Concordia Winter 2023

New Tricks

Chris Humphrey (1981-1986) worked as an accountant for over 30 years before deciding he needed a new challenge. Having kindled a passion for photography while at Merchant Taylors’, he decided to return to this by creating a new business specialising in dog photography.

I joined Merchant Taylors’ in September 1981, having been awarded an Entrance Scholarship in May. Even though both my older brothers and my father had been pupils at the school, it was still quite a culture shock. In those days, as a Scholar you were automatically “promoted” one year, and I found myself in Div I (Division Ingram) with some of my classmates being eighteen months or so older than me. The range of activities at the school was far greater than at my prep school and I was very pleased to become involved with the Photographic Club, run by Bob Le Rougetel. I had already developed an interest in photography before I joined, and I was particularly excited to learn that the school had a dedicated, working darkroom, which seemed to me to be a quite magical place. I had only ever seen darkrooms portrayed in films (where inevitably a vital piece of evidence came to light), so the thought of being let loose in a fully equipped darkroom myself was quite mind blowing to a fourteen-year-old. Mr Le Rougetel patiently took the time to explain to me how to develop prints: a wonderful fusion between art and science. And then he encouraged me to give it a go. That was part of the wonderful culture at Merchant Taylors’ at that time. You got the opportunity to be “hands-on”, whether it was learning how to fire and then strip and clean a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle in the Cadet Force, spinning for pike in the cold winter months on the lakes, or crawling through pitch-black tunnels on the assault course, the culture was always about getting on with things and learning from experience.


This hallowed darkroom could be accessed by obtaining a key from Mr Le Rougetel and then making your way up towards the top of the main school building. The room contained a wonderful range of equipment – the Enlarger, which shone light through the negative on to the photographic paper, the Safelight, which provided a dim red light in which it was safe to handle the photographic paper without spoiling it, various trays for the chemicals (developer, stop and fix) and tongs for handling the prints. The darkroom had a very distinctive smell – the chemicals gave off a pungent, metallic-like odour which I can remember over forty years later. The Photographic Club would meet intermittently. Because most of the school week was already filled with educational and other extracurricular activities, I can remember meetings taking place on Sundays, the one “clear” day of the week back in the days of Saturday school. Mr Le Rougetel would give up his time to teach us about the fundamentals of photography – apertures, shutter speeds, depth of field, film speeds, focal lengths and composition. Photography has changed immeasurably in the intervening years: the darkroom of old has become extremely powerful editing software such as Lightroom Classic and Photoshop, but the principles of what makes a great photograph, which Mr Le Rougetel patiently explained to us, remain the same. Mr Le Rougetel was an accomplished photographer himself – I only learnt recently that he had within his own portfolio an image that he had captured of Alfred Hitchcock, taken in the 1960s. As I progressed through school, my interest in photography stayed with me, but other

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