During last year’s call for old photography of HMS Vernon for the 10th anniversary of Gunwharf exhibition (see HERE and HERE) Fran Wright got in touch to say she was a Wren based at Portsmouth and worked as a naval photographer. We asked Fran a few questions and Fran dug out a few personal photographic memories of her time based in Portsmouth.
Fran now works in Southsea Gallery.
What age did you pick up a camera and why?
I picked up a camera (in earnest) at 16 once I’d been accepted to join the Navy in their Photographic Branch. I had to wait 18mths for a vacancy in the Photographic Branch to become available; they offered me positions as either a Telephonist, a Driver or a Dental Hygienist as another option – I turned them all down to train as a Photographer and had the required ‘O’ Level in Maths to qualify.
How did you begin to take photos for the navy?
I joined the Navy at 18 to become a Photographer because I liked the sound of the job! I began to take photos after an initial training period of 12 weeks at HMS Excellent on Whale Island.
What did your job entail?
My job entailed covering everything from sports events to mechanical defects; official portraits of newly appointed, high ranking officers of establishments or ships; visiting ships and VIP visits to the dockyard; passing out parades and ceremonial divisions; PR stories for local newspapers up and down the country – I even danced with Prince Charles as a result of covering a visit to the dockyard of VIP veterans from HMS Kelly – the ship that Earl Mountbatten served on – and have photographs of the occasion (see below).
How has the harbour and the city changed over the years photographically?
I suppose the harbour and the city have changed over the years photographically, as both become busier commercially.
Do you still take photos?
Yes, I do still take photos for leisure and pleasure and am in contact with other ex-RN Photographers in the local area.
If so, what catches your eye in Southsea & Portsmouth now?
I like to see images of the local landscapes and architecture photographed creatively – my work for Southsea Gallery lets me see some great stuff.
Thank you Fran!