Creating spectacular images in the face of technical and physical adversity, the madcap daredevil Captain Alfred G Buckham (1879-1956) was the foremost aerial photographer of his day. Between 1908 to the early 1930’s Buckham risked life and limb to create aerial portraits that are awe-inspiring, poetic and works of technical brilliance.
His 1923 photograph of London, The Heart of Empire, was voted by The Sunday Times as one of the world’s greatest photographs and more recently it was included in The Royal Photographic Society exhibition and book, Drawn by Light, highlighting the world’s most important photographers.
Brian Hinton, Chairman of Julia Margaret Cameron Trust has said:
“Alfred Buckham was courageous, almost recklessly so, insecurely squeezed with his large plate camera into a flimsy aircraft taking photographs nobody before had even dared. What he captured was a new world, its atmospherics; lost temples in the jungle, cities framed from the air, the wrecks of war, at considerable personal risk.
“The last crash he endured left him virtually speechless. But his glistening images are things of rare beauty, and Dimbola is proud to be allowed to host the first proper retrospective, and acknowledge Buckham’s genius”.
Spirited artistry with the blood of a risk-taker coursing through his veins, Buckham was a one-off. His first ambition was to be a painter but after seeing an exhibition by Turner he went home and burnt his own work. Those painterly yearnings however did not go up in smoke and they found expression in his aerial photography.
During World War 1 he was the first head of aerial reconnaissance for the Royal Navy and later made Captain in the Royal Naval Air Service. However by 1919 he was discharged as 100% disabled, the result of some 9 crashes that left him breathing through a tube in his neck for the rest of his life – but did that stop him soaring to dizzying heights risking loss of consciousness to capture spectacular images with his unwieldly large format camera? Definitely not, in fact to add to the drama he would often prefer to go up in stormy weather!
The exhibition, entitled The Sky Traveller, is being held at Dimbola between 6th October and 16th December 2018.