image of the English Lake District, many of us may well fall back on Wordsworth’s words, Beatrix Potter’s bunnies feasting on buttered toast, or the breathtaking scenery depicted in the work of Turner or Constable. The region has played muse to many over the generations, and has been entertaining tourists in search of their own inspiration from as early as the 18th Century. 

Today the Lake District is perhaps best known for its outdoor pursuits, namely walking and climbing, and a heady 17.32 million visitors greet the fells every year. The local towns bustle with amateur adventurers in brightly coloured climbing gear, and the gift shops are filled with black and white postcard views from the past. While many of us consider those iconic images to be a climbing goal, few will have considered - how on earth were they actually taken? Laidlaw Auctioneers and Valuers in Carlisle have the answer, selling a collection of original photographs and postcards by internationally renowned Lakeland photographers the Abraham Brothers in their forthcoming Fine Antiques and Esoteric auction, to be held on Saturday April 8th. 

‘Rock climbing is so integral to the life of the Lake District today, that many people might be surprised to hear that it is a relatively recent sport’ says auctioneer Paul Laidlaw. Indeed, the concept of man versus mountain as a ‘sport’ was only established during the late 1880s. As keen enthusiasts and professional photographers based in Keswick, George and Ashley Abraham were perfectly poised to create a photographic record of these early exploits. Climbing with pioneer Owen Glynne Jones, they would capture images which would be used to illustrate Jones’ very successful book Rock Climbing in the English Lake District, published in 1897, and come to define these early years of climbing for posterity.

While today we understand the need for specialist equipment and safety precautions, it is hard to imagine charting these routes wearing the tweed suits and hobnail boots of our ancestors. Furthermore, it is even harder to imagine being the photographer, when you consider the heavy equipment of the day. ‘For every photograph taken from sky scraping peaks, imagine the glass plate camera that required hoisting up there’ says Paul. The photographers were extremely limited in the number of shots they could take, as the large glass plates required, were both heavy and inertly fragile. Only a few could be carried on each expedition, so each photograph would have been carefully selected, not like today’s compact digital camera and unlimited choice. ‘Imagine the fear getting the negatives back down the mountains in one piece.’ adds Paul. 

The collection of gelatine silver print photographs to be sold at auction cast light on the Abrahams’ journey in their search for the sublime. The medium, with its immaculate detail and mirrored tones lends itself impressively to the awe inspiring landscape views we have come to expect of the brothers, while several other personal observations included in the auction enable us to travel back in time and see life though the photographer’s lens. These include views from the Keswick studio with forgotten figures amid their daily routine, motor cars on newly hewn roads, Christmas Eve hoar frost in 1904, squat stone buildings erected from tumbled rock faces, and the first crossing of Sky Head Pass by motorbike. With each new image ensnaring the imagination, it is no surprise that the brothers are credited as contributing enormously to the romanticism of the region. 

Paul, who has experience auctioneering the works of the Abraham brothers; having previously handled a collection of original glass plate negatives, holds their work in high esteem. ‘By combining adventuring spirit with the photographer’s eye, the Abrahams have left us with a remarkable record of pioneering history in the Lake District that we can all enjoy’ says Paul. ‘The task was dangerous, but it resulted in some of photography’s most memorable images’. Certainly for Jones, the risk was too real, for in 1899 at the age of 32 he was killed when climbing in Switzerland. The Abraham brothers lived out their days in the Lake District, and their famous studio is now immortalised as the popular George Fisher mountaineering and outdoor equipment shop in Keswick, something the bothers would no doubt approve of. 

Lights, Camera, Action!

Crushed ice, champagne, bobbed hair and high hemlines, this is the jazz age, the ‘roaring’ twenties, and the Golden Era of Hollywood. While many of us can only dream of the decadence in a city they dubbed ‘tinsel town’, there was one man who lived his life to the beat of its economic boom, Academy Award winning cinematographer Milton Krasner (1904-1988); whose enviable career in the motion picture industry spanned more than five decades.

Krasner’s own rare and unique personal archive of photographs and ephemera accumulated during this period is to be sold by Laidlaw Auctioneers and Valuers in their forthcoming auction of Antiques, Esoteric Items and Fine Furnishings, to be held on March 25th, offering us an intimate glimpse behind the curtain on the ‘movie business’ of that time. Krasner worked with all the leading names in cinema, and if he was inclined to name-drop, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Jean Simmons, Fritz Lang, Lou Costello, Joan Fontaine, Lauren Bacall and John Wayne would be but a few.

