Roald Dahl the Photographer

Roald Dahl the Photographer

Posted by
Rachel White, Archive Manager at the Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
10:00am, 28th March
Categories
Museum
Roald Dahl's photography

Did you know what Roald Dahl was a keen photographer? Take a peek at some of his photos, including aerial images from WWII.

One of the highlights of the Roald Dahl Archive is the collection of over 300 of his photographs. These images provide us with a glimpse into his travels and adventures as a young man in Newfoundland, Africa, Greece and the Middle East which he describes in his autobiographies Boy: Tales of Childhood and Going Solo. They also provide us with a unique insight into a part of his life which came to inspire and influence many of his stories.

Where it all began

"You may not believe it, but when I was eighteen I used to win prizes and medals from the Royal Photographic Society in London…"

Roald became interested in photography as a teenager at Repton School, working with glass plates instead of film. Under the guidance of one of his teachers, Mr Norris, he even exhibited his photographs at school, which in Boy he described as "rather a success".

Photograph collage of Repton School and friends by Roald Dahl, 1931

Above: photograph collage of Repton School and friends by Roald Dahl, 1931 © RDSCL

Cross section of a plant stem, by Roald Dahl
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Above: cross section of a plant stem, by Roald Dahl © RDSCL

Always travelling with a camera

Roald continued his photography after he left school, taking his camera with him on the Public Schools’ Explorers Society’s expedition to Newfoundland in Canada and later to Dar-es-Salaam in East Africa where he worked for the Shell Oil company.

River in Newfoundland, by Roald Dahl, 1934

Above: river in Newfoundland, by Roald Dahl, 1934 © RDSCL

Flying boat in Dar-es-Salaam harbour by Roald Dahl, 1938

Above: flying boat in Dar-es-Salaam harbour by Roald Dahl, 1938 © RDSCL

Photographing his wartime experiences

Roald joined the Royal Air Force in 1939, and his pictures from this period give a rare window into the life as a fighter pilot, with images of crashed German planes and the distant smoke of burning airfields.

Roald Dahl’s Hurricane at Haifa airfield in Palestine, by Roald Dahl 1941

Above: Roald Dahl’s Hurricane at Haifa airfield in Palestine, by Roald Dahl 1941 © RDSCL

Many of these photographs were lucky to survive. Roald had to move around frequently during the war and as a result, often lost his camera or had to leave it behind. On one occasion when he was evacuated from Greece due to the advancing German army, he left with just the clothes he was wearing, his pilots logbook (now on display at the Roald Dahl Museum), and some rolls of precious film.

He also took snaps of local scenery, including some aerial pictures of ruined cities and monuments.

Ruined city in Iraq, taken by Roald Dahl from his plane, 1940

Above: ruined city in Iraq, taken by Roald Dahl from his plane, 1940 © RDSCL

Among them was this stunning shot of the famous Arch of Ctesiphon in Iraq, which he took in 1940 while on a training flight. It later won the Bronze Medal from the Photographic Society in Cairo.

Arch of Ctesiphon, Iraq, by Roald Dahl, 1940

He describes taking the picture in Boy: Tales of Childhood:

When I spotted the huge arch standing alone in a sea of sand, I dropped one wing and hung in my straps and let go of the stick while I took aim and clicked the shutter. It came out fine.

 

Don't miss workshops inspired by Roald Dahl's photography and time in the RAF this Easter at the Roald Dahl Museum.