The Man Behind the Camera…
Hello my name is Chris Elliott and I would like to welcome you to this CyprusScene review and my guest is a well-known ex-soldier, photographer and resident of Northern Cyprus, Mr. Richard Chamberlain.
Welcome Richard and it seems you are always busy either sending reviews to CyprusScene for publication or promoting your books of photography from your army days way back in the 50s.
So please tell us a little of your early days in the UK and how you came to take photos of Cyprus when you were in the army.
Richard: I first became interested in photography in about 1950, when I was 15 years old. I had a brother who was 7 years older than me and good at metal work. Amazingly, he made me a small camera out of a Colmans Mustard Tin.
It took 16mm film. He also taught me how to develop the film and put the film into a photographic enlarger. I took the camera to school and started taking photos of the boys in my class and when I got home, I developed the film and enlarged the photos and sold them to the boys for sixpence each.
Chris: Amazing, so tell us about your time in the army
Richard: I left school when I was 16 years old and went into the printing industry as a apprentice compositor. At 18 years old, my twin brother, Michael and I were told to go and join the army under the government National Service scheme, but before I joined the army, I went to the camera shop and bought a French camera called Gallus De-lux. It was £8, about 2 weeks wages in those days and I took the camera with me when I joined the army. After our initial basic training we were taught some sort of “trade”. I was taught to be a wireless operator, and my brother was taught how to drive an army lorry.
Chris: Wow, so how did you start taking photos of Cyprus and what did you do with them?
Richard: Soon after that we were sent to Cyprus. We could not believe our luck. When we arrived, we thought we had arrived in Paradise. We had never been anywhere up till then.
As soon as we were allowed some time off, we went down to the local town, which was Famagusta, (now known as Varosha or Maras). I had my camera with me and I soon started taking photos of this “Paradise” we had come to. There were camels walking down the street in Famagusta, old men with donkeys loaded up with farm produce, rows of “shoe shine” boys wanting to shine our army boots and many things we had never seen before in England. So there was plenty to photograph. Everywhere I looked, I kept taking photographs.
Luckily, the army had a “darkroom” in Famagusta for us soldiers to go and develop our films and print the photographs. I spent a lot of my spare time in the dark room.
Before we went into the army, my 2 brothers used to cut each other’s hair, so besides the camera, I took with me I took the hair clippers. In those days, the young men’s style was to have their hair fairly long, but the army didn’t like long hair so the Cypriot army barber used to cut it short. So because I would just give them a little “trim”, I soon became more popular than the camp barber. I used to charge sixpence for a trim up. I soon took enough money each week, not to take my army wages. I saved them.
Unfortunately, the army Sergeant Major caught me cutting hair one day and banned me. But it wasn’t long before the soldiers were asking me for just a trim again and I had to start it again.
When I came out of the army, I put my negatives and prints away in a cupboard because I didn’t think there was much interest in Cyprus in the UK. Years later, my brother came across them and gave them to me. I decided to get all the negatives scanned and put on a CD. Then I decided I would put the photos together in a book.
With the help of a friend, we designed a book and put them all together, and had it printed. I sold quite a few books on Amazon.
In about 2015 I decided to move to Northern Cyprus for good. I took my CD with all the book photos on it and had it printed again in Northern Cyprus. I have sold or given away about 1,000 books.
I have presented my book to 4 North Cyprus Presidents and now I have been asked to donate my collection of photographs to an archive of Old Cyprus photos that is being set up by the Nicosia museum. I am honoured and pleased to accept.
Chris: Wow Richard thank you, that is most fascinating, and so as we come to the end of our chat we are adding some clips of a previous video we made with you in the old Round Tower in Girne some years ago and we hope you and our viewers will enjoy your past hobby through your pictures.
Thank you very much mate and I hope to see you again soon.
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