'Harry Gordon Dorrett, Also Taking Part', by Ralph Rimmer
The Biography of
H. G. Dorrett
Who is Mr Dorrett? The Early Years The Photographer Business Success Photographic Success Acknowledgments
Local historian Montague had summarised other newspaper reports in which the journalists had remarked on the unusual office and studio accommodation for a commercial firm where 'Mr. Dorrett pioneered many new processes'. Unfortunately details of these were not given.
Dorrett was elected as member of the Royal Photographic Society in 1936 but does not appear to have sought honours. At some stage in Dorrett's Mitcham period, he was joined by Nettie M. Moon AIBP who was elected as a member of the Royal Photographic Society in 1944 and admitted as an associate in 1945 (18). There appears to have been a mutual professional admiration between the two photographers. On the back of a photograph of her mentor, which Nettie Moon had taken, she wrote 'Harry Dorrett Creative Artist'. She had also taken a humorous photograph of Dorrett as a bewigged judge which is now in the Croydon Camera Club collection.
In 1941 Nettie Moon had demonstrated airbrush technique to the Croydon Camera Club (19). She was highly regarded as an excellent printer and specialist retoucher (20). This was confirmed by contemporary professional photographers, Messrs. V. T. Samson and C.Milborrow, who spoke enthusiastically of her skilful retouching techniques.
In 1946 Croydon Camera Club admitted lady members and, on the 9th October, of that year Nettie Moon and Dorrett were admitted to the membership. On 5th July, 1947, and twice in 1949, members of the Croydon Camera Club visited the Manor House(19). Clifford Milborrow recalls that on one visit he noticed that although Dorrett was well-prepared for innovative techniques, he still preferred hand glazing prints on glass in preference to using rotary glazers.
Dorrett presented the Croydon Camera Club with a silver cup and for several years provided a miniature. His rise in the club was 'meteoric'. In 1948 he was elected Vice-President which Pickford (20) considered a remarkable achievement for a member of only two years standing.
There was talk of an estrangement between Dorrett and his wife. This was considered unlikely by former neighbours, the Chorleys, whom Dorrett and his wife visited in their Purley home. Mrs. Dorrett continued to live in the Brookview Road home until she died in Bolingbroke Hospital on 30th March, 1949. Harry Dorrett was present at her death. After 'Nell's' death, Dorrett disposed of the Brookview Road house, which the registrar had wrongly recorded as 'Brookfleld Road'. He then moved to 12, Baron Grove, Mitcham, around the corner from the Manor House, where he was listed as an elector in 1952, 1956, 1957 and 1959. Nettie Moon, who had given the Manor House as her residential address when she was awarded the ARPS in 1945, became the sole resident there.
Increasingly Nettie Moon, the technical assistant, took over responsibility for studio portraiture where her work was considered good but not out standing (20). Her photograph of HH the Nabagereka of Buganda was included in the 1950 pictorial section of the British Journal Photographic Almanac (21). Mrs. Marjorie Chorley, wife of Dorrett's former neighbour's son, recalls that when she required photographs of her children in about 1952 they had to be taken in the studio of their family friend, 'Uncle Harry' Dorrett. She recalls that Nettie Moon took the photograph but that Dorrett supervised and directed. The album of the photographs bears the logo 'NM' but there is also reference to Nettie M. Moon in association with H. G. Dorrett.
From 1954/1955 Nettie Moon was honoured as the President of the Institute of Professional Photographers and at some time before 1958 (17) Nettie Moon had become the managing director of the Manor House business. On the 5th March , 1958, Dorrett died at Briarwood Nursing Home, The Avenue, Maiden, where he had gone to be near his niece, Ivy Gertrude Minnion, and family who lived at 95, Salisbury Road, Worcester Park.
Dorrett was 87 years old when he died of cerebral thrombosis. His personal effects amounted to £14,784-10s-4d. After some small bequests he bequeathed all the shares he held in H. G. Dorrett Ltd. and the Manor House to Nettie Moon. The residue of the estate went to his niece, Ivy Minnion (nee Nelson).
Nettie Moon confided to a fellow member of the Croydon Camera Club that she had experienced a great deal of trouble with the will, arising from detailed provisions that Dorrett had made. This resulted in her inability to have sufficient financial support to run the business and maintain the Manor House. Her arthritic condition was intensifying. She was becoming crippled and increasingly reliant upon the friendship and help of Sydney Newbery, the architectural photographer, and his wife, Clarice (20). In 1960 the Manor House was sold to Charles Sayer for a five figure sum.
Reports in the collection of E. Montague show that there was concern for the future of the building in November 1960 when plans for demolition were denied. In June 1961 350 refrigerators which had been stored there were destroyed by fire. The remains of the building were demolished and in 1962 a large office building, Justin Manor, was built on the site.
Although Dorrett's partner, Paul Martin, had been neglected in his lifetime, his contribution to the history of photography has been recognised and there are collections of his work in England and the United States of America, including the Gernsheim Collection, the Royal Photographic Society and the Victoria and Albert Museum (22;23;24). There is no such memorial for Dorrett. His name exists only as an adjunct to Martin.
Dorrett should be recognised as the representative of all those professional photographers of high technical ability who maintain reliably superior standards throughout their careers. In Dorrett's case it was for sixty years. In the course of discussing the careers of Martin and Dorrett with a number of professional and amateur photographers there was little awareness shown of the existence of Paul Martin. On the other hand Dorrett has been recalled by his contemporaries, photographers and friends, with respect for the integrity of his work and with affection for his gentle good humour. It was fitting that his final request should be that his ashes be scattered in the grounds of the Manor House where he had experienced the fulfilment of his life's work.