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Reflection hologram on glass 8”x10”

Graham Saxby Obituary

Monday, 16 March 2015
Published in News

Graham Saxby, who has died aged 89, was one of the great holography educators whose ‘Practical Holography’, which he revised over 3 editions to incorporate all the latest developments since it was first published in 1988, is certain to remain the standard work on the subject for years to come. He produced journalism on a wide range of topics and his publications include The Focal Guide to Slides and The Science of Imaging.

One of his readers commented  “It is my belief his books on holography are the best introduction to the subject by anyone, but they also have depth; it will be many years before they are surpassed. He had that wonderful gift of making a complex subject clear by expressing it simply and with great humour. I have read Practical Holography many times, in part or whole, and by doing so feel I got to know something of the man behind it. It was often my joke to others, when faced with a holographic problem, to say “I will go and see what my friend Graham says on the matter” and his books rarely failed me. Reading his books always gave me a feeling of having a relaxed private conversation with Graham which would ease my own thought processes and help me resolve the issue in hand. I owe him a lot and there are probably many others in a similar situation.”

Graham was married to Christine in 1953 and became stepfather to her daughter Anne. His original career was with the Royal Air Force, including seven years as OC Photographic Science Flight at the RAF Joint School of Photography. He later became a member of staff at what is now Wolverhampton University, teaching educational technology to trainee teachers, and, later, modern optics to degree courses in applied sciences. He built a holography laboratory there and taught courses to both arts and science students. His ability to communicate and his enthusiasm for holography made him the perfect advocate for the medium and, despite his many other interests, he remained true to it to the end, acting as editor of the Royal Photographic Society Holography Group newsletter for over 30 years, often writing entire issues himself and entertaining readers with his Department of Partly-Baked Ideas. His editorial skills were appreciated by many who turned to him for advice on essays, theses and books, and he could make the most jumbled prose fault-free with ease. (I will be sure to check my punctuation of this piece).

Many remember his generosity as a teacher and he is considered instrumental in the formation of the Royal College of Art Holography Unit where he was a visiting lecturer for ten years. Although formally retired for many years he was reluctant to slow down and would travel all over the country for RPS meetings and other holography events, despite increasingly declining mobility. In 2005 he defied doctors’ advice to rest after an operation on his knee and travelled from Wolverhampton to London to witness the unveiling of Rob Munday’s portrait of World War I veteran Henry Allingham on HMS Belfast, declining even to take a taxi from the station and setting his recovery back by several weeks as a result. It was this almost reckless lust for life that prompted him to take a cruise to South America in January of this year, despite being more or less wheelchair-bound. Unfortunately the effort proved too much and on his return he was eventually referred to hospital where he died on March 8th.

Among his extracurricular passions we could list photography and music, swimming marathons for charity, and playing bridge to a high standard. He was a collector of cacti and a lover of cats, images of whom he used to illustrate his beautiful technical drawings. I gather that Graham was a disc jockey on Services Radio in Hong Kong for a while and he once casually dropped into conversation with me that he and his wife Christine had been ballroom dancing champions and that he once cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats. His home-made wine was notoriously potent, but its consumption seemed to have no effect on his prodigious memory. He was a member of MENSA, won prizes in crossword competitions and, in his eighties, pursued an advanced mathematics course with the Open University, for whom he had worked as an invigilator for many years.

In 1998 Graham endowed the Royal Photographic Society Saxby Award for achievement in the field of three-dimensional imaging, in appreciation of the benefits of 50 years membership of The Society.  The medium that he championed has tended to be ignored or even looked down upon by the photographic establishment so to see some of its practitioners honoured alongside the great and the good from the world of photography is extremely encouraging. Speaking personally, I know that to receive such an award confirms one’s commitment to 3D-Imaging and gives one something to live up to.

The Saxby Award and ‘Practical Holography’ provide a wonderful legacy to the wider world but, to those who knew him, Graham Saxby’s kindness and sense of humour are what will endure.

Jonathan Ross March 2015.

Works by Graham Saxby in the collection.

10” x 8”

Image planed reflection hologram by Graham Saxby from model by Max Holden

Cylindrical Denisyuk hologram by Graham Saxby

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