It feels like he has just popped out, more than likely to take the dogs for a walk through the estate or along the Trent & Mersey, a few yards over the Essex packhorse bridge. Patrick Lichfield died suddenly in 2005 at the age of 66. Besides a small permanent exhibition of his works and studio equipment, visitors to the elegant mansion house at Shugborough can enter his private apartments which are much as he left them. The drinks cabinet appears well stocked beneath a photo cartoon with Bailey, the dogs’ toys are strewn on the floor in front of the fire and his motorcycle gloves and helmet sit waiting to be gathered up beneath the window.
In the late seventies my father gave me his Mamiya C330F camera and I became much more serious about photography, constructing a darkroom in a shed at the bottom of the garden, I disappeared for hours into the womb of the red safety light. The C330F is a twin lens reflex with interchangeable lenses, an over-sized piece of kit which would not look out of place on a modern film set. I was very fond of the high contrast achieved with Kodak’s Tri-X 120 roll film but with just twelve exposures, you had to think long and hard before pressing the shutter. There was a 24 exposure version but this was such a devil to wind onto a developing tank spool that I usually opted for the more reliable shorter roll. Whilst it produced wonderful technical results from its two and a quarter square inch negatives and even the odd published picture, it was just too cumbersome to capture the decisive moment. Needless to say I coveted the more agile 35mm cameras from Nikon and Pentax but it was the really nimble Olympus OM range that I desired most. The advertising campaigns featuring Lichfield and Bailey eventually worked their magic and I acquired a black OM1 and an OM10. The photography didn’t improve much but getting around did and they were such joyous pieces of technical jewellery, the OM just nestled in the hands and you felt the part.
I was reminded of these much desired cameras at Shugborough. In Patrick Lichfield’s lounge there is a small bronze of two hands cupped around an Olympus as though holding a precious ornament.
I still have the Mamiya for sentimental reasons but with the advent of digital my OMs were sold or passed on; a beautiful object of desire, I wish I had at least kept an OM1.
As an example of how we have ‘progressed’, this fuzzy image was taken on a smart phone, the latest objects of desire (this was as close as I could get and even then set off the motion detector – the lady from the National Trust was very understanding).