Hardman and the Playhouse have a long and fruitful history. Both sat firmly within the centre of Liverpool’s creative heartbeat, with the Playhouse commissioning new, exciting work with local artists, and Hardman capturing the famous faces, moods and moments of the theatre.
The Playhouse opened its doors in 1911 as the Liverpool Repertory Theatre. Before then though it had links to an earlier musical theatre, the Star Music Hall, which was established in 1866. In 1922, the ambitious pair of Kenneth Burrell and Edward Chambre Hardman, returned to England after serving in the Ghurkha Rifles. They had grand plans to establish a photographers' studio in the city, but to do this, they needed money, talent and appropriate social connections.
This is where Burrell came into his own. Hardman was new to Liverpool, but Burrell had the social connections and financial backing to gain entry to middle and upper-class clientele. This, when combined with Hardman's talent, helped to establish a reputation for producing prestigious works of photography.
A year later the ‘Burrell and Hardman’ photographers’ studio opened in 1923. That same year they joined The Sandon Studio Society, the epicentre of Liverpool artists, photographers and architects. Unsurprisingly, portrait work for important figures in art and society was to follow. Hardman photographed fellow members of the society including the artist Henry Carr, Herbert Tyson Smith the sculptor of the Liverpool Cenotaph (and lifelong friend of Hardman), as well as important figures in the Playhouse such as Professor Charles Reilly. This led to portrait work for members of the Playhouse, many of whom went on to become British film stars and household names.