Photographer Randall Webb, who dedicated his life to the art, dies aged 78

Randall Webb: Had close links to Richmond

Randall Webb: Had close links to Richmond

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Master photographer, author and educator Randall Webb has died at the age of 78.

Randall Webb, a master of ancient and alternative photographic printing processes and author of the definitive manual of alternative printing techniques, died after a long illness. He was a resident of St Margarets.

Born in Faversham, Randall served in the RAF, stationed in Pakistan. So fascinated was he by that part of the world that he later enrolled in the School of Oriental & African Studies, London University, where he began a degree course in Arabic.

Randall then went into the travel business where he worked for several years before turning full time to photography.

For more than 30 years he devoted his career to teaching, exhibiting, holding workshops, judging competitions and mentoring others in the art of alternative printing techniques and photography at all levels.

He was a devoted experimenter, using cameras of all kinds, particularly antique plate cameras, and was passionate about the process of creating gum bichromate, bromoil, albumen, platinum, wet-plate collodion, cyanotype, salt and kallitype prints.

Randall recognised that prints resulting from these processes possessed a particular expressive value appreciated by collectors.

In 1999 Randall co-wrote with Martin Reed Spirits of Salts: Working Guide to Old Photographic Processes (Argentum, 1999). The book was also published in the USA and translated for a French edition.

Randall was fearless as a photographer and particularly generous as an educator and mentor.

He was a member of, presenter and judge for many photographic organisations, among them Framework, the Richmond and Twickenham Photographic Society and Group 6.

He founded Group 1:20. Randall led workshops for camera clubs and photographic organisations throughout south-west England and was a photography instructor within the Richmond Adult Education system.

He wrote regularly for the arts magazine he founded, Network.

Randall's extensive exhibition history began in the early 1980s and he exhibited numerous times at the Orleans House Gallery and at Richmond’s Riverside Gallery.

In 1992, Randall embarked on a landmark documentary project with fellow photographer Franco Chen, photographing Spitalfields, and thus capturing a significant part of London history before the area’s transformation.

Another unique project was his 1993-1997 study of Knoydart, Scotland, during which his goal was to photograph every member of the community.

A major Randall Webb exhibition, Areas of Darkness, was shown at Dimbola Lodge Museum and Gallery (former home of Julia Margaret Cameron) on the Isle of Wight in 1999.

Rachel Tranter, head of arts, Richmond upon Thames Arts Service, remembers him: "Randall Webb made a significant contribution to the arts in Richmond, through his own work as a photographer, and in his encouragement of others.

"Randall took part in many exhibitions and projects in the borough. Randall was an incredibly warm, generous person who was always smiling - he will be much missed."

In 2008 Orleans House Gallery included his work in Emma Smith: Ground in 2008 and in 2010 he was featured in the Richmond and Twickenham Photographic Society Faces Forward to the Past exhibition.

His workshops for the Orleans House Gallery included projects in which he engaged children and young people in his sun photography technique.

Mark De Novellis, curator of collections and exhibitions, Orleans House Gallery, notes that in 1989 Randall donated seven solarised photogram prints of the Octagon Room to the borough art collection.

He said: "This room held a special fascination for Randall, and he used it as the backdrop for a number of photo shoots. It appeared on the cover of his book Spirits of Salts, where the chequered floor was transformed into a chess board.

"Randall was also commissioned to create a photogram of the explorer Richard Burton’s mausoleum in Mortlake, which was included in an exhibition on Burton in 1988. Webb was fascinated by the past and the local area.

"He was a valued member of the local community and will be greatly missed."

Renowned English photographer, Paul Hill MBE, also pays tribute to Randall Webb: "He was a great enthusiast and had a wonderfully creative mind and eye."

Randall is survived by his sons, Howard and Nigel, his daughter-in-law and his two grandchildren.

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