The annual 1940s weekend in Haworth, Yorkshire, is a photographer’s paradise. Haworth’s cobbled Main Street, the train station on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, and the Bronte Parsonage provide a perfect backdrop for the hundreds of people who go to so much effort to dress up in authentic period costume.
Because these people put so much so much effort into dressing for the occasion they are, without exception, happy to be photographed, whether you ask them for a photo or whether you go for the candid option.
This explains why probably the second largest group of people in Haworth during these weekends, after the costume wearers, are amateur photographers. Something I have noticed whenever a group of amateur photographers get together is that a competitive streak prevails and this trait has no basis in logic or artistic merit.
What you find at Haworth 1940s Weekend is that there seems to be an unspoken competition entitled “Who Has the Biggest Lens?”. The size and modernity of your camera is of course very important however the real competition is based on your glass. The bigger the better it seems.
Of course this is ridiculous in a situation where there are often hundreds of people trying to squeeze up a narrow cobbled street. It is rare that the subject of your photo is more than two or three metres away from you.
I only mention this because I am jealous – I have neither a modern camera or a large lens. This fact however allows me to get a different perspective on the event. If the point of the event is to try and recreate what it was like in the 1940s why take photos with 2016 technology?
This is where the technology that I can afford comes into its own. A Nikon FE, with a 50mm lens, loaded with Kodak Tri-X. Admittedly it is still not a 1940s camera – it was made in 1982 – but the technology is pretty much the same as it was back then. No autofocus, spot metering only, manual advance lever. It is up to the photographer to take the picture and to get it right.
Of course with film taking the picture is only half the story – you still need to develop and either print or scan that film. I don’t have a dark room so I have to scan the negatives I have developed. These complicated processes can make or break a picture.
The biggest factor however has nothing to do with technology, old photographs have an aesthetically pleasing quality that only film can deliver. This is where I think I get one over all the “look at the size of my lens” photographers.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post the 1940s weekend is a photographer’s paradise, but I think we can be more specific than that. Haworth 1940s weekend is a film photographer’s paradise.