Stories abound about so-called primitive tribes who would shun photographers in the belief that cameras can capture the spirit of the photographers’ subjects. As with many such stories, it is of dubious veracity: but if such tribes ever did exist I have a degree of sympathy with their beliefs. Nothing comes close to capturing the very essence of a person like a photograph. That was true of the 1930s – when this photograph of my father, Albert, was taken – and it is still true in this modern age of the digital selfie (although the spirit exposed by some filter-bleached offerings might not be what the subject intended).


When I look at this photograph of my father on a seaside beach (the chances are it will have been Cleethorpes), I see him … and then I see my brother, and then myself, and then my son, and even – if I squint a little – my grandson. What that box camera of eighty years ago did was to capture, not the soul or the spirit, but a decent chunk of DNA.