Picture of the Month #1: The John Tarlton Collection

written by Caroline Benson, Photographic Assistant.

The current temporary exhibition at MERL features the work of the photographer John Tarlton. This wonderful collection came to the museum in 2004 and  now, on the completion of the Rural Images Discovered Project,  we are ready to promote its full commercial potential.

A 'typical Essex college interior'
A ‘typical Essex cottage interior’

These two photographs showing domestic scenes & farmhouse interiors are quite a departure from Tarlton’s usual images. They are both quarter plate glass negatives and are amongst only a very few glass plates in the Tarlton Collection. I am often asked for interior shots by picture researchers and so I was particularly excited to find these – I was also pleased when the fireside image was used in the recently published Pitkin guide “Life on the Farm”.

'Typical Essex farmhouse kitchen showing C16th beams'
‘Typical Essex farmhouse kitchen showing C16th beams’

Little is known about the two photographs. The fireside image is described on the negative envelope as “Typical Essex cottage interior; farm bailiff & his wife” and the other as “Typical Essex farmhouse kitchen showing C16th beams.” I feel the longer I look at these two photographs the more I see, until I can almost hear the tick of the clock, and certainly the smell of pipe tobacco.

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2 thoughts on “Picture of the Month #1: The John Tarlton Collection”

  1. We,[The Houghton Club, of Stockbridge] have recently found 120c. photographs by John Tarlton of a certain part of the river Test in we think 1963. Last year we commissioned a photographer to take a photo from the same place to demonstrate how the river has changed over the last 50 years. these photographs are presently being inserted side by side into an album. however, Once you have re-opened the museum, I would like to visit the museum to research Tarlton’s papers [diaries etc] to prove for whom they were taken and to confirm the date. please let me know when this will be possible

    1. What an amazing project! It would be wonderful to see the album. The reading room has remained open throughout our redevelopment so you are welcome to visit any time. However, the museum will be open to the public again from October 19th. If there are specific papers you would like to see, it’s best to contact us prior to your visit so that we can have them ready for you. Email merl@reading.ac.uk or call the reading room on 0118 378 5633.

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