Take an access all areas look at HMS Victory

PHOTOGRAPHER Jonathan Eastland with his new book.  Picture: Steve Reid (113355-663)
PHOTOGRAPHER Jonathan Eastland with his new book. Picture: Steve Reid (113355-663)

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As one of the most famous ships in the world, HMS Victory has been caught on camera countless times.

But Jonathan Eastland thought he could show Nelson’s flagship in a new light.

The respected maritime photographer managed to get permission from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the Ministry Of Defence to take pictures of the interior before the ship was opened to the public each morning .

The results are featured in a new reference book about the ship titled HMS Victory First-Rate 1765.

Jonathan visited Victory as often as he could in late 2009 and early 2010 and says: ‘One of the problems was trying to convey to readers what they would probably see in real life.

‘In Nelson’s day you needed oil-based lanterns because lighting on board was pretty low.

‘All the photographs you see of Victory now are lit up, but it’s not like that all. It’s dark and gloomy.’

Jonathan, who lives on a converted wartime motor torpedo boat at a boatyard in Swanwick, has been fascinated by Victory ever since he moved to Portsmouth at the end of the 1960s.

Before that he was based in London as a fashion photographer.

Originally from Petersfield, the 65-year-old says: ‘Victory was practically on my doorstep and, because of my speciality in maritime affairs, it was an obvious place to go.

‘She appeared in the press at frequent intervals because she was undergoing a massive restoration refit at the time.

‘People were always interested in what was going on.’

Jonathan wanted his latest images of Victory to show the ship in a completely different way.

He explains: ‘It always seemed to me that if you went into a book shop and picked up a book about Victory, what you got was a particular selection of pictures, mainly of the exterior and in black and white.

‘But that doesn’t get across the atmosphere of the ship. Even on the upper deck there’s a lot of small detailed stuff that you wouldn’t normally see.’

Having photographed Victory for more than 30 years, Jonathan was originally approached by his friend, Ian Ballantyne, about doing a joint book in 2005.

The editor of Warships International Fleet Review grew up in Portsmouth and attended Portsmouth Grammar School.

He worked with Jonathan on HMS Victory: Warships Of The Royal Navy in 2005, which focused on the seven ships in the Royal Navy which carried the name Victory.

A couple of years later, Jonathan received a call from Julian Mannering at Seaforth Publishing to discuss new ideas for another HMS Victory book.

Jonathan says: ‘We had to look to do something in the way of design that had some lasting value, but the only way to do that was to do it in full colour.

‘I already had so many pictures of Victory I’d taken over the years and at the time a lot of the pictures were in black and white.

‘Although they were interesting academically, they weren’t quite right for 2011.

‘So I got permission to take a series of new photographs.’

Although he has focused on the interior, one of Jonathan’s favourite shots is the exterior of the famous ship against the morning sky.

Jonathan says: ‘There was a real south west wind blowing so it was quite dark.

‘It was early – it must have been about 7.30am – and the light was filtering through the ship’s mast.

‘All the lanterns were still, it was very cold and all you could see was this ship against an angry sky.’

The new book has only just been published, but Jonathan already has some ideas for his next venture.

He says: ‘Victory is an on-going story, so as long as the ship exists and is open to the public, and she’s maintained in the way she has been over the past 100 years, then there will be a future.

‘A lot of people will want to see her.’

Jonathan has now had 12 books published, so is no stranger to seeing his work on the shelves.

But he’s particularly happy with this new book and how his photographs have been reproduced.

It’s timely too, as the famous old ship is about to undergo a major restoration that has required her masts to be taken down.

Jonathan explains: ‘If you can imagine somebody going to visit Victory for the first time, hopefully they would be impressed by the ship.

‘Then if they were to go into a book shop and say they want the new book because it fits the bill, well that’s great.’

n HMS Victory First-Rate 1765, by Ian Ballantyne and Jonathan Eastland, is published by Seaforth Publishing, priced £11.99.