Included in this auction are a number of signed photographs dedicated to Krasner from those he worked with, in particular an early studio portrait photograph of a dashing Walt Disney, signed in blue ink ’To Milt - my adopted step-son - with very best wishes, Dis’, which carries a pre-sale estimate of £300-500, and an official studio photograph taken on the set of Monkey Business (1952) featuring Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant roller skating, alongside a copy of International Photographer magazine from August 1952 when it made the front cover. However, perhaps the most evocative of the Krasner lots, is the cinematographers own original programme for the 23rd Annual Academy Awards, held at the Pantages Theatre in March 1951. The brochure brings to life the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Krasner would have found himself in good company at the ‘Oscars’, surrounded by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Spencer Tracy and the Master of Ceremonies; Fred Astaire. 

‘Krasner’s photographs are the closest you will get to a Hollywood time machine’ says auctioneer Paul Laidlaw. ‘They offer a seductive and somewhat intimate behind the scenes glimpse into the Golden Age of cinema. I defy anyone to not get chills when looking at life through such a lens.’

Another lot featured in Laidlaw’s March sale with a Hollywood connection, includes personal effects of Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon, perhaps best remembered for the circumstances in which he escaped the sinking of RMS Titanic. Sir Cosmo was saved from the stricken vessel, alongside his notable fashion designer wife Lucille and her assistant, by boarding a life-raft in violation of the ‘women and children first’ policy. Following the disaster Sir Cosmo was accused of not only acting selfishly, but of also bribing the crew of his raft in order to prevent a rescue attempt for survivors in the water; a controversial claim, which Sir Cosmo vehemently denied. His character was featured in the 1997 film adaptation of the sinking, which starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The lot includes a manuscript menu with satirical sketches of Sir Cosmo to the border, and a pair of his binoculars, auction estimate £100-200.

Rampsbeck Furnishings Sale

Slumbering on the shores of Ullswater in eighteen acres of parkland, is a grand Georgian house which is on the cusp of a new lease of life. Formally known as the Rampsbeck Hotel, the building has been recently bought by the team behind Cornwall’s trendy Watergate Bay hotel and is undergoing a £3.5m regeneration and expansion programme. Set to welcome visitors in the summer of 2017, the property will be the first to open in a new collection of destination hotels, all under the ‘Another Place’ brand, with each venue individually tailored to suit their unique environment.  Another Place: The Lake, as the Rampsbeck will now be known, will share the same philosophy as the Watergate Bay, and enjoy year-round activity with a focus on location based pursuits, stunning accommodation and good food and drink. 

In order to make the transition, the Rampsbeck closed its doors in the summer of 2015 allowing re-development to begin. The exclusive Rampseck hotel had been lavishly furnished with both period and contemporary furniture and lighting, not to mention yards of the finest drapery, cushions and throws. No expense was spared in its decoration. These traditional furnishings are now looking for a new home, being rendered surplus during the hotel’s transformation to contemporary chic. Their sale has been placed in the hands of Laidlaw Auctioneers & Valuers and will take place at their Carlisle auction rooms. ‘These furnishings are just the sort of thing our audience is looking for; both period and contemporary furniture, lighting and luxurious soft furnishings of the highest quality.’ says auctioneer Paul Laidlaw. The sale ranges from numerous extremely fine Flemish and other chandeliers, though to sumptuous curtains originally costing many thousands of pounds each and in superb condition’.

The hotel contents will be sold on site at the Laidlaw saleroom in the heart of Carlisle on Saturday January 28th, with live internet bidding available for those unable to attend on the day. The hotel itself is set to re-open this summer. The concept is one of a ski-resort, where guests are active during the day and immersed in a cosy environment at night. ‘It is original for the UK and fundamentally authentic’ says owner Will Ashworth. Guests to the new hotel will be able to enjoy open water swimming, sailing, paddle boarding, cycling and skiing. While the Swim Club will offer a 20 metre indoor pool and treatment rooms. Funding for the second and third hotels in the Another Place chain is already in place, and this includes the redevelopment of the Royal William Yard, a Grade-I listed former naval victualling building in Plymouth where work is already underway.

View the fully-illustrated online catalogue. 

Visit the website of Another Place, The Lakes