Listen to The Story Behind the Photograph with Eden Gruger here:
As a photographer, I love hearing the story behind a photograph, and in this episode, I am joined by author Eden Gruger chatting about a photograph of her father taken when he was a young boy after he’d converted his pedal bike into a plane. As you do!
Eden is an author, speaker, writer, and publishing mentor, she lives just outside London, in the surprisingly green Essex, with 2 dogs, 1 part-time cat, and a full-time husband. An eclectic mix of expert knowledge and unicorn wellington boots.
Contact her at: https://edengruger.com/
About Your Podcast Host – Sue Kennedy of Sue Kennedy Photography
Sue is a professional portrait photographer based in Harlow, Essex and she specialises in baby, child and family portraiture. Being a parent, she understands just how special your child is to you and her aim is to produce a collection of images that are natural and meaningful to your family. No two moments are ever the same and she wants to perfectly capture those early precious memories and the natural character of your child.
For more information please call 01279 433392, or visit the Sue Kennedy Photography website.
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Episode Transcription of The Story Behind the Photograph with Eden Gruger:
Hello and welcome to the Photographs in a Shoebox podcast with me, Sue Kennedy. This podcast is all about helping and inspiring you to tell your family’s story in pictures.
Today, I’m chatting with Eden Gruger about her treasured photograph, a copy of which you’ll find in the show notes. Let me introduce Eden to you. She’s an author, speaker, writing and publishing mentor and she lives just outside of London in a surprisingly green area of Essex with two dogs, one part-time cat and a full-time husband and an electic mix of expert knowledge and unicorn Wellington boots, as you’ll find out when you listen to the rest of this interview.
Hello, everyone. Today I’m with Eden and we are chatting about a fabulous photograph she has got from her history. If we just kick off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, Eden, and then we’ll talk about the photograph.
Hi, Sue. I’m Eden Gruger. I’m an author. Currently have two women’s fiction … comedy fiction … darkly comic fiction books out; Down with Frogs and Laughing at Myself. When I’m not doing that, I coach writers and authors through the process of writing, publishing, marketing and PR-ing their own books.
Fabulous. I haven’t got a book in me, so you’re safe.
You might have.
I think I’ve got lots of photographs in me but maybe not a book.
Yes. A photo book.
Yeah. That’s what we’re here to talk about; the story behind your photograph.
Which one have you chosen?
Oh my goodness.
Can you describe it?
As soon as you said about this podcast, I knew exactly the photo I wanted to speak about. It’s a photograph of my dad and we think he’s about 10 or 11 years old and he’s entered a fancy dress competition for the Scouts, we think. And he’s turned his bicycle into an airplane so the photograph is him riding his bike airplane along the road to the competition.
At great speed or just normally?
I wouldn’t imagine it’s a great speed. It looks a little bit precarious.
When was this photograph taken? Do you have any idea?
It would have been about 1955/56. It’s a black and white photograph.
Oh, lovely. And does he remember it being taken? Who took it?
We don’t know. We can’t remember who took it. But yeah, he definitely … He actually … When we were talking about it, he remembered so much about when they were building the airplane and what the different bits were actually made from and which one of his brothers helped him with which part. Yeah, it really opened up a whole experience.
Yes. And did he win?
He did. He did. And he won a gift voucher to the local sweetie shop.
Which, in those days, was a real big thing.
Yes. Did the sweets live long?
Actually, my dad being my dad, what he probably did was he probably ate them really slowly and squared them away. Yeah. He probably did. I did ask him, did he remember what sweeties he bought or … but he couldn’t remember that end of it. But yeah, knowing my dad he would have hidden them from his brothers and his sister and eaten them really, really slowly because that’s what he’s like.
If I’d had hidden them, I’d just forgotten where I’d put them.
And that would have been the end of them.
Yeah. I wouldn’t have actually got that far. I wouldn’t have been able to resist, I don’t think.
No. No. No, I like to think I would have hidden them.
But the reality is they would have been in my tummy.
There you go.
At least they’d have been safe, Sue.
They would have been, yes. So, was it built out of cardboard? Or …
No. Basically, across the front wheel is a barrel and that, apparently, was … Potatoes used to come in a barrel.
Yeah. So, it’s an old potato barrel and then across the barrel, through the barrel, is a plank of wood which is the wings. And that was a bit of wood that they found in the shed. And then he’s got a tail, which is made out of … I’m trying to see. It’s like a … It’s not wood but it’s not … Obviously, they didn’t have so much plastic and stuff, especially my dad didn’t …
… Evolve with plastic until much later. It’s kind of like molded paper and then it sticks up in the back and then it’s got a little tail fin, what it …
A bit of papier-mache?
I think it’s a bit of papier-mache around wire. Yeah. Super creative. Yeah.
Lots of thought went into that, then.
Absolutely. This is enough reason why I love the photo because this is so my dad. He’s very Heath Robinson. He will turn something out of what seems to be absolutely nothing. If you give him a few random bits of junk then you’ll have who knows what of that. In lockdown, I kept getting calls saying, “Oh, I’ve made you a wellies scraper,” and, “Oh, I’ve made you this and that.” It’s just …
Yeah. It’s his inventive mind.
How many wellies scrapers have you got now?
Oh, okay, so he didn’t go mad.
One for each foot. Well, he gave them to everybody that he knew that might wear wellies. And it’s also got a little hook … handy hanging hook … so that you can hang it so you don’t trip over it. To be honest …
Well this …
When he first gave it to me, I was just like, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand what it is.” But, yeah. I understand now.
So this photograph really just sums up your father for you, I guess?
And he still enjoys … Does he smile when he sees it?
He does. He does. It’s one of those photographs that is just so full of the character of the person that’s in it you can’t not smile.
Yes. But I guess somebody looking at this in 40 years time wouldn’t know this story, would they? So they’d …
… just see a boy on a bike with …
That’s turned into an airplane. Yeah.
I think they would think, “Oh, he’s a bit of a character,” or, “He was a bit of a character.” And that sums him up. He is a bit of a character.
He hasn’t changed, then?
No, not at all. Not at all. There are so many photographs of my dad just … He actually … My granny taught him to knit when he was a small boy and there’s loads of photographs of him arsing around, sitting in the garden hunched up in a little chair with a tea cozy on his head doing his knitting like some little old lady. I just don’t think he was born with that shame gene. He just doesn’t care. He’s just like, “Yeah, I’m just having a laugh.”
Yeah. And quite forward thinking to teach him knitting.
Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. My dad was a geek a long time before geeks were fashionable and my mum always used to say, “Why did your mum make you wear turquoise sweaters and mustard sweaters? Everyone else was wearing grey and black and there’s you standing out.” And one day my dad said, “What makes you think that she was making me wear those colours? I chose them.” And she he really was ahead of his time. Everyone else was in that monochrome and my dad was like, “La, la!”
“With my airplane and wellies scraper.”
Yes, exactly. That just sums dad up, that does.
It’s fascinating to hear the story behind the photograph. I will share a copy in the show notes.
So the listeners can have a peek. But thank you for sharing that with us.
That’s no problem at all.
That’s all for this episode. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you are listening so you never miss an episode. Thanks for joining me today. Bye for now.