St George's Chapel, Windsor - A Portrait
By Linda Serck
Take an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes inside St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle with photographer Eleanor Curtis.
The Queen at St George's (C) Eleanor Curtis
On the face of it St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle represents the height of Royal pomp and splendour, hosting events such Garter Day, the Royal Victorian Order and the festivities of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
But acclaimed photo journalist Eleanor Curtis has captured an exclusive and intimate glimpse of the different goings-on at the chapel after gaining unprecedented behind-the-scenes access, which included permission to photograph HM The Queen and the Royal Family in attendance.
"It all started seven years ago when I was invited to show some other work of mine at Windsor Castle," she tells BBC Berkshire. "The subject matter was on the civil war of Angola, so very different.
"While I was working there my fascination with St George's began. Not its history, not just the building, but the day-to-day active busy life."
An idea began to take shape for, initially, a photo essay as she watched "the choristers and the clerks as they were hurrying to evensong and buckling up their robes" and "ghostly white figures of the canons and deans as they went into service."
Inside St George's Chapel (C) Eleanor Curtis
The idea for a book then developed over a period of four to five years, which is the amount of time it took to gain permission from the canon to photograph the chapel.
"As a member of the public you're not allowed to photograph inside the chapel so it was a very big move for them to make," she explains.
Revealing a story never told before, Eleanor's newly published book offers an insider's view into the chapel ranging from the care and calm of daily liturgical life to the formality of Royal occasions.
Also captured in intimate detail are the choir, the military knights, the bell ringers and archaeologists, the organist and organ tuners, the military and musicians, and the many more who make up the fabric of St George's Chapel today.
"It was an incredible 18 months of photography," says Eleanor, who dedicated eight to ten days a month to the project.
"I actually stayed overnight there to take photographs at two in the morning in the chapel."
St George's Chapel (C) Eleanor Curtis
She describes photographing 12th century scrolls and 16th century manuscripts "a very beautiful and quiet moment", though on the whole the project was a challenge even by her professional standards as no flash or false lighting was allowed.
"I relied on what we call fast lenses and pushing fast film, so it comes out a little bit grainy. It's a signature of the work," she says.
After a year-and-a-half Eleanor was privy to the different sides to the chapel, depending on the purpose served.
"St George's Chapel has many faces and performs many different functions for different people - that is one of the things I've discovered about it," says Eleanor.
"I still feel there's hundreds of other sides to it I've yet to discover."
You can view Eleanor's photos until Saturday 27 September 2008 at Windsor Castle and in her book, 'St George's Chapel, Windsor - A Portrait'.
last updated: 23/09/2008 at 17:28