Tony Morrison - Photography at University in 1958
Tony remembers 1958
' This was not the beginning of my fascination with photography but it was the beginning of a lifetime's work....'

Three years of degree studies were complete - Zoology from a schoolboy dedication to natural history and somewhat reluctantly Botany as it coupled in the curriclum. I never felt happy with the Botany course though the grounding has always been useful.

In 1958 and released from the labours of exams I began a year in the University Department of Education. It offered a further qualification and time to consider how to use my degree.

'Prof Wilson'

I can recall very clearly how the course was without pressure and as our Professor Roger Wilson said ' Now you have time to think - do it now as in the future you may never have the chance again'

By a quirk of good fortune I found myself in the professor's tutorial group when in good weather we simply sat in the garden outside his office, read, chatted and worked on ideas for writing. It was an incredibly relaxed hour .There was even time for coffee and biscuits - the dry semi-sweet Rich Tea variety, crisp and better when dunked: they were made by some long vanished biscuit maker,then a household name. I called on 'Prof Wilson' many times after leaving Bristol

Into movie

What an amazing chance it was to round off a university life by thinking! Not that for me as it was to end so soon and one of the most useful skills I picked up was how to use the 'Bolex', the Department's movie camera. The late 1950's was certainly a time for looking forward as television and short films of all kinds were appearing in the new Postwar Britain.

But our budgets were tight. The Swiss-made Bolex was a clockwork camera wound by a handle on one side. The Bolex used 100 foot rolls of 16mm sprocketed film running for about 2 and half minutes. And one roll was the limit - usually it was a Kodak black and white' reversal film' which during processing by-passed the negative stage and produced an immediately viewable image. The two and a half minutes I shot were usually a collection of tightly timed scenes which flicked from one to the next and would have been far better if they had been edited. But the Department did not have the equipment. As I discovered later, editing was a step for the professionals.

The cost of film meant my sessions with the Bolex were infrequent so I pressed on with still photography. My camera was a British made Microcord sometimes known as 'the poor man's Rolleiflex' - the German classic.

A Rolleiflex is best described as a precison box with two lenses - the lower one to take the picture and the other to view the scene on a screen before pressing the button. The 'Rolleis' also had a lower priced cousin - the Rolleicord but even that was still out of reach.

I found the Microcord suited my budgets for its cost second-hand was about £40 pounds or about a month's salary for many people and I could make it pay by selling photographs taken at events such as dances - parties or for sports teams - university societies and the student newspaper Nonesuch News. The same camera 'new' was £46 plus over £18 Purchase Tax [Values in Old British Pounds]


I used my Microcord to shoot the Royal Visit pictures when the Queen [Elizabeth ll] opened a new Engineering Department building - now the Queen's Building. Another highlight was the European Universities Exhibition - won that year byBristol. I was not a leading member of the University Photographic Society but two of my pictures were in the winning panel of six - the others were by Chris Horton and R.A Pritchard [who won the top award]. As my interest in film moved on Photo Exhibitions never became a serious matter. I organised the EUE the following year as it was held in Bristol and just two other shows came much later - one in the mid 'sixties at the then prestigious Kodak Gallery in Kingsway, London, England and the next and last at the second World Wildlife Fund Congress held in London in 1970 - my panel was squeezed in between one from Prince Philip. the Duke of Edinburgh and another from Neil Armstrong of the 1969 Moon landing..

Back to 1958 my budget was miniscule and my appetite for experiment was enormous. Sometimes I prepared my own developer and other chemicals as the proportions were published in magazines and the materials available in most Chemist Shops [ now known as Pharmacies] . In the 1950's the local Chemist Shop usually had a sideline selling cameras and film, a trade at from the early days of photography when it was a DIY hobby and my treasured Microcord came from a Chemist Shop.

Revunions - comedy and satire
From the University Union Revunions a society for informal, often very satirical entertainment, here advertising Insane Again or Anything to Declare? Bert Quesnel [research microbiologist] and Frances Hurndall -[French and Drama]. Right - Frances and Post-war architecture for a photo project
The University tower ' To Let '
The Wills Memorial Building with it's 68m [215ft] tower and vaulted entrance is a central feature of the University of Bristol and a city landmark. In 1958 it was the target of a 'Rag Stunt' created by students drawing attention to the annual charity fund-raising 'Rag'. Tony who was working for Nonesuch News had a 'tip' to be on the spot at dawn - his early pictures were softened by mist but the university authorites let the banner remain in place for Rag Day.
Colour was costly and it was not 'instant;

" I had tried taking colour on my Microcord and its predecessor in my kit a West German-made Baldix. But both used rolls of film giving 6 x 6 cm images - then known as 2 1/4 inches square or size 120 with just twelve pictures per roll. The film was expensive and so was the processing which combined with the inevitable mistakes confirmed colour as a luxury.

My first 35mm camera was a West German-made Finetta bought for £11 partly raised by selling a bicyle. Then in 1956 I traded-in the Finetta for a Kodak Retinette[012] costing £14. What seems to be a very modest upward move in value can be explained by market forces as more and better 'used' cameras became available during the late 1950s.

This picture was shot on the Retinette using West German-made AgfaColor, then a reversal colour film which in processing gave an immediately viewable image. The new Queen's Building of the Engineering Department is on the right of the tower and the change to the skyline was hotly debated. But viewed from a distance the line of the building blends with the historic Georgian Crescents of Clifton "

The Royal Visit of 1958 MORETop right The University Vice-chancellor greeting HM Queen Elizbeth ll before the opening of the Queen's Building.
The Big World Outside

" For most students 1958 meant staying in staying in Britain or perhaps an exchange visit to Continental Europe. It was a year of austerity in which I found plenty of time for exploring the West of England. It was a year of making good friends including Mark Howell who was slightly older having completed two years in National Service [a compulsory time in the Armed Forces]. Mark could afford an old car - a Standard 9 and I joined him with two friends from his Geography course to see the tidal surge or 'Bore' on the River Severn not far from Bristol.

The sea at the river's estuary has the world's second highest tidal range and this working against the flow of the river sends a shallow wall of water rolling upriver. The record 'Bore' was over 2m high but ours was not a major event though enough to show the power of the water. I was hooked on what is now seen as the environment and in the following year, 1959 I joined David Emerson [Zoology] on a voyage by trawler to the Arctic coast of Norway" For Mark Howell - see the menu on the left- About Nonesuch.

" In January 1960 I traded-in the Microcord for a Microflex with a hand crank-wind and costing £52-10 shillings. It performed so well that I took it around the world in 1960-61 and then for two long journeys to South America "
With special thanks to Louis [Bert] Quesnel and David [Ellkington] Cole a Kodak Scholarship student for their enormous encouragement

A lot of water has flowed down the River Severn since 1958 - see Nonesuch Silver Prints

Also ---South American Pictures - see the menu top left - the photos are largely from Tony's photographic work

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