Greenhill Grammar school, Oldham

About Panoramas in General




During the relatively short life of Greenhill Grammar the photographic rationale seemed to be that a panoramic photo would be undertaken every five years. They showed the whole school body, staff and pupils, in our case around 500 people. A series of separate form, team etc. photos would be taken sometime in the interim so the in the normal five year period at the school each pupil would have the chance to have at least one record of their form and the whole school. Other Heads may have had different timings.

The panoramas were obviously more expensive to buy than the form photos and a lot fewer were produced. Also appropriate storage of such items was difficult to achieve. The standard size of image produced by the usual contractor, Panora, seems to have been 38 x 6 inches though the finished overall size varied from 40 to 42 inches long by 6 to 10 inches deep depending on surrounds and legends. The only place they could be kept flat was under lining paper in wide drawers or wardrobes where they were forgotten about and/or damaged anyway.

The most usual storage method seems to have been by rolling then holding with an elastic band. This invariably led to the exposed end becoming very dog eared and cut further and further along its length by the rubber band. Dampness spoils any old photograph due to various moulds and yeasts eating away the emulsion but rolled panoramas had an additional hazard in very dry atmospheres. The emulsion dried, became brittle over time, and shattered when it was unrolled. Under the circumstances we are lucky to be able to show so many complete examples of these items, especially the 1934 one, though in some cases this has been achieved by making composites of the best parts of examples from two different owners. Personal scanners generally available will scan a maximum length of 11.5 inches (A4 paper) so all the all the images on the site have been stitched from at least four, or up to six, individual scans to allow for edge effects and suitable jointing positions.

This type of photo could not be taken as a single short exposure as in a conventional camera and needed very specialised equipment. The aperture was a slot that exposed a short section of the group only and the camera panned along the whole length driven by a clockwork mechanism. From memory this took 15 to 20 seconds to pan along the whole group. The photographic film was drawn through the exposure gate by the same mechanism and synchronised to the camera movement. Although the resulting image is printed as a straight line the group was always arranged along a circular section for reasons of focus and perspective.

Due to this panning process and the fact that it took a relatively long time, a person who was fast on his feet could actually run behind the group to appear at both ends of the photo, especially with the collaboration of suitably placed friends. I have a panorama of the UCL engineering faculty with the same person at both ends achieved in this manner. Engineers are like that!