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Hardmans' House reopens with celebration of city's cultural women

The National Trust has reopened its Hardmans' House site for the first time in 18 months.

The Georgian building in Rodney Street, where photographer Edward Chambré Hardman lived and worked, has been closed since the first lockdown in March last year.

Now the historic venue, a 1950s’ time capsule, is welcoming back visitors on guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays.

And it is also staging a new exhibition of contemporary work by Liverpool-based artist Tabitha Jussa, the first artist-in-residence at the property.

Jussa has used old techniques like hand colouring to capture some of the leading women in the city’s arts and cultural world, photographing them in Hardman’s old studio at the site early last year.

Seventeen subjects, including Culture Liverpool director Claire McColgan, band Stealing Sheep, Writing on the Wall co-director Madeline Heneghan and Open Culture’s Charlotte Corrie and Christina Grogan, are featured in the collection of both black and white and hand-coloured portraits by Jussa who was allowed access to the large Chambré Hardman archive at Liverpool Central Library as part of the project.

Original hand coloured photographs like this one (left) inspired Jussa's new portraits including Christina Grogan and Charlotte Corrie of Open Culture (right)

“Changes in camera technology make replication of the Hardmans’ distinctive signature portraits virtually impossible,” says the artist. “My access to the archive inspired me to produce works that explored the portrait genre the Hardmans used.”

Many of Hardman’s original photographs were painstakingly hand coloured by freelance artists, most of them women working from home. Parcels of photographic prints were sent out to them, as well as snippets of dress material, lipstick, and hair samples, to accurately match colours.

Jussa was inspired by their skill and also by Margaret Hardman, who was a shrewd businesswoman.

Michelle Yunqué Alvarado, collections and house manager at the National Trust, says: “As our first ever artist in residence, it was really exciting to see what Tabitha would make of the huge and varied E Chambré Hardman Photographic Collection.”

She adds: “The Hardmans were a fascinating couple and not only are their photographs a valuable record of mid-20th century life in Britain, but their home is a must-see experience in its own right.

The Hardman's kitchen is a 1950s time capsule. Photo: National Trust Images, Amhel de Serra

“Many people from Liverpool and beyond came here to have their portrait taken by Mr Hardman, and those portraits might still be hanging on their children’s or grandchildren’s walls today.

“For some people, a visit to the Hardmans’ House is a personal journey. For most people, it’s a chance to truly step back in time to when photography was a rare art form.”

The house at 59 Rodney Street was the home and photographic studio of Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret between 1949 and 1988.

All four floors of the property are still filled with cameras, studio equipment and other objects left over from their business, as well as the Hardmans’ personal items, including a kitchen stocked with decades-old food packaging and Margaret’s clothes and jewellery.

The Agency of Women exhibition is on show until November 6 as part of a house tour. More information and booking HERE

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