An exhibition is opening soon showing off rediscovered and restored photographic work of one the 19th century’s strangest characters, Samuel Heracles Gascoigne-Simpson. The photos look like modern day steampunk, but are all over a hundred years old.
Actually, scratch that – they are modern day steampunk — being the work of artist Nick Simpson.
However, unlike some, he has also woven a fantastic tale of a Victorian eccentric who made these photographs on glass plates and then they were forgotten in the Bumforth Manor attic until “rediscovered”.
The result is a totally bizarre collection of unconventional & intriguing images, each one with it’s own tale to tell of an alternative view of 19th century British life.
According to the fable, Friends, relations, servants, aristocrats, farm workers, clergymen, eccentrics, oddballs, dignitaries and degenerates, (sometimes even against their own will), all found themselves clamped into place in his drawing room studio under the unblinking glare of his all seeing photographic ‘brass eye’.
The pictures are constructed from scratch and everything is real. The original photograph is made in a single sitting on one photographic plate, and after processing Simpson then scratches, distresses and paints the negative to build a patina that helps to convey a false sense of historical provenance, contrasting with the often incongruous subject matter.
Sometimes dark, often puzzling, but always under woven with an element of humour which is somewhat at odds with the established notion of the Victorians as austere, prim and prudish.
The exhibition, EXPOSED! The Peculiar Photographic Revelations of a Victorian Eccentric opens on 9th April and runs to 26th April.
It’s free to visit, and open Tuesday to Friday: 11am – 6.30pm and Saturday: 12pm – 5.30pm.
Stories Art Gallery,
51-53 South Audley Street,