Edwin Alfred Barton
Edwin Alfred Barton got into photography in a roundabout way. He was a GP (a family doctor if you are an American reader) and in his search for ways to relax in his leisure time, experimented with water colours, with which he never quite got to grips, before chancing to pick up a camera and discovering his metier.
Born in 1864, Barton became a member of the Flyfishers’ Club in 1917, following which he had many articles published by Country Life and The Field before becoming editor of the Journal of the Flyfishers’ Club in 1931, going on to become the club’s president in 1934.
By all accounts Barton was an engaging and cheerful man with a disarming smile and he was a skilled fly fisherman. But although he was a trout fly fisherman by preference, he loved fishing for chub and went as far as having a special boat built for the purpose: this was known as "the bont", because it was a cross between a boat and a punt. Barton took his chub fishing very seriously and after rowing the bont into a likely place it would be let down stealthily towards his quarry using a complicated system of rond anchors, ropes and pulleys until he was within casting range. Unlike most of the dry fly men, he didn’t kill coarse fish as a nuisance, instead keeping them alive in a well in the boat and releasing them after cutting a nick in their dorsal fin, so that he would know a chub if he caught it again, which he frequently did. One of the largest fish Barton took using this method tipped the scales at four pounds seven ounces and after having it set up, he donated it to the Frank Buckland museum, on the closure of which the case found its way back to the good doctor, who promptly had it mounted above his bed! One of his more endearing habits was that he refused to wear a watch when he was fishing, claiming that it spoiled his enjoyment, time keeping being for slaves.
Barton's work includes some of the most memorable pictures ever taken of British angling; and the angler featured in his photographs is very often Barton himself, because he preferred to use a tripod and clockwork shutter release. He has been called the "Ansel Adams of the chalk streams" and with good reason, because many of his photographs are quite simply outstanding and as a collection they form a valuable record of one of the most interesting periods in the history of anlging.
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