David Nicholls

I was bitten by the photography bug quite early.  1947 to be precise. I started with the humble family Box Brownie which had been stored by our family throughout the War when films were unavailable.  Films were not produced again until about 1947 and then in very short supply.


With earnings from my paper round I bought a plate camera, an ancient German Erneman quarter plate camera complete with a dozen plate holders and a stainless steel developing tank. It had a range of shutter speeds and an f4.5 lens with variable apertures. Plates were available at that time as they were used by professional photographers. These thin glass plates, four and a quarter by three and a quarter inches had to be loaded in darkness and exposed one at a time in the camera. Each plate had to be developed in the developing tank, fixed and dried in order to make a contact print. I learned a great deal about photography from that camera. I took candid photographs of my schoolmasters through a hole cut in my school satchel to allow the lens to poke out shooting by guesswork and judgement. These I sold to my fellow scholars. My first commercial success! A few of them survive to today, faded black and white prints of schoolmasters in their scholastic gowns of years ago.


On leaving school my ambition was to become a photographer. I was accepted for a job by a commercial photographic business in Worthing and continued learning though mostly processing of film and printing other people’s photos.  At that time photographs were in black and white only. I continued taking pictures for my own interest, graduating from the old plate camera to a Russian copy of a Leica and a Zeiss Ikon Roll film camera. This gave me better quality negatives and I spent many happy hours in an improvised darkroom in my long suffering parent’s house.


National Service claimed me in 1949 and I was conscripted into the Royal Air Force. I applied to be trained as a photographer in the RAF but it was not to be. They had sufficient photographers and instead trained me in a different trade. I enjoyed Air Force life and stayed in for the next 22 years. I continued my photographic activities, joining RAF Camera Clubs on the stations I was sent to. My cameras snapped scenery in Scotland, Germany, France, Cyprus and Aden before finally landing up in Selsey and a job with a Local Authority where I gravitated to working as a photographer for the Press and Public Relations Office.


I photographed many civic events and illustrated official publications. On leaving this job I worked as an freelance photographer for magazines and newspapers. I photographed many prominent people including commissions to photograph Royal visits as the official photographer. I still used film cameras for this work-- Rollieflex and Hassleblad roll film cameras with colour film processed in a professional laboratory.


The digital revolution, once I had learned and re-equipped myself with digital Nikons made photography easier.  On the last part of my photographic career I worked for a local newspaper as a staff photographer picturing daily a very diverse selection of news incidents and people. I joined the Selsey Camera Club some years ago. I am still learning to take better pictorial photographs in company with the friendly and enthusiastic group of people with similar interests.


A friend of mine, Mr George Abel started Selsey Camera club some fifty years ago. George was a professional photographer. Like me he was ex R.A.F. He had a studio and shop in Selsey High Street. I joined the Club some years later and did a stint as Competition Secretary. Now I am honoured to be the club’s President---and I am still learning!


If you could photograph anything what would it be?

My dream assignment would be to photograph shipping in tropical countries.

(and getting paid for it).


Since joining the camera club what have you learned that you didn’t know before?

The opinions and constructive criticism of the competition judges has made me think more carefully before taking the picture. I don’t always agree with them but the advice especially on composition has improved the way I sum up a scene before pressing the button.


What is it you like about taking photographs?

For me it is that every image I make is a moment frozen in time, a little piece of history recorded for posterity. Photographs are memories that can be re-visited years later.


Me with big camera
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Wedding - Bridge of Avignon
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Brown Boobies Caribbean
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Owl eyes
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Britannia in Madiera
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Bishop of Chicheser
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Okd Arab Gentleman Sinea desert
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Sir Richard Branson
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Dame Vera Lynn
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HRH Prince Charles
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The Queen signs the visiors book
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