Photographically speaking Rosa Emily Poole (neé Harris, 1924-2013) was a classic member of her generation.
“Snaps” (her word, not mine) were only taken when dressed in Sunday Best, hair combed, following a comprehensive bath, and by appointment with a photographer. Oh, and only to celebrate an important occasion – baptism, wedding, 21st birthday or a golden wedding anniversary.
She was also Mum to my three brothers and I, and wife of Gordon Douglas Poole.
As my interest in photography moved from casual use of Dad’s Kodak Box Brownie, through to owning a Kodak Starflash, and then on to working in the social photography world, Mum just regarded this interest as a hobby. When it carried on to processing films in the family bathroom and constructing a darkroom downstairs at home, it was an indulgent hobby.
But at no time was she a tolerant or easily available model. A recently discovered gelatin silver print taken with three of her brothers, shows her to be an attractive and vibrant teenager. Qualities that were difficult for her sons to see in our Mum.
My involvement in photography became a full time career, firstly in partnership with another photographer and then setting off in a solo direction on Friday 13 February 1976. An un-auspicious occasion if ever there was one.
By this time my poor dear Mum thought I was out of my mind and was indulging myself in a selfish delusion! This may yet be the best description ever given of the role of a professional photographer.
After a lengthy career as an advertising/commercial photographer and an intensive involvement in teaching photography, I chose to embark on some tertiary study. Amongst many projects and study exercises was a portrait series that combined both a background cloth and some shared environment of my sitters. After much discussion, cajoling and almost bribery, Mum was persuaded to pose for me. It involved her hair being just right, a suitable frock and at a time of her convenience.
To my delight my daughter (Nicola) photo-bombed the carefully set up positive/negative Polaroid type55 exposure. Nicola’s first of many interactions with the photographic world.
Whilst Nicola was one of her cherished Grand-children, Mum always quietly felt that her intrusion had ruined and wasted a photograph. Photographs and film were not to be wasted, extravagantly used or treated as a disposable item. Film doesn’t grow on trees you know!
For me it made a somewhat contrived and banal shot into a delightful image.
The high point of Mum’s non-photographic career occurred in the mid-1990s when I needed an elderly female pensioner for a Queensland Health Department brochure illustration. In a faint nod to her eldest son’s photographic indulgence, Mum consented to being brought by taxi (an unnecessary indulgence, but nevertheless accepted) to and from the Studio. The hair was permed, the frock chosen (after some debate and discussion), and the illustration was created –