What Became of Stephen Long’s Antiques
Solar plate etching by Jane Waterhouse
You may recall that I photographed the last day of Stephen Long’s celebrated antique shop in the Fulham Rd before the stock was removed for auction. Dennis Severs had bought china from Stephen Long’s shop for many years to furnish his time-capsule house in Folgate St, and it was David Milne, curator of the house, who took me over to visit the shop after Stephen Long died.
Although many of the contents were not of great monetary value, Stephen Long had a distinctive eye and collected items that appealed to him personally, combining them imaginatively to create displays that were artworks in their own right. He had an instinctive response to the human quality of artifacts, objects that carried their history of use and that evoked an entire world. For this reason, he was not troubled if antiques were damaged or inferior specimens, because it was the poetry of things which fascinated him.
When Stephen Long’s shop was cleared out, everyone wondered what would become of his things. Yet artist and printmaker Jane Waterhouse became so inspired by the collection that she obtained permission from Cheffins, the Cambridgeshire auction house that was selling them, to photograph them all and she has now embarked upon a series of subtly-toned elegaic prints of the pieces that speak most powerfully to her. “There was a particular quality to Stephen’s eye that I felt a rapport with,” Jane admitted to me, “so I have produced these fugitive prints.”
“I felt I needed to do it with solar plate etchings as close to photographs as possible but not photographs, and the process is quite beguiling – you can expose the plates by laying them in the sun, she explained. At present, Jane has completed a portfolio of nine etchings entitled ‘Belonged,’ printed in pale silver and in a lustrous velvet black, and collected in a grey canvas portfolio. These ethereal images resemble ghosts of the objects, communicating presence without substance, which suits the subjects very well because now they are all gone, dispersed and sold to new owners. “Heaven knows where the objects in these prints are now,” Jane confessed with a shrug.
“It has been calculated that we interact with well over five hundred and twenty objects each day.” Jane assured me, “The vast majority we hardly register. Some we will take stock of – maybe the early morning cup of tea or coffee? Maybe a bag to leave the house with – for putting more things in? Objects may be useful, or practical function may not apply. There are, though, some objects that cannot be disregarded – those that are to be cherished. Objects that endure. These seem to have a kind of potency – an ‘aliveness.’
We surround ourselves with these objects, some inherited, some saved for, some found, others purchased on a whim. Some might be gifts. The selection of these pieces, the act of taking them into our homes and our lives may be strategic or not. These are objects, the gradual accumulations of things that speak not only of their owner but to their owner.”
At Stephen Long’s antique shop
Zinc container with wicker frame
Oak leaf curtain tie
Eighteenth century teapot
Nineteenth century teapot
Eighteenth century hand-held fire screen
Nineteenth century ceramic box
Pot mended with rivets
Prints & photographs copyright © Jane Waterhouse
Visit Jane Waterhouse’s website to learn more about her work and buy her prints
You may also like to read my original story