Director of GGS; Chris Ball, speaks on how his family history with photography lead him to the path he’s on today…
‘My Grandfather, George Swain Junior, was one of a few photographers in Norwich in the early 20th century and his father, George Swain (Senior) was a photographer as well, so there’s a fair bit of history of photography in my family. He was very well known at the time in the local area and was a bit of a pioneer in photography, in particular aerial shots.
During his career he had a couple of shops in Norwich, one on St Giles, which was bombed in the Second World War, and then another on the corner of Greyfriars Road and Rose Lane which he ran until his retirement in the in the early seventies.
During the war, whenever there was an air raid and everyone else was running for cover, he would get on his bike and go out to photograph the events taking place. He later wrote a small book called ‘Norwich Under Fire’, which included lots of his photographs of the blitz from the Baedeker raids during the period when Norwich was heavily hit.
Most of his images, a fantastic record of Norwich and Norfolk in the early 20th Century, are now stored by Norfolk County Council. My family handed them over a number of years ago so they could be safely archived for posterity.
I just recently discovered shots taken in Norwich in the 20’s and 30’s at my family home so I’ve been going around and actually duplicating those shots as they are today, and then doing a 17 second video which is a transition from how it is today, to how it was in 1920/1930. There’s a whole bunch of those which I’m trying to match as best as possible, some of them are tricky to get accurate due to the buildings changing so much but generally they’re pretty close. You’ll see that there will nearly always be one building that I’ve used to line-up with that hasn’t changed at all. The one of Orford Place by Debenhams has an unbelievable difference. The whole of that road has gone and Debenhams has taken it over, but if you go back and watch them over again you’ll see that the one building stays the same and doesn’t really move at all as it’s the exact same angle.
I personally started my photography journey as a teenager with a darkroom at home using all of my granddad’s old camera gear and equipment. I’ve been at GGS since 1976, so I’ve been taking pictures for about 45 years both as a hobby and professionally. Technological improvements within the photography industry have brought massive changes, and I believe less skill is required nowadays to take quality photographs compared to back when my Grandfather was involved within photography and even compared to when I started. The big thing was, of course, the change to digital. In the early stages of digital the quality was really quite poor and GGS as a company didn’t adopt digital photography until we felt it had surpassed the quality of film. However, there’s no comparison now, the quality of images we can capture today is phenomenal. When I started taking pictures, you had to get it right in the camera, and if you didn’t get it right in the camera, that was it. You didn’t have a good picture. The ability to manipulate and correct everything makes it much easier for me as a photographer, but this also gives me the ability to produce even better quality images possible than ever.’
At GGS, our photographers have the drive and passion to capture stunning photos every single time. Our extensive knowledge and experience means we know exactly what works for every single one of our clients; our aim is to achieve the highest possible standard in every aspect of our work; now that’s what we call professional!