For 40 years the people and places of Todmorden’s past were brought to life again by images carefully selected and annotated by Todmorden photographer and historian Roger Birch.
First with A Way Of Life, and then the following series of Todmorden Albums, the books told aspects of the town’s story, ensuring its characters, businesses and shops from the mid 19th century to the late 20th century were set down in print for future generations to remember and enjoy.
When Roger sadly passed away almost three years ago, it seemed such good things had come to an end.
But with the publication this month of Todmorden People: A celebration of local folk 1973-1996 (Woodlands Press, £25), edited by Roger’s son Daniel Birch, another chapter has been published.
This time all the pictures are Roger’s, capturing citizens in the last quarter of the 20th century. Simply captioned, the photographs tell their own story, all the reader’s focus on the image.
Roger had a keen eye and, as Daniel writes in his introduction, believed that great pictures could be had on your doorstep.
This excellent selection reminds you just how much Todmorden has changed even since the mid 90s, detailing for example Todmorden’s farming community at a time of change, or industries on which the town had been built, still there in 1980, but now largely gone.
These are not elaborately staged photographs, but snatched moments in time, and the result is your eye is continually drawn back to the images, leafing back through the pages to take another, closer, look.
Roger’s own work is to be treasured as those earlier volumes were, as the foreword by his contemporary Martin Parr, whose book The Non-Conformists played a similar role for Hebden Bridge and who is now acknowledged as perhaps the leading photographer of his generation, and closing poem “For Roger Birch”, by Todmorden-born poet Robert Cockcroft, amply demonstrate.
The high standard of reproduction used in the Todmorden Album series has been continued by Daniel, with almost 200 pin-sharp photographs featured in duotone.
In all, the project has taken around 18 months to complete, with the help of Alan Ward at Axis Graphic Design in Manchester. Daniel will be selling copies of the book on Todmorden Market every Friday and Saturday until Christmas, and they can also be ordered via website www.todmordenalbum.co.uk