Obituary: Sir George Pollock (1928-2016)

02 June 2016

Society news

© John Law / Sir George PollockSir George Frederick Pollock, at one time a leading exponent of audio-visual work, an accomplished art photographer and a past President of the Royal Photographic Society, has died aged 87 years.  

Sir George joined the RPS in 1962, gained his Associate in 1963 and Fellowship in 1965. He was one of the Society’s more active and important Presidents during his two-year term. Alongside his wife, Lady Doreen, he was a leading producer of audio-visual work and a key figure within British photography for many years.

George Pollock was born in 1928 in Paris to a British father and French mother and a forebear, Sir Frederick Pollock, the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, was President of the Society between 1855 and 1869. 

Pollock was educated at Eton College, Windsor, and undertook national service during 1947-49. He read Biology and Law at Trinity College, Cambridge gaining a BA in 1953 and MA in 1957. He then practised as a solicitor for six years, before retiring to become, in 1963, an artist-photographer.

It was photography in its various forms that occupied the remainder of Pollock’s life.  He invented a method of making abstract colour photographs using controlled light, originally through glass, in 1962, which he named ‘Vitrographs’. The following year he devised a method of making large-scale photographic murals, producing them for British Petroleum and Lloyds Bank amongst others.  In 1965 he held his first one-man show at New Vision Gallery, Marble Arch, London and a 10 x 8 foot mural of his was shown at Photokina in 1966.

Between 1967 and 1970 he was secretary of the seminal Modfot group and the first exhibition of photography toured in 1967 under the auspices of the British Council. Pollock’s contribution consisted of a 2-metre high ‘endless image in the form of a cylinder’. He brought Photeurop, an annual international exhibition of modern European photography to Britain. Picking up his interest in audio-visual matters and history he was a founder member of the Magic Lantern Society; his art photography interests ensured his election to the London Salon of Photography in 1970, and he was its chairman in 1972-74. He also served on Council of Royal Society of Arts between 1970 and 1973.

It was with the Royal Photographic Society that he devoted most of his time. He joined the Society in 1963 and gained two Fellowships (1965, 1993). He sat on the Society’s Council from 1969 until 1994 and served as the Society’s President (1978-1980). He received a Fenton Medal for his services to the Society in 1984.

In addition to Council, the Society’s Distinction Panels also benefited from Pollock’s expertise. He sat for nine years on the Pictorial Panel and eighteen years on the Slide-Sound Sequences (later, Audio-Visual) Panel. Under his guidance Audio-Visual work grew in prominence within the Society with a specialist AV Group, the creation of the RPS International AV Festival and the specialist distinction panel. The Doreen and George Pollock medal was created by AV Group to commemorate his efforts. Outside of the Society he formed a commercial company, Pollock Audio Visual Ltd as a vehicle for his work and inventions such as Purlock Duo-Fade Fader .

In the words for Kenneth Warr, former Secretary:  “Sir George played a major part in the protracted discussions which resulted in the revolutionary decision, taken by an overwhelming majority of the [RPS] Council, to move the Society's home from London to Bath, a course for which Sir George had become a strong advocate. During his period as President he worked tirelessly, first in his support for the Appeal launched to raise the required amount of money and then for the necessary amount of building work followed by the no small task of incorporating the Society's administrative headquarters, its library and photographic collections as part of the newly-opened RPS National Centre of Photography.” Pollock and his wife moved from Dorking to Bath where they remained until their deaths.

Away from photography and his committee work Sir George Pollock is remembered by Warr “as a man whose imposing presence belied his underlying humility and essential kindness. Truly a gentleman, an exceptionally talented photographer, and one of the Society's more notable Presidents.” He remained active visiting the Society's headquarters and staff, writing and giving talks about his work and art-photography until recently.   

His work is held in several international collections, including: the National Media Museum, Bradford,  the British Council, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, University of Surrey, Swansea University College.

Sir George Pollock Bt. HonFRPS, FRSA  (13 August 1928-30 May 2016)

Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS

With thanks to Kenneth Warr, John Law, David Pollock and others. 

Image: © John Law. Sir George Pollock at Fenton House with examples of his work.