Poetry: Moments captured by ghost behind lens

By Jessica Durston - 27 July 2022

Arts and Culture
  • Maurice Spillane

    Maurice Spillane

A monthly column from Maurice Spillane of Poetry Swindon.

I love browsing the stories and photos in the Swindon Link and Advertiser archives. I’ve met some of the retired photographers and love their work.

They are like ghosts behind the lenses.

When I grew up in Dublin, we’d a permanent photographer on O’Connell Bridge.

He was there from 9.30am to 6pm and then walked by the cinemas as they closed to Maurice Spillane: Of Poetry Swindon catch courting couples. Every house in Dublin has photos by Abraham Feldman, a Dubliner born in 1901 to Ukrainian Jewish parents.

He took the name Arthur Fields to avoid anti-Semitism, a 'verbal disguise' according to his son. He was a good- looker who shrank towards the end.

Arthur pretended to take a photo as you approached and, if you stopped, he took it properly, gave you a number and you paid him.

Simple and honest. His wife developed and posted the photos, then destroyed the negatives.

It’s estimated that he took over 180,000 photos in his time. In fact, the only photos our family have of our parents and of us as kids in the fifties were by Arthur.

Then the sixties and seventies – innocence of youth replaced by gawky arms and legs, sometimes a girl-friend in hand, or a few mates on a bender. It was a black and white drape of passing memories captured by 'The Man on the Bridge.'

A few lines from Dermot Bolger’s poem, 'The Photographer' capture Arthur.

And it’s a tribute to Swindon’s archive photographers:

Fashions changed before your lens
as you captured beehive hairstyles, bell-bottoms, rising hems,

elephant flares, spandex skirts, ankle boots and tube-tops.

You kept any opinions on trends to yourself as you stood,

surrounded by such crowds that you resemble a boulder

around which river water must find its way.

You parted crowds

and stood apart in crowds.

www.mauricespillane.co.uk

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