What a gem of a talk! On 8 December, David Pratt treated us to an illustrated talk about the photographic exploits of his father, Christopher Pratt - yes, that Christopher Pratt of furniture fame. David followed the story outlined in his book entitled 'Christopher Pratt, Photographer', which is out of print but held in the Bradford Library, embellished with personal recollections of his father.
Born in 1888, Christopher had his bumps read as a child and was told he had 'Artistic Capabilities'. The influence of his uncle and the opportunities offered by a family move to Eccleshill generated a keen interest in wildlife. An enormous butterfly collection accumulated and, inspired by Richard Kearton's well publicised photography of wildlife, the teenager plunged into the medium rising rapidly from a 6d camera to a quarter plate one.
He captured many stunning images ranging from Swans to a close-up of a Chaffinch Chick in a tree by means of several techniques still practiced by professional wildlife cameramen today. Understanding bird behaviour and a head for heights were vital. All of this activity was carefully recorded in his diary complete with camera settings and weather conditions.
Leaving Bradford Grammar School, he started work as an apprentice cabinetmaker in the family firm and studied drawing at the College of Art in his spare time. The family was part of the Wesleyan movement which campaigned against alcohol and presented elaborate slide shows in halls and even open-air gatherings. As a young man Christopher contributed by what we would now term street photography (unheard of then) illustrating the poverty and poor living conditions in Bradford.
In the 1900s he lectured on wildlife and his images and were published in national magazines. At the start of the First World War he was declared medically unsuitable so when all his adult brothers enlisted, Christopher was left to run the family business. Turning to aircraft production as a sub-contractor, the company made a great contribution to the emerging industry through its craftsmanship.
In 1918 Christopher married Mary and moved to Baildon. They had two boys and a girl and his family, together with his business commitments, meant that his photography became limited to family shots. He never lost his eye for a picture, though.
Chistopher teaches David bad habits early
It was a splendid evening combining fascinating details of early wildlife and street photography, with a strong flavour of local history, presented with charm and warmth.
Nick who spotted D; David Pratt ; Rais Hasan our President