Luke Archer Photography

I have recently relocated from Bristol to Hertfordshire. Inheritance remains my current long-term project. In 2011 I was nominated for Black and White Magazines under 30’s Photographer of the Year. I was the joint winner of the 2011 South West Graduate Photography Prize. I have exhibited extensively in Bristol as part of the 2010 and 2012 Bristol Festival of Photography as well as the 2011 Royal West of England Academy’s Open Photography. My portrait of the Marquess of Bath is held in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. The book version of Inheritance was displayed at Ffotogallery’s Book Arts Fayre 2012. I joined the Vignette Magazine team in winter 2011 and I am now features editor.
If you would like to know more about any of my projects or purchase a print please get in touch.

Introduction

The rediscovery of a 100-year-old camera, inherited from my late grandfather was the inspiration for the project. The camera originated in the studio of Alexander Bassano, a Victorian society portraitist based in London. The studio was sold several times and later owned by my grandfather. Inheritance sees the camera returned to its original use, here documenting hereditary peers whose ancestors were photographed at the Bassano studio. The sitters represent a longheld political tradition, one that flourished in Bassano’s time, but may soon find itself at an end.

Much like their ancestors the hereditary peers make up a particular class within society. A pattern emerges of education at top schools such as Eton or Harrow, followed by a degree from Oxford or Cambridge. Although some are raised in the knowledge that they will become a peer, others inherit through unexpected circumstances, such as the death of an older brother. With increased life expectancy peers are inheriting their titles at later stages, often at the height of or after a successful career, at times giving them an area of expertise transferable to their role as a peer.

The political role of the peers has decreased. Where once there were hundreds who sat in the House of Lords, the 1999 Reform Act saw the number reduced to 92. This perhaps instilled an increased sense of duty in those left. However these remaining hereditary seats are still a point of contention and an unelected second house seems outdated to some.

Further reform is currently under review and Nick Clegg is increasingly vocal in his opposition:

‘The Lords is a standing affront to everything a liberal democracy should be. It is nepotism and patronage rather than merit, it is closed rather than open. It hoards power and people have been trying to reform it for 100 years.”

© Parliamentary copyright House of Lords 2012 Photography by Roger Harris

Inheritance also documents hereditary peers whose Lords seats were removed in the 1999 Act. They perhaps demonstrate the future of peerages: hereditary titles as namesakes only, emblems of both personal and national heritage. Many of these peers choose to pursue elected political power, running as candidates in various elections.

Excluding royal titles, just three new peerages have been created since Harold Wilson’s government opposed the process in 1968. With further reform on the horizon, the remaining titles could be the last.