When Yorkshireman Reginald Hanson Fawcett went to war in 1914 he took his pad, his paints and his artist’s eye with him.
After four years at the Western Front, he returned with a portfolio of pictures that are almost as fresh as the day they were painted, depicting the shattered landscapes of France and Belgium.
Now his grandson, a University of Huddersfield photography student, aims to make them widely known by incorporating them as an unusual element of his shortlisted entry into a national photojournalism contest.
Tim Brown, a mature student, is completing the first year of his BA degree, after a varied career in fields that include geo-physics and acupuncture.
Since his first boyhood camera, he has been an enthusiastic photographer and now he captures evocative images of townscapes, decaying buildings, unusual objects and changes in the urban scene.
He contributed pictures to a national photographic competition and alongside his own images he included a selection from his grandfather’s WWI portfolio, which has remained a treasured possession in the family.
The project was sparked off by Tim’s work on his first-year Theory and Practice module.
The unusual combination of contemporary photography, illustrating “space and place”, with century-old landscapes from the frontline meant that Tim was one of six who were selected by judges to join the shortlist for one of the categories in the inaugural GuardianWitness Awards.
Tim was invited to the awards ceremony in London. He was pipped at the post for the prize, but delighted by recognition for his own work and the chance to raise the profile of his grandfather’s pictures.
Reginald Fawcett, Signalman, Royal Engineers, was from Wilsden, near Bradford, where he lived most of his life, returning after war service to become the village’s postmaster.
He had joined the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of war, aged 21, and worked in signals, laying cables close to the front. His paintings include depictions of the Somme battlefield. He served throughout the war, survived unscathed and was discharged in 1919. He died in 1978, having continued to paint and draw for most of his life and he attended a local art college after the war.
As a boy, Tim got to know his grandfather well.
“He didn’t talk much about the war. The only thing he tended to talk about was maybe his paintings, which he would occasionally get out to show us, and where he had been in France and Belgium.”
“Many members of my family have been artistic and I chose photography as a means of expression.
“I have explored and photographed Wilsden – which my grandfather depicted in a series of pictures for the village society – and am now looking at a possible photo project to revisit the sites in France and Belgium drawn and painted by Reginald Hanson Fawcett”.
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