The lights will be dimmed at St Helier Hospital on Friday evening (1 July) as the portraits of hundreds of local World War One soldiers will be projected across the front of the hospital.
To mark the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 2016 (one of the deadliest engagements of the First World War, during which more than a million people were injured or killed), people from across the community have worked together to organise the touching slideshow to display stunning images of local men and women to the public for the first time.
People are welcome to gather on the green opposite the hospital on Wrythe Lane to watch the projection, which will begin just after sunset at 9.30pm and will last until 10.30pm. It will feature portraits that were captured on glass plate negatives (hence the name Past on Glass). They form a part of almost-forgotten local history, as they were taken by prominent photographer, David Knights-Whittome (who at one point held a Royal Warrant) at his studios on Sutton High Street and Epsom between 1904 and 1918.
When David gave up the business of photography and moved away from the area in 1918, the glass plates were left undiscovered for years. They are now owned by the London Borough of Sutton whose Libraries & Heritage team received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to digitise the glass plate negatives. The idea for the projection event originated from Roger Mills of Sutton Voice, and is coordinated by Samia Tossio of SamiArt. .
Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals, Daniel Elkeles, said: “We are honoured to be able to play a part in helping to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and hope as many people from around the community will have the chance to come and look at the tribute.
“At times such as these, our thoughts also go to the doctors, nurses, volunteers and local families who sacrificed so much during the First World War. I would like to thank Sutton Voice and Samia Tossio for bringing these antique portraits to life.”
Project coordinator, Samia Tossio, said “When Roger asked me to coordinate the projection, I didn’t expect the depth of feeling that these images, and what they represent, would trigger. I am deeply moved. If you can’t make the projection event, do make time to see the month long exhibition or browse the online gallery https://www.flickr.com/photos/pastonglass/.”
Local people, staff and visitors are all welcome to come and have a look at the projection and pay tribute to the soldiers and nurses that played their part in WWI. If you would like to see the portraits but are not available on Friday evening, you can also see images from the collection at The Past on Glass; A Local Photographers Legacy 1904-1918 exhibition from 22 July – 28 August in the Europa Gallery, Sutton Central Library.