Percival Dunham, photojournalist

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Percival Dunham and his wife
The offices of the Morning News in Halkett Place

Percival Dunham was Jersey’s first photojournalist, albeit for a very brief period in 1913 and 1914, when he worked for Jersey Illustrated Weekly and then the Morning News, the main competitor for many years for the Evening Post (now the Jersey Evening Post and the island’s only daily newspaper for over half a century).

In the years leading up to the First World War the Evening Post had not embraced the relatively new processes for including photographs in newspapers and the Illustrated Weekly and Morning News were the pioneers of photojournalism, along with other short-lived publications such as The Jerseyman.

The early photographs were largely portraits or promotional images to keep advertisers happy, but then, in 1913, along came Percival Robert Dunham to work simultaneously for the Illustrated Weekly and Morning News.

Photography business

He had been in business as a photographer at 57 Bath Street since 1911, and had already been taking photographs of the Jersey Battle of Flowers and such events as the grounding of the Roebuck in St Brelade’s Bay in 1911.

He left Jersey in 1914 to serve in 503 Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery during World War 1. He served as a gunner with the service number 182352.

Little else is known about him. He is described in the Jersey Roll of Service as ‘from St Helier’, but it seems unlikely that he was born in the island – no records of any Dunham births, baptisms or marriages are in the Jerripedia database, although there is a burial recorded of a William Dunham in St Helier in 1812.

There are no Dunhams in either the 1901 or 1911 Channel Island census, so all the indications are that Percy Robert Dunham came to Jersey from England in the second half of 1911.

He survived the war and returned to Jersey, where he had married Miss M Mourant at St Simon’s Church. He lived until 1961.

Exhibition

An exhibition of his work was opened at Jersey Arts Centre on 7 April, featuing 40 of over 1,000 of his images which are in the collection of La Société Jersiaise. Sadly only a fraction of those can actually be viewed on the Société’s website, so for the benefit of those unable to visit the Arts Centre exhibition, Jerripedia has put together its own collection of Dunham images, some of which have been on the site for some time, some of which are new to us.

The whole collection, although relatively small, presents a remarkable picture of life in Jersey before and just after the outbreak of the Great War which, although it had nowhere near as dramatic impact on the island as the second global conflict which would follow 25 years later, nevertheless marked the end of an era in Jersey.

Percival Dunham's candid style of news photography was well ahead of his time and compares favourable with that of any of the early photojournalists, long before the word had actually been coined.

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