Henry Jasper Redfern, Untitled, (British Athlete), Early 1900s, Silver Gelatin Print
Henry Jasper Redfern was a British optician, photographer, filmmaker, and an x-ray and radiographic pioneer. Born in Sheffield, England, in 1871, he operated a photographic studio and sold cameras and other optical goods such as opera glasses. Redfern also worked as an optician in Sheffield, offering photographic lessens as a side line. In 1898, he became an agent for Lumière’s Cinématographe in England, holding demonstration exhibitions for the Lumière company.
In 1894, Redfern, teaming with photographer and cinema projectionist Fred Holmes, presented film and x-ray demonstrations with a Kineopticon, a recently patented projector that was becoming popular. In 1898, Redfern secured an exclusive contract in England for the right to tour the groundbreaking, first feature film of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons boxing match of 1897. This, along with a number of high profile films of local sports events, marked a step towards the headline feature as an event in itself, and with a view towards securing return audiences week after week.
Frustrated by the limitations of the music hall circuit and having thoroughly exhausted many of the non-theatrical spaces in and around Sheffield, Redfern struck into new territory in 1904 by pitching his own theatre on a beach outside Southend. With deckchairs for stalls, and a tent to cover the rafters Redfern, with the assistance of Holmes, brought his own programme of film and variety performers to the seaside resort for the summer. The venture successfully addressed a niche in the still open market, yet the concerns of the local licensing authorities over the non-permanent structure ultimately made this a short-term venture and it ran for two seasons.
During the first World War Redfern was called to serve as a field radiologist and eventually was assigned to the 2nd Western General Hospital in the clinical staff. In 1914, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps with the much needed skill as a radiographer, particularly during wartime. The small x-ray department at the hospital was called upon to use the new technology of x-rays for diagnostic and therapeutic studies.
Jasper Redfern, a pioneer in the field, accepted the call to serve his fellow wounded soldiers. He became a martyr by performing radiographs and paid the price by losing all of his fingers from the radiation exposure. In 1928, Redfern died of cancer, probably due to his heroic efforts and prolonged exposure to radiation from x-rays.
Insert Image: Photographer Unknown,”Henry Jasper Redfern”, circa 1914-1920, Vintage Photograph