The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay
July 2016 back issue
Lives of Our Time 1926
by Rachel Molina
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Life, it is often said, is what happens to us when we are busy making other plans.  And 1926 was a year much like any other perhaps. The Great War had been over for eight years, but had left a huge scar on the world, and Britain and her Empire in particular. Everywhere people were fighting for rights long overdue, and to protect those things they felt were threatened by the march of modernity. Britain suffered the General Strike and the imposition of martial law under Conservative Prime M inister Stanley Baldwin; the League of Nations’ (the predecessor to the United Nations) Slavery Convention abolished all types of slavery; the forerunner to the Campaign to Protect Rural England was founded; the Fazal Mosque became the first purpose-built mosque in London; the Balfour Declaration made all Commonwealth dominions equal and independent. And modernity was most definitely marching. On January 26 a Scottish inventor, John Logie Baird demonstrated his mechanical television apparatus to members of the Royal Institution, while a little less than two months later the American Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in Massachusetts. By July Fox Film had bought the patents from Movietone which allowed for recording sound onto film. Things which seem now as though they have always been there were brought into being: Route 66 in the USA appeared in 1926 when the US Highway Numbering System was created; Winnie-the-Pooh was published for the first time; even this typeface, Gill Sans, was first used that year. People continued to be born just as they always have. Each with a life history waiting to be written in part by their own force of character, and in part by life, happening to them while they made other plans. Hugh Hefner was born on the 9th of April. Who could have foreseen the impact he would have on the world? Playboy would have been inconceivable in 1926. Mere months after Logie Baird made his presentation, a baby boy, Sir David Attenborough, who would go on to define the very best output that Baird’s invention would offer British society was born. Naturally there were many others who were born that year who went on to shape science, the arts, culture, thinking, commerce and crime. And of course there were the politicians and national leaders: people like Valery Giscard d’Estaing who became President of France, Jiang Zemin of China, and Fidel Castro of Cuba. None of them could have foreseen how their lives would turn out. And there was one other: a little girl called Elizabeth, born in London on April 21st. Royalty is perhaps the last form of servitude enshrined in the unwritten constitution of British life. If you are born to the King or Queen, your life is mapped out. It is a life of privilege of course, but no other child born in this green and pleasant land has their future determined from the moment of conception. Elizabeth was like the rest of us, until those fateful months in late 1936 when her uncle, Edward VIII, decided that he was unwilling to accept the bondage of monarchy if he couldn’t do it with the woman he loved at his side. The moment he signed the Instrument of Abdication, Elizabeth, by then ten years old, had her future set. While so much has changed since the year of her birth, so much is exactly as it was before. The same struggles exist and each of us tries to navigate through them. We face the same desires, the same threats to our health, the same challenges to keep up with change and to mitigate its effects for the better. For ourselves, for our children, and for the places we each hold dear. The Queen famously refers to herself in the third person. I might say that I have had the time of my life, while she would say “our” life. The portraits here, and the testimonies that accompany them are but a brief insight into the Lives of Our Time.
ARNOLD I don’t feel any different to when I was turning 80 or 18 for that matter - I still feel about 26.  I had lots of fun back then getting drunk every night – well maybe every other night. I can’t play the violin or the viola anymore which is quite sad for me because I fell in love with my own playing as a violist and I could make a really lovely sound on the viola. The viola was the love of my life (apart from my wife – she comes first by a long way!). We have been married for 60 years.
CLARA  Mum knows she has Alzheimer’s and knows she can’t remember things but she is quite stubborn and probably in denial. On a number of occasions she has asked “why me? Why has this happened to me?”.  She used to get really upset that she couldn’t remember things in the early stages. Things are very much in the present now.  If she had known that this was how she was going to be after dad had died she probably would have been in denial and because of the beliefs that she has she would have thought Jesus could still heal her.
DERYK My name is Deryk.  I have spent my life telling people how my name is spelt. I will be 90 in October and it’s something I never expected to be celebrating and it’s certainly a milestone although I don’t feel a great deal different. Even though things have changed I still feel part of society.
EVELYN I don’t feel 90, I feel exactly the same as I did years ago. To me it’s just a number. I’ve always compared myself to the Queen and always thought I’m not going to die before her!  Although I wouldn’t like to be her as I wouldn’t always want to be going out.
HARRY My name is Harry. I’ve lived a pretty full life although I’ve been close to death during the war and also during my job as a demolition engineer but I don’t think too much about it. Life has been sweet for me but I have worked hard for what I’ve got.
KEN I only feel about 60 but I don’t have the same energy that I had then.  I miss that.  I used to do lots of things around the home.  I built the kitchen and repaired the roof and was always doing DIY. I was only happy when I was busy.
MARGO KETTELL Mum struggled with age and would have hated the thought of turning 90.  She was and still is very beautiful. My friends always described her as a fabulous bohemian women. She would be horrified to think about the life that she lives now which is so different, although she is very happy.
MARGUERITE I look at the Queen and think she has beautiful skin, beautiful teeth and beautiful hearing and if you have the right practitioners around you, it can help to keep you looking lovely.  She wouldn’t have her mother washing her face with red carbolic soap would she?  That is all my mother could afford.
ROD Even though I’m 90 this year, I am still working and have no plans for retirement as I haven’t organised myself for that.  If I can’t work there is not a lot of point being around. I don’t feel lonely because I keep myself busy. I still have a lot of drive.
STELLA I feel that I’ve been very blessed through my life.  I had wonderful parents who always did what they could for me and I had lots of friends. 
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