RepositoryFalmouth University (GB 3241)
Ref NoFCP5
Date1950 - 1978
DescriptionMaterials include:
Records relating to Sterns photography including negatives, contact sheets, slides, prints, portfolios, consent forms and examples of Stern's published work. Stern's work on photobook projects is also well represented with material relating to proposed photobooks titled Mr Big, Adam and Eve Visit The Supermarket, Elfin Oak, proposals for a series of Children's books and a book inspired by the work of Edward Lear worked on by Stern shortly before his death.

Sterns camera work is also evident in this collection. Records relating to this include: black and white photographs showing Stern working as an Assistant Cameraman, employment contracts and reels possibly relating to 'A Study' a BBC cameraman project. Records relating to Stern's work as a filmmaker include registration documentation for Limelight Films, notes and correspondence relating to technical training, development notes, schedules, reels and other materials for Omar & The Storks, The Flight, Johnny Todd in Dreamland, and Alice As She Was and correspondence, slides, captions and reels relating to the National Film Board of Canada project 'It Isn't Easy'.

Although best known as a Photographer and Filmmaker Ian Stern's creative practice also encompassed writing. His written work included accompanying text for his photobooks such as Mr Big and Adam and Eve, along with reflective writing and poetry on related themes and his own practice. Records relating to his writing include:
- 'George Green' manuscript for a one act play, includes list of characters and play synopsis,
- 'Talking of Maple Leaves' typescript without illustrations (possibly for book or film)
- 'First Impressions - Notes of a Learned Immigrant ' - draft handwritten prose
- Two manuscript poems titled 'To You' and 'From Me'
- Assorted creative writing includes development work for text to be included in book 'Adam and Eve Visit the Supermarket' and various prose and poetry with themes including love, beauty and society.
- Assorted creative writing includes titled piece 'From Son to Father, From Father to Son', reflective writing on early photographs and planning notes for future photographic images. Also includes various prose and poetry with themes including love and passion, notes and draft chapters for possible book and ideas for posters.
Admin HistoryIan Stern was born in Paddington, London on the 25th of May 1947. He became interested in photography at a young child, when aged around six years he and his sister, Susan, were given box cameras by their Grandfather. Stern then learnt how to develop photos by watching his father, who was an amateur photographer, and used their bathroom as a temporary darkroom. Early examples of this new hobby can be seen in his photographs from family holidays to Italy and Corsica in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Stern's early life coincided with the gradual lifting of austerity measures in post-war British culture generally and photography in particular allowed amateur activity to flourish once again. Publications such as Picture Post and the American magazine Life had continued to dominate photojournalism in this period and the mainstay of the British photographic scene were renowned photographers such as Bill Brant and Cecil Beaton. This was to change however, with a new generation of photographers emerging from the late 1950s onwards. Documentary photographers such as Roger Mayne and David Hurn, photojournalists such as Ian Berry and Don McCullin, celebrity portraitists such as Patrick Lichfield and Antony Armstrong-Jones and working class heroes such as Brian Duffy, Terence Donovan and David Bailey reinvigorated photography offering new perspectives on the world around them. An avid reader of photographic books, annuals and magazines Stern developed an interest in photographers old and new.

After a short spell as a trainee chartered accountant, Stern joined the BBC at 19 years old in 1967 as an apprentice cameraman on the BBC film training scheme, gaining a contract as an animation camera assistant. 1967 also saw Stern direct a 5 minute study of Peter Kennard's paintings shot with an animation camera and have his photographs included in the Thames and Hudson book Planning for a Play. In 1968 he would have an image included in the British Journal of Photography Yearbook for the first time and on completing the BBC training course gained the position of assistant cameraman on period drama Borderers which involved a 3 month shoot in Scotland.

It was also in this year that Stern began work on the documentary and current affairs series Man Alive as an assistant cameraman learning his craft under the BAFTA-winning camera man, Phil Méheux working on a number of documentaries in Canada. By 1969 he would work exclusively as part of the Man Alive documentary filming team in the USA and Europe. After leaving Man Alive Stern continued to work for the BBC for several years as a cameraman and second unit on other dramas and documentaries. These would include: Jack Gold's award winning Play for Today 'Stocker's Copper' (1971), the documentary 'To the Promised Land' looking at the Russian Jewish Exodus (1972) along with documentaries in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Stern also directed and produced several Children's fantasy films in this year using Victorian colour slides titled 'Johnny Todd in Dreamland', 'Omar and the Storks' and 'The Flight' and would also direct a film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland for the BBC in 1973 titled 'Alice as she was'.

Stern also became a studio director for the BBC in 1973 for video and live studio programmes working on programmes such as Edition, Film Night and Real Time. He continued to develop his skills undertaking network direction training and gaining a contract to produce video trailers. Stern's portfolio of work during this period also encompassed a variety of independent projects including photographing several independent films, Slow Fall (1970) and the documentary 'Home is a Foreign Country' (1972) alongside futher documentary film work for Time Life. After leaving the BBC Stern would go on to set up his own independent film company, Lime Light, in 1973 and continued to take on a range of film and photographic work an example of which is the short film INTWOMINDS.

Although he won a place at National Film School in 1973 he left after a short period, to pursue work opportunities in Canada and America. Initially involved in the 'Darkroom Workshop' photo-learning environment in Berkley California, Stern then travelled to British Columbia and later taught photographic techniques to students in San Francisco. A particular focus of Stern's photographic work at this time was his experimentation with Solarisation, a form of controlled overexposure where light is used in the developing process, with the effect of partially, or wholly reversing the image in tone. Stern became highly skilled at masking elements of an image so that only selected areas were exposed in this way, something which can be seen in many of his prints from this period.

Stern also explored the relationship between image and text in his work, through the development of photobooks. Stern created the outline narrative, layout and photography for a number of books often incorporating aspects of cartoon and collage within his images. These books included Mr Big (1974), King of Kings (1975), Adam & Eve Visit the Supermarket (1975) Elfin Oak (1976) and Lear (1977). Despite Stern's extensive work on these projects it appears that they were sadly never published.

Stern's photographic work during his time in North America although often featuring famous people such as Billy Graham or Ike & Tina Turner, largely reflected the lives of ordinary people through informal documentary style images often taken on the street. Stern film work also continued at this time. In 1975 he was commissioned by the Canadian Film Board to produce images and visualisation for an educational film project aimed at 14 year olds to illustrate the relationship between the sexes and attitudes to sex.

Stern returned to England in 1976 after a suffering a breakdown. And allthough he continued to suffer with his mental health he continued to work, initially as a camera salesman and then in film production, before joining Interaction Photography as a photographer in 1977.

During his life Stern was known for his single-minded approach to photography, 'never sacrificing his ideals for the sake of gain' (The British Journal of Photography, 30 June 1978). He had a keen eye for composition, seldom needing to crop an image and was constantly experimenting in the darkroom with selective exposures often producing many variations of an image in pursuit of the perfect print. Many of his striking black and white images were reproduced in various magazines, periodicals and book including The British Journal of Photography and The Photography Annual often under the pseudonym of Robert Ribeck (often published as Reebeck) and exhibitions of his work were held at prestigious venues such as The Roundhouse and The National Film Theatre.

Tragically, Stern died young at the age of 30 on the 13th of May 1978.

Access StatusOpen
Related Material32 prints of Ian Stern's work are held at Falmouth Art Gallery.
Access ConditionsRecords in this Collection are Open, apart from those subject to Data Protection closures. A number of recordss are sensitive in nature and further advice on access should be sought from the Archivist.
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