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Knight of the Camera
The Photographs of Sir Benjamin Stone M.P.
20th September - 31st October 2008
‘…Benjamin Stone is a national institution. Photography has been with him, as has been well said, not a hobby but a passion…’
The Strand Magazine, 1910.
Between 1890 and 1910 Sir Benjamin Stone was a household name in Great Britain. He was often known by the affectionate nick-names given to him by the Press on account of his keen, even obsessive activities as an amateur photographer. He was playfully dubbed ‘Sir Kodak’, ‘Sir Snapshot’ and ‘The Knight of the Camera’.
As a young man in the 1860s, Stone’s interest in antiquities and the natural and social sciences led him to purchase and collect photographs. However, frustrated by the fact that he could not always buy the photographs he wanted, he decided to learn to take photographs for himself and became an ardent amateur photographer in the late 1880s.
Stone’s photographs were taken ‘always for the same object – to show those who will follow us, not only our buildings, but our everyday life, our manners and customs. Briefly I have aimed at recording history with the camera…’ His ‘history photographs’ were exhibited and published at home and abroad and he was the subject of numerous features in the popular and photographic press.
In September 2008, Birmingham Library and Archives Services are presenting the first major display of his work in his home town of Birmingham for almost a century and the first show of his work in the UK since 1974. The exhibition presents over 100 images including some of his most iconic images of Parliament and Customs and Festivals, and others, such as his photographs of the Franco-British Exhibition in London, 1908, which have never been shown before.
These extraordinary photographs are presented on a new outdoor display system in Centenary Square in themed sections representing his diverse fields of activity with comments from his Parliamentary Diaries, remarks from writers of the day and ephemera from the vast Sir Benjamin Stone Collection held in Birmingham Central Library.