Amateur Photographer

Backlighting brilliance

the early hours of 26 September 1950, an underground fire broke out within the Creswell Colliery in Derbyshire, trapping dozens of miners working below. As the day wore on and word spread about the accident, families and friends gathered for news. Standing in the crowd was an 18-year-old photographer from the local weekly newspaper. His name was Denis Thorpe. Working with a Contax rangefinder camera borrowed from his boss, Denis soon became aware that he was witnessing the aftermath of a mining disaster. ‘I just quietly wandered around and photographed what I could see,’ he recalls. ‘I don’t remember seeing any other photographers, but because I was a young man and had this little camera, I think people didn’t take any notice of me. Then, I realised what an enormous thing it was. You didn’t know at that time how many people had been killed and then you saw what was happening around you – that was such a moving thing.’ One of Denis’s photographs from that day shows an official reading out a list of names to the sombre crowd – in all, the disaster

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