• Paul Curtis

QM2 Display Pays Tribute to Ship’s Photographers

My first attempt to get a job on the RMS Queen Mary was to be a ship’s photographer. Following a written application, I was invited for an interview. The man conducting our meeting was surly and aggressive and I found him formidable. First, he attacked me about having listed my age as “18 - this year.” Of course, I was about ten months away from the required age of 18, but lying about your age to go to sea was a sort of tradition.

He grumpily said, seeing as you’re here we might as well see if you have any potential. He then produced an old Linhof and said, go into the darkroom, load some cut film in the right way, and then we will see if you can take a picture.

No problem, I had been using a 5x4 MPP press camera for my newspaper work and it was pretty similar. With film inserted the right way round in the dark side, I was then taken outside onto a gravel path outside his office and told to pretend I was taking his photo as if he was boarding a ship. It was dull and raining slightly, but I was undeterred.

Ha! I thought, I know this trick. Focusing on these cameras was critical. So, I chose a stone on the path and quickly pre-focused on that, withdrew the film sheath and was set to go. He started to walk towards me and as soon as his foot hit the spot, I fired the shutter and closed the sheath. Nailed it!

He then took me back to his darkroom to see if I could develop and print it. Easy-peasy. But when he saw my beautiful, perfectly exposed shot of him walking up the path with his snarly face nice and sharp, he groaned, “Fool, this is useless!”.

I was daft enough to ask what was wrong. He said you didn’t stop me and ask me to smile, no one would ever buy a picture of themselves looking like this! The bastard had set me up, but it was a very good lesson.

So, when a couple of months later, I went for another interview with a different firm of ship’s photographers, I knew what to do. I got that job and off to sea I went…still underage.

All in all, it turned out for the best. When, a few years later, I eventually did manage to join the Queen Mary, it was as an entertainments officer. The difference being in that job I was required to drink with the passengers, whereas a ship’s photographer could not drink at all!

Photos: Copied from the display on deck 2 of QM2.