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Friday, July 20, 2007

Ah yes: I remember it well

By Paddy Byrne
Take a look at this photo and guess what is going on.
Paul Callan and Magnus Linklater awaiting a carriage to take them home to Eaton Square at the end of summer term, perhaps?
First published in (we think) Picture Post, it is often dusted off and used to illustrate the great social divide, the class structure of pre-war Britain.
But according to John Blauth, publisher of Media Digest, it’s a cropped picture.
The full thing tells a different story. Or it would.
The only problem is that John can’t remember what it is. And the cropped version is the only one that Getty Images has.
Apparently, though, the urchins are not staring at the young toffs at all, but studying something completely different that is going on off-stage, in the bit that was cropped.
Every picture tells a story: we know that, and this one tells one of sorts but it is not necessarily about what was going on at the time the shot was taken.
The camera never lies: we know that, too (and we are talking, here, of the days before Photoshop was even imaginable), and although we can justifiably believe that the boys were all standing there under the portico at (presumably) Waterloo station when the bulb was squeezed and the shutter clicked, what we don’t know is what it’s really about. Nor, perhaps more importantly, what prompted the photographer to take it.
Does anybody know?
There is a photograph in the war museum in Jersey showing hordes of children with their right hands raised, as if in salute, and the caption ‘Sieg heil!’ But the story that the picture doesn’t tell is that a German soldier of the occupying forces had walked into the park, gathered the kids around the bandstand, and told them: ‘Anybody who would like chocolate, raise your right hand…’
Never lies, eh?