I well remember my first meeting with Janette Rosing at a London photography auction in the 1980s. I had just decided to move into the photography world having been involved in antiquarian books. I had no sooner bid on my first lot when Janette was there asking me who I was, what did I collect, and several other questions to establish my credentials, and whether it was worth continuing to talk with me!
I must have passed muster as we were friends for the next 30 years.
True collector and researcher
Janette was a true collector and researcher. Her interest was always in topographical photography. She had a love of Cornwall, its rugged scenery and its history. She collected all she could on it, and if she couldn’t afford it she always tried to let those that should know about it know.
The world as it once had been was her passion. She collected Italian images, especially the work of McPherson, and of places as far flung as Singapore, China, Brazil and India. I remember once looking through the photographs of Singapore and Janette complaining when I put an image back out of order. Her reason was simple: the photographs of Singapore, like many of her collections, were arranged as if one were taking a walk through the place. You could walk the city as it was 100 years ago by simply following her layout.
Like all true collectors she pushed the limits of her budget, often exceeding it. She would prefer not to spend money on non-essentials (which included food!) if it meant she could acquire something of significance for the collection. Though reclusive, she would be happy to help people who she felt genuinely had the collecting bug. A number of collectors and dealers benefited from her guidance in their early days.
Janette was never a lover of art for art’s sake and made no claims to wishing to acquire ‘Fine Art’ photography, preferring those images that told her something about the people and places she loved.
She always regretted that she never had sufficient funds to save all that she wanted and hated to see items that she felt should stay in a British archive disappear abroad.
In the early years of the emergence of the photography market Janette used her knowledge to good effect and was able to buy and sell, to both support her collecting passion and to put food on the table.
As more and more people entered the field and her dealing became less profitable she had to find another source of income. She had always split photographs mounted back to back in albums, for her own collection, and she now made a good business of doing the same for others. There are thousands of photographs in collections around the world that have been split by Janette.
Janette was passionate and sincere and did a huge amount to keep what she regarded as a British photographic heritage together. She was not always easy, and my 30 years of friendship with her was not without its ups and downs. She will not be forgotten by those who knew her well.
By Pierre Spake