The story of the photographer commissioned to take pictures for Occupation ID cards

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The German authorities during the Occupation turned to photographer George Freeman when they decided that islanders had to carry photographic evidence of who they were. This article is based on one which was published on the website of Bailiwick Express

Photographer George Freeman's registration card

Photographer George Freeman worked at 23 Broad Street for Scotts Commercial and Art Photographers.

The monumental task he was given was to individually photograph everyone in the civil population over the age of 14 and to provide three copies of each photograph – a task made even more difficult due to the lack of photographic stock.

Registration

In December 1940 the German authoritiesdemanded that the island's Superior Council enact the Registration and Identification of Persons (Jersey) Order. This law stated that everyone in the island over 14 years old should complete a registration form.

They would then be issued with a card, which they had to carry with them at all times. Each card was to have a photograph attached to identify the holder.

The German order

Material shortage

In February 1941 Mr Freeman wrote to the Chief Aliens Officer, Clifford Orange, whose Department was tasked with the creation of the Registration Cards. He referred to a previous conversation about the amount of material that would be required to take 33,000 portraits and to supply 99,000 prints. He explained that local photographers had enough photographic supplies for 10,000 portraits and 30,000 prints and that further material would have to be sourced in order to complete the order.

This insufficient photo stock meant that, initially, the authorities went ahead and made the Registration Cards for islanders to carry but they were issued with a space left for the photographs.

Seven months later the photographer wrote again to the Chief Aliens Officer to inform him that the small stock of photographic material had almost completely run down and he provided a list of materials, including chemicals, that he would need to complete the project. He noted that they could already obtain the 200,000 staples that would be needed to attach the photos to the cards.

In late November 1941 he collected the ordered material from the occupying authorities at College House, but he found that one of the boxes of film had already been opened and exposed, therefore rendering it useless. In addition, one of the sets of paper was unsuitable and replacement needed to be found.

Letter about material shortages

By January 1942 a directive was issued by the Superior Council that in accordance with the Registration and Identification of Persons (Jersey) Regulations, 1940, islanders needed to make themselves available in order to have their photographs taken.

The Aliens Office consulted the Attorney General, as well as taking advice from Guernsey, where they had already completed the photography of their population. Guernsey's project was described as having been “of considerable magnitude, although the population to be photographed there was little more than one half of the number requiring to be photographed here”. The Guernsey operation also took place during the summer months, meaning that photos could be taken in the open air or in disused greenhouses.

As Jersey was now in the middle of winter, the Aliens Office and Attorney General advised the Bailiff that it would be easier to wait until spring or summer to start taking the photographs to avoid having to heat and light the Parish Halls and to arrange transport for people.

Delay requested

However, when the Bailiff suggested the delay, it fell on deaf ears and he received this short reply from the German Field Command: “It is requested that the above matter will receive immediate attention.”

By April 1942 Scotts Commercial and Art Photographers had managed to take half of the photographs and once they received further supplies, were able to complete the project. Scotts received a price of 1 shilling per person for the three photographs supplied.

Among the Occupation Registration Card collection, held at Jersey Archive, is the record and image of Mr Freeman, the man behind the camera.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, his photograph is better posed and more artistic than many of the other images that were taken.

Cameras impounded

By June 1942 the German authorities ordered all photographic equipment belonging to Islanders to be surrendered, following an escape attempt in which tactical photographs had been discovered in the escapers’ possessions. Scotts and several other businesses were granted special permission to continue operating, in particular so that they could continue to take photos for German soldiers.

All negatives had to be taken for development on the opposite side of the street at the Inselkommandantur’s photographic department housed at 12½ Broad Street, presumably so that they could keep a watchful eye on what was being taken.

Scotts were kept on contract to carry out any further Registration Card images needed for those who turned 14 during the Occupation years and would need their own Registration Card.

They also took other official images, including photographs in June 1943 of the funeral at Mont à L’Abbé Cemetery of two RAF servicemen who had been shot down over the island.

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