Renowned photography scientist Geoffrey Crawley dies (update with tributes)
November 1, 2010
World renowned photographic scientist, author, inventor and journalist Geoffrey Crawley has died, Amateur Photographer is sad to report.
Geoffrey, who worked as the magazine?s photo-science consultant, died on Friday 29 October.
Before joining Amateur Photographer Geoffrey worked at the British Journal of Photography (BJP) which he edited from 1966-87.
Among the first to pay tribute was the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) which awarded him an Honorary FRPS.
RPS spokesman Michael Hallett FRPS described Geoffrey as ‘one of the great editors of the twentieth century’.
He added: ‘His universal understanding of the arts and science of photography was shared with wit and wisdom to a generation of photographers.’
AP Editor Damien Demolder said: ‘Geoffrey has been a first class contributor to AP for many years and his influence will be felt for even more years to come.
‘His understanding of technical issues and his appreciation of what the AP reader needs and wants to know gave him a particular way of communicating difficult issues to receptive ears.
‘Geoffrey leant our magazine a great deal of weight, with the public and within the industry, and in a world where none of us feel indispensable he is someone who really cannot be replaced.’
‘A hugely intelligent man’
Former AP Editor Garry Coward-Williams added: ‘Geoffrey?s decision to move from the British Journal to AP was a huge coup for me and a resounding endorsement of the technical excellence that [current AP Editor] Damien had brought to the magazine as its technical editor.
‘Geoffrey was an absolute delight to work with. You always knew you were in the company of a hugely intelligent man, but one with humility and generosity of spirit.
‘Photographic journalism was enriched by his presence and I doubt that we will see his like again.’
Former AP technical editor Angela Nicholson, who worked with Geoffrey for more than six years, said the news of Geoffrey’s death came as a shock, though she was aware he had been unwell.
‘Geoffrey was a very generous and amusing man,’ she said.
‘He saw knowledge as something to be shared and enjoyed, and we had many happy discussions about photographic details.
‘Though his background was in film photography he embraced digital technology and was always open to new ideas and developments. Photography has lost “The Great Man”.’
Pianist ambitions cut short
Geoffrey was born in Bow, London, on 10 December 1926 and moved with his parents to Southend, Essex aged four, finally settling in Leigh-on-Sea.
His father was a keen photographer and Geoffrey helped out in his darkroom from an early age.
He attended Westcliff High School for Boys and was evacuated to Derbyshire during the war.
By then Geoffrey had become a keen pianist, as his wife Carolyn explains: ‘He persuaded the mining family he was billeted with to buy an upright piano so he could practise.’
He studied languages at Selwyn College, Cambridge, specialising in German and French, and became fluent in German.
‘Geoffrey’s first ambition was to be a professional pianist and he gave recitals both at school and at Cambridge,’ Carolyn tells Amateur Photographer.
‘But, sadly, that was not to happen. He became unwell during his final year at Cambridge and was unable to pursue that path or take his degree.’
Over the next few years Geoffrey gave piano lessons and invented chemicals for use in darkrooms.
‘Sherlock Holmes’ case solving
Geoffrey will be remembered in photographic circles as the inventor of Acutol, a fine grain black & white darkroom developer, made by Paterson and reviewed in Amateur Photographer‘s issue dated 30 October 1963.
His expert knowledge of photography also saw him play an instrumental role in the exposure of the ‘Cottingley Fairies’ mystery as a hoax.
The long-running deception began as a childhood prank in 1917 when Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins, claimed they had captured photographic evidence of fairies near their home in Cottingley, West Yorkshire.
Sixty-five years later, as editor of BJP in 1982, Geoffrey had begun to apply his extensive technical knowledge to the pictures, the authenticity of which had been endorsed by Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
But Geoffrey’s ingenuity led the cousins to admit, in 1983, that the pictures were nothing more than carefully-composed ‘cut-out fairies’ – kept in place using hat pins.
The story was made into a film, released in 1997 called FairyTale: A True Story. The movie Photographing Fairies was also inspired by the hoax.
Carolyn, who met Geoffrey while the pair worked at BJP in 1987, said her husband particularly enjoyed the challenge of working on a ‘case’ and compared a side of his character to fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
She reflected on one such case where a BJP reader sent Geoffrey a photograph, claiming it as proof that photography had been invented some 20 years before the history books stated.
Geoffrey’s technical analysis of the image eventually led to the claim being disproved.
Geoffrey?s expert eye also brought him close to investigations surrounding the shooting of President John F Kennedy, for a TV programme entitled The Men Who Killed Kennedy, in 1988.
AP Editor Damien Demolder added: ‘Geoffrey’s immense knowledge was only matched by his remarkable modesty, and for a man who had achieved so much he did all he could to remain away from the spotlight.
‘Even getting him to agree to his full name being used at the front of articles he wrote, rather than just his initials, wasn?t easy.
‘He will be sorely missed by his very many admirers.’
Geoffrey, who was 83, had been suffering from a long illness.
He died at home in Westcliffe-on-Sea.
He leaves wife Carolyn, who he married in 1994, and son Thomas aged 11.
Geoffrey’s funeral is set to take place in Southend-on-Sea, Essex on 10 November.
? More tributes to Geoffrey will appear in an upcoming issue of AP
The family requested that any donations in Geoffrey?s name be sent to Macmillan Cancer Support, c/o Co-operative Funeral Care, 15 Queensway, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS2 6JJ. Tel: 01702 342647.
To read tributes to Geoffrey, or to leave your own PLEASE CLICK HERE