Published: 5:00 AM October 30, 2022
Updated: 9:49 AM October 31, 2022
A new exhibition at Norwich Cathedral Hostry celebrates the re-discovery of an extensive early 1900s photographic family archive.
An impulsive online purchase of 230 anonymous glass negatives was the starting point of a four-year project for artist and book designer Alan Ward.
Photographs from Another Place is on display at Norwich Cathedral Hostry. Image by Sydney Gearing - Credit: Sydney Gearing
Manchester-based Alan Ward, 58, is "fascinated by the hidden stories which images can reveal", and set out to find more about the person behind the camera throughout the 20 boxes of glass plates.
After discovering the photographer's name was Sydney Gearing, Mr Ward soon found many connections to his own family history within the archive and the project became a "personal pilgrimage, a very intimate, personal reflection on a collection".
Photographs from Another Place is on display at Norwich Cathedral Hostry. Image of Sydney Gearing - Credit: Sydney Gearing archive
Growing up on his grandparents' farm near Great Yarmouth, the artist found the project to be a "way of making returns to Norfolk".
Mr Ward went on to "use a camera to explore an idea" and retraced the steps of Mr Gearing, shooting his own reflective photographic series where the photographer and masonic's life had taken him.
In one image of Sydney Gearing's, we see him with his family home, with their dog, Prince. As part of Mr Ward's photographic series, he visited the person living in the house now. Unaware of the history of the house, her dog, pictured, is (purely by chance) called Princess.
Sydney Gearing's family home, pictured now (left), by Alan Ward, and then, by Sydney himself - Credit: Alan J Ward/Sydney J Gearing
With nothing to go on apart from a name on one of the boxes, Mr Ward trawled ancestral records for several years, discovering more about the archive and eventually tracking down a living relative: Mr Gearing's daughter Ruth, to discover more about the mystery man.
Sydney Gearing's daughter, Ruth, pictured by Alan Ward (left) and her father. Photographs from Another Place is on display at Norwich Cathedral Hostry - Credit: Alan J Ward/Sydney J Gearing
The photographic archive is estimated to span from pre-First World War, through to the 1950s, during which Mr Gearing was a prolific engineer for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, taking photographs as a hobby.
Sydney Gearing was part of the Masonic for a large part of his life. Alan Ward photographed a Masonic group - Credit: Alan Ward
The result is a beautifully designed photobook, and an exhibition. He says: "The Norwich exhibition is a story of family, tragedy, religion, sea, and the masonic".
Sidney Gearing's camera will sit amongst the images from the project at the exhibition.
Photographs from Another Place runs from November 2 to 26 at Norwich Cathedral Hostry. It is supported by Arts Council England.