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A woman's touch perfectly captures bygone way of life

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

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A fascinating collection of photographs capturing a bygone age are published today for the first time.

While scenic postcards still flourish from the hands of Edwardian photographers such as Francis Frith and Bert Phillips, what makes these pictures special is that these are all taken by a woman.

Ann Norton was a young girl when she first began to tentatively explore mid-Somerset with her camera, recording for posterity a form of life that would soon be no more.

Even after she married and became Ann Naish, she was still out capturing local scenes.

Our own photographer Jason Bryant stumbled across the collection when he met Ann's son Frank, now aged 88, who showed him his mother's albums.

"As a professional photographer of the 21st century, I was struck with the style of these pictures of how good Ann Naish was as a reportage photographer," he said.

"She was out recording a way of life at a time when very few people were doing that.

"She was out there, setting up photographs of people at their work, in their free time and in scenes in the same way as a press photographer would do today."

Perhaps the most poignant of the pictures are those taken before the First World War, capturing the carefree scenes of Edwardian life that were to be cruelly snatched away within months.

Photographs of the men from her family, taken at the outbreak of the war, and pictures of generations of local farming folk give a telling glimpse into life in mid-Somerset a century ago.

But Ann was also acting as a historian for the future, deliberately choosing to capture scenes of Victorian life that she knew were dying out, judging by the meticulous notes she kept in her album.

One photograph of butter-making at Red House, North Wootton, is beautifully staged with equipment casually propped up in the background. Ann's own caption describes it as an "old-fashioned" method which is "still" being pursued at North Wootton.

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